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The World-Famous Conch Tour Train
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Our Founders

conch tour trainBill and Olive Kroll, founders of the Conch Train, were Michigan natives, who had built a motel in Fort Pierce prior to World War II (1941).  With gas rationing they could see that the hotel business was in jeopardy and Bill took a job with the Navy in Key West. In 1945 right after the war, Bill partnered with Lefty Reagan operating the Charter Boat “Cay Sal”.  In 1946 Bill successfully bid on the city lease at the Key West Aquarium and began the extensive work of turning it back into an aquarium.  During the war it was used as a pistol range. Bill and Olive ran the Key West Aquarium from 1946 until 1956. 

vintage clockIn 1957 they gave up the aquarium lease and then traveled in their trailer for a year returning to Key West with an idea for a new Key West attraction. During their travels they had seen a train tour in Helena, Montana. Bill said that after running the Aquarium for 10 years the number one question the customers asked was “how do you get around the island to see the sights?”

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"The decision to launch the Conch Tour Train
was brought to fruition on January 18th 1958 "
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conch tour trainThe train tour business started with one train #97. Bill drove the train and Olive sold the tickets from the sidewalk on Front Street. In the winter of 1959 they added #98, and #99 was brought on line in 1960.

On April 1st of 1959, Olive’s cousin, Mary Ann Causley, also from Michigan came down to Key West and joined the Conch Train as general manager.

conch tour train proclamationEach year another train was built until there were 10 trains and the company was sold to Wometco of Miami, Florida in 1972.  Historic Tours of America bought the Conch Tour Train from Wometco in 1983.

During the time that Mary Ann and the Krolls ran the train, they established it as one of the most beloved Key West tours and attractions.  They set high standards for a quality product and community service.  In the early 60’s Bill founded the Military Affairs committee which is active today in cementing good community relations with the Navy.

Almost 50 years later people in Key West still stop Mary Ann to tell her they rode her Key West tour.
conch tour train depot   fishing in Key West
Bill and Olive Kroll at their new Front Street Depot, formerly Elbertson’s Barber Shop on Southard Street, 1961   A day’s catch off of Bill Kroll’s (bottom right) charter boat, Cay Sal, 1959
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"The legacy of the Conch Train is of the
fond memories of those who have climbed aboard one
of the little yellow cars or the red caboose to enjoy 75 minutes of fun and the fabulous history of Key West."
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