This summer we are offering guided handcar tours across the Monterey Branch Line through Fort Ord Dunes State Park. These are handcars, meaning you provide the physical effort using your legs and arms to propel the rail vehicle. When you book one of our handcars, you are booking a car with four seats. Each handcar can carry up to four participants, but we require at least one adult on each handcar. Each participant must be at least 50 inches tall and under 300 pounds. Closed toed shoes are mandatory for all participants. Cycling gloves are helpful, but not required. The design of the handcar precludes carry infants in a sling because the pump arm comes back at the chest. Caregivers of persons with developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum should consider the hazards associated with this activity before booking.
Tours begin at the corner of Palm Drive and Marina Avenue in the City of Marina. We are about 15 minutes north of famous Cannery Row. After you receive a personalized safety briefing, our tour group consisting of 12 handcars will depart south towards Fort Ord Dunes State Park. You will be led by trained guides to the front and rear, with speeds varying between 7 and 10 mph for the duration of the excursion. The experience runs about 1.5 hours, and covers six miles of the Monterey Branch Line along Monterey Bay. Each handcar is priced at $200 and carries up to four people.
Our tours travel next to the ocean through scenic Fort Ord Dunes State Park. The temperature ranges between 64 and 68 degrees. Keep this in mind if you are traveling from warmer climates. We recommend dressing in lightweight layers that can be shed as you travel along. We are often asked when is the best time of day to ride. The first morning trip at 9:00am is probably the most flexible. On weekends, traffic in the morning from the Bay Area is not bad. The wind is light in the morning, making the grades easier, and you will be done in time for lunch down on Cannery Row before it gets too busy.
This experience is not a ride, it is a physical endeavor. There are no electric motors or gasoline engines to help you across the route. It is up to your chosen team to propel your handcar over the route. When choosing your team you will want to consider the physical capability and limitation of your team members. You are required to have a minimum of two participants and up to four. Those that are not physically active will consider the experience strenuous. If you live a sedentary lifestyle then this will be difficult for you.
The Monterey Branch Line is a unique piece of surviving California railroad. The tour begins in Marina on the oldest portion of the branch line dating back to 1879. While the tour is six miles long, there is approximately 1 mile of hills where you will work your arms and legs hard. At the top of the hill the route loops around to itself with a sweeping spectacular view of Monterey Bay. We take a break at the top and we’ll take your picture for you before heading down. The return trip is entirely downhill and we are told it is the most exhilarating part of the tour.
We build our handcars at our specialized shop in Santa Clarita, California. Over 400 hours goes into fabricating each handcar!