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Favorite Operating Coaster From 1941 and Earlier

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A look at the Swamp Fox at Family Kingdom, Myrtle Beach, SC

I am a firm believer in the idea that if you have to say you are "the best" or brag, giving yourself the title "the best" or "the greatest," you are not at all. This sign makes me laugh, but it does not exactly say that the coaster is "the best," but it is definitely close to accurate in describing the quality of this ride.

I am assuming the list that declared this number is the same NYT Cartmell article that declared the Kennywood Thunderbolt to be number one. Cartmell was very influential is bringing our attention towards roller coasters. For my generation, I look at folks like Joel Styer for getting me into taking photos and The Coaster Critic (if I recall correctly) on some of those late 90s/early 2000s TV shows to encourage me to explore. Anyways, I think that the Swamp Fox is an underrated and awesome ride.

This John Allen PTC coaster was created in 1966 and it is a twisted and airtime filled machine. It is definitely worth dropping by. 
 feel that this ride is very similar in feel to another John Allen classic, the 1960 (originally from Roseland Park, NY) Lakemont Skyliner
 Above you can see a storm rolling in. On this visit we got a ride in and soon after a storm blew in. This coaster was heavily damaged after 1989's Hurricane Hugo and with a huge rebuilding effort, this coaster was reopened in 1991.

The park has already opened for the season so if you get down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, be sure to check it out!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Short Dorney Park Update, Easter Sunday 4/20

Not too much to see with this short update, just my views as we made a quick stop at the start of our trip back home to Pittsburgh. Half of these shots were taken from a moving car. You will see some of the shots blurry and also with a hint of reflection of the dash onto the windshield. The workers were working feverishly to get the Island Waterworks Playground area beautified. We did not have the time to get out and check the Snake Pit site, but judging how there were very few slide pieces left in the parking lot staging area, I would assume they are making some solid progress. The area we were looking at back over the summer on the far end of the parking lot has grass planted for now. Keep an eye out on this site for you should see some future expansion either in this spot of the park or the parking lot. Either this spot, or some of the area into the current parking lot should be perfect for a park expansion in coming years. 

Think of the following shots like a slide show animation, similar to the Flock of Seagulls errrr AHA "Take on Me" music video. On a side note, as I was looking at this first photo, I stupidly went to wipe at my screen like there were dirt specs on the screen when it really was the power line helicopter buoys near Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest. The line down the center-right of the shot is the reflection of the dash onto the windshield. This sequence of driving/riding has always excited me. It must be extremely exciting for someone who has driven quite a distance to visit the park. I recall being as young as three or four years old and getting extremely excited to see this view, especially after a boring trip to the Whitehall Mall. Some things never change, I can't stand shopping and I have always loved amusement parks. I recall seeing Laser, Thunderhawk, and Whitewater Landing are the only rides I recall from this time period. I never noticed Hercules, the tallest coaster at the park at the time. That corner sort of hides out of view. 

 Due to the rushed nature of this trip, we could not really stop. At this point I asked for Brit to let me out of the car as she waited in the drive thru at McDonalds. This has always been my favorite McDonalds for reasons having nothing to do with the food and everything to do with the view. I laughed yesterday when Reverend Cliff told me about how much he loves to stop at this Mickey D's and "stare at the Holy Land." In all seriousness though, please be extremely careful on Hamilton Boulevard because this is a very dangerous stretch of road. These four coasters really create a spectacular view.
 Dorneyville: Invert Shuttle City. Not hugely known fact, Dorney is actually located in an unincorporated little village aptly named Dorneyville. The current main entrance road up to the large service gate at the end of that alignment actually consisted of a working street that went through the center of the park near Dominator.
 The sheer length of Steel Force always amazes me. The nature of making every element huge makes this one of the most relaxing hyper coasters out there, in addition to making it the longest coaster on the entire East Coast. The length also puts it into a tie for 6th longest in America and into a tie for 11th longest in the world. 
 Boy I love Talon.
 It feels like Steel Force's layout never ends! 
 Now for some (sorta) news. Here is the Island Waterworks. This fun water playground area has stayed popular since it was constructed 16 years ago now. This Whitewater West attraction was really groundbreaking for the time and set the example for future water attractions. You can see how great it looks now after all of the great repainting and revamp work they are doing. There was a large crew working on the ride yesterday. There is no time for breaks in regards to park preparation to be able to take a day off on Easter.
 I see three of Talon's four inversions. I really enjoy the loop and zero-g roll, but I feel that the corkscrew on Talon is perfectly placed for a surprise. Even after hundreds of laps on this ride, the corkscrew catches me by surprise every time. This spot was filled with water slide parts on standby for installation just a few weeks ago.
 This was a shot in motion, we did not have time to stop and check it out, but you can see that only a few slide pieces remain in the staging area.
 We needed to head over to the other side of 222 before we could get onto I-78 to head back home. The following views are from 222 back on the approach to the park. 

