Riding the Rails by Motorcar in Amador County

When I first saw information about the motorcar ride in Ione, CA, I was intrigued. The stable where I had my horseback riding business was right next to the railroad tracks in Anaheim, CA. I saw lots of high rail trucks on those rails, but these vintage motorcars were so cute. And they were telling me I could go for a ride in one! On the railroad tracks!

Take a motorcar ride in a vintage railroad maintenance-of-way work car in Ione, CA. You'll want to bring your camera for this 6 mile round trip ride.

The Motorcar

If you are wondering what motorcars are and why they are on the railroad tracks, let me give you a little history lesson. You might be familiar with handcars from old western movies. Handcars came on the scene in the 1860s and were mainly used to maintain small sections of track. In 1910, handcars began to be retired and replaced with motorcars, or speeders as they were also called.

Click on the image (from the Railroad Handcar website) to read the history of handcars.

Although the motorcars are slow compared to a train, they are much faster than the handcars, thus the nickname of speeder. On the Amador Central Railroad track the speed is limited to 15 mph but the cars are capable of higher speeds.

Handcars, motorcars and now high rail vehicles are an important part of railroad maintenance. The Amador Central Railroad motorcars are used to haul people and material on the line to keep the rail line open, to spray weeds, trim trees, and to replace culverts, ties and rails.

Get Your Tickets

You can ride the vintage motorcars on the historic Amador Central Railroad the second Saturday of every month, March through November, weather permitting.

Lanes Station, where your motorcar ride adventure begins, is about a mile south of Ione on Highway 104. Look for the signs and the tent. Tickets go on sale at 9:30, or as soon as they get set up, and are $10. They are first come, first served for all rides for the day. The first ride is at 10 AM and I got the second to the last ticket for that ride. I didn’t ask or count to see how many riders there were but we had five cars and I think they held a total of around 20 people. Last ride of the day is at 2:30 but it may have sold out much earlier in the day.

Ticket sales tent - motorcar ride Ione, CA

Ticket sales tent - motorcar ride Ione, CA

The volunteers are happy and eager to answer questions about the history of the railroad and each of the motorcars. The 10 miles of this shortline track is owned by Recreational Railroad Coalition Historical Society and Amador County Historical Society and is being preserved for future generations.

Volunteer answering questions - motorcar ride Ione, CA

Waiting to board - motorcar ride Ione, CA

Ride the Rails!

The motorcar ride is approximately 6 miles round trip into the foothills and lasts about an hour. The scenery is majestic but the most interesting part of the ride for me was watching the cars turn around at our midway point. You can see that, as well as the gorgeous scenery, in the video. So, come on board and click the play button! Listen to the clack, clack of the wheels and imagine yourself on a train coming to California to seek your fortune.

A dad and son talking about the motorcarAs we were pulling back into the station, I was reflecting on how much I love trains. I was thinking about the post I wrote about my ride on the Wildflower Train at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and how I had asked in it if the Disneyland railroad counted as riding a train. The volunteer who helped me disembark must have been reading my mind. He asked, “Well, was it as good as Disneyland?” I was surprised and amused by his question and responded, “Best Disneyland train ride EVER!”

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Take a motorcar ride in a vintage railroad maintenance-of-way work car in Ione, CA. You'll want to bring your camera for this 6 mile round trip ride into the beautiful foothills of Gold Country.


Until next time…

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  1. This looks like such a fun thing to do. I love activities that connect our children to history. A fantastic idea!

  2. Lifestyle Hunter

    Such a complete review on the Motor Car Rail Ride! I loved that you put the details of the prices and the times. For sure I’ll take the ride when I visit!! I also liked a lot the video!

  3. That is too cool! I would love to ride that.

  4. There is nothing like an adventure with a bit of history . Great Images & Video 🙂

  5. echoesofhervoice

    Such a cute place to visit. Thanks for sharing!

  6. This looks awesome! I really like that it’s fun and informative.

  7. How fun! This seems like a cool way to take in the scenery and learn some cool history facts. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

  8. Fantastic thing to do with kids. they need to know how technology evolved over the years by learning about past inventions.

  9. That looks awesome! Def gonna have to check that out if I’m ever in California!

  10. Pingback: Amtrak from Sacramento to San Francisco | Gold Country Cowgirl

  11. I have driven by there so many times and always wanted to ride those tracks, but I never knew they actually had ride days like this until I drove by yesterday and saw the signs. I did not have a chance to stop by, but I will the next time they are out there!

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