RoadRUNNER Digital Rider

Wyman and the Railroads

Jul 29, 2016 View Comments by

It appears suddenly and without warning over my right shoulder, punching through my peripheral vision like a locomotive, which is not a simile because it is in fact a locomotive. Actually, it’s three locomotives hauling automobiles and whatnot across the Nebraska landscape at 70mph. The Zero is silent (of course) so I can hear the clatter of train cars over the joints in the track and then the howl of the whistle as it approaches road crossings. I am taken aback by the power of it all; it’s one thing to propel a 400 pound motorcycle 70mph on flat ground but it’s another things altogether to pull tons and tons of steel at the same speed. Frankly, it’s a bit frightening and I roll off at the sight and sound of it. But then I think, “Picture! You gotta capture this!” and I roll on to 70mph and (Mom, don’t read this) 80mph to close the gap. I get the shot and we ride side by side for a while, past, present, and future all chasing the horizon. We part ways as the tracks and Lincoln Highway diverge. It’s a scene of brute power that I won’t soon forget.

Roads were so atrocious back in 1903 (this was pre-interstate and pre-Lincoln Highway) that George A Wyman took to the railroad for significant stretches, sometimes riding between the rails and sometimes riding on the ties outside the rails. He had at least two close calls and on more than one occasion was ordered off the tracks by local rail managers (the railroads were constantly maintained and repaired by crews stationed along the tracks). There’s┬áno way in hell that I’d put any motorcycle in front of three modern locomotives surging along at 70mph.

[Kids, do not try this at home. Professional rider on a closed course and all of that jazz.]

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About the author

You know that little boy who stares at you, mouth agape, as you ride by? That was me, thirty-plus years ago. I merged two of my passions, motorcycles and photography, when I became a contributor to RoadRUNNER.