Park Trains and Tourist Trains

by Joe Thompson

I hope to use this page to report on visits to park trains and tourist trains. I expanded it from a page about park trains because we don't get to visit them as much as we used to.

Click on thumbnails to view larger photos. Use back arrow to return. All photos by Joe Thompson unless otherwise credited. All rights reserved.

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California State Fair

The Folsom Valley Railway operates a loop of 12" gauge track on the grounds of the California State Fair in Sacramento. 4-4-0 Ottaway locomotive Cricket provides the motive power. When we visited in August, 2001, we didn't get to ride the train and my camera was out of film, but the ride looked pleasant. At a pedestrian crossing, volunteers held up ropes. The train also runs at the Folsom City Zoo.

We did get to ride the monorail that winds around the fairgrounds. The trains, built by Universal Mobility, have operated since 1969. Two were running on the day we went. The ride was a rare opportunity to catch a breeze. Park in lot B to see the carhouse and the section of track used to take trains in and out of service.

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Central Park, San Mateo

Bianchi Bianchi Railroad train pulls away from the loading area with a full load. August, 2001.

The Bianchi Railroad has operated in San Mateo, California's Central Park since 10-May-1948. It runs an Ottaway locomotive and a string of Daylight-painted cars on an oval of 12" track.

My wife rode the train as a child and says the line is not as long as it used to be.

The train operates from 10:30 AM to 12:45PM on weekdays and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 11 AM to 3 PM. Rides cost $1 in August, 2001.

We visited during the Victorian Days in the Park celebration on 25-Aug-2001 and there was a line waiting for the train.
Bianchi Bianchi Railroad train runs parallel to El Camino Real. Engine house/car house to the right. August, 2001.
Bianchi Bianchi Railroad engine house/car house. The train parks underneath and the top swings over from the left and locks. August, 2001.

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Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad, La Caņada Flintridge

Descanso The Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad crosses a path. July, 2007.

The Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad runs through the Descanso Gardens in La Caņada Flintridge, California. It operates on a large loop of 7 1/2" track. Riders straddle benches on the cars. The vegetation grows very close to the right-of-way in spots. Because of the narrow gauge, the conductor gave a careful lecture on how passengers were not to rock back and forth, shake, stand up, or do any of several other things. This is good advice on a track that narrow.

We enjoyed our ride with young members of the family.

Shortly after our visit, I read in Neal Gabler's book Walt Disney/The Triumph of the American Imagination that Descanso Gardens was one of the locations that Walt considered for Disneyland. The book is worth reading. I reviewed it on my blog: Book: Walt Disney/The Triumph of the American Imagination.

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Disney's "A Christmas Carol" Train Tour

Observation car The observation car.

Disney's "A Christmas Carol" Train Tour, ballyhooing a new version of the story, has been travelling around the country. Its San Francisco Bay Area stop was in Oakland. It was supposed to be at the Port of Redwood City, but they had construction going on. We had never been to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. It was hard to find, but nice. Even though we were early, the parking lot was full. The port had covered the no parking signs on the surrounding streets, so we were able to park along the road, right across the lawn from the observation car. The weather was warm and sunny, so we got the full odor of the mud flats. Everything was free.
Wrapped car Each car was wrapped this way.
Blimp A blimp flies over the train and the port cranes.

We waited about 30 minutes in line, and were enterained by two guys, on one stilts, working with a diabolo. The train was pulled by two GE Genesis locomotives. We climbed aboard at the front of the first car behind the locomotives. The first four or five cars had exhibits. The last two or three, including an observation car, were for the cast and crew members. The first one or two cars had images of the characters and the scenes, and some Dickens memorabilia in cases, like two pages of the manuscript for Nicholas Nicholby, and some early editions of "A Christmas Carol."

The next car had touch screens that allowed us to see some of the locations.

The next car had kiosks where people could get photographed and then morph their faces into some of the characters. We all wound up as Tiny Tim.

The last exhibit car was decorated for a Christmas party and smelled of gingerbread.
Locomotives The locomotives.
Theater The theater.

