LACONIA — A new outdoor experience will help local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the beauty of the Lakes Region at a leisurely pace.
On Friday, the Hobo & Winnipesaukee Railroad will premiere its Rail Bike Adventures attraction in downtown Laconia.
People will be able to travel on specially-built, pedal-powered, four-person rail cars for a 5-mile round trip excursion along a stretch of rail line that runs past some of the city’s historic industrial buildings, and then along the shores of Lake Winnisquam, the state’s fourth-largest lake.
“It’s an ideal opportunity to bring an attraction that is outdoors, family-friendly, and socially-distant,” Paul Giblin, marketing and business development director of the Hobo & Winnipesaukee Railroad, said.
The new venture is also being hailed because it will add yet another attraction to the city’s downtown.
“Not only does it give people another pathway to follow the lakes, but it also brings them closer to our business community,” Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, said.
Mayor Andrew Hosmer and members of the City Council, together with state officials and representatives of various local businesses, are expected to be on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday which will formally mark the opening of the attraction.
The ceremony will not only provide an opportunity to display the rail bikes but also to show off the restored rotunda of the historic downtown railroad station, which will serve as the ticket office, waiting room and gift shop for the rail bike attraction.
The attraction will operate Tuesdays through Sundays, with excursions leaving downtown at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m.
The rail bike riders will cross the trestle over the Winnipesaukee River, travel past Bartlett Beach and continue along the shore of Lake Winnisquam to a point behind the Belknap Mall in Belmont, where they where the cars will be turned around on a special turntable and the riders will be able to take a 15 minute break at the newly created rest area when they can enjoy the vista across the lake, Giblin said.
All outings will be supervised by trained guides at the front and rear of each group, as well as a flagger at all road crossings. Riders will be spread out during the guided tours, usually with 200 feet between each rail bike, which will allow riders to enjoy the experience and the views at their own pace.
Each tour will last between 1 hour and 30, and 1 hour and 50 minutes, Giblin said.
Planning and preparations for rail bike tours have been underway for 14 months, Gilbin said.
The idea came out of discussion that took place in 2019, initially about the possibility of taking up the tracks between Lakeport and Weirs Beach in order to extend the WOW Trail. That idea was soon abandoned. But it prompted City Councilor Bob Hamel to ask railroad officials why, considering they were determined to preserve the rail line, they were not running excursion trains all the way to downtown Laconia, instead of terminating them at the lower end of Paugus Bay.
“I’m very glad that the Clark family (which owns the railroad) chose Laconia to have this attraction,” Hamel said.
Like Gifford, Hamel sees the attraction and giving a further boost to downtown businesses.
The rides are open to adults and children. However, riders must be at least 4 feet in height, and weigh less than 250 pounds. Advance reservations are required and can be made online at hoborr.com/rail-bike-adventures. The rides will be offered through the end of October.
Further information is also available by calling 603-745-2135.