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Knott's Berry Farm honors its heritage by revamping / refreshing Calico Mine Train & Camp Snoopy

Knott's Berry Farm honors its heritage by revamping / refreshing Calico Mine Train & Camp Snoopy

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On the heels of its highly successful redo of that theme park's iconic Timber Mountain Log Ride, Knott's Berry Farm is doubling down for the Summer of 2014.

This time around, two elements of this Southern California favorite are receiving some much needed TLC: The Calico Mine Train (which first began riding the rail back in November of 1960) and Camp Snoopy (which greeted its first guests back in July of 1983).


Campy Snoopy back in the early days. Photo by Shelly Valladolid

In the case of Calico, Knott's is sticking to its Timber Mountain template. As in: Preserve what everyone originally loved about this Ghost Town attraction while at the same time updating many of the figures & effects found deep inside of this seven stories-tall show building.

This time around, though, Garner Holt Productions (i.e. the San Bernardino-based operation that built the 58 animatronic figures that were installed in Timber Mountain Log Ride during its redo) really have their hands full. You see, when themed entertainment legend Bud Hurlbut & his team originally built the Calico Mine Train ride (for a then-absolutely-astounding sum of one million dollars), they used 275 tons of steel.


Calico Mine Train attraction under construction in 1960.
Copyright Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

That coupled with the extremely tight passages that those ore-cars-full-of-passengers have to travel through as the Calico Mine Train makes its 8 minute-long journey through a detailed recreation of an 1880s gold mining operation ... Well, that didn't leave Garner and his team much room to work within this enormous show building. Especially when it came to finding places to install new figures & effects.


One of Garner Holt's new miner animatronic
figures.
Photo by Shelly Valladolid

But as it turns out, Holt has already had some experience when it comes to Calico. You see, Garner & his team actually built 5 new characters for Knott's mine train ride back in the early 1990s. And it was the info / experience that Holt gained from installing those figures inside of this attraction two decades ago which then made it possible for his crew to place over 50 new state-of-the-art animatronic figures along its track this time around.


And what's an animatronic miner without his mechanical burro? Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Now add in the 70-or-so donkeys, bats, fishes & creepy-crawly things that Garner Holt Productions has built to place along the Calico Mine Train's track along with a brand-new audio & themed lighting system ... And you have just the sort of stellar attraction that Bud Hurlbut & his crew would have built back in 1960 if the necessary funds & technology would have been available.

But you want to know the very best part? Things that Bud himself had put into place decades inside of the mine train ride that were eventually shut off or discontinued are now being restored. Take -- for example -- the ethereal music that Knott's visitors used to hear as their ore car climbed to the highest point along the track, the "Ascending into Heaven" room" (i.e., that chamber deep inside this attraction which was filled with hundreds of stalagmites & stalactites).


The "Ascending into Heaven" room inside of Knott's Berry Farm's Calico Mine Train ride
as it initially appeared back in the 1960s.
Copyright Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

The music for this area inside of the Calico Mine Train was supposedly to have replicated that eerie, unearthly sound which the wind sometimes makes as it whistles through deep caverns. Sadly, the recording which had used to serve as the soundtrack for this specific scene in the ride has severely degraded over the decades.

Mind you, Bill Reyes -- a longtime fan of this Knott's Berry Farm --  had begun a restoration of the music that was used in this portion of the Calico Mine Train. All with the hope that he'd eventually be able to present a copy of this music to Hurlbut as a gift. Sadly, Bud passed away in January of 2011 prior to this project being completed.


Bud Hurlbut with one of the Calico Mine Train ride trains prior to painting.
Copyright Cedar Fair Parks. All rights reserved

But the upside is -- thanks to the restoration work that Reyes had already been done -- an all-new recording of the music for Calico's "heaven room" sequence could now be made. And on a Mighty Wurlizter organ, no less. And thanks to this new soundtrack recording (as well as the new themed lighting package that's being installed in this portion of the attraction), this scene in the ride will be more spectacular than it's ever been.

