Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Site of Idora Park

 Idora Park left Youngstown, Ohio 35 years ago, yet the old park site has remained undeveloped since then. It's quite a sight to behold:

This was the location of Idora's old 'upper midway,' which had all sorts of typical flat rides. I tried finding a picture of it, but I couldn't get a good one. 
 You can just imagine the screams and squeals of the fun that came before here. The wooden roller coasters along with most of the buildings remained until everything was demolished in 2001.
 This is the old road that led into the parking area. Now it goes towards a grassy field...

Maybe one day this site can be made into a public park, perhaps even with a few portable rides!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Idora Park Experience

 In Youngstown, Ohio is a small, homespun museum dedicated to the city's old amusement park. Idora Park operated 1899-1983, and although the park is long gone, a couple has preserved some old artifacts from it in a building behind their home. Let's take a quick look around!
 Here's a car from the park's old Tumble Bug ride. I understand that it's completely been refurbished by a local technical school since this picture was taken in 2016.
Since the museum is only open about two times a year, a good turnout is to be expected.
 One of the most striking features inside is this model of Idora's biggest roller coaster, the Wildcat. It burned during the off-season before the 1983 summer, which ended up being a major factor in the park's demise.
Of course, the park had a Tilt-A-Whirl, and one of the old cages is backed by the original sign and some of the decorative work. I hope you enjoyed this post!

The site of the old park remains today. We'll be taking a look at that sometime in the future.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Knoebels Trip Report Pt. 3

The Knoebels fun is 'chugging' right along...
 The miniature train at Knoebels is great for a lot of different reasons. It moves at a nice clip, takes a nice journey underneath Twister - one of the park's wooden coasters - and there's a place where the park sets out corn near the train's turnaround that often attracts squirrels.
 This picture was taken from the Knoebels Scenic Skyway, which takes a stunning climb up and down one of the mountains that border the park. Wooden coasters are best in lush settings like this!
 That aforementioned coaster is Twister, one of the two big Knoebels woodies. Celebrating 20 years in 2019, Twister was my favorite coaster at Knoebels on my last visit in 2016, but it couldn’t top the awesomeness of Phoenix on this trip. Twister is a semi-faithful recreation of the old Mister Twister at Elitch Gardens, one of the most legendary wooden coasters of all time. When the park re-created it in Pennsylvania, however, they didn't quite have enough room so two lift hills were built pretty much right on top of each other to save space. These two lift hills build anticipation, and this is certainly the wood coaster in the park for people into huge drops. 
The last of the three wooden coasters at Knoebels that is Flying Turns. This is a coaster built on determination. If you're not familiar with this style of roller coaster, they are essentially cars that ride freely through a trough without a set track. They were initially popular in the 1930s, and although some versions were resurrected in steel form around the 1980s, a wooden version of the "bobsled" coaster was nonexistent for about 70 years. That is, until Knoebels stepped in and took on the project! Starting in 2006, they worked to bring this ride back from the dead. It took... wait for it... 7 years (mainly to develop the train)... but the ride eventually opened to much acclaim in 2013. It's an all-out fun experience that's completely unique to Knoebels.

I hope that you've enjoyed this trip to Knoebels!

By the way, I've been enjoying doing this blog every day, but from here on I think that I'm going to take a step back from doing daily posts. The show won't stop, though! I'll probably still have a post at least once a week. I appreciate everyone's support. I really wasn't expecting it!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Knoebels Trip Report Pt. 2

Knoebels is one of my favorite amusement parks, so let's continue our look at my recent day there!
 Earlier in the day dad and I boarded a “minecart” to take a journey through the coal mine theming of this darkride/coaster hybrid, Black Diamond. It was even better than I remembered it being three years ago! I certainly noticed things that I didn’t see back then – themed to Pennsylvania coal mines, the level of detail throughout the whole attraction is beyond small park level. I honestly think that this ride might be superior to the park’s classic dark attraction, Haunted Mansion, as Black Diamond has a wonderful collection of gags as well as the added fun little roller coaster drops. It’s so, so awesome that Knoebels would see value in resurrecting such an old ride, and in the 2010s, nonetheless! 
After Black Diamond, we decided to keep the darkride fun going with a ride on what may be my favorite attraction at Knoebels, the Haunted Mansion. After paying the $2.50 upcharge (which is apparently to prevent vandalism to the stunts - not really that high of a price, especially considering the quality of this ride), we began our trip. The Haunted Mansion may be one of the best if not the best classic darkride in the country. The stunts are all impeccably timed, with the lights often going out just as something flies out at you, and the use of diversion is also used to an incredible advantage. I’ve been watching videos of the ride for years, so I wasn’t startled but instead was just able to soak it in and enjoy the style at work here. A not to be missed ride while at Knoebels!
Around the park are little details of all sorts - take this North Pole in front of the Christmas shop that is ice-cold in the heat of summer!

