The Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail follows a former railroad right-of-way for 22 miles through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. Its paved surface, few hills, and well-marked automobile crossings make it ideal for cyclists. The trail has a wide unpaved shoulder on one side to accommodate horseback riding, walkers, and runners.
A Brief History
Before the first railroad tracks were laid, the Cape was a relatively isolated area, accessible only by packet boat or stagecoach. By 1848, the Old Colony Railroad Company laid tracks that connected Boston and Sandwich. Railroad track extensions continued and by 1873, Old Colony had linked Boston with Cape Cods outermost point of Provincetown, offering a miraculously short, five-hour journey. As the Capes popularity as a summer resort increased, the railroad was heavily used to transport visitors from New York and Connecticut, as well as other parts of Massachusetts. With the growing number of visitors came train-loads of food and other provisions needed to meet their needs. But the railroads importance was soon surpassed by the automobile. Bridges to carry cars over Cape Cod Canal were opened in 1935, and in 1937 passenger service to the towns east of Dennis ended. Trains continued to haul freight until the mid-1960s, but then the tracks were torn up and the station-houses were razed or vandalized. If you look carefully as you ride along the trail, you can still see occasional relics of the Capes rail days.
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