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Lagoon Amusement Park 5/5/2019

by Chris Guenzler

I got up early and cleared out my E-mail, then checked Trainorders about the Big Boy. I took a hot shower then packed up. Robin got ready to go and we drove back to Empire Street to officially check out. We drove over to exit 145 on Interstate 80 for a breakfast of hot cakes and sausage for me then we gassed up my car. We paid the 13 dollars parking fee. The trip to the Lagoon Park was done in under an hour so we had 50 minutes to wait for the parking lot to open then went to Guest Services and after a few minutes we met Jimmy Sunlight who took us around the park. We walked over to the Wild Kingdom Train.

Lagoon Amusement Park

Lagoon is a privately owned amusement park in Farmington, Utah, United States, located about 18 miles north of Salt Lake City. It has ten roller coasters, five of which are unique; Colossus the Fire Dragon, the last Schwarzkopf Double Looping coaster still in operation in the United States (Laser at Dorney Park closed at the end of the 2008 season and was moved to Germany to become the Teststrecke traveling roller coaster in 2009); Roller Coaster, one of the oldest coasters in the world operating since 1921; Wicked, designed by Lagoon's engineering department and Werner Stengel in cooperation with ride manufacturer Zierer; BomBora, a family coaster designed in-house; and Cannibal, built in-house with one of the world's steepest drops.

Lagoon is divided into five main areas: The Midway, containing the majority of the rides and an assortment of carnival type games and food outlets; Pioneer Village which has several exhibits displaying pioneer buildings and artifacts; Lagoon-A-Beach, a water park which is included in the regular admission price; Kiddie Land with several rides for small children, and the X-Venture Zone featuring more extreme rides that cost extra. Lagoon also offers a full-service RV park, a campground, and a shaded walking trail outside the park that stays open all year.

History 1886-1940

In 1886, The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad built a resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was called Lake Park, and was one of several resorts built along the lake throughout the late 1800s. Through the years, the lake level receded drastically until Lake Park was far from the lake and it closed by the end of the 1895 season.

Simon Bamberger, who was building his Salt Lake & Ogden Railroad line from Salt Lake City to Ogden, Utah, was vice president of Lake Park and a 25% owner. To increase passenger traffic on his line he bought most of the original Lake Park buildings from the D&RGW and moved them about 3 miles east near Farmington, Utah. This gave the residents of Salt Lake City (and later, Ogden) a reason to travel over the "Bamberger." The resort was named Lagoon for the small body of water located on the original forty acres. The original lagoon was used to harvest ice in winter; Bamberger had it enlarged to 9 acres by clearing some swampland.

Lagoon opened in Farmington, Utah on 12 July 1896, and included "Bowling, Elegant Dancing Pavilion, Fine Music, A Shady Bowery and Good Restaurants." In 1899, Shoot-the-Chutes, the park's first thrill ride, was added. In 1900 guests began swimming and rowing boats in Lagoon Lake. Over time more rides were added, such as the authentic Herschell-Spillman Carousel and Cagney 12 inch gauge miniature railroad. In 1901, the park hosted a minor league baseball team in the Inter-Mountain League.

In 2003 Lagoon celebrated the 110th birthday of its hand carved carousel that was built in 1893 and purchased by Lagoon in 1906. The carousel consists of 47 animals including: a chicken, swan, snail, lion, tiger, a frog in short pants and a bow tie, a sea dragon, a long-horned goat, a zebra without a saddle, a stork, and a giraffe. In 1953 when the "White" Roller Coaster caught fire, (owner) Robert Freed came down and sprayed the merry-go-round with water to protect its hand-carved figures.

One of the most popular rides today is Lagoon's famous wooden roller coaster. Designed by John Miller of Coney Island fame; it was constructed in 1921. Miller gave Lagoon's coaster plenty of dips and turns. Its highest height is fifty-seven feet, and the length of track is two thousand five hundred feet. The ride lasts just under two minutes and the coaster train reaches speeds up to 45 mph. It is locally known as the "White Roller Coaster" due to its white wash paint. Little, if any, of the Roller Coaster is still white, however, since as wooden supports are regularly replaced, the new supports are left unpainted.

In 1927 a 1.5 million U.S. gallon swimming pool with "water fit to drink" was built north of Lagoon Lake. It was one of the first filtered swimming pools in the west, and was a cleaner alternative than swimming in the briny Great Salt Lake.

The 1920s and 1930s were popular years at Lagoon. There was betting and horse racing there in the 1920s, but the Utah State Legislature put a stop to that only a few years after it began. The first Fun House was built in 1929, along with many other midway shows, rides, and games. During the "Big Band" era Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller played Lagoon's stage.


The park closed for three seasons during World War II. By 1946 the park was in bad condition and on the brink of permanent closure. The Bamberger family considered razing it. However, Ranch S. Kimball and Robert E. Freed, seeing an excellent opportunity, convinced the Bamberger family to lease the park to their newly formed Utah Amusement Corporation. Ranch Kimball served as President with Bob Freed serving as Secretary and Assistant Manager. (The Freed Family's Lagoon Corporation bought the resort outright from the Bamberger family in 1983.)

When the Utah Amusement Corporation took over the lease of Lagoon, a Farmington town ordinance prohibited African-Americans from using the swimming pool and the ballroom. By the end of the 1940s, Robert Freed had fully opened Lagoon to the black community, and further extended this policy to the Terrace Ballroom (formerly the Rainbow Gardens) in Salt Lake City.

