Saturday, July 28, 2018

Magic Mountain Funicular, January 1979

I have a small batch of slides from Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. Being dated "January, 1979", these are probably from just before Six Flags acquired the park (though apparently the name was not changed to "Six Flags Magic Mountain" until 1980.  

One of the original rides dating back to 1971 is the Funicular - a cable railway that took passengers up (and down) from the ground level up to "Samurai Summit". This appears to be a lovely morning view (no crowds!) of the upper station.

It's surprising to me that they didn't give the ride a cuter name than plain old "Funicular". How about "Fuji Funicular"? Brilliant! I've got a million of 'em. The Funicular was one way to get to one of my favorite old Magic Mountain attractions, the "Magic Pagoda". Wikipedia describes it thusly: A walk-thru attraction located on Samurai Summit. It featured a talking Buddha, a mirror maze, a strobe light room (with a dragon flying overhead), a walk through a miniature version of Chinatown and various other small scale items of interest with a Chinese Theme. It was trippy and low-tech and wonderful (it was removed in 1984).

From 1988 to 2016, the Funicular was repainted blue and white, and it was renamed the "Orient Express". One passenger was murdered on every trip up the hillside - the rest were suspects.

Notice that Captain Quint took some time off from hunting great white sharks to work on the Funicular. He was delighted to discover that the chances of being bitten went down to only 12%.

Happily, the Funicular is still with us today! Honda sponsors it, and it is called the "Honda Express" - according the park PR, Magic Mountain is, "...the only theme park in the nation to boast one of these unusual transportation systems". 

I love this final photo overlooking Valencia - as you can imagine, development has changed this scene considerably. I tried to find a comparable contemporary photo, but, much to my surprise, could not locate a single one. Almost everyone took pictures as the funicular was going up.

I'll have more Magic Mountain photos, coming up.


Nanook said...


Wow - in that second photo, it almost looks as though there's danger of a small "crowd" forming on the Funicular-! I always rode the Funicular when I went to Magic Mountain - Angel's Flight it wasn't, but then again, it's in Valencia. Love the last image with the Revolution prominently featured. (I can almost see myself standing-up on it now-!)

Thanks, Major.


WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER FUNICULAR! .....growning up we rarely went to Magic Mountain - it was three hours away from San Diego - in today’s traffic that’s probably 7 hours. The Funicular ride always stood out in my memory and The Magic Pagoda - which I understand only existed for two years. I wish there were more pictures out there of The Magic Pagoda to clear up foggy memories of the inside. I remember the mirror maze, the flying dragon and the giant talking Buddah .... I also have vague images of an almost Its A Small World like room of a Chinese Town built over a river with little figures doing different things like two women dumping buckets of water down into the river below - the town I recall being made of clear plexiglass making the entire town transparent - I’m I the o my one who recalls this room/scene??

I also recal employees in each room having to help move guests through the rooms because of being disoriented, confused and scared. Lol!

Melissa said...

There's a funicular at Niagara Falls, that takes you from street level down into the gorge to board the Maid of the Mist sightseeing boat. It always felt like its own little amusement ride.

TokyoMagic! said...

Well, I was going to try to make a joke using the song title/lyrics, "Funiculi, Funicula," but then I stopped to look up the origin of that song and found out that the song was actually written to commemorate the 1880 grand opening of a "Funicular" that traveled up the side of Mount Vesuvius! Who knew? Then of course, The Sherman Brothers rewrote the song for Annette in 1960, and made it about a "Dream Boy."

I'm loving those uncluttered views looking down the hillside from Samurai Summit. And I sure did miss the Magic Pagoda when they took it out. Does anyone else remember the glass tubes/cylinders that guests could step into and when the lights inside them dimmed, the people would "disappear"? It was a neat effect. I miss THAT Magic Mountain!

JC Shannon said...

I never got to ride on a funicular, or visit Magic Mountain, but I really enjoy photos of amusement parks. I really like it when they come up with original stuff like the funicular, instead of yet another coaster. In the second photo, you can just spot Poirot exiting, having solved yet another rail murder. I'm pretty sure Quint did it. Great pics today, thanks to Major P.

K. Martinez said...

That guy does look a little like Robert Shaw from Jaws. I really like the last pic showing off The Revolution roller coaster before all the trees/foliage filled and partially hid the track and structure.

I love 1970's Magic Mountain photos, but then I love most 1970's theme park photos. It was kind of like the golden age for them. Happy to hear more Magic Mountain photos are coming. Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I recall from those early days that the funicular was often pretty crowded. I have no idea how it is today, but people still need to get up and down that steep hill - why not take a little train?

