10 Defunct Theme Park Steam Trains
Earlier this year we brought you a list of the best theme park steam trains still operating in America. But sadly there really weren’t that many to choose from as steam locomotives are becoming more and more scarce. The cost of maintaining the tracks and engines keep increasing making it harder on amusement parks to keep them operational. Which amusement parks used to have a railroad? Here are ten defunct theme park steam trains that have already been shuttered for good (in no particular order).
Old Dominion Line at Kings Dominion (1975 – 1994)
When Kings Dominion, sister park to Kings Island, opened in Doswell, Virginia in 1975 it included a 3-foot gauge steam train. The excursion-based ride had only one station in the Old Virginia section and made a scenic loop through the woods. Crown Metal Products provided two 4-4-0 engines, #552 Stonewall Jackson and #601 Patrick Henry (complete with a Confederate Flag). The engines ran on propane gas. For a period of time, a short skit was performed with live actors. The train coexisted with the Hurler roller coaster for the 1994 season, but due to its decreased popularity that would be its last. In 1995, the park sold the trains and the track was removed. Patrick Henry went to Busch Gardens Tampa where it still operates today and Stonewall Jackson went to Dry Gulch USA in Oklahoma until 2020 when it was purchased by Cedar Fair’s Worlds of Fun in 2020. “Levi” as it was renamed was destined to be a temporary replacement and backup while their main engine Eli was out of commission (but it seems as though that never actually happened).
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Railroad (1974 – 1980)
The 2-foot six-inch gauge Fort Wilderness Railroad ran at the Orlando, Florida resort from January 1, 1974 to February 1980. 3.5 miles of track and four 2-4-2 steam locomotives provided transportation to the campsites within Walt Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Numerous problems plagued the railroad from the beginning: poor design, track problems due to a high amount of clay in the soil, high operational costs due to small size of the train’ fuel tanks, and safety concerns of the tracks being near guests all led to the closure of the railroad. Because the tracks were a different gauge, the locomotives and cars couldn’t simply be moved over to the Magic Kingdom park. Visit Fort Wilderness railroad for even more details on this unique train.
Six Flags Great Adventure Railroad (1974 – 1980)
Originally known as the Great Train Ride from 1974 to 1975, then renamed Woodland Express from 1976 to 1978, and finally Six Flags Great Adventure Railroad from 1979 to 1980. The 24-inch gauge railroad opened at the New Jersey amusement park with two locomotives but two more were added in 1975. The propane fired engines were 4-4-0 by (who else) Crown Metal products. Operations became too expensive and the ride was removed in 1980 when Roaring Rapids was added.
Carowinds (1973 – 1977)
Carowinds has the unfortunate distinction of having previously had both a steam train and a monorail but has removed both of them. Two locomotives, #1 Melodia and #2 Ole Blue, ran on tracks that encircled the Charlotte theme park clockwise with stations at Frontier Outpost, Country Crossroads, and Plantation Square. Melodia was originally built as a 0-6-2T by H.K.Porter in 1897 as known as #3. Crown Metal rebuilt the locomotive as a 2-6-2 in the mid-1960s. The #2 engine was a Crown 4-4-0. They also had a third engine (#3) that never ran on the tracks.
Carowinds’ train was removed after the 1977 season for the addition of the Thunder Road coaster (that also no longer exists). The park retains a shortline railroad known as Snoopy’s Junction and is one of the oldest rides in the park today. The #2 engine spent some time at South of the Border and was eventually bought by Michael Jackson for his Neverland theme park where it was renumbered #1.
Opryland Railroad at Opryland USA (1972 – 1997)
The former Nashville theme park had a 3-foot gauge train ride looping through all areas of the part except New Orleans and Opry Plaza. There were two stations along the mile long loop at Grinders Switch and El Paso. Three locomotives ran on the railroad:
Elizabeth was the only engine built specifically for Opryland. It was diesel powered but designed to look like a steam engine with a 2-4-0 wheel configuration. Elizabeth was sold to Six Flags Astroworld then moved to Six Flags Over Georgia (but it’s unclear if it ever actually ran there).
Rachel was a 2-4-4T steam locomotive built in 1920 by Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania for use as a mine train. For three years it was stored at the Tennessee Central Railroad Museum in Nashville. From 2000 until 2003, it operated in the Doe River Gorge delighting folks with the sights and sounds of steam in the beautiful gorge to celebrate 50 years since the last run of the ET&WNC narrow gauge trains from Elizabethton, Tennessee to Cranberry, North Carolina. As of February 2021, the locomotive is in storage in Grapevine, Texas.
