Handcar Tours bringing new activity to the Monterey Peninsula

MARINA — This summer a new kind of recreational activity will be introduced on the Monterey Peninsula bringing old technology into the 21st century and breathing life into a long-dormant stretch of rail line, at least for a time.

An agreement involving the city of Marina, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County and the Museum of Handcar Technology will bring guided handcar tours across 3.5 miles of the Monterey Branch Line through Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

“We surveyed a lot of different rail lines,” said Todd Clark, a principal of Handcar Tours, part of the Museum of Handcar Technology. “We looked at Marina before the prototype was completed.”

Clark, along with his son Mason, and the rest of the family, own and operate the business that manufactures and exhibits historic replica handcars.

Mason Clark built his first railroad handcar when he was 12, and developed a business building and selling handcars to customers around the world by the time he was 16. He graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Program at Cal Poly Pomona where he designed an all-new touring handcar currently manufactured for Handcar Tours. The handcar venture is a side business for the younger Clark, who is employed as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace field.

This is the first Handcar Tours project of its kind for the Clarks. The company has been working on this venture since August 2019 when it first approached the Transportation Agency for Monterey County to lease the tracks. It decided on the branch line for its beautiful scenery, manageable grades and the unique loop that brings the handcars back to the starting point.

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Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado said he has been part of a volunteer force of about 20 community members that have been helping to clear the tracks. Recently, “about a dozen volunteers finished the loop area.”

The Museum of Handcar Technology manufactures human-powered railroad vehicles and operates an interpretive educational venture called Handcar Tours.

In February, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County approved a lease for the company to demonstrate its handcar concept across the Monterey Branch Line for a 30-day trial run. Since then, the company and volunteers from the city of Marina have been busy clearing trees, brush, and ice plant from the more than 3 miles of track that has not seen use in many years.

The lease is for 90 days and the company plans to take people on its Handcar Tours for 30 days.

“The endgame is to demonstrate to the community if this is something they’d like to see on the branch line on a regular basis,” said Clark. “We would love to have a permanent enterprise with a museum but for now we’re just looking at a demonstration event.”

The Handcar Tour would begin in Marina at the corner of Palm Drive and Marina Avenue on the oldest portion of the Monterey Branch Line that dates back to 1875. The handcars are propelled by the physical effort of the occupants’ arms and legs. Each can carry up to four participants, two of whom are …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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