When vacationers arrive in Orlando, they’re often looking for a half-day activity to keep the kids entertained, but they don’t necessarily want to pay the full-day entrance fee at one of the theme parks for which the Florida city is known.
That’s where ICON Orlando comes in along with its Pearl Express Train Ride, whose vintage-style cars are a favorite with the pint-sized set. “It’s a great fit because ICON is a family destination, with the wax museum and aquarium,” said Bob Oglesby, who founded Pearl Express Trains three years ago in Orlando with his wife, Karen. “ICON is a good place to go hang out for a half a day, or on a rainy day, where you want things to do indoors. You can easily spend six to 10 hours here, so it’s a great introduction to Orlando.”
With a 400-foot-tall observation wheel as its signature attraction, ICON Orlando, a dining and entertainment complex that opened in 2015, features a variety of attractions alongside more than a dozen restaurants and bars. They include Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology, the new StarFlyer thrill ride, and of course, the Pearl Express Train Ride. Visitors also can enjoy live entertainment and a fountain water show in the main courtyard.
Pearl Express’s eye-catching trains — which resemble toys in bright red, blue and yellow — are actually trackless, electric replicas of 18th century railroad cars, said Oglesby. He chose trains that are manufactured by Wattman Trains, a venerable Dutch outfit with offices in Canada, because of the firm’s reputation for their safety, reliability and user friendliness, Oglesby said.
“Wattman Trains has been in business for over 20 years now,” explained Oglesby of his choice for the Pearl Express Train Ride. “They have all the engineering down, with a lot of built-in safety features.” These include an anti-collision system and hidden locks on all of the train doors, preventing children from being able to hop out during a ride.
Oglesby also noted that Wattman’s Pearl Express trains are lower to the ground than many novelty train models, making them ideal for younger patrons. “Kids don’t have to climb up in order to get into them,” Oglesby noted. “They’re really designed for kids to be able to interact with the attraction in a very natural way.”
On any given day, as long as it’s not raining, two primary color trains are usually operating at Pearl Express; each features an engine, two passenger cars, and a caboose. Oglesby said they have won a solid following among ICON Orlando patrons. “When kids see it, they want to ride it,” he said. “Others just like to stand in front of it and take pictures of themselves with the train.”