The Newfoundland T’Railway is a 900 km long linear provincial park, stretching from St. John’s in the east to Port-aux-Basques in the west. The notion of riding it has long been on my mind and this year I attempted and completed it.
The route is 900 km long.
I completed it in ten days.
Riding west to east was a good decision – I had tailwinds on 7 or 8 days out of ten.
I had one day of rain.
I saw lots of ATV’s and zero cyclists, zero hikers.
I saw no moose but lots of other wildlife sightings (see below).
Traveling time ranged from 8 – 12 hours per day. The rest of the time I was doing this.
I used a Surly Pugsley for this trip set up in a bikepacking mode and in my not so humble opinion it was the perfect bike and set up for the trip. The big tires provided cushioning against the uneven surface and float when the ballast got deep and loose. Bikepacking mode kept the overall weight low.
As predicted the section from Port-aux-Basques to Badger was the most scenic. Central NF (Badger to Terra Nova Nat’l Park) was mostly boreal forest – the good news is that the trail in this area is in good shape and you can make good time. From Terra Nova to St. John’s there is a great mixture of scenery.
I camped on this beach the night I arrived in Port-aux-Basques.
Start my trip with some beach riding? Yes please!
My campsite on Georges Lake.
You see a number of old rail cars converted to cabins along the way but this was the best.
Taking refuge on the only day of rain.
The Gaff Topsails are stark and desolate.
A granite quarry in The Gaff.
The view from a campsite in Central.
The pitcher plant, our provincial flower. It thrives in bogs and is carnivorous – how appropriate.
Near Terra Nova.
A statue of infamous premier Joey Smallwood – half Stalin, half Buddy Holly. In Gambo.
Along the isthmus.
In Avondale you will see the only remaining section of rail line.
As you approach St. John’s there is a lovely section that follows Conception Bay.
The longest bridge is this one at Bishop Falls.
All I used was a free road map from NL Tourism. It shows a thin red line for the T’Railway and that was enough to navigate the whole route.
Click on image to enlarge.
One of the best things I did was copy and paste a distance table from the T’Railway web site. This was invaluable for planning throughout the day where I might get food, might think about setting for a target for the day, etc. I referred to it often.
The table I took from the T’Railway website. It tells you the distance between towns and the remaining distance to St. John’s. I taped it on with packing tape.
As always on adventures, meeting people is a highlight, and an especially welcome break from yourself when traveling solo. I met two couples on ATV’s on the west coast who offered me cookies and a can of pop, another couple on an ATV who stopped and asked “Is that a Pugsley?” (I just about shit) and offered me a place to stay if needed in Grand Falls, and a mountain biker in Deer Lake who was all jazzed about my bike and what I was doing, to name just a few.
These kind proprietors filled my water bottles with ice.
I met the Calnen brothers, who were from Nova Scotia. They come over every year because Newfoundland is so ATV friendly.
The condition of the trail was good. The roughest section was in the Gaff Topsails which are the most remote section of the trail and the section that gets the worst weather. The only time I dropped my tire pressure was in this section as there were a lot of “baby heads” and I was bouncing a bit. The trail was in its best shape in Central and approaching St. John’s, where you could easily ride a road bike.
There were a few times when I could ride beaches instead of the rail bed, like this section near Stephenville Crossing.
It was heaven compared to the rough surface of the trail!
You ride until you come to this bridge; cross under it, come out the other side and head for the road bridge because…
…this bridge is closed.
Though the rail line crossed the top of the Main Dam in Deer Lake users are now rerouted below it.
I took every opportunity I could to take a dip. Near Howley.
The only day of rain was in the Gaff Topsails. Note the water on the trail. A lot of days like this would be really unpleasant.
The high point on the trail is in The Gaff. Mile 328 refers to the distance from St. John’s.
Signage overall is lacking; it is at its best in Central.
The trail often crosses the Trans-Canada Highway – where it does tunnels have been put in place. They are a great place to take shelter from the sun or rain.
In St. John’s the trail runs parallel to some major streets…
…but just as quickly you are back into sections where you wouldn’t know you were in a capital city.
The railway station is the green roofed building and the end of the trip for me.
Food and fuel
Access to stores occurred every day. Most communities have a small convenience store where you can get a least the usually array of junk food; I was able to get bananas, for example, most days. For those of you not from Newfoundland convenience stores here also sell beer, and if you are really lucky they may also have a Liquor Express so you can get wine and distilled spirits as well. Also, fuel for alcohol stoves was readily available in most of these stores as well – it is sold as gas line antifreeze, about $1.60 for 150ml (three good burns). Canisters and white gas were available in the major centers (Corner Brook, Grand Falls, Gander).
I couldn’t wait to eat these again. They are called “Scramblers” and they are available at Karl’s Konvenience in Stephenville Crossing, right next to the T’Railway. They are tart shells filled with egg, onion, green pepper, cheese and topped with bacon! I ate two there and bought two more for the road – just $1.50 each.
You MUST go into this store in Howley. It has been years since I’ve seen a general store like this. They have EVERYTHING!
Be sure to stop at Chestnut Tree Cafe when passing through Gambo.
I ate a lot of wraps with peanut butter.
I saw no moose for the entire ride but did see rabbits, grouse, spawning salmon, fox, caribou and beavers.
A beaver patrolling the pond.
This beaver dam interrupted the entire trail!
My best wildlife encounter was when I came upon this family of foxes…
…pisses on a plant…
…and then walks by me with a look that implied “And I’ll piss on you if you mess with my family!”
I also enjoyed watching this beaver for the longest time…
…and then it was joined by another!
Spot the grouse.
A true friend
Nancy E was kind enough to meet me at the end of the trip with a cold beer and to snap this picture of me.
I failed to point out when I posted this a few years ago that I got from Corner Brook to Deer Lake by staying off (mostly) the Trans-Canada Highway. Leave Corner Brook via Riverside Drive. This will take you to the highway, which you will have to ride on for 3 km until you get to Steady Brook. In Steady Brook get on Marble Drive and head east until it ends at a farm on your left. Follow the easement through the farm to Strawberry Hill Lodge. Cross under the highway to Johnson Drive, then turn left on Bonnell Drive. Cross under highway again then cross river into Humber Resort. Follow Lakeside Drive until it ends. Bear right and then start using Google Earth or whatever you use/have to negotiate the woods roads on the north side of Deer Lake to the town of Deer Lake.