Hand Cars for New York City

What is a hand car?That is the hand crank railway car that is featured in some movies,always a comedy. The opening scene of Blazing Saddles, depicting railroad construction, features a handcar.There was also a scene in Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

A handcar or pump trolley is a maintenance railroad car powered by its passengers, or by people pushing the car from behind. A typical design consists of an arm that pivots, seesaw-like, on a base, which the passengers alternately push down and pull up to move the car.

In Japan, dozens of commercially operated handcar railway lines, called human car tramways existed in early 20th century. Those were purely built for its service, and “drivers” pushed small train cars all the way. The first line, Fujieda-Yaizu Tramway, opened in 1891, and most of others opened before 1910. Most lines were very short with less than 10 km lengths.Almost all the lines were closed before 1945.

Dressin refers to pedal-powered rail-cycles which were used by railroad maintenance workers in Finland, Sweden and Norway until about 1950.

Now dressins are used for recreation on several unused rail lines in Sweden, Norway, Poland and some other northern European countries. There are several companies renting dressins in Sweden.

In Finland there has been annual competition “Resiina-ralli” (translates “Draisine Rally”), which involves several draisine teams traveling many days in the railroads from one corner of the country to another. The rally is televised and is popular among TV-viewers.

This is just the beginning of an idea and perhaps some more thought should be put into it before posting this blog.But if you have some thoughts or ideas on how this could be incorporated into New York Transit.This is obviously not rapid transit but why does everything have to be so fast?I think we could consider this as an alternative to a 2nd ave line,which is talked about but we see little action beyond that.I see a loop that goes up 1st ave along 125st and down 2nd ave onto Chrystie St. along Canal and then back up Allen and onto 1st ave.Hundreds of hand cars would be left on these tracks and anyone who wanted could use it to go as far as he or she wanted.If nobody was using it the car would automatically lift itself off the track so it would not interfere with the movement of other cars.I think it would lend a carnival like atmosphere to a city that takes itself far too seriously and tourists would flock to see this city that would allow themselves to be seen in such a lighthearted way,exercising and moving together.

A roof could be added with solar panels to heat in the winter and help power the vehicles.Hand cars would always have the right of way.Each car would emit a pleasant sound to let pedestrians know they were coming down the tracks.

This may sound like a ridiculous idea but the subway was considered ridiculous when the idea was first introduced.Either way a decision to lay back the tracks that were covered over or torn up will be made and perhaps the handcar will never be implemented but some kind of tram or street car system is inevitable and it will have to be free to use so that we all use it and leave our cars where they belong,in the history books.

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