Another thing that Knoebels is well-known for is their varied collection of band organs. This one is over 110 years old. Not connected to any carousel, it just sits on the midway and provides valuable atmosphere. The two Knoebels carousels certainly have wonderful organs, though!
It's a relatively well-known fact, but the Knoebels Grand Carousel is one of just a handful of rides left in the country on which you can catch the brass ring. My ring-catching ability remained fairly consistent with my earlier ride that day – not terrible, but it could definitely be better. It's definitely something I would like to improve on; I have no idea how some people can apparently grab two rings on one go!

More Knoebels pictures are coming tomorrow. Sorry for the weird text sizes; I guess it happens when you copy and paste form Microsoft Word.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Knoebels Trip Report Pt. 1

This past week (July 15th), my dad and I made the four-hour drive from Pittsburgh to what is probably my favorite amusement park, Knoebels. Located in Elysburg, PA, which is in the central part of the state, Knoebels started out as a small picnic grove in 1926 but has since grown to include some 60-odd rides, tons of refreshment stands, and a variety of unique attractions.
Walking in, Knoebels' large steel coaster, Impulse, is the first attraction you see. It makes a good first impression and is one of the park's most thrilling rides. It's far from being my favorite ride at the park, though, as it has a bit of a rattle to it.
This is the coaster of which Knoebels is perhaps most well known for, Phoenix. Known for the intense "airtime" it provides, the ride is a favorite of many amusement park fans. The first time I rode it three years ago, I was a bit underwhelmed, but this visit more than made up for that. By far one of the most fun wooden coasters I've been on! It's historic, too - originally called the Rocket and built in the 1940s, it was completely relocated from Texas when the park it was located at closed in the 1980s. This was significant because no other amusement park had ever attempted to move a wooden roller coaster before.

Another Knoebels favorite is the Skooter bumper cars. These are my dad's favorite ride and by far are one of the most intense bumper car rides in existence today. Although many parks have removed their Lusse Auto Skooters, Knoebels has kept theirs, which is great. It was certainly a fun ride, but nothing will beat my first experience on this ride when a complete renegade rider decided to drive the opposite direction with plenty of wooing a waving of fists. Good times.
Another classic "flat ride" is Flyer. A first for me,  this ride completely blew all other Flying Scooter ride's I'd been on out of the water! It seemed like you could barely move the sail and the tub would start flying all over the place. Again, like Phoenix, I should’ve been expecting this, but the amount of awesomeness Flyer provides was such a surprise to me. The combination of soaring inches away from tree branches and the thought of “Am I supposed to be doing this?” when my car did a huge jolt really made this a thrilling ride… and I had no idea what the operator thought of me.

We'll be continuing this tour of my day at Knoebels tomorrow. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

50 Years Since Moon Landing - Knoebels Sky Slide

Just one slightly-crooked picture for today, but that's for good reason, as today is the exact 50th anniversary of the landing of men on the moon. To celebrate this occasion with some amusement park fun, I thought I'd show the "Sky Slide" at Knoebels, a simple attraction with some surprising history.

About 50 years ago - at the peak of interest in space exploration - Knoebels was home to a rocket simulator ride. However, the interest in this attraction eventually wanted, so when it had ran its course, the park simply turned it on its end and turned it into a slide! It's a cool example of space-age optimism that found a second life.

Here's to the future of space exploration!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Knoebels Roto-Jet

 Knoebels' Roto-Jet ride is a truly unique flat ride that has a ton of classic charm. I for one can't think of any rides like it that exist anywhere else in the country. The lights on the individual cars rock!
 Even cooler is the fact that this ride came from the famous theme park flop, Freedomland U.S.A. At least some elements of the park have went on thrilling people! Riders can control the height of their own car... but you all know that.

The whold thing is very reminiscent of the old Disneyland Astro Jets; the lighted center column is especially cool. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Knoebels Neon

Unlike so many major parks, Knoebels understands their history and does a lot to preserve it. Heck, there are museums in the park itself (where there could be gift shop space)! One of the nicest things the park has is a small collection of old-school neon signs. Being a rural Pennsylvania park, none are too flashy, but they're all charming in their own way nonetheless.
 This sign, which serves as the park's "marquee", was probably at one point the entrance, but with expansion, over time it's wound up near the center of the park's land!
 At night it really comes alive. The family's (that still owns the park today) last name is Knoebel - over time, the apostrophe in the name has disappeared.
Facing each other are two similar-looking stands... Casa de Refrescos...
... and Kandy Korners.
 Nearby is the Patio Grill, serving up the three essential food groups of fun.

