Black Lagoon or Red Sea

A calm morning on our lake at Universal. The Tower of London use to look down upon this quadrant, across the way. The castle gave this area a more monsterish feel…fact is, this is a monster lot.
This picture is from a jungle from across the Red Sea– it is Skull Island at this time.
This is the Black Lagoon. A cottage use to be standing here that was full of fake snow. It was called the Snow House…
These streets and sets are covered with trams during tourist season.
The Red Sea parts where the road goes under water. (bottom of photo)
Good old PT 73 docked here for McHale’s Navy 1962-66. The tour started in 1964.
How fun is this!Mr Borgnine would return in the 80’s for the series Airwolf.
This is how the Red Sea parts, it drains into a catch basin. In a matter of roughly 25 seconds, this basin gets cycled from empty- to full for the next unsuspecting tram.
Part the waters-on the driver’s side of the tram is the Black Lagoon, and on my side is the Red Sea” says the Tour Guide.
It was my job to actually part this sea, Charlton Heston too busy to stand here all day. A genie exactly like what you open your garage with triggers these animations. I’m handed a genie, and the tour guide a microphone as we begin our day. Then, just go have fun!
Back in the Glamour Tram sir!“…Next destination European street.
Keep this lane clear!
Park Lake Bridge, behind drain.
This car was not suppose to flip over on the TV series Desperate Housewives. The engine was removed prior to this stunt. The car has two stunt doubles, one for Mike and one for Terry Hatcher. It was being pushed from behind since the vehicle had no engine. That made the front end too light causing it to flip over. It was suppose to float, not capsize, upside down. The female double had to free herself while under water. This stunt is alongside the Red Sea. The P.T 73 to the rescue…
This is- under the bridge with the Red Sea completely full, waiting to be parted by the next tram. The backside of this bridge is hauntedThe Creature from the Black Lagoon lurks here.
This is not an easy outfit to swim in…where’s Johnny Weismuller?
The Creature could be hiding here -anywhere!
I have hydraulic oil all over me…darn trams!
Lady, Get back in the stinking tram, quick!
The tall mountain beyond our aquatic villain is the backside of the Hollywood sign. The tan smaller mountain is part of the Universal lot, off Barham blvd.
This tram didn’t quite make it, hope the driver’s all-right. I’m sure he ran away rather than go down with the ship-Teamsters hate accident reports.
We’re just having fun...GULPI drive home in this outfit !
What a gentle creature and such a iconic Universal legend…Florida, the perfect retirement community for a creature in need of water.
The parting of… Skull Island
Here to promote King Kong…The Universal Version.

Where’s the girl?”
I’ seem to be stuck- under this large foot!”
“I’m getting too old for this theme park stuff!

Part the Waters;

This was always a fun animation to drive through. My job depended on successful completion of challenges these animations provided. Each mechanical interaction between tram and animation required skill and training. A whole weeks worth of training, that’s it-40 hours. Pass or fail.

Just need a Class A license and look good in polyester.

This animation was half-way through the backlot tour. We would cruise out of the old west, 6 points Texas, cruise around the paddleboat, only to be followed by a submarine as we creep towards a road that disappears under water like Atlantis. If you’re into this, you will shout “Part the waters” on the tour guide’s command. She’s the eye candy, I trigger the ride.

An average summer day takes us through here 6 to 7 times a day.

The pink and white trams hold 125 passengers, while the Blue Super Trams beef up to 175 cash paying guests. As for driving through this animation, factors come in to play. First, Super Tram or Mar Tram, big one or small. The big trams are able to complete the task under almost all conditions. But the smaller ones ( Mar Trams) are sensitive. They lack torque and the tires start sliding, if you go too slow, you won’t be able to exit, you will have the last trailer stuck inside the crossing. A service truck then swoops in behind you to push your trailer out. It’s the funnest way to exit actually. We’re a well oiled machine around here.

Remember these words; The Tour Must Go ON- Paying Customers Await!

Business was so good- a 4th car was added to each tram !

Picture the backlot tour like the Indy 500. It’s a big circle, while one tram gets unloaded of passengers, another tram starts yet another tour, loaded with smiling and happy faces, most of the time. On busy days, we had 30 trams. That would include all summer days, then the holidays. 21 trams are Super, while 9 others are less than super, but funner to drive. I prefer the old pink and whites, you get a nice summer breeze and the throttle response is much better. But either way, you’re listening to a tour guide, let’s hope they’re good.

Most guides are here to be discovered, which seldom if ever happens. Many have jobs elsewhere at night, like bars and strip clubs. Yes, the guide you have today may have danced for you last night. Does she look familiar?…

It was a different time in the 80’s. We had shows such as the A-Team, which turned into Miami Vice in the entertainment center. But the driven part of the backlot tour is most people’s favorite adventure.

That’s because not only are the tram animations exciting, but filming coexists when operations has no choice but to interrupt a set for tram passage.

Crossing the Red Sea with a high tide-so to speak creates its own obstacles. Tremendous drag, like one of Kong’s hands has a hold of you, is created if the water level is not low enough. That also will overflow along the floor of the tram, wetting shoes and washing out purses. I remember pulling up to cue the Red Sea, but animations were busy fishing. A purse washed out on a tram prior to my tram’s arrival and several hundred-dollar bills were sent floating in the Red Sea.

Another memory is when a Rolls Royce with a record producer inside-accidentally drove into the Red Sea one night. Julian Lennon was doing a video, the tour was closed, I was an electrician now at this time. The road leading to the sea is pitch dark at night and nothing exists to warn you this road is for tours to use only. So, this poor guy just trying to go home after a long day, ends up driving into the sea.

He forgot to yell part the waters”…so they didn’t.

Worse-his car started floating away and was starting to tilt downwards- he needed a rescue. We have a fire department close by and they arrived with lawyers in tow, taking pictures. A fire engine boomed across the water to hoist our record producer to safety.

This was not your same old song and dance rock video.

Just a couple of fun memories when Glamour Trams ruled the world…

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

2 thoughts on “Black Lagoon or Red Sea”

  1. Hey Donnie.
    Gotta tell you, if I had grown up on your street, I would have never graduated from school….. But I would have for sure had a thousand stories to tell…..

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