Holiday World retires last original ride


by Allison Herman

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Updated Friday, May 24 at 8:21 PM

SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (WHAS11) – The last original ride at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari is no longer in operation. The Freedom Train, which had been rolling around Mother Goose Land since 1946, is now in pieces.

The park decided to retire the train because it’s seen too many years of wear and tear.

This winter, maintenance crews at Holiday World were doing routine inspections on the Freedom Train. As they were sandblasting away the old paint, they discovered much of the original metal was in a state of disrepair.

“We just didn’t feel comfortable moving forward and putting our guests on the Freedom Train anymore,” Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari President and CEO Matt Eckert said. “At the same time, it tugged at our heart because she's part of our history and she's part of us, and we wanted to do everything that we possibly can to restore her to a state where we can still keep her here in the park for our guests to enjoy and relive memories that they've had over the years.”

Lee Embrey, the park’s maintenance manager, said years of riding guests around the park in all kinds of weather finally took a toll on the train. “You really start seeing the metal for what it's worth when you sandblast because it gets everything out,” Embrey said. “We weighed the options of restoring it and putting it back together, but we would have had to take so much of the old metal out and rebuild the train, basically, it would have been a new train. It wouldn't have been the Freedom Train.”

During the opening season in 1946, when Holiday World was known as Santa Claus Land, the Freedom Train went by the name Santa Claus Land Railroad. It was later changed to the Mother Goose Land Train, and finally the Freedom Train.

No matter what you call it, just about everyone has a memory.

“We’ve all rode this train, me and my dad have been in there. I've been a little boy in this train,” said Embrey.

Eckert said, “I’ve scrunched my legs up to get in those coach cars plenty of times and again, those are memories.”

This train was the last original ride in operation at the park. Now it will be replaced with a larger, more modern train ride, called the Holidog Express.

New tracks for the Holidog Express are being laid along the same route as the Freedom Train in the 4th of July section at Holiday World. The new train is expected to be up and running by June 7, 2013.

Eckert says while it’s difficult to retire the Freedom Train, there is a silver lining. “Our capacity is going to increase quite a bit with the new train, as opposed to the Freedom Train. There's going to be a lot more room for additional riders.” Eckert says that means shorter lines for guests wanting to hear the nursery rhymes and see the figurines in Mother Goose Land.

Even though the Freedom Train won’t be rolling down the tracks anymore, she isn’t going away. Maintenance crews are restoring and rebuilding the train so it can remain on display in the park. Guests will still be able to sit inside and take pictures when they visit.