A Taste of the T’Railway
I’m old enough to remember the trains in Newfoundland. It’s kind of hard to forget really, when the tracks were less than 150 feet (45m) from the house where I grew up. The daily rumble stopped in 1988 when the railway was officially abandoned for economic reasons, and the rails and ties were removed. In 1997, the trail was “re-purposed”, and the 883 km (549 miles) of railway bed became the T’Railway Provincial Park, a multi-use trail spanning the island from St. John’s to Port-Aux-Basques. Within St. John’s and Conception Bay South the T’Railway is enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists and cross-country skiers (motorized vehicles are prohibited), but the rest of the trail is open to ATV’s, dirtbikes, side-by-sides and snowmobiles.
The T’Railway passes through dozens of communities across the island, and many municipalities have taken steps to improve and maintain the trail. The town of Gander in particular has put an immense effort into their section of trail, even paving the portion that runs though the middle of the town. Gander declares that it is an “ATV-friendly” town, where licensed and insured ATV’s, dirtbikes and snowmobiles can legally use the roads in order to access the trail system.
Last weekend – the iconic May 24th weekend – the weather forecast for central Newfoundland almost too-good-to-be-true. We loaded up the TW200 and IT200 onto a trailer and hit the highway at 6am Saturday morning, planning to spend the afternoon off-roading in the Gander area before heading on to Mark’s hometown of Musgrave Harbour.
About 3.5 hours later the bikes were offloaded and we set off from a Gander parking lot to check out the condition of the T’Railway. It was already almost 20 degrees C (68 F), and the forecast predicted a beautiful afternoon but thunderstorms in the evening. On the way to the T’Railway we rode through “old Gander”, the original site of the town before it was moved farther from the airport after the Second World War. Apparently once the airbase became a civilian airport, the town was moved farther from the runway for safety reasons. The buildings are gone, but it’s always interesting to see how nature reclaims areas once the people leave.
I was expecting the T’Railway to be a steady string of “yes ma’ams” – dips and humps of loose gravel caused by ATV traffic. I was pleasantly surprised to find the trail in great condition, almost like a graded gravel road in most sections. We were able to keep up a comfortable pace of 40-50km/hr, and went from Gander to Butt’s Pond, back to Gander for lunch and then west on the T’Railway until the skies started to turn ominously dark and threaten thundershowers.
I have a new appreciation for Gander after last weekend, and can really understand why the town’s events like Quad-A-Palooza and SnowFari are so popular; the offroading is just spectacular, especially for someone who is used to the rocky, boggy Avalon Peninsula. There’s a network of logging roads and trails visible on Google satellite maps, spider-webbing out in all directions. You could spend days exploring the area off-road, though I would definitely recommend a GPS.
This little taste of the T’Railway has planted a seed in my mind as well. Lots of folks traverse the island on ATV’s via the T’Railway. Why not on a TW200? The camping gear would have to be pared down a fair bit from what I load on my Vstrom, but I think it would be doable. And what an adventure!
If you would like to learn more about the T’Railway, including trip planning and preparation, a great blog is Crossing Newfoundland by ATV. The site has some great photos and videos as well!
Posted on May 28, 2016, in Roads of Newfoundland and tagged dual purpose motorcycle, dual sport motorcycle, gander, motorcycle, Newfoundland, Newfoundland Railroad, offroad, railway bed, T'Railway, yamaha IT200, yamaha tw200. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.