After the train, we went to a temporary theater to see a preview of the movie. The lenses of the 3-D glasses were red/green, but also appeared to be polarized. The 3-D effects were good.
Sign A sign promotes the tour.

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Esposizione Internazionale di Igiene, Marina e Colonie (International exposition of Hygiene (?), Navy and Colonies), Genova, Italy

Telfer Monorail Thanks to Luigi Lupi for this postcard of a Telfer monorail at Genova's 1914 international exposition. This looks like a heavily-built line. Luigi Lupi collection, all rights reserved.

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Irvine Park Railroad

Irvine Park Railroad/2 The train arrives at the station. All rights reserved.

Thank you to Clay Whisenant for suggesting an item about the Irvine Park Railroad, and thank you to Maggie Ford for information and permission to use the photos.

It looks like a nice ride.
Irvine Park Railroad/1 A nice head-on view. All rights reserved.

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Legoland, Windsor, UK

Legoland trams 1 Colorful trams at Legoland, Windsor, UK. Photo copyright Bob Price 2003, all rights reserved.

Bob Price was kind enough to send some photos from a visit to Legoland, Windsor, UK. Bob describes how "...Running interlaced with inner and outer tracks, this tram takes visitors from the top station near the park entrance to the heart of the action."
Legoland trams 2 Trams at Legoland, Windsor, UK carry a full load of passengers. Photo copyright Bob Price 2003, all rights reserved.
Legoland trams 3 Trams at Legoland, Windsor, UK. Note the interlaced tracks. Photo copyright Bob Price 2003, all rights reserved.

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Los Angeles Farmers Market

July, 2003

1759 Battery Tram 1759 approaching the Grove terminal. July, 2003.

We visited the Los Angeles Farmers Market and rode on a battery-powered streetcar which runs between the Farmers Market and the adjoining Grove shopping center. Standard gauge car 1759 is double-decked and double-ended, with cross benches on the lower deck and cross seats on the open upper deck, with an aisle down the middle. There is a bench across each end of the upper deck. All the signs refer to it as a "trolley", but, of course, it doesn't have a trolley pole.

The car house, at the Grove end of the line, is tucked back between a Gap and an Abercrombie and Fitch. It has the words "Trolley Depot No 1759" above the gated entrance. Looking through the gate, I saw various equipment and an inspection pit. The Grove terminal has a sign giving the recently extended hours that the car runs, which I did not write down, and mentions that it is out of service from 3 to 4 pm for recharging. After each run, the car stops with the Grove end over a white oval in the track which allows a small recharge through induction.
Trolley Depot The car house at the Grove. July, 2003.
Trolley Depot Interior The interior of the car house at the Grove. July, 2003.

After the passengers board, the two person crew announces that "You don't need a ticket, but you do need a seat." They won't proceed if there are any passengers standing. The motorman rings wimpy-sounding bell and the car proceeds around a curve, by a nice little open eating area, and down a pedestrian mall lined with shops. It hooks around bizarre statue called "The Spirit of Los Angeles" and stops by the Barnes and Noble. It then proceeds down the mall, crosses Gillmore Lane, and runs to a stub terminal in the Farmers Market, by the toy store. At the stops, passengers are instructed to stay seated until a "safety bell" rings.

The Farmers Market has a historical exhibit about the area, including Gillmore Field, where the Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars played, and Gillmore Stadium, home to many athletic events.

The ride on the "trolley" is slow but smooth. The system was designed by Entertainment Engineering, Inc. I don't know the significance of the number, 1759, unless it is also the address of the car house.
1759 front Front view of Battery Tram 1759 at the middle stop. July, 2003.
Tower The famous tower at the LA Farmers Market, seen from the upper deck of the car at the Farmers Market terminal. July, 2003.

July, 2006

1759 at carhouse Battery Tram 1759 has just pulled out of the carhouse at the Grove at 11am. July, 2006.

