Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip Book (ON SALE!)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Luna Park Pittsburgh and Kennywood's Lost Kennywood Section

Pittsburgh was once the home to one of the Luna Parks, the first real amusement park chain and the first to utilize electric lights. It was constructed by Frederick Ingersoll in 1905 but promptly closed in 1909 because he became bankrupt and was unable to pay to rebuild. The first photo here is the corner of Baum Boulevard (then Atlantic Ave) and Craig Street in the North Oakland section of Pittsburgh compared with the old park entrance.

The next photo here is the Lost Kennywood section that was built in the mid 90s that respects this original, yet sadly short lived, landmark. They also styled the original electric lighting present at the park.

Here you can see Brit and the spectacular water fountains and marble styled handrails. On the right you can see how these handrails and fountains are present at the original Luna Park. Additionally, the Lost Kennywood section was built around a Shoot the Chutes water ride, just as Luna Park was. In the following photo from 1913 of the Atherton Bridge being constructed, you can see Luna's Shoot the Chutes ride on the outer edge of the park. If Luna had survived, imagine how it could have utilized that ravine. It is likely that the park would have provided major competition in the area. In the just to the left of the arch you can see the water ride standing tall.
Completed bridge. I love these old photos.
Here is the western edge of the park
And below is a photo of a nearby railroad tunnel from the former Pittsburgh Junction Railroad. It has nothing to do with Luna, but it is nearby and pretty cool. The tunnel measures in at 2872 feet long and still in use. It was built way back in 1883. Instead of boring the tunnel, they simply dug a trench, built a structure, and covered it back over. They anticipated growth in this section of town, then one of the easternmost limits of the city. A suburban area would soon sprout up. Imagine that this is like the tunnel on Mr. Rogers for the Neighborhood Trolley taking us to part two of our stroll down Baum Boulevard. We will continue the stroll down Baum Boulevard on our Interesting Pennsylvania blog if you are interested in more non-coaster related history. 

All Luna photos are from the Library of Congress/Public Domain

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through

Monday, November 17, 2014

Proposed St. Louis Union Station: A look at Six Flags Autoworld and Power Plant

Big news out of St. Louis recently! The Union Station in St. Louis, a historic building, is proposed to house a 70 million dollar amusement park. The station was once a main hub for national rail, but it only serves local rail and some shopping today.

Included in the plans are a 200 foot Ferris Wheel. The plans are otherwise vague, but I really hope that this works out. It immediately reminded me of several other indoor amusement park projects that seem to be of a similar scale.

The park that immediately comes to mind is the failed Six Flags Power Plant. It was built in the former Pratt Street Power Plant, a historic building located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor area. (Photo Credit to Great Adventure History)
The attraction was less of a park, and more of a museum, with EPCOT style informative attractions. It was styled in a Jules Verne "Time Machine" style. The concept seems pretty similar to what is proposed for the Union Station project. The park was opened in 1985 and closed in 1989 after they were unable to gain a footing. Included in the attraction was a 3D simulator, something that was pretty popular in this time period.
Flint, Michigan was the site of another Six Flags venture that came to mind in regards to an indoor amusement park project like this. At this point, Roger Smith, then chairmen and CEO of General Motors, was closing plants left and right. The gritty Rust Belt town of Flint, Michigan was struggling at this point. This town was once the sole producer of both Chevrolets and Buicks. Pontiacs were also once primarily produced in the town. This members of the city also championed worker rights with the famous 1936-1937 sit-down strike in which workers occupied the town's plants for months. This solidified the union strength and worker that would endure for many decades. The closure of these plants has proven to be devastating to the city.

An indoor amusement park project was proposed to create a tourist draw and focus upon the town's heritage of automotive production. A large dome was built that contained a display that showed the history of Flint and auto production in the city. In the center of the dome was an Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel. An IMAX theater was also included that had a film on auto production. The park closed just 6 months after it opened in 1984.

The following video sums up the attraction nicely:
The following clip gives a decent overview of what they attempted to do. It all closed within a few years.
I wish the best for the Union Station project as someone who loves amusement parks and history. This attraction could be a decent mix of both. I hope that they can learn from the missteps that Six Flags took with the Power Plant and Autoworld projects. Another example is the Old Chicago indoor amusement park. Hopefully this project sees more success like the amusement park at the Mall of America.

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through
this link!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Informal Steel Poll of Polls

Continuing on with our informal polling on personal favorites, today we will analyze the results for our questioning on steel coasters.

What parks do you feel have the best collections of steel coasters?

The overwhelming favorite with twelve votes was Cedar Point. Twelve votes for the twelve different steel coasters that the park boasts, including the legendary Magnum XL 200, the first complete circuit steel coaster to reach 200 feet, Millennium Force, the first complete circuit coaster to reach 300 feet, and Top Thrill Dragster, the first complete circuit coaster to reach 400 feet. In my opinion, these coasters are phenomenal, and our community feels the same way. Cedar Point should be a bucket list place for anyone who likes roller coasters.

