Tuesday 25 October 2022

Get in Shape - Ride a Speeder!

Narrow gauge is great fun when you get to experience some of the charm of running historic vehicles in nice autumn weather. Last week I had the opportunity to propel a speeder along the track at the Hedeland vintage railway. It's not healthy always to sit behind the modelling table!

Meeting one of the ordinary trains on Brandhøj Station. In track 1 it's dieselelectric M 24 built by Nakskov sugar factory in 1962. Photo: Leif Johannsen.

The speeder has been restored by volunteers and it was one of the vehicle's first tours on the line after having been approved by the Danish Civil Aviation and Railway Authority. During the restoration the speeder has been regauged from 785 mm gauge to 700 mm and all wooden parts completely renewed due to rot. The speeder has two traction modes: human and wind power. As we have yet to design, make and fit a sail to the preserved original mast, the speeder was powered by human power alone.

The speeder is powered by moving the handle back and forth as well as using the pedals for extra power when climbing gradients.

The braked speeder waiting for the first train meet of the day.

The speeder was originally used on a railway line owned by the Danish governmental service building and maintaining constructions along Denmark's North Sea-coast protecting it from erosion by the sea. As the line ran mostly north-south and with a predominantely westerly wind, sails were an obvious source of traction for speeders on the line.

The speeder doesn't bear any identifying plate as to who built it, but there are some indications that it may have been built by Swedish Hults Bruk, now famous for their high quality axes.

Hults Bruk catalogue from September 1913 showing a speeder (bottom of page) of very similar construction to the one on the Hedeland vintage railway.

Speeder of similar construction photographed 7. November 1904 near Agger on the standard gauge line that transported building material for the dykes and groynes built to protect the coastline from erosion. The line was regauged to 785 mm between 1948-50. Gun barrels and cannon balls placed next to the track are salvaged from 'HMS St. George' and 'HMS Defence' that both stranded on the west coast of Denmark 24. December 1811. Only 17 British sailors survived out of a total of 1425. Photo: Vandbygningsvæsenets fotosamling No. 237.

The Agger line was comparatively flat, which can't be said of the Hedeland line. Consequently it's a benefit if the speeder's crew is of some physical capacity and endurance. But then again, it's good to do something else than just sitting writing or modelling!

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