There’s just something about the K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad ride at Kings Island that has appealed to me ever since my first visit to the park in 1972. The wail of the train whistles, the sound of wheels and axles as they churn (chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga), and of course the steam, are all woven into the fabric of the sights and sounds of the park.
Kings Island’s two steam trains are one of its oldest and most popular attractions, opening with the park in 1972, and designed around the 4-4-0 American styled “General” engine which was built in 1855 and the subject of The Great Locomotive Chase of the American Civil War. Instead of being coal fired, the engines are propane gas fired but the 400-gallon boilers on each engine provide plenty of capacity to make them real authentic steam-spitting locomotives.
Each train’s engine and six coaches are as long as the Eiffel Tower (315 feet), and with both trains filled to capacity, 960 guests can be on rail at one time.
Shortly after the trains pull out of the “old” depot on the 36-inch gauge track, they pass over a 65-foot natural ravine on a steel and wood trestle. The track winds through several fields and offers up close views of the Diamondback and Mystic Timbers roller coasters and White Water Canyon river raft ride, with a stop at the 33-acre Soak City Waterpark. After dropping off and picking up guests at Soak City, the trains then loop around through a wooded area and back into the depot. A round trip on the train covers one and a quarter miles of track.
The Blue No. 12 engine, also known as the “Kenny Van Meter”, was originally named Tecumseh after the Shawnee leader while the Green No. 19 engine, also known as the “Lew Brown”, was originally named Simon Kenton after a famous Ohio frontiersman. Both engines feature a propane-fired boiler and have a total weight of 25 tons (engine and tender).
The tender of each train holds 1,200 gallons of water, and is topped off every two hours.
Working on the trains as an engineer is one of the coolest jobs at the park. The engineer is responsible for not only driving the train, but monitoring the speed, air pressure and other instruments to keep the locomotive running smoothly. A dream opportunity for a train enthusiast.