Warning-Flash Floods

Flash Flood attraction c.1970The Good old Pink and White Days

Same loaction many years later with added sets in the background. Universal Studios Hollywood, publicity photo.

The calm before the storm

Everything that moves has to reset, it takes 4 minutes to recycle the peril.
Every animation is tested before the public goes through.
You get a bit wet sometimes, especially the 3rd car of the tram.
Often, we get stuck in a major tram back-up here. This turn starts the descent toward our destination. It takes 4 minutes to recycle the flood from the previous tram. Five trams could back up here, at four minutes a pop, do the math. You could be stuck here 20 minutes, that’s when you find out how savvy your guide is. I could tell better stories, but they paid me to drive-not talk.
Stuff was added on this the-Appian Way, named from Spartacus to help draw your attention. Cages from Jurassic Park helped out. Originally, we had a plane crash from the Six Million Dollar Man as the focus of attention here.
Boneyard – Jurassic Park.
Trams can turn right here to enter Flash Flood. This is the road from Jaws shark to connect to the Flash Flood. It is the route when Prop Plaza is closed. Which is forever now, that guise is no longer in use, a movie set was built where we use to have force people to get off here. The lines to reboard are uninviting. Before expansion, Prop Plaza was a place to thin out the crowd in the park. Busy summer days in the park were somewhat alleviated by this forced exit few wanted off at.
This road was dirt when we did westerns, Alias Smith and Jones used this road in their quest for amnesty.
Trams stop here for this next scary thrill. Third car driver side best view…
We move on at the conclusion of the flood into Old Mexico. This was the Tortuga Bar set in Pirates of the Caribbean.
A music video…Escapade was made here.
This is the normal around here…
Come and join me on our... Escapades. The Queen of POP.
A soundtrack kicks in when the park opens, and trams get out on the backlot. Wind, thunder, then a rumbling Flash Flood cascades towards the tram. On busy summer days, this 10,000-gallon flood was lucky to hit 6000. It sometimes trickled towards the tram.
Reservoir catch basin, water gets pumped back up and is recycled for the next unsuspecting tram…
The cycle of life for a controlled flash flood. This creek surges as the animation reaches flood stage. There is a fragrance in this area, a blend of forest and water and chlorine. This is the oldest remaining area for standing sets and a wonderful escape on a hot day. It never gets real hot in this secluded section behind The Alamo set.
Control switches and pumps…this tech area separates Jaws, the animation, and the flood. You can watch trams on either animation from this little perch.
It’s fun to stand on the porch and watch this gush towards the trams.
I worked on all these films except Earthquake and The Shakiest Gun. I trespassed here also. We would watch Jaws, The Flood, and I replaced the engineer in our Runaway Train, around the corner from here. Quite the bold move, since I was trespassing. “I Can’t Stop” was belted out from an automated soundtrack, and I replaced the dummy.
Janet Jackson did a video on this set… Escapade.
Michael Jackson did several videos on our lot including his very last. I once gave Mr. J a tour. We did Kong, 10 times in a row. He rented the tram for himself and his posse- after hours. That’s when the best tours happen.

Another TV series was omitted off that list, Alfred Hitchcock Presents has an episode involving this little village. One more, Airwolf had a tank battle with the helicopter. Yes, this area was built for films, but kept alive for tours.

Don Adams has tram experience as it turns out…and-we’re both secret agents.
The Flood path is where this pachyderm is getting a feel for the set.
This Animal handler, Gary- was also in charge of elephants on Evan Almighty. He is one of the very best ever. Kind and gentle with all of his Animal Kingdom family.

Elephants used to be part of this studio. The huge sliding doors on sound stages are referred to as Elephant doors.

This was a commercial and supposed to be India.

A vintage brochure. Many thins have changed since then. #14 is the Flash Flood location.

Props of every shape and size are on display here to capture your imagination. A large shopping cart from The Incredible Shrinking Woman and a large phone tantalize you. Mr T’s Van is up here-that show was cancelled.

An arial view today showing the Flash Flood location left of the white roof.

