Object number 3001


Type:                    H.L. II

Looking at this draisine, it’s easy to see that the manufacturer, Simplex, was an experienced bicycle-making company: due to the saddle seats, handlebars and shape of the frame, this type of draisine was appropriately called a ‘rail-cycle’. The handlebars were meant only as a place to rest your arms. Because the rail-cycle was ridden only on the tracks, there was no need to actually steer with the handlebars.

Its simple construction made this rail-cycle extremely lightweight, so that it was easy to lift when needed and took little effort to set in motion. The disadvantages were that there was no room to take any equipment along and that the supervisor had to pedal for themselves. Still, multiple versions of the rail-cycle remained in widespread use until at least the 1930s.

Simplex was founded in Utrecht in 1887 as a machine factory. From 1892, they began to make bicycles as well. Five years later, the company moved to Amsterdam, where it also began to manufacture draisines. These draisines were a popular product with not only the ‘major’ railways but also among narrow-gauge lines, such as those on plantations in what was then the colony of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Simplex ceased to exist as an independent company shortly after World War II. First, there was a merger with bicycle manufacturer Locomotief. Then, in 1968, the brand was acquired by Gazelle.


Three gentleman pose with their rail-cycle on the tracks between Leidschendam and Pijnacker, February 1908. In the background, someone is standing on a ladder to work on the overhead wire. A few months later, on 1 October 1908, the first electric train in the Netherlands began operating on this stretch of track when the Zuid-Hollandsche Electrische Spoorweg-Maatschappij (ZHESM) launched its service between Rotterdam Hofplein and Scheveningen. The Railway Museum has an electric train carriage from the year of the opening in its collection.
Simplex also manufactured one-person rail cycles. This photograph from 1917 shows an unknown man driving on the tracks near the Hague Staatspoor station, where today's Hague Central Station is located.
A railway employee poses on a single-person rail-cycle at the bridge over the North Sea Canal near Velsen. This 1905 bridge was often open because even then, the canal that links the North Sea to the Port of Amsterdam was a very busy waterway. The bridge was replaced by a tunnel in 1957.