The steel coaster collection of Six Flags Great Adventure came in second place with eight votes. The pattern continues, eight votes for the park's eight adult steel coasters. Great Adventure has a great collection of steel coasters, including the well acclaimed B&M Nitro hyper coaster, and Kingdaka, the world's tallest roller coaster at 456 feet. 
Tied for third place with seven votes were both Kings Dominion and Hersheypark. Both of these parks contain multiple highly acclaimed Intamin steelies and a single B&M steelie. 

Kings Dominion contains one of the best steel coaster duos out there with Volcano: The Blast Coaster, an Intamin launched inverted coaster that launches you 155 feet into the air out of a structure shaped like a volcano, and Intimidator 305, a 300 foot Intamin giga coaster that is well acclaimed by many. The park's Dominator B&M floorless coaster is the longest of its genre.
Hersheypark has a well acclaimed trio of Intamin steel coasters in Storm Runner, Skyrush, and Fahrenheit. With Hersheypark challenged for land, Great Bear, Storm Runner and Skyrush are huge rides that were crammed into some pretty compact areas. Due to the unique landscape and space constraints that Hersheypark needed to address, these coasters are all truly one of a kind, with few coasters around that you can remotely compare to these. 
In fifth place with six votes is Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The park's collection of Alpengeist, Apollo's Chariot, Verbolten, Loch Ness Monster, and Griffon, the park has one of the best collections of major steel coasters. I do not believe the photo below does justice for the park, but it is hard to argue that Apollo's Chariot's entry into the coaster world is by far one of the most memorable. Fabio sure will not forget it. (Photo from the Daily Press)

The remainder of the results are as follows:

  • Kings Island and Busch Gardens Tampa tied for sixth with four votes a piece. 
  • Six Flags New England, Europa Park, Canada's Wonderland, Kennywood, and Six Flags Over Texas tied with two votes a piece.
  • Six Flags America, Darien Lake, Great Adventure, Six Flags Great America, Dorney Park, Carowinds, Alton Towers, Sea World Orlando, Carowinds, Six Flags over Georgia, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Phantasialand, and Grona Lund all received a single vote.
These results are not just votes, but rather nominations for favorite steel coaster collections. Twenty-four parks were nominated and this shows the appreciation that patrons have for the installations of decent coasters.

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through 

this link!

Monday, November 3, 2014

October Favorite 1970s Megapark Poll

Out of 168 votes, we determined our favorite 1970s (ish) regional mega-park. The 1970s were a time of great expansion in the industry that coincided with the growth of the suburban areas in the United States. As a result of the great expansion into urban areas in the 1950s and 1960s, the old trolley parks that were once located in the outskirts of cities, were fully urbanized now. In this time period, many of those parks were closing. Walt Disney proved that there was life in the theme park model once again. Due to the smashing success of Walt Disney, many parks attempted to duplicate that success regionally, in many places with parks built from scratch.

Kings Entertainment was established and they built Kings Island and Kings Dominion. Six Flags was established in 1961 and opened up a flurry of parks. Anheuser Busch opened up several parks, two of which excelled, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa. Marriott opened up both Great America parks. Several wealthy individuals such as Warner LeRoy (Great Adventure), Earl Patterson Hall (Carowinds), and others, worked on some ventures to create parks.

The park garnering the most votes was Kings Island, with 35 percent of the vote.
With 13.69 percent of the vote, Busch Gardens Williamsburg came in a distant second.

Six Flags Great America came in third with 10 percent of the vote.

Kings Dominion came in fourth with 9.5 percent of the vote.

Magic Mountain came in fifth with 8 percent of the vote.

Carowinds came in sixth with 6.55 percent of the vote.

The remainder of the parks, California's Great America, Six Flags Great America, Great Adventure, Busch Gardens Tampa, Six Flags over Georgia, Six Flags over Texas, and Canada's Wonderland, all received less than 5 percent of the vote.

Be sure to vote in our November "Favorite US Class of 2014 Coaster Poll!"

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through 
this link!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A look at the former Williams Grove Park in 2014

I was just becoming of driving age when Williams Grove was shutting down. One of my biggest regrets as an amusement park explorer is having missed out on Williams Grove Park. According to PennDot signage, you would not have any idea that the park even closed. Maybe there is hope?
It was tough to see with the lighting that day, but in the distance you can see one of the street lamps that was once used in the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. This is a priceless piece of Americana and it was actually lit up, almost as if this park is frozen in time. We did not get a decent look into the park since it is posted private property, but from what we could see, it appears that some care is put into the property. 
The Williams Grove Cyclone is actually looking pretty good. Granted I did not get a full look at the coaster, it looks like it is holding up pretty decently after sitting dormant for nearly a decade. Maybe the owner is holding onto it for opening at a later date? Unlikely, but it pains me to see a wooden roller coaster sitting like this, especially one that dates back to 1933. It seems to be facing a similar fate to these other standing but not operating coasters that closed in the mid 2000s, the Joyland Nightmare and the Geauga Lake Big Dipper.
It appears as if the park's miniature railway was closed before the park itself closed, judging by the vegetation growing out of it. I could be wrong though.
The coaster eerily looks like a train could fly by at any minute.
This is the last remaining coaster built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company's Oscar Bitler. The roller coaster lover in me would love to see this coaster come back to life, but reality says that it is pretty unlikely. The adjacent Williams Grove Raceway is still operational. The park really looks as if it were closed yesterday, judging by the bridge entrance way, the old street lamps still on, and the coaster standing in what looks like it could be running shape with a little bit of elbow grease. 
Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through 
this link!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wisp Mountain Coaster, October 19, 2014