Another nice aspect to the Calico Mine Train redo is that Garner Holt Productions -- while it didn't reuse / duplicate  any of the animatronic figures that it created for Timber Mountain Log Ride in the second Ghost Town attraction GHP revamped / enhanced -- did make sure that these figures looked similar. That they all appeared to be members of the same community. So that Knott's guests could imagine that -- at the end of their workday -- all the lumberjacks who worked up on Timber Mountain & all of the miners who dig for gold deep down inside the Calico Mine could then meet up for drinks at the saloon in Calico Square.


The entrance area / exterior queue for Calico Mine Train is still being refurbished.
Photo by Shelly Valladolid

As you might expect, given that the revamped / refreshed version of Calico Mine Train isn't supposed to open 'til June, this corner of Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town is still very much a construction site. Even so, the marketing staff at this theme park was nice enough to take us behind the barriers yesterday. Where we actually got to enter this show building and then walk down the mine train track for a hundred feet or so.


Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Once we were inside of the Calico Mine Train show building, we got to see a test of this attraction's steam effect (The new boiler which powers this steam effect had just been lowered in through the roof the day before). We also got to peek in to the bottom of the Glory Hole, that 65 foot-wide & 90 foot-deep show scene which (later this Summer) will be filled with dozens of animatronic prospectors all looking to strike it rich as they dig for gold.


Workmen prep the "Glory Hole" portion of Calico Mine Train for the upcoming
installation of its new animatronic figures.
Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Meanwhile over in Campy Snoopy ... Well, the folks at Knott's Berry Farm weren't as much interested in gold as they were with forest greens & browns.

To explain: Back in 1983 when the Knott family took 5 acres of their theme park's parking lot and then turned it into a celebration of Charles M. Schulz's characters, that project used the most recent feature-length "Peanuts" film -- 1977's "Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown! " -- as its inspiration. Which is why -- rather than showcase these comic strips stars in the sort of suburban setting that Schulz usually placed his characters in -- Knott's Berry Farm opted to go the Camp Snoopy route instead. Create this lush green area that replicated the look & feel of California's High Sierras.


Copyright 1977 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved

Unfortunately, even though the 10 foot-tall trees that Knott's horticultural  team planted back in 1983 have now reached over 60 feet in height, Camp Snoopy's original "high-in-the-Sierras" feeling slowly began slipping away. Beginning back in December 1997 (which -- not so co-incidentally -- was when Knott's Berry Farm was acquired by Cedar Fair), there was less & less emphasis placed on "How can we preserve this area's theme?" and more & more emphasis placed of "How can we shoehorn another ride in back here?" Which is how Camp Snoopy wound with wildly-out-of-theme attractions like GR8SK8, which was this giant skateboard, and Lucy's Tugboat. 


Copyright 2014 Fox / Blue Sky Studios. All rights reserved

Well, now that there's a new "Peanuts" movie on the horizon (An all-CG production from Blue Sky Studios which will hit theaters in November of 2015), Knott's Berry Farm has decided to seriously spruce up Camp Snoopy. Not only replace the rides that don't really fit in this part of that park but also fold in more Charlie Brown-based fun. Which is why, sometime in June or thereabouts, three brand-new "Peanuts" -themed family rides will come online in Camp Snoopy. These include:


Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Parks. All rights reserved

  • The Linus Launcher -- This spinner recreates that classic moment from the "Peanuts" comic strip when Snoopy would grab Linus' blanket and then drag him around the neighborhood. On the Linus Launcher, guests will lay on one of twelve "blankets" as they get spun around. This attraction replaces Camp Snoopy's old Charlie Brown's Speedway ride.


Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

  • Pig Pen's Mud Buggies -- As Pig Pen looks down from his central perch, guests can take their very own all-terrain vehicle for a circular drive through the High Sierras. Pig Pen's Mud Buggies replaces Knott's old Log Peeler attraction.


Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

  • Charlie Brown's Kite Flyer -- Remember the bad ol' kite-eating tree from the "Peanuts" comic strip? Well, he's back, bigger & badder than ever. Swinging 32-passengers 18 feet up in the air while good ol' Charlie Brown looks on, lashed upside down to the truck of this tree in a tangle of kite string. Charlie Brown's Kite Flyer replaces Camp Snoopy's old Snoopy-themed bounce house.


Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

And as for Lucy's Tugboat ... Again taking their inspiration from "Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown!" (More importantly, that animated feature's whitewater rafting scenes), Camp Snoopy's tugboat is now being rethemed as Rapids River Run.


Lucy's Tugboat has been turned into a whitewater raft.
Photo by Shelly Valladolid

And as for GR8SK8, that oversized skateboard has gone to that great skate park in the sky. In its place, Knott's Berry Farm is building Beagle Scout Headquarters. Which will soon be where guests can go if they're looking to meet-n-greet with the Peanuts characters.


Concept art for Knott's Beagle Scout Headquarters / meet-n-greet area.
Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

And as a longtime Charles M. Schulz fan, I have to admit that I love the great attention-to-detail that Knott's creative team has folded into Beagle Scout Headquarters. How they are recreating iconic "Peanuts" locations as Lucy's psychiatry booth and that low stone wall where Linus & Charlie Brown would often stand & talk.

But what's also great about Beagle Scout Headquarters is -- even though the interior features some faithful recreations of memorable location from the "Peanuts" universe -- the exterior of this meet-n-greet area has deliberately been designed so that it then fits Camp Snoopy's High Sierras setting. Everything from the natural wood that this building will be constructed out of to the split-cedar shingles that cover its roof will tell Knott's visitors that they're now somewhere deep in the woods.

In every possible way, Knott's creative team is making changes to Camp Snoopy to reinforce this High Sierra theming. Take -- for example -- all of the new signage that's being creating for the 13 rides that guests will be able to experience in this 5-acre forest-themed section of the park. All of these three-dimensional signs are being made out of real redwood. Not only that, but they're being sandblasted to bring out their wood grain. And best of all -- again to reinforce the whole you're-at-a-camp-in-the-High-Sierras feel of this area at Knott's -- all of these Camp Snoopy ride signs are deliberately being designed to look like merit badges.


Photo by Shelly Valladolid

And this readjusting / reinforcing of Camp Snoopy's deep-in-the-woods themes goes all the way down to the pavement treatment for this part of the park. Knott's creative team is in the process of resurfacing every walkway that runs through this 5-acre area. Replacing all of that old slurry with brand-new concrete which -- thanks to the color it's been painted as well as all of the pebbles that have been embedded in its surface -- will now make it look as though a dirt road runs through the camp.

That said, given that they were replacing all of the pavement that ran through Camp Snoopy, the creative team at Knott's also used this opportunity to address some ADA issues that this side of their theme park had. To be specific: They lowered the bridge in front of Grizzly Creek Lodge by a foot or so to make it that much easier for guests in wheelchairs & ECVs to traverse.

Getting back to the Peanuts theming now ... Knott's Berry Farm is going all-out this time around. It's looking for all sorts of innovative ways to get people interested in Charles M. Schulz's characters. Take -- for example -- the "Peppermint Patty's Pucker Powder" that will soon be sold in Camp Snoopy's new candy store.


Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

But of all the "Peanuts" plussing that's being done in & around Camp Snoopy, I think the attraction I'm most looking forward to is the revamped version of Grand Sierra Railway. Starting in June, this miniature replica of an actual steam locomotive will begin chugging past wilderness scenes which show many members of the Peanuts gang camping in the High Sierras.


Copyright 2014 Cedar Fair Park. All rights reserved

Garner Holt handled the fabrication of these Peanuts characters. And as you can see by the version of Sally & Franklin that were on display during Knott's Calico Mine Train / Campy Snoopy media event, they did an excellent job when it came to translating Charles M. Schulz's original drawings into fully dimensional figures. By the way:  Before these figures could then be installed in six different scenes along the Great Sierra's track route, the Schulz family first had to sign off on all of GHP's dimensional sculpts of these characters.


