Dorney Park used to be home to a selection of dark rides, sadly none of them are still around today. This is the Mill Chute, which dates back to 1927. The ride was manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and was of a similar style to rides at many parks of the time. The station for the Mill Chute was located adjacent to the Coaster building, which would have been on the right in the above photo.
I love this photo, mostly because of all the people in it. I'm not sure of the time period, but one can make an educated guess based off the clothing seen in it. The Mill Chute loading station is in the background, with the Coaster building on the right. Also be sure to take notice of the classic Coke machine on the far right, complete with a child playing around, hoping to land a bottle.
Here is a great photo of the inside of the Mill Chute's loading station, not a view that I have come across before. You can see some generic Mill theming in the background, with the ride attendant carefully pushing the boat off into the tunnel with his foot! The Mill Chute was also known as a "Tunnel of Love" style of ride, mostly because passengers went though an extended dark tunnel seated next to their dates, presumably.
Eventually the boats had to get up a hill in order to splash back down, so a tradition chain lift hill was utilized to accomplish that. Being that the ride was made by PTC, there were probably a great deal of similarities between this lift and that of wooden coasters of the time.
This view is from the top of the lift, looking back at a boat coming up. The entire lift was covered, with fencing on the sides to continue the enclosed feeling.
Once the top of the lift was reached, the boats slowly tilted down a drop toward the pool below. This boat is just about ready for that plunge. The color on this very old photo isn't so hot, but you can make out the wooden guide rails that kept the boats in place and safe as they went down the drop.
A photo of the Mill Chute's big drop from further back shows more of the ride's surroundings. The drop was actually curved, leading to the splash pool in the foreground and more guide rails for safety while the boat slowed down. On the right was an 'in field' with the out bound section of the Mill river just beyond it. The park's Rockets can be seen swinging out over the splash pool; they were located extremely close to the attraction.
I believe we have a bit of the photographer's fingers on the left of this photo, but it is a great image of the boat's splash so I wanted to include it. Remember, at one point this drop and splash was thrilling to the general public. Compare this to the thrills of the three times (four times?) as tall Whitewater Landing, and you can see how the standards of society of changed. Well, technology too.
Looking down from the drop, you can see out into the park - also at a boat just starting its splash in the pool. Since we're turned around, the Rockets platform is now on the right, and the wooden building that enclosed the out bound section of the Mill is on the left. In the center the of the photo, looking like a giant bee buzzing around, is one of the Rocket cars.
The Mill Chute received a total retheme in the 1960's and became Journey to the Center of the Earth. The theme was completed by Bill Tracy, which meant it had a decidedly twisted look to it. Overall it was perhaps inspired by famous book of the same name, but told its own story of explorers that went below the surface - and of course the monsters that ate them. This wonderful footage from on the ride showed up on YouTube years ago, check it out if you haven't already.
As with all Bill Tracy rides, the facade of his creation was quite important. For Journey, a giant demon monster dragon type thing was perched atop the loading station. The structured was painted to look old, with fake spider webs and middle-earth ice on top.
When night fell, the creature atop the ride's loading station had menacing eyes that glowed red in the darkness. The facade combined with the lights of the Rockets behind it, both glimmering and reflecting in the creek below created a pretty wonderful sight.
The Devils Cave was another classic dark ride once found just past the Tilt-A-Whirl at Dorney Park. To get the location down, look in the lower right of this photo (no, not at that lady's foot) at the circular cement - that's the outline of the Tilt-a-Whirl. So the Devils Cave building was around where a part of Enterprise and the games building now is.
Devils Cave was a pretzel ride, where tiny cars zig zagged through the building past many stunts or small show scenes. Most were goofy, perhaps a bit scary, but since the ride took place in the dark it was hard to tell what would come next. Above is the loading station for the attraction, with a Laughing Sal mannequin greeting riders!
The Devils Cave was eventually rethemed by Bill Tracy and turned into the Pirates Cove, obviously featuring a pirate theme. The building underwent a complete makeover, with the enormous Pirate and accompanying scene built right on top of the structure. Many new scenes and scares were added, and after another decade the attraction was renamed the Bucket O'Blood. It still had the same pirate theme, and I'm honestly not sure why the name was changed. The attraction was lost during the big fire in 1983.
This is a concept drawing of the facade for the Whacky Shack, a pretty terrific find by the park! The Whacky Shack was another Bill Tracy addition, this time a walk through fun house. Mr. Tracy used the Whacky Shack name for several attractions, including some dark rides. You can still take a trip on one today at Waldameer Park.
That's it for our look at dark rides that used to be at Dorney Park. For more information I highly recommend this story from Laff In The Dark and the wealth of information over at the Bill Tracy Project.
We'll have one more set of photos from Dorney Park's past, coming up soon!
All photos are © Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom