The idea to race a train started during the summer of 2010 when the owners of Wheeler Dealer Bicycle Shop learned that the family of cyclist Austin, Todd and Ladd Lafferty owned the AT&L Railroad. One of the icons of Watonga, Oklahoma is the famous Watonga Cheese Festival and it only seemed appropriate that Race the Rail become a part of this annual event.
Based in the small town of Watonga, this Oklahoma grain hauler operates a 40 mile line which begins at a connection with the UP's Enid Subdivision in El Reno and extends west through Calumet, Geary, and Greenfield to Watonga. AT&L is owned by Wheeler Brothers Grain Company. The heritage of the line dates to the 1880s when it was constructed as part of the Choctaw Coal & Railway Company. Prior to AT&L's startup, the line was a long-time Rock Island branch.
Interestingly, the initials "A", "T", and "L" do not represent the towns through which the line operates but instead stand for Austin, Todd, and Ladd, grandsons of the railroad's founder, E.O. "Gene" Wheeler. How many other railroads can make THAT claim? As one might expect, this granger line is busiest during wheat harvest season. The AT&L track speed is approximately 10 mph. US Highway 270/281 runs parallel -- and in most cases, quite close -- to the tracks between Geary and Watonga.
Because of the slow track speed, the race is organized so that an AT&L engine will leave Geary at the same time the riders leave Watonga. The riders will ride to Geary and back and try to catch the train on the way back to Watonga. Hence, Race the Rail.
Race the Rail is in conjunction with the Watonga Cheese Festival. Riders can visit the festival following the ride and try cheeses and wine from vineyards all around Oklahoma.
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