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Drais' Laufmaschine 1817

A draisine primarily refers to a light auxiliary rail vehicle, driven by service personnel, equipped to transport crew and material necessary for the maintenance of railway infrastructure.

The eponymous term is derived from German Baron Karl Christian Ludwig Drais von Sauerbronn, who invented his Laufmaschine (German for "running machine") in 1817, that was called Draisine (German) or Draisienne (French) by the press. It is the first reliable claim for a practically used bicycle, basically the first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine commonly called a velocipede, nick-named hobby-horse or dandy horse.[1]

Later, the name draisine came to be applied only to versions used on rails and was extended to similar vehicles, even when not human-powered. Because of their low weight and small size, they can be put on and taken off the rails at any place, allowing trains to pass.

In the United States, motor-powered draisines are known as speeders while human-powered ones are referred as handcars.

Dressin, velorail or railbike[]


Two-person rail-cycle draisine with four wheels


Three wheeled draisine at the Saskatchewan Railway Museum

Draisine is spelled dressin in Sweden and dresin in Norway and dræsine in Denmark. In Finland the word is "resiina". Usually, dressin refers to pedal-powered rail-cycles which were used by railroad maintenance workers in Finland, Sweden and Norway until about 1950, as handcars were elsewhere.

Now draisines are used for recreation on several unused railway lines in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Poland and some other European countries. There are several companies renting draisines in Sweden.[2]

In Finland there has been annual competition "Resiina-ralli" (translates "Draisine Rally"), which involves several draisine teams travelling many days on the railways from one corner of the country to another. The rally is televised and is popular with TV-viewers.

Types of draisines[]

Military usage[]

File:Obrněná drezína Tatra T 18.gif

Armoured draisine Tatra T 18 built in Czechoslovakia for Polish armed forces.

During the Second World War, armoured draisines were used in the Invasion of Poland carried out by Nazi Germany. They were typically tanks or tankettes adapted with rail wheels and used as reconnaissance elements in advance of armoured trains.

See also[]


  1. From Draisienne to Dandyhorse - Retrieved on 2008-06-09
  2. Hidden Europe magazine - articles - muscle power: draisine travel #10, pp. 41-44 - Retrieved on 2006-10-01

External links[]

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