Mike Cozart, I did not know that the Magic Pagoda was on there for two years. Am I crazy or was it alternately known as the “Pearl Pagoda”? Though it was low on the “thrill meter”, I loved that attraction - there was just something about it. I remember much of what you mentioned, though I’d forgotten that the village was made of clear plexiglass, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Melissa, very cool, I never knew that there was a funicular railway to take guests down to the boats to see Niagara Falls!

TokyoMagic!, I love that somebody in those days gone by was willing to invest in a funicular railroad on the side of an active volcano. And I’m trying to figure out how “Funiculi, Funicula” turns into “Dream Boy” - my brain can’t do it. Yes, I remember the boxes in the Magic Pagoda that vanished people. Was there at least one other box in which a person turned into a fearsome statue?

Jonathan, in the case of Magic Mountain, the Funicular was probably seen as a necessity - some of the park is on considerable inclines. I’m so glad that it is still there! They tore out the “Metro” monorail, which is a real shame.

K. Martinez, I swear, it really is Robert Shaw! Sure, he supposedly died the year before, but nobody believes it. I think that the pre “Six Flags” Magic Mountain was a really special park that does not get its due.


Major, Tokyo Magic:
Yes I remember those tubes - or have recollections of them....didn’t the guests appear to turn into Chinese statues? I recal a kid turning into a rooster. The more I recall about the China Town Village Room ( I read it was suppose to be “Mysterious Hong Kong” I think maybe the whole town was not clear acyrilic but there was sections with little “towns people” -about the size of a It’s A Small World doll - that would dump little buckets of water over guests heads but there was a glass or plexi panel above them so you’d see the water running over the dry guests. I think a section guests walk over the river over a glass floor too.
I don’t think Magic Mountain’s claim of theirs being the only funicular in the USA was correct. Wasn’t Angels Flight a funicular? I think Calico Ghost Town has a funicular themed to a mine shaft ore car and I know I rode one in North Carolina around 1973.

Nanook said...


HERE ya' go. Perhaps not as 'exciting' as Magic Mountain's Funicular, but rather verdant, nonetheless.

JC Shannon said...

I found an old post from...Major of course, of the Calico Ghost Town in January 11, 2012. I was so young back then! It includes a photo of the funicular and a brief description. As par usual, the Mr Major was way ahead of us. I don't know anything else about it except it looked super cool. Check it out. Is it still in operation? Is the Ghost Town still around?


Calico Ghost Town is indeed still around and is the third most visited California State Park. Old Town San Diego being #1 and Columbia State Park being #2!!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major and Mike, I don't remember the part of the effect when the guests turned into statues. I do remember the giant Buddha statue with the projected face, a la "Little Leota" in the Haunted Mansion.

Major, Disney also used the song in Mickey and the Beanstalk, in the song "Eat Until I Die." Just in case you are dying to hear Annette Funicello's and the Sherman Brothers' version, here it is: Annette - Dream Boy. And here is a clip from the movie Escapade In Florence, where she sings a mashup of both "Dream Boy" and what I think is the original version of "Funiculi, Funicula" (along with Tommy Kirk and Nino Castelnuovo): Dream Boy - Escapade In Florence. Personally, I'd rather hear Annette sing it solo. And please...nobody say, "Si, so low we can't hear her!" Thank you! ;-)

Nancy said...

Very cool!!

Such a beautiful view of Valencia on the second picture with the
cable car in the station. What is the white railing like structure in the upper right corner of this picture, I wonder? It seems too far away to be part of the rides we see in the picture below in the
valley. Maybe someday I will get out there for a ride!

I am particularly fond of funiculars, especially since my town of Pittsburgh is the American city with the most funiculars, past and present. The list shows 18, with two still in existence today :-) I used to ride one of them every day on my way to and from work. Its a great view of downtown Pittsburgh from both inclines (as we call them).

Great post today, so looking forward to seeing more of this lovely park. Thanks, Major!

Anonymous said...

Fun to see these photos. I think I rode this once or twice. Only visited MM once or twice.

Is the pagoda motif an attempt to mimic the Angel's Flight train in LA? It seems to have a similar red and black color scheme and a pagoda roof at the upper station at least? I remember my Dad mentioning it from his childhood, don't know if he rode it, but it seems likely.

Angel's Flight is a fun ride also, but you have to wear polyester pants.

Angel's Flight featured prominently in a Raymond Chandler novel (can't recall which) and also recently in the Amazon Prime Series "Bosch", which is pretty good.