A bright red, waist-high train complete with rails and a conductor will chug around the Settlers Pond at This Is the Place Heritage Park for the first time Friday.

The miniature replica will seat eight to 10 children. The engine, caboose and two passenger cars will travel on about 900 feet of 12-inch steel track.

The route encircles a shallow pond filled with cattails and minnows. Park representatives said that, while riding in the Columbia-style locomotive, park visitors will have views of the Salt Lake Valley and will experience cool canyon breezes.

"You always want to make sure that history can be enjoyed," said park spokeswoman Christy Goff.

The train is propelled by a three-cylinder diesel engine and is about one-third the scale of a real steam train. For now, it doesn't have a name, but the park is considering inviting the public to help give it one. It wasn't modeled after any specific train but is historically accurate for the period between 1869 and 1896.

The train was created by the Arizona man who built two trains-on-wheels used to cart visitors around the 450-acre park. The larger trains, named after the trains that met at Promontory in 1869, have been operational since May 2007.

The locomotives represent the park's new focus on history between 1869, when the golden spike was placed at Promontory, and 1896, when Utah achieved statehood. Previously, the park only displayed historical artifacts from the years between 1847, when Brigham Young entered the valley, and 1869.

Trains coming to Utah brought with them a lot of cultural items from the East unavailable to early pioneers, Goff said. The trains also brought immigrants from Europe and made possible a booming mining industry.

Attendance at the history park has increased dramatically since 2006, when new leadership took over following years of debt and mismanagement.

Between 2006 and 2007, attendance increased 250 percent, Goff said. Already in 2008, attendance is up about 40 percent. So far this year, about 60,000 guests have visited the history site.

Rides on the miniature train will be free with park admission. In addition to the train rides, the park will celebrate Liberty Days Friday and Saturday with a children's rodeo, pie-eating contests, old-fashioned croquet and a taffy-shooting Candy Cannon.

The park will be open both days from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. On Saturday, a musical comedy will be presented at 7 p.m. For more information, visit thisistheplace.org or call 582-1847.


E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com