On the other side of this ramp is the area we were spotting last season for expansion. The site simply has grass for now. Expect some expansion in that area over the next few years. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

White Swan Update Part II: Ride Whereabouts

Our friend Sam, a ride distributor/middleman for both new and used rides, filled us in on some of the buyers of the White Swan Park rides. Here is a copy of the auction flyer from Norton Auctioneers. The name may sound familiar because they recently held the auctions at both Geauga Lake and Erieview Parks. They have conducted auctions at dozens of other defunct parks as well.

The biggest surprise for me was that Arrow made the carousel. It was an aluminum carousel that was sold to Legend City in Phoenix, Arizona. I am trying to research what happened with that carousel because Legend City is supposed to have closed in 1983 and the auction was not until 1989.

At the auction, the train went to a man looking to move it to a kiddie park in Schereville, Indiana, the Ferris Wheel to a man looking to move the ride to Michigan, the bumper cars to an antique center in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, the Picnic Tables to Kennywood, the Galaxy to Joyland Park, and the Mad Mouse to Lakemont. At this point, the only things that we know are that the Galaxi is still in operation at Joyland and that the Mad Mouse was removed in 2003 at Lakemont.

rain, $30,000 went to Frank Sauzer, Schererville,, Ind for a kiddie park. Ferris Wheel, $13,000, Bob Easley, of Pittsburgh to go to Michigan. 16 bumper cars, $3,500, South Hills Antique Center, Castle Shannon, PA. 75 picnic tables, $60 each,Kennywood Park. Carousel, $24,000, Legend City Park, Phoenix. Galaxy, $140,000, Joyland Amusement Park. Mad Mouse, $9,500, Lakemont Park.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Seeking out the former White Swan Park April 14th 2014

We did not get terribly far on this search. We ended up finding that White Swan was located on the old alignment for McClaren Road right by the airport. The park opened up in the 1960s as a small family park. The main goal was to create a spontaneous and fun place to visit for the locals. The park had a Schiff Wild Mouse that ended up being moved to Lakemont. This mouse would be retired from Lakemont in 2003. The park also had a Galaxi that ended up in Lubbock, Texas at Joyland, a park that appears to be similar to White Swan as far as coaster offerings.

Similar to Rainbow Gardens in McKeesport, this park would fall victim to highway planning. As opposed to Rainbow Gardens, this highway expansion actually happened. This was built up on the premise of the expansion of the Pittsburgh Airport. While the airport turned out beautifully when it was debuted in 1992, however, it would only see full capacity for less than a decade. US Air, the airline that called Pittsburgh its main hub since its founding, said "Ehhh we are going to consolidate our hub operations to Philadelphia and Charlotte." This decision made quite a bit of sense due to those areas being much larger metro areas but the Pittsburgh airport was built specifically for US Air's needs.
This is just a picture we took of a plane taking off from the airport, this is not the park site.
The airline pulled its hub operations out of this giant and beautiful airport before it was even paid off by the local government. By 2012, the 20th anniversary of the giant airport, passenger traffic was estimated to be at 40.8 million. Instead the number in 2012 was 8.3 million (Numbers from Post-Gazette) Now the airport sits as a shell, with several terminals walled off and the others operating at a diminished capacity. It is a great airport to fly out of because it was built for high efficiency, but it was disastrous for the community. US Air once employed 18,000 people in the Pittsburgh region and that is down to 1,800, with many more jobs headed out due to the pending US Airways and American Airlines merger in which the last vestige of the hub, the airplane service center, will have its operations diverted to American's base in Dallas.
1967 Aerial Photo from Penn Pilot
Google Earth View
The Pittsburgh area has been hurt in these ways in addition to losing a small amusement park in the process. The highway expansion is used, but I believe that the original highway alignment would have sufficed instead of tearing out a little amusement park to create an off ramp for a highway and leave the rest of the park sitting as untouched woods and fields since 1989/1990.
Beaver County Times-August 6, 1989
If you are in the Lubbock Texas area, you can see the Galaxi still live on and bring joy to riders at Joyland.
Photo credit to Larry Pieniazek
Additionally, the park's Tilt-A-Whirl ended up at Knoebels. In this video you can see families having a blast on the ride.
Even though the park is gone, remnants of the park are still bringing joy to folks in addition to recalling the memories that remain, long after the park bit the dust. 
Photo Credit to "Canonsburg Friends"
Does anyone know the whereabouts of the other rides? I read that the train is in a private collection. I assume that the Skooters were Lusse. Perhaps some of them are in the Knoebels fleet now? I know that the scooters from several parks are in their collection. I am also eying up that Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel. I love those. Does anyone know where everything landed or possibly have the auction record?