I have some more Knoebels neon pictures, so those might come at another time.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Unique Knoebels Flat Rides

The amusement park I visited yesterday was Knoebels, a top-notch park with some equally as good rides! I'll likely be taking a closer look at some of these in the future, but here's a small sampling of some of the fun flat rides in the park.                       

The Looper is a different kind of ride that's the last of its kind. Knoebels brought it back from the grave about 15 years ago; it really goes to show the park's commitment to preservation. Sometimes called the "Hamster Cages," riders use personal effort along with a foot pedal to control their "wheel," so they can flip as many or as few times as desired. Here's a video:
The Roto Jet is a ride where you can control your own height. It's much more forceful than your typical Dumbo-style ride!
 One of the park's true highlights is one of the last sets of genuine Lusse Skooter Bumper Cars. Named the "best bumper cars in America," these things really slam!
 I'd been on several Flying Scooter rides before, but I was not expecting the intensity of these things. You barely move the rudder of your car, and it starts flying all over the place! By far the most extreme "snapping" I've ever experienced.
Knoebels' whip is on the small side, but the building is a nice thing that Kennywood's ride of the same name hasn't had since 2002.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Kennywood Auto Race Neon

Kennywood's Auto Race is a classic ride that's the last of its kind in the world. One of the coolest parts of this classic is its astounding neon sign on the facade!
 Here's a picture: the wheels each have two circles that quickly flash on and off, creating some animation.

I'm very thankful that we still have this part of the ride around, but there did use to be more neon surrounding the squares on the front. I'm not sure why that's gone, but it was probably for maintenance reasons.

Other neon-y posts! Jack Rabbit and Turtle

I'm at an amusement park, so sorry if I can't respond to someone's comment instantly.

Monday, July 15, 2019

More Tuscora Park

 Let's take a walk into Tuscora Park and check out some of the things I didn't cover in my first post on the place!
This kiddie coaster is the only roller coaster at the park. Since I'm under 18, I was able to take a ride. Extremely thrilling, to say the least.
You can see some of those jarring 80-feet vertical drops in the background of this shot.
 There's also a miniature train. It makes two loops around the park's mini-golf course and has a distinctive diesel-sounding horn.
In addition, Tuscora has some old-looking kiddie rides as well as this classic Ferris Wheel from 1943. I'd never seen anything quite like it before! It's "cable-driven" - the cables exit the wheel for a bit, wind around the motor, and then reconnect to the structure.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Kennywood's Lost Jack Rabbit Neon

This picture, taken late in the season, shows the problems some of the neon has been experiencing.
Classic neon lighting adds invaluable old-school charm to any amusement park, but many of these cool old details have been lost over time. This year, Kennywood removed the aging neon stars and outline lighting on the station of their 1920 Jack Rabbit roller coaster. This neon likely dated to the 1950s.
All is not lost, as the stars have been replaced with similar LED versions, but it's a shame the park didn't see value in keeping this around.  One cool thing about the new lights is that their colors can be changed based on special events the park is having. (Christmas, etc.)
There's still some other nice neon at Kennywood, though: right across the way is the astounding Midway refreshment stand with wonderful lighting, and the red rabbit on the coaster's facade is still genuine neon. But it's a shame that we'll never be able to truly take in this vista again:

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Tuscora Park

A couple of weeks ago, my family was looking for something to do, so we took the drive out to New Philadelphia, Ohio to enjoy some time at a small amusement park, Tuscora Park. It's been open since 1907, and although it's not a lot more than a collection of family rides, this park was nonetheless an enjoyable place. And unlike a lot of amusement parks, there's other "park" amenities, too - a swimming pool and playgrounds, for example.
Tuscora was a trolley park way back when, and it's not difficult to imagine people clambering down these old stone steps, ready for a day of fun.
By far the highlight of the park is this classic carousel; I wasn't expecting it to be as nice as it was! Made by Herschell-Spillman, it was built in 1928 and came to Tuscora Park in 1942.
Here's a closer view of this awesome three-row machine. The horses are all in immaculate condition. But wait... what's that in the center?
Yes folks, it's nothing else but a mint-condition Wurlitzer 153 band organ! This organ was even completely restored this year. It's always fun to stumble upon such a nice machine like this!

I still have some other Tuscora pictures that I'll be sharing eventually.