We visited the Los Angeles Farmers Market again in July, 2006. I was happy to spend more time wandering around the Farmers Market, but sad that I was almost out of film. This time we did not hear the announcement about everyone having to be in a seat, but the crew did check. The car spends most of its layover time at the Farmers Market terminal.
1759 leaving Grove The motorman starts Battery Tram 1759 away from the Grove terminal. July, 2006.
1759 at Farmers Market Battery Tram 1759 lays over at the Farmers Market terminal. July, 2006.
Tram sign A sign at the Grove terminal lists the operating hours. Note the 4-5pm break. July, 2006.

May, 2008

On the evening of 17-May-2008, the battery tram lost its brakes and ran into the barrier at the Farmers Market end of the line. Two passengers were sent to the hospital.

July, 2013

1759 at carhouse Battery Tram 1759 has just pulled out of the carhouse at the Grove at 11am. July, 2013.

We visited the Los Angeles Farmers Market again in July, 2013. I was sad to learn that the tram doesn't start running till 1pm on Saturdays. It turned out to be a good thing we went to the Farmers Market because a tanker truck caught fire at I-5 and 2, closing both freeways for multiple days because an underpass got damaged. We didn't learn about it till we got back in the car. We managed to miss it completely as we went on to Anaheim.
carhouse sign A sign outside of the carhouse gives the current operating hours. July, 2013.
tower The iconic tower at the Farmers Market. July, 2013.
movie theater The movie theater at the Grove. July, 2013.

December, 2021

Christmas 2021

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Prairie Thunder Railroad, Hutchinson, KS

Prairie Thunder/1 The new Prairie Thunder Railroad at the Hutchinson Zoo in Hutchinson, KS. All rights reserved.

Thank you to Makayla Poepperling of the Friends of the Zoo, Inc for inviting me to include an item about the new Prairie Thunder Railroad at the Hutchinson Zoo in Hutchinson, KS. She says the "Prairie Thunder Railroad is a 16 gauge model CP173 1/3 scale train with 2 passenger coaches ... The zoo has been running the Prairie Thunder Railroad since 2003, but we were previously leasing an older engine and cars before deciding to purchase this new train. The new train has been running since August 1st."

Prairie Thunder/2 Another view of the new Prairie Thunder Railroad at the Hutchinson Zoo in Hutchinson, KS. All rights reserved.

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Redwood Valley Railway

Number 11 Locomotive 11 lays over by the Army Camp platform. March, 2004.

The Redwood Valley Railway has operated in Berkeley's Tilden Park since 1952. Erich Thomsen, a veteran mechanical engineer, built it using a 12" gauge. This proved unsatisfactory; adults had to sit in tandem in the cars. In 1968, he changed the line to use a 15" gauge, so two adults could site side by side. The layout is currently 1.25 miles, made up of two loops connected by a single track.

I visited the Redwood Valley Railway on a beautiful March day in 2004. I struck up a conversation with a volunteer who said he enjoyed speaking to a fellow railfan. He gave me a tour of the shop, where a new locomotive is under construction, and the train shed, where I got a close up view of the plaques on two engines that had visited Great Britain.

The oldest 15" engine, the Laurel is a 2-4-2. I rode behind Number 11, a 4-6-0.

Erich Thomsen passed away in 1995.

Official website
Trestle Locomotive 11 crosses the trestle over the entrance to the Golden Gate Live Steamers. March, 2004.
work train A work train, hauled by a Diesel-hydraulic locomotive, on a tie replacement project by the main platform. March, 2004.

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San Francisco Zoo

Little Puffer Little Puffer goes at a good clip along the straight track across from the aviary, the seals, and the bear den. June, 2005.

On 18-February-2000, we went to the San Francisco Zoo, where I got to ride behind Little Puffer, the 1904 Cagney 4-4-0, for the first time since it was removed in 1978. The tracks are 22".

The red and black cars look as I remember them except for the last car, which is handicapped accessible. The Golden Gate Railway Museum did a good restoration job.

