Patricia Levine was 5 when she and her brothers started riding the Forest Park miniature train. Forty years later, she brought her daughters along for the ride.
Her daughters, Drea Allwood and Riah Francis. had the day off from school. Levine wanted to surprise them and hadn’t said where they were going.
“I wanted to show them the same experience I had back then,” she said.
Allwood was excited about riding on the train for the first time. She was most excited about looking out and spotting birds with her companion, Puppy, the 8-year-old’s stuffed dog. Her younger sister, Riah, was hoping to spot a cat, she said.
On Sept 1, passengers lined up to buy their tickets and to welcome back Fort Worth’s beloved train after an 18-month hiatus. Parents, grandparents and children waited their turn in front of the kiosks, eager to enjoy the five-mile journey around Trinity Park.
Owner Mary Talley stood nearby to help passengers purchase their tickets at the kiosk. This is the first year visitors can buy tickets with a credit or debit card instead of only cash.
“I brought it up to the 21st century,” Talley said at the train’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 31.
Talley is the great-granddaughter of Bill Hames, the train’s founder. Hames set out to build the longest miniature train track in the world. He began operating the trains on June 12, 1959.
For a time, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Forest Park line as the longest miniature railroad track in the world, Talley said.
Hames’ children inherited the train after he died in 1960. Talley’s cousin Raymond Hames operated the attraction until the pandemic struck and he became ill, forcing the train to cease operating in March 2022.
Supply chain issues delayed the reopening. Talley and her husband, Tom, are grateful for the city’s patience as they refurbished the 1972 C.P. Huntington’s engine and painted the cars.
Levine, like the Talleys and other Fort Worth residents, has history with the train.
Levine said she remembered her father, Andre Vasquez, now 84, telling the family he had laid down the tracks for the Forest Park train in the 1970s.
The train is attracting old and new passengers alike.
Friends Katie Davis and Amy Womble met at Texas Christian University and have lived in Fort Worth for 10 years. This was their first time visiting the Forest Park train and their children’s first train ride ever.
The two stay-at-home parents said the experience would be great for their active toddlers.
The friends were especially excited to bring Hollis, Womble’s “train obsessed” little one.
“It’s just a good way to expose them to the river and Fort Worth and get them outside and active before nap time,” Davis said.
Lifelong friends Julie Wiggins and Linda Hopkins arrived with their grandchildren for the Friday morning ride. They were in the first group of passengers to board the locomotive.
Wiggins, who was born in 1953, remembered coming to ride the train as a little girl. She continued the tradition with her children — and now with grandchildren Beckett and Skylar.
“We’ve been so sad that it’s been off,” Wiggins said. “We missed it.”
Passengers waved from the open cars, as the first ride of the year pulled out of the station with owner Talley aboard.
Four-year-old Riah’s eyes followed the cars as they chugged along the tracks. Still waiting with her mom and sister, Riah couldn’t wait for those 40 minutes to go by for it to be her turn.
But high expectations kept her happy.
“I’m excited to go on the train and have a great day on the train,” she said.
Marcela Sanchez is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. 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.