Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cedar Point

To people across America, Cedar Point is an amusement park that is synonymous with one thing: roller coasters! I had the chance to visit this park this past summer, and it was a truly amazing experience for a roller coaster lover like me.
Millennium Force (blue track) and Rougarou
 Although coasters are the park's specialty, (there are 17!) there are a few other attractions of historical note. One of these is the unique Derby Racer carousel, relocated from Euclid Beach Park.
 For those who don't know, a Derby Racer is basically a super-charged carousel. The platform spins around at an alarming rate, and the horses "jockey" forwards and backward. There are only three of these rides left in the world, and it's great that Cedar Point has one!
 Steel Vengeance is the world's tallest hybrid (wood structure, steel track) roller coaster in the world, and it gets this park a huge amount of attention. On my visit, I was able to ride three times, and it is incredibly intense and fast-paced.
 The park only has one all-wooden coaster, the 1964 Blue Streak, which is a shame for a park with such a sheer amount of roller coasters, in my opinion. The Blue Streak is also the park's oldest coaster (but the park opened in 1870!).  I found Blue Streak to be a fun ride, but nothing more than that.
A Sky Ride typifies a classic theme park, and the Cedar Point version travels directly over the main midway, providing nice views of the park's coasters and Lake Erie, which is the body of water that surrounds the Cedar Point peninsula.
 We'll close with this shot of Corkscrew, which was the first-ever roller coaster to go upside down three times when it opened in 1976.
Thanks for visiting Cedar Point!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Classic Darkride Round-Up

Old-school amusement park haunted house attractions, or darkrides, are one of my favorite things, so I figured that for this Halloween, I'd share a collection of pictures of ones that I have visited while looking closer at the finer points of each one. Let's jump in!

Starting off with one of my favorites, and for good reason... the Waldameer Whacky Shack is one of the best classic darkrides anywhere. Beginning with the memorable recording that repeats over and over in the queue (Hello, Earthlings!), almost every scene, designed by the late Bill Tracy, is original to the ride. The playful fa├žade is a classic example of the creativity that Bill Tracy brought to the table in the design of dark attractions; it's altogether original, yet the twirling eyes somehow hint at the spooks that are found inside. The Whacky Shack will also turn 50 years old in 2020.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to have visited both of the best remaining Bill Tracy darkrides in the country today, the aforementioned Whacky Shack and this, Trimper's Haunted House. As far as darkrides go, this one uses an interesting mix of visual tricks and purposely scary scenes. It is a ride that has been constantly evolving over the years, but it has maintained the majority of its Tracy stunts remarkably well. Like the Whacky Shack, Trimper's Haunted House is two stories, but the Haunted House has a very long track length that gives the ride a five minute run time.

Compared to the two examples above, Knoebels' Haunted Mansion and Black Diamond have relatively un-inspired facades. However, the content that is found inside both of these attractions is far from mundane. Both were designed in-house by the park, and both form two sides of the equation for a perfect darkride: Haunted Mansion specializes in many theatrical techniques, with expert use of diversion and lighting, while Black Diamond is a heavily themed and detailed (I probably rode it five times this year, and I noticed some new effects every time) hybrid darkride/roller coaster. Both are stellar and among my all-time favorite park rides.
Laffland at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park in New York is a little off-the-beaten-path, but the trip is worth it. This is the textbook example of a classic Pretzel darkride - the cars even still have those big pretzel-shaped counterweights on the front. After seeing the slightly run-down appearance of the rest of the park when I visited in 2017, I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but boy was I surprised; Laffland is chock full of vintage stunts, most all of them in perfect operating condition. There's even a large assortment of car-activated "noise makers" that add the most down-home of sound effects. 60-some years old, Laffland is a gem that I can't recommend enough.

 Finishing off this list is one of my local rides, the Devil's Den at Conneaut Lake Park. Like Laffland, it's a Pretzel creation, except this ride runs solely on gravity, with a chain lift and small dip utilized for the cars to gain momentum. The stunts inside are mostly modern, but they are all hand-built tableaus that are very detailed and thought-out, especially considering how fast your car whips around the turns!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Conneaut Lake Park's Abandoned Toboggan

Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania was home to a Toboggan portable roller coaster for a number of years in the early 2000s. For those not familiar, a Toboggan is a flat ride made by Chance Rides that involves a vertical climb through an enclosed tube in a small coaster car, after which riders spiral around the outside of the tube to ground level. At this point in the ride, there are a series of small dips, which the guests traverse before returning to the station. From 2002 to 2006, it ran at Conneaut near the lakefront. In 2007 and 2008, Conneaut Lake Park didn't open, and when the park reopened 2009, the Toboggan didn't, so it was abandoned and left to rot at the same location through 2013.
 In 2014, the Toboggan was collapsed into its "trailered" position (as it is a portal model) and moved to the Conneaut Lake parking lot, where it sits to this day. In 2018, my dad and I made the walk back to it to take some pictures of the ride. Although it appears to be in a state that will not allow it to operate again, it's cool to see this relic of amusement history past nonetheless.
 Much of the track is stacked haphazardly on an adjacent trailer to the one with the lift tube. 
 Seen here is the ride's sign, light bulbs intact!
 Some plant life is starting to cover the ride.
 One of the cars (and maybe more) remain in the tube.
 I hope you have enjoyed this unique look at a Chance Toboggan!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Epcot "Transformation" - What to Do?

We're upgrading to the "big time" theme parks for a break from typical programming here on Bayern Kurve Blog today, but I hope you find this insightful!