Friday, April 11, 2014

A look into the past: Dream City Wilkinsburg

On this site in Wilkinsburg, just outside of Pittsburgh, from 1908-1916 lived an amusement park named Dream City. This park was part of one of the first park chains, similar to the former nearby neighbor, Luna Park in Oakland. This was another trolley park, built to boost trolley ridership. It did not have a coaster built on the site, but it did have some rides. The main attraction was a dancehall. a staple that has pretty much disappeared in modern amusement parks.
Below are views from 1908

Both postcard images from

With this site being empty once again, I believe it would be ideal for another amusement park to sprout up. The site and the location near the Allegheny could almost make this like the Kennywood of the Allegheny. I would love if they put a park over here, put people to work, and brought amusement park joy back to that area.
Until recently this site was a shopping center that failed and was recently torn down. Can we give it another go as an amusement park?
Don't forget to vote for your favorite remaining pre-1941 coaster at the top of the page! We are also giving away a Conneaut Lake Blue Streak ticket for the Conneaut Lake Blue Streak for each person that purchases our book. A portion of the proceeds from the book are still going to help out the park.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Six Flags America Opening Weekend Sunday April 6th, 2014

Our visit to Six Flags America was very pleasant. The workers were very polite and welcoming. The park was empty and everything was a walk on. I greatly enjoyed this park, much more than I thought I would. We left from north of Kings Dominion on Sunday morning and arrived at Six Flags America at about 11:00AM. After we got our stuff done we headed right in to go through the park's coaster lineup. As soon as we entered we could hear a wonderful band with folks dressed up in Mardi Gras style attire to celebrate the upcoming Mardi Gras addition. We were able to get a sneak peak of the area with the retimed rides and the relocated Ragin' Cajun Zamperla spinning Wild Mouse from Six Flags Great America and the new French Quarter Flyers. The new rides were not quite ready to open. I will show you a glimpse from the preview later on in the trip report.
I was very surprised at the quality of the midway. I feel this is one of the best looking Six Flags entry ways. Great Adventure could use some renovations. I loved the distinct and beautiful theming throughout the midways in the park.

 We were greeted with the sound of a band and entertainers in a Mardi Gras theme.
 Above you can see some of the theming in addition to the very twisted Roar and the second hill of Superman towering over in the background. We decided to ride in order so the Vekoma SLC, Mind Eraser, was first for us. I feel this is one of the better SLCs. It ran relatively smooth comparatively. If Vekoma figured out how to make these rides fully smooth they really would be pretty great. The ride layout is pretty cool. This coaster also had less head banging than Apocalypse. 
 I braced for the worst but I have to say that I enjoyed it. The park was so empty that when we walked up to the station the ride ops had all of the seats open and were simply waiting for folks to come. We sat right in the front seat. This was a common theme throughout the day. Even with one train ops on everything it was still a walk on. You will not see many trains in the photos today because when a train was running we were usually riding it. We waited in shorter waits than if we were there for ERT.
 Next up was Roar. My goodness it was fantastic!
 This twisted beauty was superb. The retracking work over the offseason made this ride super smooth in addition to the fully rehabilitated trains by Tom Rebbie and PTC. He also redid the Wild One trains. Both of the wood coasters shocked me in how well they ran. It is clear that this park really made a great effort this offseason to make their wood coasters run perfectly.