The Freed family made several improvements, including the installation of new dressing rooms and a general overhaul of the swimming pool in 1949, a rebuilt fun house and the introduction of the "Dodgem Cars" and the "Lakeshore Express" miniature diesel train in 1951, and a new Ferris wheel in 1953.

In November 1953 a fire damaged much of the park, including the fun house, dance pavilion and the front portion of the roller coaster. It was quickly rebuilt to open for the next season and began to surpass the popularity of its main rival, Saltair. Many rides were restored, rebuilt, or replaced, and a few new rides were added. In 1956, Mother Gooseland, Lagoon's first themed area, was opened between the Midway and the swimming pool. It featured rides only for children.

From the mid-1950s into the 1960s Lagoon made many improvements. A showboat was added to the lake, and a new fun house was built, which featured such attractions as a multi-lane giant slide; mazes, mirrors, obstacle courses and mystery rooms; a large turntable which flung its riders off at great velocity; revolving barrels and the ubiquitous jets of air - activated by a human operator - which startled those who were unfortunate enough to stand over them. There was also a mini-car ride added in 1960, followed by the "Space Scrambler," spook house, I.Q. Zoo, and shooting gallery in 1961. The first Wild Mouse ride came in 1965. On the Midway, musical groups including the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Kingston Trio and Johnny Cash drew the crowds to the bandstand.

The Beach Boys made mention of the park in their song titled "Salt Lake City" on their 1965 Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) album. The Rolling Stones concert at Lagoon was in July 1966. The 2 foot narrow gauge Animaland Train began circling Lagoon Lake in 1967. In 1975, authentic Crown Metal Products-built 4-4-0 steam locomotives were put into operation around the lake and the name was changed to the Wild Kingdom Train.


The turn-of-the-century style Opera House Square opened in 1968 and showcased melodramas, musicals and silent movies. In 1976 Lagoon expanded east by purchasing Pioneer Village, an old west town complete with several historic structures that had been collected and exhibited in Salt Lake City's Sugar House area since 1953. The buildings were moved to Lagoon and the 2 ft narrow gauge "Pioneer Village Railroad" (featuring "Old Ironsides," a Crown Metal Products 4-4-0 locomotive) circled the town. There was also the "Lagoon Miniature Railroad," which looped around the residential area of Pioneer Village using the original miniature 12 in gauge steam locomotive acquired in the early 1900s. A log flume ride was brought in from the defunct Pixieland Park in Oregon.

One of the most popular rides at Lagoon even today was added in 1976, the Jet Star 2. Before Lagoon purchased the Jet Star 2, it was one of the attractions at the Spokane Washington's Expo 1974.

Colossus the Fire Dragon came to Lagoon in 1983, to huge crowds and great reviews as it was selected by People Magazine in 1984 as one of the top 10 coaster rides in the country. Fire Dragon is Lagoon's first coaster to feature inversions, with a top speed of 55 mph. With its double inverted loops, Colossus held the distinction of being the coaster at Lagoon with the most inversions for 32 years. Cannibal, built in 2015, currently has four inversions, the most for a roller coaster at Lagoon.

In the late 1980s, both the famous old fun house and the "Haunted Shack", a walk-through freaky fright attraction, were closed, victims of escalating maintenance costs, safety concerns and increased risk of litigation. The famous swimming pool closed after its fifth decade in 1987. This made way for the $5.5 million Lagoon-A-Beach which was completed in 1989. Its construction spelled the end of the small-scale railroad operations in Pioneer Village, as some of the supports stood in the way of the track.

Our Visit

We first visited the non-moving train for today in it covered shed.

Engine 4-4-0 2 is inside the shed.

A rear view of the engine 2.

The train station at the Lagoon Park.

The train returned to the station after the safety run of the morning.

Engine 4-4-0 126 will pull our train. After the train crews filled out their paperwork and once that was done. They took Robin and I out for a private run. We boarded the train and we were off.

The train started moving forward.

The train crossed the crossing for the Tidal Wave ride.

The Tidal Wave Ride.

The train took the curve by the entrance to Pioneer Village.

The train approached the tunnel.

The Lagoon at Lagoon Park.

The Turn of the Century Ride.

The train entering the tunnel.

The train leaves the tunnel and goes out on to a trestle.

The train on the trestle.

The Turn of the Century Ride.

The train leaves the trestle and will run by the zoo at the Lagoon Park.

The Lagoon at Lagoon Park.

The Lion looked hungry and was licking his lips at us.

A goose on a planter.

Bobcat was next.



Rocky Mountain elk.


Bactrian camels.

An American Bison.

Black Leopard.

A badger.


Binturong {bearcats}.




Red Kangaroos.

The train tunnel across the lagoon.

The train coming back into the station. We thanked our train crew then Jimmy took us to Pioneer Village to the train engine on display.

Rattlesnake Railroad 4-4-0.

Ore cars on a trestle.

Rattlesnake Railroad 4-4-0. Next we walked over to the railroad museum in the Lagoon Park.

The semaphore signal was donated by the Promontory Chapter of the NRHS to this museum for display outside the building.

Now we will enter the David E Speery Model Train Museum.

Inside of the David E Speery Model Train Museum.

One final loook at our train at Lagoon Park crossing the trestle.We thanked Jimmy Sunlight for his excellent tour before we exited the park and headed to our next stop of the day.