This afternoon, one of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s trains burst into flames behind the Caribou Train Station injuring one person.
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, solid, confirmable details are sparse. That said, after chasing the story all evening (check out the play-by-play on Twitter if you’re interested), we have pieced together and confirmed enough of the story to report the following with nearly 100% certainty…
This afternoon, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s railroad was running a single train: Der Hochbeinige (red). Both Balmoral Castle (blue) and Alpen Express (green) were sitting on storage tracks next to Caribou Station in New France.
At around 3:30pm, witnesses report hearing a loud “explosion.” Within minutes, large flames could be seen billowing over Caribou Station. A video of the fire is included below.
The best photo of the flames we have comes from a Reddit user who goes by the username GloryFish. His post (via the always excellent /r/rollercoasters subreddit) is embedded below.
According to what we consider to be a highly-credible eyewitness report (we have independently verified nearly everything he reports seeing), the flames seen in the photo above were erupting from Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s blue train, Balmoral Castle. Rick Stuckey’s recollection of this afternoon’s events is included below.
It was definitely the Balmoral Castle(blue train). I was on Invader, stopped while the train was burning. First the engine which was almost consumed, than the tender. Could feel the heat from the fire.
Many other park guests captured photos of smoke wafting over the area. One such photo is included below.
The original poster of the smoke photo made their account private. We've mirrored the image here. Still hearing multiple reports from people on the ground that the whole area is shut down. pic.twitter.com/hhPNMkPBq2
We’ve included a map displaying the locations of Alpen Express and Balmoral Castle at the time of the fire below.
According to a WAVY News reporter (and later confirmed by Busch Gardens Williamsburg), one individual was injured in the fire.
Within moments of the initial “explosion,” guests were quickly evacuated from the area as firefighters arrived on the scene.
Two incredible photos of firefighters actively dousing the flames can be found in the Facebook post below from In The Loop.
Checkpoints were set up at the entrance to New France from Aquitaine and right past German Gifts in Rhinefield. Everything within the area between those two points (InvadR, Catapult, Alpengeist, Le Scoot, Trappers Smokehouse, and, of course, Caribou Train Station) remained off-limits all afternoon and much of this evening.
Finally, around 8pm this evening, New France reopened to guests and with it, at least some of the attractions in the area.
Unfortunately, due to limited access to the immediate paths around Caribou Station, guests weren’t able to get any photos of the state of Balmoral Castle’s engine or tender. (Quick rail lesson: A train’s tender is the car used to store its fuel.)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg insiders who have seen the train since the incident describe very visible evidence of a fire. That said, there’s no way for us to know how much physical damage the train actually endured just yet. That will be up to the experts inspecting the scene over the coming days. Hopefully we will hear more detailed assessments of the state of Balmoral Castle soon.
In the meantime, below I’ve included the official statement from Busch Gardens Williamsburg regarding this afternoon’s events below.
Though the impacts on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s operations are unfortunate and the state of Balmoral Castle is very concerning, those are issues we can address later on down the line via updates to this post and in the ParkFans.net forum thread dedicated to this topic. In place of our normal social media links or whatever we typically end our articles with, we want to end tonight’s post by wishing all the best to the park employee who was injured this afternoon.
We here at BGWFans sincerely hope that the staff member who was injured in this afternoon’s fire experiences a quick (and full!) recovery. All our best to the individual’s family during this time as well.
August 17th, 2018 Update
A number of small changes have been made to the post above over the last 24 hours (including the addition of a new video).
That said, thanks to a WAVY News reporter who has been following the story, this evening we got our first major new bits of information. I’ll let his tweets speak for themselves.
UPDATE The @BuschGardensVA Railway is closed until further notice a spokeswomen said "The damage is cosmetic and we believe the train is repairable, however at this time we haven’t made a decision if we will make repairs." @WAVY_Newspic.twitter.com/lO0q1XWrV6