 Apocalypse was ouch. The layout is really good on that, I just wish they would figure out a new type of strap like restraint instead of the head bashing horse collar harnesses. The layout is really fun but the restraints kill it. 
 It is hard not to stare at the twisted layout of Roar. I prefer the PTCs on this ride to the MFs they put onto the similar Hersheypark Wildcat.
 Five coasters in one shot and not one train! It was like the trains were waiting for us like a taxi picking us up at the airport. It felt like we had the park to ourselves. There could not be more than a few hundred people in the park. Good for the guests but not so good for the park. I cannot recall a time in years that I visited a park this empty. 
 More Roar!
 Apocolypse was clearly the longest wait of the day at 5 minutes since you can see that we got all of these shots in the station.

 Wild One and the Joker are both fantastic rides. It was awesome riding both Joker's Jinx and Flight of Fear this weekend. Indoors and outdoors are both a blast on this ride. 
 Aside from the wooden coasters, my favorite in the park was Superman. I think I enjoyed it more than I 305
 The riders having their hands up is a pretty good indicator of how great the ride is. All of the drops on this thing are wild and those giant and high speed helix elements are mindblowingly awesome. The airtime on this beast is unreal. Intamin could do no wrong in 2000.

 More Joker's Jinx. I love this twisted mess of track.

 I forgot how much I enjoy the Vekoma Flyers. They are so disorienting and provide a great thrill. I wish they had caught on better and more layouts were made. Very fun and underrated rides. 

 A whole bunch of airtime shots!

 We saved the best for last! Boy was Wild One awesome! Nearly a century old and this coaster is still humming. The final helix surprised me with how powerful it was. Schmeck was a true master. I know this coaster has been modified a bunch of times, but it is really fantastic. The retracing love the park gave to the coaster really makes it run great in addition to the newly refurbished PTC trains. Wild ride!
 No, the drop tower is not collapsing, I just took a lousy picture. I may have been standing on uneven ground or just took a lousy shot. Either way you can see the changes to their 140 foot Intamin First Generation Drop Tower. It was repainted and named "Voodoo Drop." The new "French Quarter Flyers" were teasing me. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love these rides. I am glad that Larson has brought back the art of making these types of rides. 

 The newly relocated Zamperla Spinning Wild Mouse from Six Flags Great America, the Ragin Cajun. The second coaster in two years to be relocated from Six Flags Great America to Six Flags America. The other coaster that was relocated is the Apocalypse. 
 Now back to the operating star of this area of the park, the nearly century old Wild One. My goodness what a fantastic ride. My other favorite, Superman, is peeking out as well. 
 Boy do I love that helix finale. There is nothing like a great helix on a wood coaster. A sunny day really makes a white wood coaster stand out.

 The freshly rehabbed trains. 

 One last glimpse at Roar (above) and Wild One (below)
With one train ops they still could not fill the train. I could not believe how empty the park was. The hands up on the riders say all there is to say about the Wild One. What a fantastic ride. I think it may have nudged its way into my wooden top ten favorites with just how awesome it rode. All I can say is wow. Roar's twisted layout and floater air were perfect in addition to the smoothness of the ride. This park is a wood coaster lover's destination for these two greats.
 Anyone up for a 10.99 Lettuce rolled burger? I seem to always catch at least one head scratcher on one of our adventures.

Overall I think that Six Flags America is a highly underrated and beautiful park. I think that the placement of the rides is nice and spread out and perfectly arranged in addition to the park's beautiful main midways. I love that the swing ride is centered at the end of the main midway. It makes for a pretty entry way. I would love to see the park add more attractions and help attract tourists from nearby Washington. I think the park could really be a major tourist destination as opposed to more of a regional park. The infrastructure is there and they have a great core of rides. Coupled some big attractions, maybe a hotel, and advertising the close location to the sights of Washington, this park could really be a major player. The family additions this year will be great. I hope to see some large and new rides to bring in a bigger crowd. I highly recommend taking some time to visit this park for the rides are really fun and the crowds are small. 

The final part of this road trip is documented on our other blog Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond. It is about the solemn tribute to the 9/11 victims at the Flight 93 Memorial. You can see it here.