The new route goes from the depot by the Terrace Cafe, near the South American exhibit, through the shed that serves as a car house, near the aviary, along the road by the seals and the bears, across a trestle by the lake where the bald eagles live, and back behind the Terrace Cafe. We went around twice for two dollars. There is a switch past the car house, leading to the engine house, which is attached to the side of the car house. We saw the engine pull out of the engine house a little after 11:00. The engineer had to go around between 11:00 and 11:15 and grease the curves, which are a little tight. The first run was about 11:30.

The old route ran where the gorillas now live.

I will have to get my Super 8 movies from 1977-78 digitized.

We visited the zoo again in June, 2005 and got to see the new western entrance. My family enjoyed the new African area and the lemurs. Little Puffer was doing good business and appeared to be in fine condition. The last crossing gate before the station appeared to be stuck in an up position.

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Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk

August, 2001

2641 Santa Cruz, Roaring Camp and Pacific locomotive 2641 next to the carousel building at the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk. August, 2001.

We visited the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk in August, 2001. It doesn't have any park trains, but I mention it because it is an amusement park that one can reach by the trains of the Santa Cruz, Roaring Camp and Pacific. The park itself features a 1911 Loof carousel and the famous 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster. A train of hoppers on its way to Davenport went by while we visited.
Giant Dipper The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk. August, 2001.

September, 2006

cavetrain entrance The queue for the Cave Train Adventure. September, 2006.

We visited the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk again in September, 2006. We rode the Giant Dipper and the Carousel. We saw the "original" Laughing Sal from San Francisco's Playland at the Beach on display in the Casino. This is one of at least three.

The only train ride is the Cave Train Adventure. I think that ride had the longest line we stood in all day. I won't spoil the surprise by describing the contents of the caves.
crossing signal Crossing signal at the Cave Train Adventure. Labelled "Miniature Train Company". It rings and flashes before the train comes out of the cave. September, 2006.
Number 9 The doors open and number nine of the Cave Train Adventure rolls into the daylight after a trip around. September, 2006.
in the station Passengers wait to board the train in the station. September, 2006.
boarding Passengers board the train in the station. September, 2006.
train from Roaring Camp The Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific provides transportation directly to the Beach and Boardwalk. Here, the train awaits the 4:30pm departure for Roaring Camp, near Felton. September, 2006.

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Sonoma Traintown

5212 Hudson 5212 on the turntable. July, 2001.
5212 A front view of Hudson 5212 on the turntable. The carhouse is in the background. July, 2001.

I took the family on our second visit to Sonoma Traintown on 28-Jul-2001 and we had a pleasant time.

Hudson 5212 was on the turntable in front of roundhouse. Their Mogul and an internal combustion locomotive were visible inside. There was one car inside the car house.

The tracks are 15 inch gauge. We rode behind internal combustion locomotive 22. The cars are mostly open ones with cross benches. Two cars have roofs. There was a nice miniature caboose.

The layout has some beautiful trestles and bridges and two or three tunnels. There are lots of trees. There is an artificial waterful and various waterways. Towards the end of the trip, the train stops in a miniature town with several buildings and a group of ravenous goats, a sheep, and a llama waiting to get fed. We came around a curve and saw the llama lying by a fence. His head popped up when he heard the train. When we pulled into the little town, he was charging down the hill like a cavalry horse.

The fare is $3.75 for adults and $3.25 for kids up to 15. They have a carousel, a ferris wheel, and some other amusement rides, including a small roller coaster which is under construction. They have three 1:1 scale cabooses, two of which (UP & SP) visitors can walk through.
22 Internal combustion locomotive 22. July, 2001.
Loading Loading at the station. July, 2001.

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Discover Live Steam and Diesel Model Railroading is an excellent site.

Visit The Grand Scales Quarterly, "the only magazine in the world dedicated exclusively to 'Grand Scale' riding railways."

Visit 7+ RAILROADER, a magazine for riding-scale model railroaders (rails more than 7 inches apart, but less than 4' 8 1/2" gauge).

Harry Marnell has done painstaking detective work to put together a page about fallen flag the Alton & Pacific.

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Last updated 31-December-2023