Cave Train Scene at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Saving the Cave Train

ted-whiting
April 27, 2018

The Boardwalk's Cave Train opened in 1961, and our cave occupants have been an integral part of the beach scene ever since. But twenty years ago, we almost lost the ride. Boardwalk staff didn't realize how popular the ride and its prehistoric inhabitants were, until we started dismantling the cave in 1998. Here’s how the story unfolded.

In the late 1990s the Boardwalk’s thirty-six-year-old deck down near the river end of the Boardwalk, needed retrofitting with stronger girder support. (Did you know there is a 2-acre basement under that deck?) To accomplish this, workers emptied the basement, including where the Cave Train chugged along.

Boardwalk planners began to brainstorm fresh theming for the ride. They thought the Flintstone-era journey through Bedrock City had become a little passé. We all concluded that the new millennium beckoned a more modern ride experience. An underwater-themed "Deep Sea Adventure" became the leading concept. The two cave trains were to be re-themed for the new ride. Reminders of what a "Jules Verne Under the Sea" train might look like still reside in our company archives. 

A trickle of Boardwalk lovers noticed the ride was closed and registered their dismay that it might go away forever. Then one after the other, letters, emails, and cards arrived from Cave Train fans, worried that the ride was being dismantled. A signed petition urging continuance of the ride appeared one day. With telephone calls to our public relations department, people insisted, in a nice way, that the same ride should reopen as they remembered it. Boardwalk guests told us they loved the 1930s tune "Bi Mire Mist Du Schoen" that our happy cave people danced to in the Stone Room.

It dawned on company president Charles Canfield, and soon the rest of us, that the ride had an almost cult-like following. There was nothing like the Cave Train experience – anywhere. So staff stopped trying to re-theme the ride and changed their approach to enriching what we already had. Los Angeles-based R&R Creative Amusement Design was consulted on improvements and quickly reported that the old ride lacked the continuity of a storyline. So they made the ride’s shtick more contemporary while keeping its nostalgic charm. Technicians enhanced animatronic movements of the cave people only a little, to keep the Cave Train’s kitsch. They also upgraded lighting and sound elements to improve the rider experience. And we added more cave residents to Bedrock City. 

The Cave Train chugged back to life as the new millennium began, tagged as Cave Train 2000. The name soon morphed into the Cave Train Adventure but is more commonly known as simply The Cave Train.  

Cave Train Tunnel 2018Recently, the ride's time-traveler revolving tunnel underwent a sizable upgrade and real fire now comes out of the volcano above the ride entrance.  

Carl and Carla, two of our cave friends, traverse the Sky Glider ride to remind guests that our quirky attraction is still here. Visitors can have pictures taken with two more cave dwellers, Clyde who waits at a bench near the Merry-Go-Round and Crystal who sits next to the Sea Swings.

It wouldn't be the Boardwalk without our nostalgic cave dwellers amusing guests and enticing them to visit their underground city.
Now you have the rest of the story!   

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