Not just for train buffs: Ride the rails using your own steam in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentuckians can explore Thoroughbred horse farms, see limestone hills and enjoy views of the Kentucky River from a new perspective: while pedaling on the rails.

Rail Explorers in Versailles offers the chance to pedal a rail bike for the 10-mile round trip on the Louisville Southern Railroad rail line that dates to the 1880s. The two-hour trip takes you from Versailles to a scenic overlook at Young’s High Bridge, 283 feet above the river.

The length of the ride may seem a bit daunting, but each rail car is equipped with electric pedal assist. There is a two-person Tandem Explorer and a four-person Quad Explorer.

Each bike will only average about 10 mph on this track but can easily fluctuate through the hills, the speed all being in the hands of the rider controlling the car’s individual brake.

What is riding the rail bike like?

Donna Sue Rowden of Shelbyville recently took a rail bike for a spin with her friend, Cheri Newell.

“There was only one time (Cheri) got a little bit excited because they asked the responsible one to do the brake, and I am the responsible one, and she’s taking our picture, so I’m looking at her, smiling, and almost hit the car in front of us and she’s going ‘Brake! Brake!’” said Rowden.

Rowden and her friends said they saw the newest attraction on their local news station and wasted no time reserving their Quad Explorer.

While being some of the oldest women on the morning ride, they may have been some of the most youthful-in-spirit riders of the trip. The group shared plenty of laughs and sang songs on their way back into the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum.

During the first five miles heading to the turnaround point, you’ll be soothed by breathtaking views of rolling hills and capitvating greenery.

Once at Young’s High Bridge, you’ll have about a 15-minute break to take photos and sit and enjoy the views, which include the Wild Turkey Distillery across the river in Lawrenceburg. While doing so, workers will be turning the cars to face the other direction so you can begin the five-mile trek back.

Who can ride on the rail bike?

All ages are welcome. There are about a dozen cars that can be reserved, so you can go in a small or large group.

Younger children and newborns also were seen on the morning ride. It’s a great opportunity for families to spend time together and see all sorts of wildlife including horses and old rail cars on the tracks, said Rail Explorers regional manager Heather Abel.

For those under 50 pounds, a child safety harness is given to the rider, although their feet still may not reach the pedals even after adjusting their seat. Babies should be safely strapped to the parent.

Abel said pets also are welcome Pets also are allowed with restrictions: They must be strapped to the person or leashed and dogs must be under 40 pounds. Limit of one per car.

“We actually had a dragon lizard here on Saturday, it was hilarious,” said Abel. “We’ve had parakeets, parrots, as long as everybody’s safely strapped to a person then we encourage it all.”

So no matter who you’d like to experience the ride with, all of your options are open. You can bring snacks as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy.

Kentuckians will be able to book their tours through the end of October and witness autumn sunsets and get lost in the fall colors for as long as the weather permits. Walk-ins are also available but not recommended due to their high booking rate.

Rail Explorers Bluegrass Division

Where: Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum, at 175 Beasley Road in Versailles, Kentucky

When: Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday 4, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. (Many spots are already sold out)

Tickets: The Tandem Explorer seats two people and is $45 per person, totaling $90 for the ride. For larger groups, the Quad Explorer seats up to four people at $40 per person, totaling $160. Groups of 10 or more may receive a 10% discount on their booking. Visit