Riding the Rails

Just 80 miles north of Laughlin, an attraction that was new last year is returning to Boulder City, Nevada, for its second season to bring locals and tourists a new viewpoint of the Southwest. Rail Explorers is taking on steam as the latest way to get a little exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.
Alex Catchpoole and his wife, Mary Joy Lu, started the company after seeing a similar attraction in South Korea on television. Lu went to Korea in 2012 and returned home to New York with the inspiration to begin their own business, starting in the Adirondack Mountains in 2015.
Rail Explorers are lightweight pedal carts that ride along railroad tracks without any steering necessary from the operator. Catchpoole said the carts can travel up to 20 mph traveling downhill.
Participants operate the cart completely on their own by pedaling and the use of a hand brake to stop. The carts seat either two or four guests, but can be hooked together to allow for larger groups to travel together. They have 22 explorers, accommodating up to 56 passengers, which makes it a great option for company team builders or other large parties.
They are very safe, with hardly any training needed. A guide will give simple instructions that take about five minutes, and then you can be on your way riding the rails through the mountains. Guides will ride in a cart in front and behind the guest carts to insure safety, but their carts are not connected and they will give you plenty of space in between to ride at your own pace. It is a one-of-kind experience due to the hands-free operation that does not require any attention to stay on the track, so guests can really soak up their surroundings.
Rail Explorers operates out of Rhode Island in the summer months, but the company wanted a second location to offer riders in the winter months when it is too cold in the North. That’s when Catchpoole started looking in the Southwest and stumbled upon Boulder City. There were a section of tracks used exclusively by the Nevada State Railroad Museum for excursion rides, so he made a deal to partner with the Nevada Southern Railway to bring more economic development to the area.
“When the opportunity came to head west to the warmth of Nevada, it was great,” Catchpoole said. “It’s been awesome offering this experience that people will remember forever.”
The Rail Explorers ride begins at the train boarding station at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Riders pedal for around 3.5 miles until they near the end of the tracks. The train follows shortly after the last group of riders has left for their tour and picks them up at the end point, delivering them back to the station.
The ride is mostly downhill but ends with an uphill portion to get your blood pumping. You will ride parallel to U.S. Highway 93, which gives an interesting perspective of a trip locals have driven many times, yet maybe never got to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Boulder City tours will be available starting Jan. 5 through the end of April, then most of the carts will be transported back to the East coast for the summer months. Catchpoole said he is thinking about leaving a portion of the fleet in Boulder City to offer the tours here year-round. He also hopes to extend the tracks in Boulder City across Highway 93 making for a longer ride.
January-February two tours a day are offered, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday. In March-April, the tours will be available daily and Catchpoole said he is planning on offering sunset tours on certain dates as well.
Rail Explorers opened a third location in New York last year, which proved very popular. Catchpoole said his dream is to have Rail Explorer locations all across the country.
“There’s tens of thousands of miles of rail out there that’s completely unused, and some of the areas are incredibly beautiful,” Catchpoole said. “This can be a great opportunity to bring commerce to these areas.”
For more information and to book tours, visit RailExplorers.net.

More about the train
The Nevada Southern Railway excursion train offers rides every Saturday and Sunday, January-November. They depart four times a day, coinciding with the Rail Explorers schedule, and the ride lasts about 35 minutes. The crew members are all volunteers and dress the part in vintage uniforms. They host special rides throughout the year such as “Story Time on the Train,” which is popular with children.
There are three display locomotives that are part of the State Railroad Museum that guests may tour for free. There is a railway post office car set up and guests can also look in the caboose, which was built in 1882, to get a glimpse into the past.
For more information on the trains, visit NevadaSouthern.com.