Quiet Wilderness, Comfortable Exercise Await in Secret Valley
BOYERTOWN PA – A leisurely pedal-powered adventure beckons, one that travels deep into tall forests, crosses bridges, chases creeks, and provides a wealth of scenic wonders … all in Boyertown.
That’s part of the allure of recreational vehicles at the heart of “Secret Valley Excursions.” It’s the official name for the Colebrookdale Railroad’s railbikes program introduced in May 2021 and which has already won “Best of Philly” honors from Philadelphia magazine.
This year’s railbike season launched Monday (May 1, 2022) with what representatives called “with beautiful weather and exceptional experiences.” Riders reported seeing bald eagles fly overhead, and a small herd of about six deer crossing a nearby creek.
The railbike excursion offers “a pioneering educational and recreational experience,” Executive Director Michele Barrett said. It aims to provide persons of all abilities access to the nature and history surrounding what the popular tourist attraction calls “Pennsylvania’s Secret Valley.”
A first-of-its-kind in the state, the program relies on rail bikes as vehicles to increase education, health, quality of life, and all-community inclusion. Rail bikes are pedal-powered vehicles with four steel wheels, disc brakes, and pedals for each seat that rides on the railroad tracks. They take advantage of the railroad line’s gentle grades to ensure a smooth, comfortable ride.
Although rail bikes require pedaling, “the magic of steel wheels on steel rails” makes the experience very different from riding a regular bicycle,” Barrett said. There’s “no need to carefully watch the road ahead, no need to steer, and riding is hands-free, making it easy for couples young and old, groups, and families of all ages and abilities to roll along,” she explained.
“Riding a rail bike is a unique experience and a great family activity,” added Sylvia Landis, a retired school teacher and railbike sponsor. “You don’t have to travel to the next state to enjoy such fun recreation. When your inner child calls to you, head to the rails,” she said.
Landis and her husband Carl in part funded the program, joined by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation; and by a grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, administered under the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation.
“Our partnership with Colebrookdale Railroad and (the) Railbike Excursions Program will provide a unique chance for people of all ages and abilities to appreciate the natural beauty of our region in an active and engaging way,” according to Dave Kraybill, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation president.
Pedal-powered rail vehicles date back to the 1850s, when maintenance workers used handcars and rail bikes to travel the tracks. They transported crews and materials for track inspection and repairs.
Photos provided by the Colebrookdale Railroad and Secret Valley Excursions