A 3D printer-created version of Woodstock.
Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Another interesting side note: When it came to producing Woodstock & all of his Beagle Scout bird friends for the Great Sierra Railway, Garner & his team opted to the 3D printer route. Holt used the exact technology when it came to producing some of the bats & fish which will appear in the caverns of Calico Mine Train.

So what's my favorite part of Knott's Great Sierra Railway redo? To be honest, it's a tie between learning that Linus Van Pelt himself will be narrating this eight minute-long journey or the fact that -- en route to the Peanuts' characters campsite -- this miniature steam train will roll past a recreation of Needles, California. Where Snoopy's brother Spike will be hanging out with all of his cacti buddies.

And once the Great Sierra Railway pulls back into the station and guests disembark at the Camp Snoopy Depot, there'll still be a whole lot more new stuff to see. Things like the Peanuts Play Lot. Which will be this area right next to the Timberline Twister where nature, adventure & imagination come together and little kids can then play in a safe zone.


Construction continues on Campy Snoopy's Peanuts Play Lot.
Photo by Shelly Valladolid

Not to mention the overall beautification effort that Knott's horticultural staff is putting into this side of the park. Which -- in addition to the redwoods, pine trees, shrubs, ferns and perennial flowers that people can already see as they walk through Camp Snoopy -- will soon include river birches & blue cedar trees by the stream next to Rapid River Run.

In short, Campy Snoopy will soon be returning to its roots. Becoming the same sort of inspired / inspiring tribute to the High Sierras that it was back when this 5-acre area first opened back in July of 1983. But at the same time, this corner of Knott's Berry Farm will also have a fresh & modern feeling.

Mind you, with what's being done to Calico Mine Train & Camp Snoopy looking like it's actually going to top the refresh / restoration work that was done on Ghost Town in 2012 & Timber Mountain Log Ride in 2013, what's Knott's Berry Farm going to do for an encore? Well, this theme park's creative crew & marketing team weren't exactly ready to go on-the-record. Not yet, anyway. But it's been suggested that Knott's Fiesta Village area may be the next part of this park to receive a makeover. One that will take its inspiration from LA's festive Olvera Street marketplace. But -- hey -- you didn't hear that from me.


Will Knott's Fiesta Village be the next park of this theme park to get a
facelift?
Photo by Jim Hill

In the meantime, while I have to admit that it was fun to wander around the park this past Thursday & the sample all of the Boysenberry flavored culinary delights to be found at Knott's Berry Bloom, I just can't wait for June to get here. So that I can then see how the finished versions of Calico Mine Train & Camp Snoopy turned out.

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  • This park has always held a warm spot in my heart since my first visit at the age of 3 in the 1960's. The last few times we visited about 10 years ago, I was worried that Cedar Fair was getting ready to push all the theming out and turn it into a boring amusement park full of adequate coasters and kiddie flat rides. I was thrilled to watch the the log flume redux last year, and now seeing the upgrades to my personal fave, Calico Mine Train, it makes me very excited to revisit the park and see old friends with their fresh makeovers. Way to go Cedar Fair!

  • Dates, Shelly, I need dates!  The family is heading to California the week of June 7-14... can we hope to enjoy any of these new goodies?  I'm already mourning the fact that several Disneyland attractions will still be in refurb, including Space Mountain.

  • What a nice wrap up of all the improvements coming to Camp Snoopy!  Thanks!  I was priveleged to work at Camp Snoopy - Mall of America between 1993-2004.  That was a great indoor version of Camp Snoopy based on the Minnesota north woods as opposed to the high Seirras.  For a park in the middle of America's biggest mall, the real stream running thru the park with all of the trees and landscaping made it feel like a real camp.  Cedar Fair never owned the park, but they managed it, and it certainly began to lose the great camp theming over time.  Finally, in a show down between new Mall ownership and Cedar Fair managment, Cedar Fair was ousted and took the Peanuts characters with them.  Now the park at Mall of America is Nick Universe.  The stream was removed along with almost all of the trees and vegitation.  It looks terrible in there.  As a HUGE Peanuts fan, I am so glad to hear that Camp Snoopy at Knott's is getting back to it's Camp roots.

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