Thursday, May 05, 2016

Vintage Postcards - Legend City

Today's post (#28!), from Ken Martinez's collection of vintage amusement park postcards, features a place that I only learned about a few years ago, and basically knew nothing about. Until now!

Fabulous Legend City!

Legend City was supposed to be Arizona's answer to Disneyland. Conceived in the late 1950's by Louis Crandall, the park which serviced the Phoenix area opene in 1963, and closed forever in 1983. It consisted of a lot of old west atmosphere and cool themed rides. Local talent provided  the live entertainment. Also in the park were a Sky Ride, Tea Cup ride, and an Autopia style auto ride which I'll show in an upcoming post.

Like Disneyland, after going through the entrance gates, visitors would pass under the Railroad to get to the inside of the park. I love the saguaro cactus in this image.

Here we have the Legend City Iron Horse and Train of the Legend City Railroad as it approaches the Train Station, after making a complete circuit around the park. I love the dry parched and desert terrain throughout this park.

The Lost Dutchman Mine was a favorite with visitors of Legend City. It was said that the trip inside was somewhat of a surreal experience providing a glimpse inside the legendary gold mine. The landscaping and theme of the exterior looks quite well-executed.

The Lost Dutchman Mine was originally known as "Superstition Mountain Mine" and featured the "world's largest carnivorous spider", as seen here, terrorizing this family. I could've darkened the image, but I like the brick and wood walls showing. Is that a dirt floor?

The River of Legends boat ride featured prehistoric beasts, earthquakes, falling boulders, Indian warfare, magical caves, and narrow escapes before its safe return to civilization. In the mid-60's the ride was renamed "Conchise's Stronghold River Ride" and finally "Adventure River" in the early 80's. Are those rails I see?

The Canoe ride takes another trip around Indian Island. I like the fan palms and rockwork here, and the bright color of the canoes and cast costumes.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to what is a very unusual park because of its terrain and landscaping.

Information Source material:
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko

Thanks Ken! I would almost think that ol' C.V. Wood had something to do with this one, but clearly he did not. Fascinating - and sad that it's now gone, like so many other regional parks.


Nanook said...


Thanks for sharing these wonderful images of a park I never did visit. It kinda looks like it was a fun place. It certainly does look to me like we can see rails underneath the water line. And what's with that spider-??!! The head looks as if it was originally part of some prehistoric creature. Creepy-!

Anonymous said...

World's largest carnivorous spider! To distinguish it from all the herbivorous spiders in the world!

Kenneth Lane said...

Looks like a cool place. Shame it couldn't compete against Six Flags and the Mouse.

TokyoMagic! said...

Another park that I wish I could have seen! It looks a bit like "Nara" of the West. Does anyone know if the train or any of the other rides ended up at other parks after Legend City closed? Thanks for sharing these, Ken!

Patrick Devlin said...

Thank you, Ken. Very nice material and great info. A small train geek question: I wonder why the loco on the trestle has two steam domes? The front dome has the steam whistle and the rear dome has the safety valves. I know, it's kind of geeky...

Anonymous said...

Wow, some of these scenes are really reminiscent of Disneyland, more so than most of the "other" parks. Especially that "pass under the train" entry. Looks like a fun place.

Thanks Ken and Major.


DrGoat said...

I've lived in Tucson almost all my life. Back in the good
ole 60s, we used to get stoned and go up there for the day.
The landscaping was pretty much what it was outside the
park. Love the Sonoran desert. Grew up in it.

Chuck said...

I remember picking up a brochure on Legend City when we were driving across Arizona moving out of California in 1976. I can recall thinking there was no way I was going to ride the Lost Dutchman's Mine (we didn't end up going anyway).

That photo with the spider looks even more staged than most post cards. The family appears to be sitting in a mine car pointed into a corner independent of any track. I hope they made it out alive (see why I didn't want to ride it?).

I love the train on the wooden trestle! The chain link fence in the foreground - not so much.

Patrick Devlin - building locomotives with two steam domes was a relatively common practice from the mid-1850s to the 1870s. The idea was to increase steam capacity without increasing boiler size - a larger boiler would have meant larger locomotives, which in turn would have meant more weight and larger clearances, which would have required upgrading track, bridges, and tunnel clearances. While the railroads eventually made all of the investments necessary to operate larger locomotives, that didn't really start happening until the latter part of the 19th Century.

Legend City #1 was built by Crown Metal Products in 1965 (or maybe 1963, take your pick) as a working, steam-powered replica of a mid-19th-century locomotive (it was actually the first of many steam locomotives they built for amusement parks from 1965-1989). I don't believe the second steam dome was actually functional, but it does add to the authenticity.

TM! - the train was sold to Magic Landing, an amusement park that opened in El Paso, Texas, in 1984. It operated as the "Old Galveston Railway" until the park closed in 1988, a victim of low attendance and astronomical insurance premiums after a fatal accident caused by poor safety training.

I found some photos of the ruins of Magic Landing taken in 2005, before the site was razed, and they include photos of the abandoned train station:

As far as the train is concerned, the story isn't all gloom and doom. It was stored for 20 years and is currently on static display across the street from Magic Landing's former location:,+El+Paso/@31.6677631,-106.2457947,3a,75y,47.95h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m4!1svqpMemY6Gw7Xe6-OLODa9w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x72ccdbb26fb06045!6m1!1e1

Here are some closer images of its current resting place:

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, I did visit this park in the 1970's on my way to Walt Disney World. By the time I got there it wasn't quite like this, but still it was a fun place. Besides, they had a Chance Sky Diver, one of my favorites.

Anonymous, They never let the herbivorous spiders inside the dark rides because it became a fire hazard due to all the herb they smoked.

Kenneth Lane, I have a feeling that if Legend City did survive, it would've eventually been swallowed up by Six Flags anyway. I can just see them holding a corporate meeting to discuss the new name. Six Flags Legend City! That's what we'll call it!

TokyoMagic!, Unfortunately I haven't been able to find out what happened to the loco or train. Hopefully someone will chime in. I do wish I had seen Nara Dreamland. Nothing like an alternate universe Disneyland!

Patrick Devlin, Glad you enjoyed these and great question! Maybe Steve or Chuck will chime in.

JG, the more I got into amusement/theme parks, the more I realized that Disneyland had a massive influence on the industry. In addition, several attractions from the early 20th century parks influenced attractions at Disneyland.

DrGoat, I loved the natural landscape and terrain around the Phoenix/Tempe area. It's so different from the forested coastline I grew up in. Probably because I was a ride operator at an amusement park, I never got stoned before or while visiting one.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, It looks like I missed your comments while typing my own response. Wonderful info. I knew you'd come through!

A HUGE THANKS for doing the research.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks for that info, Chuck! I always like to see items that have been rescued from these old extinct parks. At least people get to enjoy looking at the train even if they can no longer ride on it.

DrGoat said...

It was the sixties after all. My only excuse.
The desert down here in Tucson is beautiful this time of year. All
the cactus are blooming.