Saturday, September 09, 2017

Amusement Parks, Tampa

All three of today's photos were taken in Tampa, Florida - more than a decade apart. 

The first two images show the "Trans-Veldt Railway" from Busch Gardens. I knew nothing about this li'l train, so I asked Mr. Google for some help, and he directed me to this helpful site... "Theme Park Trains". 

Here's a quote from that excellent website: The Busch Gardens Tampa Trans Veldt Railway was introduced in 1971, with custom built trains designed to reflect the African theme of the Wild Animal Kingdom. The two trains were designed to serve as transportation for park guests to get around the sprawling park as well as to offer unique views of the animal areas along the park's "Serengeti Plain".

It continues: The Trans Veldt Railway cost $1 million to build and featured two locomotives that were built by Crown Metal Products, using the standard chassis and boilers that most of the 36" Crown locomotives used. The African styling of the locomotives was created with details like European style buffers and cowcatchers, brass marker lamps, arch roofed cabs and round windows. The two locomotives were built nearly identically, with the #4 locomotive featuring 3 domes, and the #9 only featuring two initially, though a third was added in later years.

This next slide is from 1956 and was labeled "Bobby and Lisa - Tampa Fair". Notice the train in the background; the word "midway" can be seen; presumably this was some sort of traveling carnival, moving from town to town along via railway.


Nanook said...


I'm certain I rode on the Trans Veldt Railway back in the 1970's, but have little memory of it.

As far as "Bobby & Lisa" are concerned - I'm unsure of just where Lisa is - based on the partial view of the lettering on the train cars - it says" "World's Largest Midway". And that can only apply to Royal American Shows. (I'm wondering if that montage of performers seen in the background, surrounded by red frames could be ads for their "Harlem in Havana" show-?) That show was responsible for launching the careers of such stars as: Fontella Bass; Chuck Berry; Mercedes Valdez; and Redd Foxx. And since you mention these images are from Tampa, it's possible that image was from the Florida State Fair, which was held in Tampa.

Gotta go get me some of that side show action-!

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

On the far right of the first two pics, monorail beams can be seen. In fact, one of the red and white monorail cars can be seen hanging from the beam in that second pic. The animals could be viewed from the monorail as well as the trains. Unfortunately, the monorail was removed from the park. I'm not sure when that happened, but I know it was gone when I visited in 2006. :-(

K. Martinez said...

Nice pics today. I like the kiddie car ride which appears to be on a slot/cable type of track. Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

I love how the background tree in the first picture makes it look like the train has a roof garden.

Chuck said...

I remember riding both the Trans-Veldt railway and the monorail at Busch Gardens on my sole visit in 1979. I also remember waiting what seemed like forever to ride one of them (based on the queue building in the second picture, I think it was the Monorail). That was back when the real draw was seeing the animals and the theming, and the thrill rides were only a secondary (although fun) consideration.

One of the two locomotives originally built for my local Six Flags here in St Louis now operates on the Trans-Veldt Railway. Note that other than the addition of a couple of cab roof vents and some bright yellow paint, it retains all of its original North American styling and looks a little out of place in "Africa." Glad to see she's still steaming, however.

Thanks for the Theme Park Trains link!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, thanks for all of the great info about the Royal American Shows. I had no idea that such a venue provided a start for so many amazing stars. Awesome!

TokyoMagic!, I wondered if that could be a Monorail track, but had no idea. The cars were so low to the ground in photo #2 that I didn’t recognize them as being from a monorail.

K. Martinez, you can still find those kiddie rides in small parks around the country. Happy Hollow has about half a dozen variations on the “going ‘round in a circle” rides!

Melissa, it is a chia train!

Chuck, it’s hard to believe that animal shows were ever more popular than rides, but it was a different time. I used to like animal shows - sort of. They had them at Universal Studios, Magic Mountain, and other places. My mom and grandmother always sat us down to watch yet another parrot riding a tiny tricycle! When I did my research on the Trans-Veldt Railway, I was sure they were going to be gas-powered and not live steam locomotives. Shows what I know!

Mark H. Besotted said...

Great to see the train! My mom took pictures FROM the train and monorail, but not OF them.

(Dear fellow commenters, fret not. The Major has kindly agreed to share those pictures very soon indeed. Sadly, I don't know if they're quite as fun as these traineroos.)