Prop Plaza changed to Hollywood Terrace, trams now use the old Nursery Drive and visit The Fast and Furious animation. The road is named after our enormous greens department, where we could change barren landscape to a jungle setting fit for dinosaurs.Now plants get rented from vendors. Section 7271 and 7272 are building numbers, the flood is in their front door. This map lays out exactly as previous overview of same area.
Back when people had fun, rather than complain about heat, prices, and long lines. Prop Plaza in its glory days. It’s here, a tour guide and I would pick up a tram load for the second half of the guided tour. The next area we take you in is the Flash Flood... Welcome back inside The Glamour Tram.

1970’s postcard showing Flash Flood attraction

Prop Plaza -mid eighties…

We begin, once you’re seated;

In 1968 the Flash Flood set opened as the first special-effects attraction and proved to be a major hit for the theme park. 10,000 gallons of water would rush 200 feet down a narrow Mexican village street, uprooting an old tree and threatening to engulf the tram. From sunny California to a storm in a matter of moments, the weather would suddenly takes a turn for the worse. When I was a Glamour Tram Driver in the 80’s, this was one of the attractions that would get the most screams.

The area of Prop Plaza is where patrons would board the Glamour Tram for the second half of the guided tour. The tour guide and I often bond here, since there is down time involved with loading trams at this rest stop. It’s here, where we regroup and pick up 175 new passengers. The excitement begins when we close the tram gates. But as soon as we turn the corner, another back up tram greets you. It’s like an airport and you’re on a plane waiting for clearance to take-off.

So, after a small delay, I get my green light, signaling my turn to diagnose the 100-foot vehicle around a hairpin turn. The front of the tram can see the back off the tram for one brief moment, as this 16-wheel contraption moves along in serpentine fashion. The tour guide usually has run out of things to talk about, but whatever whispers are being directed through the microphone are soon overcome by the sound of rain, wind and thunder. Flood conditions and flash floods have tormented this area since trams replaced horses, back here. As I drive this tram down a sleepy Mexican village road, there’s a warning thunderclap, followed by a tropical downpour. Before you can react, a tree overhead cracks and up the road a wall of water rushes towards you in a monstrous wave. The tree is uprooted and the flash flood threatens to swamp the tram. At the last moment, the flood waters are diverted and the tree miraculously rights itself. The flood is a tribute to the ingenuity of Universal’s Special Effects Department.

I have had the privilege of doing VIP tours and one of my favorite moments at this spot involved a private tour for Don Adams and his kids inside our San Francisco trolley experience. Agent 86 being driven around by me. I love GET SMART, who doesn’t?

As the flood is about to charge us, I step off the tram because me being seated blocked the view of one of the kids on board. The wall of water is the full blown and spreads where I’m standing, soaking my shoes. Don Adams sees this and cleverly in his Get Smart voice says, “I ruin more shoe phones that way.”

As we all laugh- I take off my shoe and attempt to talk in it...Living the dream here, I watched this show of his every Saturday Night as a kid. I had goosebumps when I was told I was giving this tour to Mr. Adams.

It turns out, before I was a tram driver, Don Adams did a movie here involving trams, The Nude Bomb. They race the old pink and whites around our backlot. Agent 99 is replaced by Sylvia Kristel, most noted as a star in adult films. Any tour employee would enjoy this romp, and I must say, some of our tour guides have done adult films, but I digress. These are part of the spectrum of stories shared while waiting to pick up guests at Prop Plaza. If you ever wondered what gets discussed while we wait, it’s career stuff. Just tour guides looking for that big break!

Drivers make 5 times what guides make on the pay scale. We are Hollywood Teamsters, proud of it. Tour Guides rarely last more than a season or two. Some drivers call tramming a career. For culture, Universal cornered the market with top bands always booked at the quaint, acoustically sound, amphitheater. Movies, music, and a studio tour generated a large diverse income source that was second only to Disneyland for tourist dollars.

Tours always finish where they started, and we open the gates at the live action theater. The A-Team would be switched to Miami Vice. Crockett and Tubbs impersonators replaced Mr. T, or JJ as we knew him, and would greet guests to the thumping 80’s theme song playing over and over on the speaker system.

That’s Entertainment…Tram on the right-your turn-All aboard!

Written and lived by …Donnie Norden

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