The underground fleet

The underground fleet

Posted on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, by Hubert Heck

Climb aboard the underground fleet at Fantastic Caverns and explore the world beneath your feet. Touring Fantastic Caverns by Jeep drawn trams helps preserve the cave. America's Ride Thru Cave may not be inhabited by humans but the cave system does have a thriving ecology of small critters that call it home.

There is perhaps no more legendary vehicle on the American road - and off of it - than the Jeep. The rugged four-by-four that built a reputation for performance and reliability during World War II found civilian duty after the war, navigating the hills, forests, and highways of America. And a handful went undercover to become what may be the nations largest fleet of underground Jeep. These eight Jeep pull trams that carry visitors through Fantastic Caverns, just northwest of Springfield, MO.

The History of the Jeep

The Jeeps at Fantastic Caverns are descendants of those that earned their stripes on the battlefields of World War II. More than 600,000 Jeeps were built by Willys and Ford during the war. Developed for the military on the eve of the conflict, the Jeep got its name, so the story goes, from "general purpose" or GP. But the term "Jeep" had already been in the vocabulary of Army slang for years, according to one account.

Citing a 1941 Army report, Jim Allen wrote in Fourwheeler magazine that the word "Jeep" was used by Army mechanics as early as World War I to refer to any new motor vehicle that was brought in for testing. "Jeep" was also derogatory for a new recruit. The name was even given to a comic strip character - Eugene the Magical Jeep, a small, endearing, doglike creature who had mysterious powers and first appeared in "Popeye" comics in 1936.

Jeep drawn tram on a snowy day

Taking a cave tour by Jeep today

The Jeep has come a long way - literally - since those days, and the fleet at Fantastic Caverns is no exception. Collectively, the vehicles that ferry visitors through the cave have logged thousands of miles. It's been slow going, too. The cave Jeep's average speed is just under one mile an hour - it takes about 55 minutes to complete the leisurely one-mile cave tour. The odometer on each vehicle clicks an average of just 150 times each year.

Unlike their military and civilian cousins, these Jeeps don’t spend much time contending with mud, snow, ice or blazing summer heat. The temperature in the cave, which is open all year, hovers around a mild 60 degrees during all seasons.

Preserving their historic reputation as a workhouse, the Jeep, provides an innovative way to see one of the country's most accessible tourist attractions. There's no walking necessary, so the tour is ideal for families with small children, older folks and people with physical limitations.

Headlights on the Jeep, are fully functional, but they're seldom needed. The entire tour route through the cave is brightly lit so visitors can see the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and other formations that took countless generations to form.

kids in Jeep drawn tram at cave exit

The Underground Fleet at Fantastic Caverns

The Jeep-drawn trams are a less invasive way for guests to see the cave. The vehicles' eight wheels on the cave floor are far less disruptive than hundreds of walking feet. The Jeep, also run on propane, a cleaner-burning fuel. Taking care of the environment is important to the owners of Fantastic Caverns. Water quality is closely moni­tored - its purity is vital to wildlife, including the tiny, rare, blind cavefish - that inhabit the underground ecosystem. Great care is also taken to protect the cave's ancient, irreplaceable formations from damage.

Jeep drawn tram by Cave Coral

Latest Blog Posts

The latest about our Missouri cave, and other Fantastic Caverns news.

Make Your Own Limestone Fossil Sugar Cookies
You can find fossilized remains of ancient creatures within the limestone of Fantastic Caverns. Create your own limestone-inspired fossils in the form of sugar cookies.
Create Your Own Cave in a Cup Activity
Create your own cave. As water flows beneath the Earth's surface it dissolves and erodes the rock, forming the cavities that become caves.
Health and Safety are top priorities at Fantastic Caverns
We have temporarily closed in an effort prevent the spread of COVID-19.
America's ride thru cave
Missouri caves are well known as the most beautiful caves to see in North America and Fantastic Caverns ranks #1 by many. It's America's favorite ride-through cave attraction and uses their signature red Jeeps to drive you around through the cave.
Fantastic Caverns' Adventure Tour offers enrichment opportunities
Cub Scouts and participants of a new gifted outreach project got a sneak-peek of the upcoming art, science and history program coming to Fantastic Caverns called Adventure Tour. This was an opportunity for enrichment for the kids, and allowed the team at Fantastic Caverns to practice the program before its launch.
Fossilized limestone from Phenix Marble used in new construction
Phenix Marble Company mines block from the same Fossilized limestone deposit that also houses Fantastic Caverns. Stone from Phenix Marble Quarry to be used in grounds improvement projects at Fantastic Caverns.
Saturated grounds provide unique opportunities for visitors
Fantastic Caverns offers free walk-through of the Hall of Giants after extensive rainfall causes flooding.
Cave mapping our Missouri cave, Fantastic Caverns
Cave mapping a cave system is no easy task, but cave maps are useful to scientists and conservationists - and to our many visitors that come to see Fantastic Caverns. Learn how our Missouri cave system was mapped to show direction, length, width, and locations of many of the cave formations inside.
Summer Discovery, Fantastic Caverns' summertime program
Fantastic Caverns had the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield participate in their Summer Discovery program.
Missouri State University students filmed at Fantastic Caverns
Fantastic Caverns worked with Missouri State University (MSU) students on a new school film project titled, "What if it’s Poison".
What The Great Blue Hole and Fantastic Caverns have in common
What The Great Blue Hole, Richard Branson and Fantastic Caverns have in common. The same processes that created the limestone caves of the Ozarks, such as Fantastic Caverns, also created The Great Blue Hole.
Protecting Fantastic Caverns from TCE
How Fantastic Caverns is preserving and protecting it's natural cave attraction from man-made chemicals, so the cave system can be enjoyed by people for generations to come.
Phone: 417-833-2010
Fax: (417) 833-2042
Fantastic Caverns
4872 N Farm Rd 125
Springfield, MO 65803
Trip Adviser certificate of excellence for Fantastic Caverns