Epcot is the most original theme park ever built, and it's really the most different theme park ever built. Although I never even was close to experiencing it in its original form, I have seen pictures and videos, and the wonder that its early visitors felt is truly astounding to me.

With that being said, Epcot is currently undergoing a massive transformation to ready it for its fifth decade. Major cosmetic changes are going to be done to the park's center, attractions are being debuted and updated, and a new experience is coming to the old Wonders of Life pavilion.

However, there is much debate over these expected changes, mostly involving the question of what the theme will be for the Epcot of the future. Will it be purely based on Disney characters? After all, it seems as if every piece of promotional material that Disney puts out for the park's future includes something to the extent of making it "more Disney." Heck, even Spaceship Earth will have its focus changed from communications to storytelling. (I'm fine with this; they just need to do it right! i.e. no intellectual properties)

Another extremely notable change will occur at Epcot's former Universe of Energy pavilion, with the addition of a new Guardian's of the Galaxy roller coaster. Herein lies the death of the original Epcot. Before the closure of Universe of Energy, there was just enough left of the original "edutainment" focus for so-called "purists" to give the park a passing grade. With the replacement of one of the park's original attractions with a roller coaster - of all things - the park's focus will fully be shifted.
Full disclaimer, I love roller coasters, but Epcot isn't the park for them!
 With all of the changes soon taking place, the Disney company will likely give careful attention to aesthetic details to please the die-hard theme park fan, and I'm excited to see those. After all, the overall feel of a theme park is greatly caused by such little things. Once again, though, I wish that I had gotten to see the original Epcot, but the state of the park today and the in the future is such a different place from what it was 25, 30 years ago. In the end, like all Disney theme parks, Epcot will remain a pleasure to visit, but I simply pray that with carefully implemented balance, Epcot can retain a proper focus for the future.

Meanwhile, World Showcase will simply continue doing its thing for the foreseeable future. Perhaps no other theme park area as ever sparked as much debate as Future World!
Our planet has drifted through the universe...
I apologize for the rambling nature of today's post, but I hope that you were able to gain something from it!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Classic Flat Rides of Idlewild Park

Opened in 1878, Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania is the third oldest amusement park in the country (and when I say "opened," I really mean that they just built this tiny railroad depot and threw in a couple of picnic tables). Although the park lost its classic Caterpillar flat ride in 2013, they still have a nice collection of some fairly standard amusements found at amusement parks all around the country. Let's take a look at them!
 First off is this Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel. Once at nearby Kennywood Park, it provides nice views from the top.
 Right next door is the Spider, a famous "twirl-and-hurl" ride.
One of the oldest buildings at Idlewild is this, the Skooter bumper car structure. I believe that it was built in the 1920s. It's important to note that although the building is old, the cars themselves are not.
The Paratrooper is another standard that's always a fun time.
 Even with this collection of classics, Idlewild is not without its faults. The park recently removed their c. 1940 Whip ride because of it being in a flood plain. While I guess that is an acceptable reason, a complete renovation would've been welcome to let this ride continue providing gentle thrills for years to come. To add to the hurt, it has sadly not replaced by any attraction.
Here's the Whip in its final state in 2017.
 For the same reason, Idlewild also removed their Round-Up in 2018, leaving many fans to wonder if it would ever return. However, Idlewild has now proved that they can bring flat rides back from the dead, as it has reappeared at the tail end of the 2019 season.
An Eli Bridge Scrambler is also on hand. (Note the identical decals to the Ferris Wheel cars.)
These Flying Scooters look old but have actually only been here since 2007. This was also Idlewild's last new ride, so they are majorly due for something fresh.
 I hope you have enjoyed this look at the flat rides of Idlewild. The mid-sized group they have is better than many parks, and hopefully, all of these will stick around for years. However, the Caterpillar is still in storage and needs to come back!
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Inside Trimper's Haunted House

The Haunted House at Trimper's Rides in Ocean City, Maryland is a classic darkride, one of the few remaining ride-throughs built by famed darkride designer Bill Tracy. Opened in 1964, its collection of "stunts" has grown and been updated over the years, but a lot of classic gags remain.

Brighter Colors - Note the second-level balcony onto which the cars emerge.
I have shared an exterior pic of this ride before, but I figured that now would be a good a time as any to take a trip inside!

The ride cars, wonderfully designed, look like coffins and are referred to by this man as "coffin carriages."  

 One of the first illusions you encounter is this, the "tilted corridor," a standby in many haunted house-type rides.
Right after that is the spinning barrel, which also includes a rotating disk at the end of the hallway designed to look like the back of one of the ride's cars!
 For reference: 
Some of the dioramas have been in the ride since 1964, such as this macabre one, the "Old Mill."
 There are spooks on the lighter side of things, though!
 Like other early works of Bill Tracy, the Trimper's Haunted House certainly specializes in large scenes filled with animated, sculpted figures. 
 This "train tunnel" uses a former rotating barrel from a defunct Bill Tracy darkride that was once in an Ocean City amusement park called Playland. When that park closed, Trimper's acquired many of the stunts from their Ghost Ship darkride and added them to the Haunted House, creating a new and improved two-story ride.
Yes, those bumps on the floor do create the sensation of traveling over railroad ties!
This lunging "rat" also came from Playland's Ghost Ship. 
I don't have a good picture of it, but Trimper's Haunted House also features a "water curtain" waterfall that runs in front of the ride's final set of doors. Luckily, it shuts off before right before you are drenched. Unlike some darkrides, you do get wet from this one!
Stormy Skies...
 I hope you have enjoyed this ride through the Haunted House!