Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Silverwood Celebrates 20 Years

Number 7 rollin' with Corky & Chet driving. Walt, William and Tom off duty.

Your reporter was fortunate to meet the one of the original General Managers of Silverwood Theme Park recently. He had great stories to tell about the early days. Silverwood opened in 1987, when the park consisted of the Train, Main Street and Lindy’s Restaurant. Starting more as a hobby than a business it soon got out of control. After the Country Carnival was built, then the Log Flume and Thunder Canyon, it became a different park altogether. In the beginning, the sole entertainment was the train, with the Monarch Mountain Boys, plus Jack the conductor. Later, the High Moon Saloon featured stage acts. With the Main Street Theater hosting stage shows, they featured puppets, jugglers and other great family acts. Stories that could be told. The great talent that came, performed their jobs, then moved on to other things.

Your reporter was one such person. Upon retirement, I was interviewed by a delightful young lady, Paula Andrews. My career had spanned forty years in sales and marketing. Paula wanted me to be a front gate ticket cashier. We found out soon after the reason. Paula was Area Manager for the gate. About half way through the season, The train conductor quit, leaving the position open. Gary Norton liked banjo players. I had a new job. Entertaining took hold like no other effort in my career. Later, like many Cast members, learning more skills, I became a ride operator, went back to the train, worked in human resources and other jobs.

Silverwood today is nothing like it was in the beginning. Only the 1915 train, built by the H.K. Porter Company remained the same. ‘Ol number seven as she is referred to has been a staple for many years with up to two hundred thirty passengers each run during the height of the season, with little seven hauling 5 passenger cars around a course that exceeds three miles. Number seven originally was a coal burning engine operated by the Eureka & Palisades RR. They hauled miners to and from town to the mines in Northern Nevada. After several years in storage, it was sold to Bill Harrah of Harrah’s Club Reno fame. Harrah collected everything he could get his hands on if it were old. Cars, boats antique aircraft and old trains. Finally Bill got old himself and passed on. His family sold off the collection in 1986.

A curious fellow named Gary Norton had recently purchased the old Henley Aerodrome. An ardent flyer and owner of several antique aircraft, he wandered on down to Reno to see what was going on. Falling in love with a lady that was 71 years old he outbid Disneyland for the train. He had one problem. He didn’t have any tracks, maintenance facility or train station. He went home and built all of those. Converting the Engine to burn fuel oil he opened the park in 1987 to give train rides and sell snacks and cold drinks. After all, building a theme park in the middle of nowhere would be folly, right?

Today, tens of thousands visitors flock to a modern Theme Park exists with over 65 rides, a huge water park, with Two wave pools numerous slides two wooden roller coasters and brand new this year, an almost doubling of the water park with new attractions such as Avalanche Mountain, a second wave pool and lazy river and toddler springs where the, ah, Toddlers splash and play in safety. Of course this is just an illusion. After all, who in their right mind would build this in the middle of nowhere.


Paul L. Ferguson said...

Herb, I remember those early days taking the kids on the train. I also remembered you, when I first saw your picture on the blog months ago. The train and robbery were a little corny but fun.

I hope to get up your way soon for some potato salad.

Phil said...

We get season passes every year, and get our money's worth with at least a dozen or more visits each summer.

The train is my favorite ride. I like to just sit back and relax while it chugs through the woods.

My son likes Timber Terror (Tremors is a bit too rough for his taste), while my daughter is still undecided on everything.

I just posted something about the magic show at Silverwood... We've seen Nick Norton 20 or more times over the years, and the new guy is pretty good too.

Word Tosser said...

Ah, yes, I remember Rod in the tavern, sang and watch until 10 one night with friends. And Rex with the puppets. When you could get a season pass for $36 and a Gold for $90 (that was for you and one other). We use to go once a month just to mellow out. That was before the rides...Loved the air shows and Bob Healy and his cats and planes... ah those were the days... Oh, yea, you could get in after 5pm for $5.

Word Tosser said...

Oh, Phil... when we were first going... Nick was running the popcorn stand for Rex's show. He was about 12 or 14