Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In Focus: Lakemont's Christmas Event

In the midst of our 6 hour drive between Ithaca and Pittsburgh last year, we could not help but be drawn into the brightness of lights at Lakemont's wonderful Christmas display. The rides, including the Skyliner, train and Skydiver highlight the display in addition to the masterful placement of lights. I highly recommend going to check it out.

The entrance plaza looks beautiful as always, but even more beautiful all decked out like this

Here you can see the Chance Skydiver sitting all lonely without cars. It looks like it is just sad because the ride's brother Bruce in Florida got married instead. If you have no idea what I am talking about, check this out :-) 
I highly recommend going and checking out Lakemont's cool Christmas event!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

A postcard look back at Marineland of the Pacific, Los Angeles, CA Circa 1960s

In 1954, a year before Disneyland opened, Marineland of the Pacific was opened to the public. It was located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles. The park was the largest oceanarium at the time.

In 1961 the park was the first to capture an Orca, which promptly died only three days later. In 1969 the park was successful in capturing another Orca, named Corky, and then in 1970 captured a female named Orky, who would go on to have six calves that died shortly after birth. Both would be moved to Sea World San Diego in 1987. Orky died upon transit to Sea World San Diego. She was involved in multiple incidents in which trainers were nearly killed.

The company that owned Sea World at the time, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, promptly closed Marineland of the Pacific after promising to keep it open. They transported all remaining captive animals to Sea World San Diego.

Based upon the location of the park in Los Angeles, the park was often used for television and movies. The Lucy Show, The Munsters, Emergency!, Wonder Woman, the A-Team, and more. Additionally, upon abandonment, many movies have utilized the vacant space for filming. Movies such as Pearl Harbor and Pirates of the Caribbean, were filmed at the site.

The inspiration for this research rant came from finding this foldout set of postcards the other day. The dating appears to be from the 1960s. If someone can cue me in on an exact date, please let me know.

 "Porpoise feeding"
 "Aerial of the Mainland of the Pacific"
"Oceanarium at Marineland of the Pacific"
 "Bottlenosed Porpoises"
 "Wilmington-Redondo Beach area"
 "Weyfarers' Chapel" 
This world famous church was designed by Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright's son, and completed in 1951. It is a world famous venue for weddings and was even used The O.C. for weddings and funerals. It is famously known as "The Glass Church."
 "Glass Church" - Aerial view of the Wayfarers' Chapel
 "View from Palos Verdes Estates"

Marineland was located in a very beautiful area of coastline in Los Angeles. Surprisingly the property sat completely abandoned for several decades, and now it is in the process of being redeveloped.

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is available through

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November "Favorite New for 2014 Coaster" Poll Results + December Poll

We had a stacked field for last month's poll asking for everyone's favorite new coaster for 2014. 

The top vote getter was the Knoebels Flying Turns. It garnered 22 percent of the vote out of 152 votes. This coaster experienced its first full season this year, even though it technically opened last fall. This vote falls in line with the Golden Ticket results, which gathered some grumbles among the enthusiast geekosphere. As you will see with the other results, many of the other additions for 2014, which also happened to not be covered by the poll, scored fairly evenly. This vote could have gone in a bunch of ways considering how close the voting was.

Flying Turns is a phenomenal ride that gives an unparalleled experience to anything else in existence. This wooden bobsled coaster only achieves a top speed of 24 MPH, yet it feels like it goes way faster with the out of control feeling the cart provides as it maneuvers through the trough. It feels even faster at night once the lights are turned on.

In second place with 20 percent came Kings Island's Banshee, the world's longest inverted coaster. 
This coaster has a layout that ingeniously utilizes the terrain to the point that the coaster does not achieve top speed until halfway through the ride. As opposed to most B&M inverts that have a turn before the first drop to ease tension upon the lift chain, this coaster offers a spiraling first drop. It also offers a plethora of high speed and altitude maneuvers that make this one of the company's finest creations. 
Tied for third place with 17 percent of the vote are Luna Park at Coney Island's Thunderbolt and Kentucky Kingdom's Lightning Run.
Luna's Thunderbolt is a great Zamperla creation. It offers a vertical lift, vertical drop, and four airtime filled inversions. The ride is very smooth and easily one of my favorite loopers. I personally cannot decide between this, Banshee, and Flying Turns as to which one I like the most for they all offer unique ride experiences. Thunderbolt seems so different than the other loopers out there because it offers an out-and-back ride that has both inversions and airtime. Seldom do you find this combination. To top it all off, the ride has a Stengel Dive that offers terrific airtime. In the video below, based upon the camera movements, you can see the moments of airtime. Additionally, there is only a lapbar holding you in, with some small straps that go over the shoulders.
It is nice to see that this coaster saw some love in our poll. I think this addition was one of the most overlooked for this season, every bit as good as the other additions. I hope to see Zamperla build more of these.  

Kentucky Kingdom's Lightning Run is the centerpiece for the rebirth of this once closed park. It also signifies the rebirth of the coaster building division at Chance. The coaster is said to offer some of the strongest airtime out there within a very compact layout. 

Six Flags Great America's Goliath also did formidably with the 16 percent of the vote. This latest completed RMC creation utilizes the company's style of wooden track and offers two inversions. It was very popular in its first season of operation.

The remainder of the votes went to two very popular family coaster additions, Dollywood's Firechaser Express and Story Land's Roar-O-Saurus.

Be sure to vote in our December poll on the right side of the page.

Available now is our 2015 Roller Coaster Calendar. It is available through

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!