One of the most popular attractions at amusement and theme parks around the world is the train ride, offering both a ride experience and a form of transportation. Traditional live steam locomotives became the standard, utilizing steam engines that had been retired from regular service. As those locomotives became more scarce and expensive to restore, builders stepped up creating new steam locomotives and rolling stock specifically designed for use as amusement rides. The cost of maintaining steam engines and railroad equipment has made it cost prohibitive for most parks to maintain operations, and these traditional staples of parks have become more rare with each passing year.
One of the first attractions planned for Great Adventure was a train ride which would serve as part of the immense park's transportation network. Along with trains, plans were made for boats, skyrides, monorails and a wide range of other vehicles to carry guests from a central parking area to the various parks, resorts and attractions planned for the property.
As the scope of the project was modified to fit the restraints of time and budget, the Great Train Ride was incorporated into the final design of the Enchanted Forest.
The design of the Great Train was a loop through the natural woodlands along the lakes on a scenic journey. Great care was taken to preserve as many trees as possible with the construction of the track much like the rest of the park.
Over the life of the ride, the name was changed three times:
1974-1975 Great Train Ride
1976-1978 Woodland Express
1979-1980 Six Flags Great Adventure Railroad.
The Great Train ride's station was positioned just beyond the Skyride station. The simple depot featured a covered platform and fanciful gingerbread style decorations at the peak and along the edges. One of the most unique features was the incorporation of a tree through a hole in the roof.
The roof of the station building featured an oversized semaphore signal permanently set in the "station stop" position, signaling the trains to stop. The oversized signal was in great contrast to the scaled down trains.
The Great Train Ride originally featured two locomotives and trains, with two additional trains being added for the 1975 season, doubling capacity. Three of the trains featured open cars painted in matching colors with their respective engines. The fourth train featured covered cars offering guests some protection from the elements, though they still had open sides.
There were four identical 24" gauge 4-4-0 locomotives. They were built by Crown Metal Products, who was a manufacturer of steam trains in varying sizes for theme parks. The small engines were all propane fired, with the tenders carrying large white propane tanks along with the water tank.
Train crews featured a single engineer who sat on a bench on the front of the tender, with the gauges throttle and other controls mounted on the firebox inside the cab.
The last car of each train featured a high railing allowing a conductor to act as tour guide as well as allow a clear view of the passengers and the engineer.
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|For the 1975 season,
the Hydro Flume was added to the wooded area that was home to the train,
with the flume trough winding above the treetops over the tracks. With
the addition of the flume a crossing was installed just to the right of the station
allowing access to the flume's queue.
The four locomotives were brightly colored with the paint schemes of red cab with blue boiler jacket, blue cab with yellow boiler jacket, black cab with orange boiler jacket, and green cab with orange boiler jacket.
The track layout featured a passing track that was parallel to the station track and an additional storage siding parallel to that. An additional storage siding was located alongside the splashdown of the flume and the propane filling tank was located in the same area. A small water tower was located near the station and passing track.
The sites along the rails were simply the trees and natural beauty of the surrounding area. No props, scenery, or lightning were added to the journey prompting the ride to close at dusk.
Often the train’s direction of travel was changed from clockwise excursions around the rails to counter-clockwise trips. This helped to balance out the wear and tear of the trains wheels and stress on the trucks of the cars.The Great Train Ride was never able to fulfill its original purpose of acting as transportation between parks. The expense of operating the trains became too much, requiring skilled engineers and expertise in the operations of live steam. The park approached the Pine Creek Railroad in nearby Allaire Village to try and work out an agreement to run the Great Train, but no arangements could be made.
With the mounting costs of operations and the expansion of the park for the 1981 season with Roaring Rapids, the Great Train Ride was removed, with the station standing for another season. The rolling stock remained on site for several seasons in storage behind Lightnin’ Loops in the maintenance area. The cars could be seen from the reversing point while riding the blue loop.
The roadbed for the train was visible for many years, finally disappearing with the construction of Adventure Rivers in 1991.
One of the few remnants of the railroad resurfaced in 2004 when one of the original crossing signals was used as a Fright Fest prop in the Brutal Planet haunted walk thru which was set up in the Best of the West Shooting Gallery.