Beatrice was a 2-4-0 steam locomotive built in 1916 later converted to diesel/hydraulic. Beatrice and some coaches can now be found at Six Flags America near Washington D.C.
Astroworld (1968 – 2005)
“Howdy friends and neighbors and welcome aboard the 610 Limited! Now, the reason this here train is called the 610 Limited is because it has six-hundred-and-ten rules and regulations. Now we can’t name all 610 so we’ll only mention a few. Please no eatin’, drinkin’, smokin’, chokin’, fussin’, cussin’, fightin’, and especially no smooch’n. Because if we can’t do any of those fun things on this here train well neither can you.”
The 610 Limited navigated the perimeter of the former Houston theme park and was named 610 after the nearby I-610 expressway. The railroad consisted of two 4-4-0 steam locomotives built by Guiberson-Harpur (Bob Harpur, famed live steam builder and Walt Disney Imagerineer). Harpur also built the General and Texas locomotives for Six Flags Over Georgia. The #1 engine was named Caroline and weighed 25 tons. Astroworld #68 (#2) was briefly used at Silverwood theme park. Astroworld also had the ex-Opryland diesel “Elizabeth”, the Custom Fabricators Ltd. of Johnson, Tennessee engine. Six Flags Astroworld was permanently closed in 2005.
Six Flags Magic Mountain (1972 – 1980)
The Old 99 steam train was installed in 1971 and operated from 1972 to October 12th, 1980. The engine was a Crown Metal Works 4-4-0 with 36-inch diameter driver wheels, fueled by propane and weighed 28,000 pounds empty. The half mile long 24-inch gauge track loop passed through “Trollywood” and by an animal farm. The railroad was removed in 1981. The engine sat in the boneyard for 20 years before being purchased by a private collector.
Freedomland USA (1960 – 1964)
Freedomland USA was a short-lived theme park near Bronx, New York dedicated to American history. The “Disneyland of the East” was designed by Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood, an architect who helped plan Disneyland in the 1950s. Of course, a theme park inspired by Disneyland would have to have its own train. The two-foot narrow gauge Santa Fe Railroad took passengers on a journey around the 205 acre park between Chicago and San Francisco areas in a roughly one mile loop in roughly six minutes. Interestingly, Santa Fe was a sponsor for both Disneyland and Freedomland railroads.
Two steam locomotives, Monson #3 and Monson #4, along with passenger coaches, flatbeds, and caboose were leased from Edaville Railroad in Massachusetts. The trains were delivered to Freedomland each spring and returned to Edaville via truck when the park closed for the season in the fall so they could be used in Edaville’s annual holiday lights festival. The engines were built by Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1913 and 1918, and are now owned by Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum. Engine #3 is at the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad in Phillips, Maine while #4 is located at the museum in Portland, Maine.
Neverland Valley Railroad (1988 – 2006)
Michael Jackon’s personal theme park, Neverland Ranch, near Los Olivos, California had two railroads – a 24 inch and a 36 inch gauge. The 36-inch gauge had a propane fired steam train, a 4-4-0 Crown engine that ran at Carowinds (#2) before being put on display at the South of the Border tourist attraction off of I-95 on the South Carolina border. The locomotive was rebuilt by Stan Matthews Shop Services in 1993, renumbered #1 and renamed Katherine after his mother. The passenger cars came from a Six Flags theme park. The locomotive was modified to be a one-man operation. It was setup to run with only an engineer to drive the train, no fireman needed, so Michael could ride whenever he wanted to. The station’s design was highly inspired by Disneyland, complete with a giant floral display in front.
The track is very reminiscent of Dollywood’s, with one station and two loops on either end. The track length was 1.3 miles (but distance travel was longer since you traversed the main section in both directions). The Neverland Valley Railroad closed in 2006 and sat empty since MJ’s death in 2009. The property was sold in 2021.
Libertyland (1976 – 2005)
Casey’s Cannonball railroad, named after famous Tennessee locomotive engineer Casey Jones, stretched three quarters of a mile through the former Memphis theme park. The train took a 15-minute-long tour of the park along 3,650 feet of track. The single station was called Independence Station, inspired by the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was approved. Added in 1977, inside the train’s tunnel, Casey’s Chute, a 3D historical display of Memphis allowed guests to experience the city’s rich history. Libertyland closed forever in 2005. Casey’s Cannoball was purchased for $22,000 and moved to North Carolina but it is believed to have never been rebuilt.
To learn more about Libertyland, read the Images of America book by Coaster101’s own John Stevenson.
Here’s a summary of all these abandoned train rides:
Did you get a chance to ride any of these defunct theme park steam trains? If so, let us know which one in the comments below!