The Gage Park Mini-Train celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017. In honor of the anniversary each Thursday during July – Parks and Recreation Month – patrons will receive a 50-cent discount on admission to ride the train.
Between 95,000 and 100,000 people ride the train each year making memories for children and helping parents and grandparents relive their own memories. The train runs a mile-long loop around Gage Park with the train engineer sharing facts about the train and park along the way.
Brief History of the Gage Park Mini-Train:
In October of 1966, the City of Topeka entered into a written agreement with A.C. and Leora McCall granting them the right to construct and operate a miniature train in Gage Park. The train route was to be located across the street west of the Topeka Zoo parking lot and circle throughout the park, covering approximately one mile in length.
This miniature train venture opened to the public in 1967. More than 1,000 children and adults rode the train that day after the opening ceremonies. The initial admission price to ride the miniature train was 25¢ for adults and 15¢ for children under 12 years of age.
In April of 1977, the City of Topeka purchased the miniature train operation for the price of $60,000 from McCall Amusements, Inc.
The locomotive, a 3-cylinder New Holland/Ford diesel engine, is a miniature replica of an 1881 Santa Fe Alan Herschell Iron Horse “Cyrus K. Holliday” model. The four passenger cars are each approximately 18 feet in length, seven seats per car and the average capacity per car is 14 passengers. A fifth passenger car, handicapped accessible, was added in 1997.
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. (A.T. & S.F.) caboose was donated to the city in 1985. It housed the ticket window on the east side of the train tracks until 1988, when the ticket operation was shifted back across the train tracks to the present location. The original 1967 train depot was demolished in 2002 and was replaced in 2003 with the current historic depot.
When the two parks and recreation departments consolidated under Shawnee County Parks and Recreation in 2012, the department’s fleet staff spent the year familiarizing themselves with and evaluating the mini-train.
In the off-season between 2012 and 2013, they began a major overhaul of the vehicle to improve its performance and reduce downtime for repairs.
With great attention to good maintenance, the Gage Park mini-train has only been down for repairs only 15 days in the past five years.