Purpose: To provide transportation for railroad workers to and from work sites between the 1880’s and the 1950’s. These were ideal for individual workers such as Road Masters, Bridge Inspectors, Telegraph Line Repairers, Signal Maintainers, and Track Inspectors, or any worker who needed to go over the line at will.
Last Owner: Southern Pacific Railroad in San Luis Obispo
Builder: Sheffield Car Company of Three Rivers, Michigan
Built: Estimated to have been constructed circa 1890’s.
History: In 1877, George Sheffield invented the Sheffield Velocipede handcar, a 140 lb. wood and iron rail bicycle with a third wheel for balance. It is manually powered by both hand and foot levers. He soon formed the Sheffield Velocipede Car Company and produced about 4,000 cars.
Compared to the typical railroad section hand car, velocipedes survived in greater numbers for a much longer period of time due to their simplistic, lightweight design. A single worker could quickly place the car onto the track and ride to the end of a siding to align a switch for an approaching train. Modernization efforts in the 1970’s led to the closing of most stations, leading to the demise of the velocipede.