One of our favorite things to do is to just go on random car rides. One place we have been meaning to check out was Deep Creek, Maryland. The weather was perfect and the autumn leaves were are at peak. We opted to head down through Ohiopyle State Park, PA on the way, and Cheat Canyon and Morgantown, WV on the way back. You can see more photos from our journey here. Now we will focus on the Wisp Ski Resort Mountain Coaster!
No tubing happening today! Just think that in not much longer than a month there will be snow covering this!
 The aerial obstacle course. People appeared to be having lots of fun on it.
 I am hooked on these mountain coasters now! After riding my first one at Camelback last week, I have wanted to ride more and more!  
 The coaster has a 1300 foot long lift hill. Awesome for taking in the views and your impending doom on the coaster.
The lift hill seems endless. I am no longer able to ski due to an injury from a while back, so these coasters are awesome because they get you right back onto the mountain. I can't wait to ride one of these when the slopes are in operation. The coasters have a cool design that enables them to be operated year-round.
Giant Helix! The switchbacking downward helix elements on these are really awesome. The brisk fall air had me imagining that this is what it feels like to bobsled or ride the luge. 
 You can see how it hugs the slope.

 Still not there yet!
 Getting there! The best part of the coaster is the immediate descent down the slope. It makes a steep hairpin turn as it starts. The out-of-control feeling on this coaster is amazing!
 That's one huge lift hill!
 Whoa what a rush! Here comes Brit!
 "I braked a little bit, so fast!" Yeah nope, I did not brake until the end.
 The coaster is buried in the trees in this shot. It is in the area of the right-hand side of the V-shaped slopes in this picture. I highly recommend taking a trip here to check out the mountain coaster. It is also pretty neat to see these ski areas literally in the quiet before the storm. 
 At the top of the coaster you get a beautiful view of Deep Creek Lake, seen here from the other side of the lake.
Take an adventure! You will definitely not regret it. 
Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through this link!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Knoebels October 12th, 2014: Impulse Update and Trip Report

The stars aligned well this weekend and I had the lucky opportunity to be driving by Knoebels. It is always a huge treat to be able to visit the park and it is especially wonderful seeing the autumn colors around the park. Here we can see some of the progress towards the new, Zierer designed, Impulse roller coaster. land clearing has finished, with the staple bumper boats and tank tag being removed. This coaster should bring excitement as guests enter the park for it will be located adjacent to the main walkway into the park and along the entrance road. The following photos will give you all of the dirt on this new attraction.
It appears that they are close to pouring footers for the new ride. The Power Surge ride remains under refurbishment, and they are in the midst of disassembling the Ferris Wheel for a full renovation and new lighting package that will really transform the entryway to the park. 
This Zierer built coaster with four inversions should prove to be a huge hit for this family park, now back to the present!

Knoebels is in the midst of their Hallo-Fun event! The fall colors mixed with the already beautiful setting of the park and fall decorations make this a really fun event. They do story telling for the young ones at the midway stage. 
The weather was perfect this past sunday!
While there was a decent crowd throughout the park, the Flying Turns was as huge a hit as it was on  opening day this year. 
The work that the Adams and Structural Technologies on Phoenix really broke in throughout the season. As phenomenally as the coaster ran at the start of the season, the coaster seems to be riding as fast as I have ever seen it. The ejector airtime on the return run was especially powerful. I rode in the third row "Schmeck Seat," the seat that many say gives the most powerful ride on any coaster designed by Herbert Schmeck.
The autumn colors were especially vivid. In addition to the fall decor and sights of the season, the park also had an array of different food offerings, including lots of apple cider and other products. 
After picking up some freshly roasted peanuts at the Stony Gables peanut stand, I opted to play a game of Fascination. There is no such thing as playing "just one game" of Fascination though!
I ended up winning three times.
The scenery was just beautiful!
The station of the Twister is really beautiful. I am really thankful that Knoebels takes such pride in their buildings and grounds.
The work that local company GCI did upon the Twister wore in as well as the Phoenix's. I opted for a front seat ride and really love the work that was done to the ride. I especially love the little signature GCI "teardrop" added to the bottom of the first drop. 
Unfortunately it was time to get back on the road, but I highly recommend checking out Knoebels in the fall, especially on a sunday. The crowds were relatively light and the rides were running phenomenally as always. I look forward to seeing how Impulse improves the park in the future. I also hope to see some action with the cliff at some point. It would be great to see a cliff traversing wooden roller coaster down the cliff someday, and/or possibly the addition of an Alpine Coaster like the one at Camelback, or even zip lines. I can see the addition of them being real hits for the park. In the mean time, I love the park that is here now and I am excited to ride Impulse!

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is on early-bird special and available through 
this link!