Downed branches and overgrown grass surround the Forest Park Miniature Train depot. Parks and Recreation crews were recently sent out to help clean up the area, but only the train’s operator — a family-owned business — can get the train up and running around its five-mile route again.
The operator of the Forest Park Miniature Train, Forest Park Rides Inc., has about 60 days to get the train rolling again before the city terminates its contract with the company. The train wraps around portions of the Trinity River near the Fort Worth Zoo, and the train station is located on Colonial Parkway adjacent to the Trinity River.
The train is an iconic attribute of the park, said Dave Lewis, an assistant director in Fort Worth’s Park and Recreation department.
“It’s been such an important part of that area,” Lewis said. “So many people through many generations have ridden the train.”
The train hasn’t been consistently running since March. The Report previously covered the stalled train in June. The train’s owner, Raymond Hames, recently underwent surgery that put the train’s operation on hold. Since then, mechanical issues have further delayed the train’s operation.
“For so many, a day at the Zoo often began or ended with a train ride,” a spokesman for the Fort Worth Zoo said. “We hope to see a resolution come to light so memories can continue to be made on the Forest Park Mini Train.”
The city renewed its contract with Forest Park Rides Inc. in February 2022. The contract is set to end Oct. 31, 2026. The agreement allows the city to notify the company of default 60 days before terminating the contract. The city issued a notice of default to the company on Oct. 28, 2022.
The contract requires the company to operate the train every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting and keep a log of when and why the train is not operating. The contract also urges Hames to operate the train during school holidays.
If the company isn’t in compliance with the contract by late December, the agreement will be terminated.
The train has been operating in Forest Park since 1958 when Raymond Hames’ father, Bill Hames, launched the train alongside other amusement rides in the park. Over 1,500 people rode the train on its opening day, and more than 4,000 people showed up on the second day.
Hames owns the company along with other family members who live out of state.
The Fort Worth Parks and Recreation department has been in contact with Hames in an attempt to get the train running. Citing a lack of significant progress, the city issued the formal communication to encourage Hames to get the train repaired and operating.
Getting the trains working again likely isn’t as simple as just flipping a switch and turning the trains on, Lewis said.
“There’s probably a lot more to it than that. There are some things that need to be done, but you know, we hope he can get it up and running soon, and we’re encouraging him to do so,” Lewis said.
The department is optimistic that the train will be steaming ahead before the contract is terminated, Lewis said.
Hames previously told the Report he was considering selling the train. The miniature train has been in his family since the late 1950s. In June, Hames said he hoped to get the train operational by July.
“And, if I can’t, then I’ll probably entertain and talk to the (other) owners about somebody buying it,” Hames said.
The Parks and Recreation Department has not been involved in any talks to purchase the train, Lewis said. If Hames is considering selling the train to another party, the city has not been involved in those discussions, he added.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.