To Top

January 1950 Popular Mechanics Article on Tinkertown

• CATEGORIES: Features, Fire/Police/Industry Vehicles, Unusual • TAGS: , , This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

UPDATE: Jerry contacted me about a locomotive jeep he would like to restored (see near bottom). He noted that it was used at Tinkertown and found this older post while hoping to learn more. So, this post is a complete redo of an early post that focused just on photos in a January 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics.

It is probably no surprise that the Los Angeles metroplitan area was a hotbed of theme parks and carnivals following World War II. In particular, there was Beverly Park, which is claimed to be the park that stimulated Disney’s interests in theme parks.

One of those carnivals was a traveling kiddie carnival called Tinkertown. Articles show it existed at least from 1950 through 1952, operating in Monrovia, Wilmington, Los Angeles, and other LA area towns.


December 06, 1951, Wilmington Daily Press, Wilmington, California. Tinkertown Kiddie Carnival announcement.

Tinkertown appears to have owned, at one time or another, at least four unusual jeeps. One was a fire jeep made from a CJ-2A, shown below in red.

A second jeep appeared to have been a stretched (probably surplus) WWII jeep made into some kind of fire jeep used to tow a small Ferris wheel.

The article above refers to the jeep as a “fire engine”; perhaps it was modified during WWII? Here’s a better image:


A third jeep-related setup was a train possibly made from a jeep (or jeep-engine-powered at the very least). It is pictured here:


The fourth known jeep was a jeep turned into a locomotive. It’s the one Jerry now owns (along with two of the tram cars), one he’d like to restore. It’s in surprisingly complete condition. He’s hoping to learn more about the manufacturer and/or Tinkertown. Here’s a photo of his train:


Here’s how it looked in 1950:

Here’s a photo from the winter of 1951:


November 23,, 1951, Daily News-Post and Monrovia News-Post, Monrovia, California. This same photo appeared in several newspapers in different towns welcoming the Tinkertown carnival. The cars pulled behind the train could carry a reported 75 passengers.

So far, those are the only three historical images we’ve found of the Tinkertown train. A search of Los Angeles digital archives hasn’t reveal anything. Unfortunately, searching “Tinkertown” on the web usually ends with finding the New Mexicos Tinker Town Attraction (which is pretty cool itself). There were also other Tinkertown carnivals across the US, which adds to the difficulty of the searches.

This February 1952 article doesn’t show any jeeps, but does have more information:


February 28, 1952, Los Angeles Times. Tinkertown Carnival.

Finally, there’s this ride. It appears very close, but not exactly, as the one pictured with the lengthened “fire engine” jeep from above:


November 28, 1951, Daily News Post and Monrovia Dailys News. Tinkertown Ferris wheel ride.


6 Comments on “January 1950 Popular Mechanics Article on Tinkertown

  1. Jerry McPheeters

    I now own the black locomotive Jeep and 2 trailers on page 105 of the article, I am unable to find much information regarding it or TinkerTown so if anyone has additional information it would be greatly appreciated
    I have photos but do not know how to attach

  2. David Eilers Post author


    I don’t know how I missed that one! That will get it’s own post for Friday morning!@

    – Dave

  3. Steve

    I lived in watts, ca in the 1950’s but later when I was 13 yrs I was visiting relatives and worked the watts summer festival on that fateful day in 1965 for a man we called “legaway” who Had a mobile rides company called “Tinker town”. and I operated a flatbed truck with three Ferris wheels, until the unrest started. Was that the old tinker town? Rides and trucks were pretty worn down.

  4. David Eilers Post author


    Perhaps it was a mobile version of Tinkertown? I couldn’t say for sure, but it seems like there could have been a connection. Sounds like that day was quite the adventure for you! Thanks for sharing,

    – Dave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe without commenting