June 12, 2007
The Hermann Park Train

This is cool.

Under a proposal from the Hermann Park Conservancy and the Houston City Council's quality-of-life committee, the little train could be getting a $4 million upgrade, with new tracks and trains, a new train station and three new train stops.

Two new stops will be located near the MetroRail depots at Hermann Park/Rice and at the Houston Zoo. The third new train stop will be near the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Garden Center and Miller Outdoor Theatre.

The proposal, part of an $11 million improvement plan for Hermann Park's Lake Plaza, will be considered on Wednesday by the Houston City Council, Councilwoman Pam Holm said.


Holm, who remembers riding the little train as a child, conceded there is some sadness in replacing it.

"It is so special," Holm said. "It is a little bittersweet when some of the things that have been part of our life get a new life. But it is also great to see the development and the partnership (with the Hermann Park Conservancy) for a better quality of life and better environment for our citizens," Holm said.

The new train "will still be a ride," Holm said. "But it will serve a dual purpose. It would still circle through the park, and the track would be similar to where it is now. But it will be upgraded and there will be stops added."

I haven't taken Olivia on this yet. We visit the zoo regularly, but haven't ridden the train as part of those visits. She has ridden on it many times, however, with my father-in-law, who also takes her to the zoo frequently. Clearly, I've got to catch up.

And for those who are wondering about spending money on something like a park ride when there's a battle over pension funding going on, please note the following:

The nonprofit Hermann Park Conservancy would pay all capital costs to replace the train. The conservancy would operate the train and provide 22 percent of the gross revenues to the city. Net revenues would be used to maintain Hermann Park.

What that means is that it won't be city money going to this project. The city will benefit from it, however. So feel free to support this without feeling like you've made a choice between the pension fund and the Hermann Park train.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department is planning to recognize the Slusky family's contributions to Houston.

Louis Slusky built Playland Park, with its giant Cyclone rollercoaster, as well as Meyer Park Speedway, where hot rods raced on a dirt racetrack. His son, Elliott, has been overseeing Buffalo Rides' management of the train concession, Holm said.

"I think they started the train, Playland Park and the Speedway all about the same time," Holm said. "The family really made a contribution to Houston's history."

Amen to that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 12, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston