Friday, November 12, 2010

Calico Mine Train Ride, Steampunk and CSUF

The Calico Mine Train Ride at Knott's Berry Farm is turning 50 this month. The O.C. Register has an article detailing how Bud Hurlbut thought up, designed, built, and operated this wonderful attraction. (Also enjoy the video by our pal Mark Eades.) I hope the old mine is around long enough that I'll be able to take my grandchildren there someday.
I also hear, through the grapevine, that someone at Knott's is now working on the various visual effects inside the ride to bring them back online. Already, rocks are once again tumbling out of the ore chute! I hope the steaming mud pots will be next.
The photo above shows Bud putting the finishing touches on a scene in the ride in 1960. The photo is the only image I've ever seen of Walter and Cordelia Knott on the ride.
I've posted about this ride at least two times in the past, including early video footage and a great image of the colorful cavern scene. All of these images, including those in today's post and the historic images in the Register's slide show, come from the Knott's Berry Farm Collection, which is now part of the Orange County Archives.
I've been enjoying the "steampunk" phenomenon from afar for a while. Now I read in The Daily Titan that it all began with folks from my alma mater. Link over to read how Cal State Fullerton alumni Tim Powers, James Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter created this "Victorian meets high-tech" alternate universe.
The article also notes that Powers' book On Stranger Tides has been optioned for the next "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie -- a franchise that also, of course, has its origins in Orange County.


Connie Moreno said...

Awesome post!

ItsNotAPlace said...

Great post. the Calico Mine ride is a classic. I have also recently been fascinated with the "Steampunk" style of design. (Just recently learned that name. Mixing my interest in trike riding... I found this guy who created a Steampunk Trike:

Anonymous said...

I worked for Bud Hurlbut back in the day. Being a ride operator was a great job for a college student.

One memorable highlight was the annual flag football game against Knott's employees (the Hurlbut Amusement company operated as a concession at Knotts, and there was always a rivalry between us and them). We always won, by the way.

Bud was a great boss--a very honorable man, and a true craftsman. His employees were always glad to see him and he was always grateful for the work we did--he even laughed at the pranks we pulled.

Glad to hear that he is still alive and well, and that Knott's might be restoring elements of the Mine Ride as well.

outsidetheberm said...

Awesome photo of Cordelia and Walter, Chris.

Now I'm trying to figure out how they snapped the top view. Low altitude balloon, perhaps?

Chris Jepsen said...

I'm guessing they shot that photo from a crane or "cherry picker."

Anonymous said...

So glad you mentioned Tim Powers- the best and most underrated SF/Fantasy writer alive, based in OC! Would love to see an interview with him from the OC point of view.

Power's Anubus Gates and Declare are amazing reads. The whole Pirates film franchise from the start seemed to be like Power's On Stranger Tides. Wish Powers would write quicker- and do a real OC based book around Knotts and other unique OC stuff over the years.

Powers is Steampunk, but most importantly his work is "secret history", which I love. Secret History is where the writer must accept and use all proven contemporary history about a subject or person, such as Chaplin and Einstein in Power's "Three Days to Never", and then create an alternative story that happens *in between* what is known about that person or event. Of course Powers' learned from and was roommates with Philip K. Dick in Santa Anna during the last years of Dick's life.

-an HB kid in exile on the East Coast

brentjthomas said...

I always enjoyed visiting Knott's Berry Farm in the Halloween season, back when I was a teenager in the early 80's. Thank you for these pictures and memories.

brentjthomas said...

Since Steampunk came up (and I am a fan of the writers named in the article), I am thinking that living in Orange County, with its simulations of earlier times and technologies, (Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm) was the inevitable inspirational setting for the beginning of such literary and artistic movements. Even after leaving Orange County in the 90's, I often think of the strange pleasure of existing in a location with so many things and places constructed like stages and props of other eras. I now live in New Mexico, where many aspects of an earlier rugged reality continue, and there is relatively little simulation.

J.D. said...

Hello, we represent a group of Steampunk Enthusiasts in Orange County. We are currently organizing The First Major Steampunk Themed Event for the Orange County Area. It is set to take place on August 27th ,2011 and will be held at Knott's!
Please help us bolster the O.C. Steampunk Community by passing along the word and joining us there!