Los Angeles is a hotbed of events and attractions when it comes to the Halloween scene each year. From world-class home haunts to major theme park scare events, LA has it all – and I will venture to say that no one in the world has a more dense, diverse, and high quality range of haunted attractions than we do right here in Southern California. That said, Halloween in Los Angeles does tend to be adult-oriented, and we are often asked, “What is there for families to do or see?” The answer is always a no-brainer: Everyone of all ages must visit the LA Live Steamers Ghost Train event for an evening of absolutely awesome spooky fun!
Ghost Train is an event put on by the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park. If you’ve never been, this museum is wonderful – founded in 1956, this is a public “attraction” that is open just about every Sunday of the year (see their site for specifics), offering families rides on their uber cool mini gauge trains through tunnels, over trestles and over a fairly large chunk of property just off the 5 Freeway, between the LA Zoo and Travel Town. It’s also the home of Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn, which served as his workshop for his own personal mini steam train collection at his Holmby Hills estate; the barn was brought to LA Live Steamers in the late 1990s, where it was dedicated by the late Diane Disney Miller. Walt’s Barn is not open or accessible to the public during the Ghost Train event; however, it’s definitely something that everyone should see when it is open to the public during normal operating hours (again, please see the LALS website for further information).
Gary Baker from the LA Live Steamers organization was Theme Park Adventure’s ghostly host with the most on the evening of our visit to Ghost Train. Introducing us to various members of his volunteer staff (Ghost Train is a huge undertaking requiring many dedicated team members), we couldn’t help but be excited by Gary’s enthusiasm for Halloween and the event at LA Live Steamers itself. TPA first visited the event a couple years ago as guests; not for a story on the site. We expected a cutesy short little train ride, and instead, were blown away by the extent of the decorations and sets, as well as the length of the experience! We knew instantly that Ghost Train had become a favorite TPA Halloween event, and that we would most definitely be showcasing it in 2013. And here we are!
Since there are relatively few big Halloween events fit for the whole family in the Los Angeles area, the crowds come in droves, as you might imagine. The biggest tip we can give anyone visiting Ghost Train is to get there at dusk and be in line already when the attraction opens – the wait time can be lengthy, despite the fact that multiple trains are run and the event does have a decent capacity rate; there are just lots of people wanting to experience Ghost Train over the period of a few weeks – that’s a good problem for Gary and his team to have! Also, wear comfortable shoes that you know will get very dusty and possibly a bit dirty; they’ll need at least a brisk dusting off, as the grounds and parking lot specifically are not paved.
Riders sit single file behind one another on any number of small trains that are placed into operation, making it not only a great family excursion but a really cool date night outing as well! A whole lot of hanging on and hugging going on! Once everyone is situated, the locomotive’s horn sounds and the tiny but mighty train pulls out of the station and begins a roughly 25-minute trek through the darkness!
Darkness actually isn’t exactly accurate, because Ghost Train is packed with huge, very cool and really elaborate sets, featuring robotic figures, soundtracks and special effects! Each scene has a different theme – pirates, fireworks, electrocution, clowns, spiders, dolls, Dia de Los Muertos, a graveyard, and more! New for 2013, Ghost Train featured many neat projection effects that worked very nicely in their settings, courtesy of the good folks at Spectral Illusions!
While the trains make their way around the property, guests look, chatter and point at various props and gags. Since it is a Halloween event, it’s probably a bit too spooky for very small children; however, ages 6 and up should be fine with it. There are no pop-out boo scares, no live actors and no gore anywhere in the Ghost Train’s show. We like that; the event focuses on mild spookiness, some bathroom humor (who doesn’t love some well-placed fart noises?) and pretty cool visual effects. Ghost Train hits its mark perfectly and is an absolute gem here in LA.
There is a nice assortment of Ghost Train merchandise available to guests each year, including hats and T shirts bearing the event’s logo. Snacks and refreshments are also available at the Ghost Train depot, with proceeds benefitting the Live Steamers Railroad Museum.
Ghost Train is absolutely a fantastic night out with friends, family or on a date. It’s completely fun, a great Halloween event, and completely unique compared to other haunt offerings that time of year; they have no competition! If you love trains, and if you love Halloween, this is a match made in paradise! We sincerely thank Gary and the entire Ghost Train crew for putting on such an amazingly heartfelt and cool event each year.
Have you attended the LA Live Steamers Ghost Train event? What are your thoughts? Share them below and discuss with fellow TPAers!
– Rick West