Monday, September 1, 2014

Memories of Dorney Park's 130 Years - Part 4

This is the 4th part of a series taking a look back at the 130 years of Dorney Park - mostly on the decades well before Cedar Fair owned the park.  If you missed the first sections, here are links:  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Orlando Area Amusement Park Removing Rides

I think they're going to have to change this logo, pretty soon that is.  Old Town, located in Kissimmee, Florida - pretty close to the outside gates of Walt Disney World - has announced that they will be removing all of their amusement rides.

The park wrote on their Facebook page to acknowledge the change:  "Old Town has begun a new phase of growth and improvement. At this time, the classic amusement rides have been closed and will be removed from the property to make way for future expansions. The Go Cart rides, Laser Tag, Arcade, Rootin’ Tootin’ Shooting Gallery and The Haunt will all remain open for your families enjoyment."

If you've driven around the Kissimmee area, you might have spotted the giant rainbow colored sling shot that was at the very end of Old Town's property.  Old Town isn't just amusement rides, actually they were a smaller offering when compared to the massive amount of shops and restaurants on the complex.

The rides were located at either end of the property, above is the part that has frontage on the street.  There's the Sling Shot, a free fall, Ferris wheel, go-karts (staying), kiddie rides and a couple others.

The opposite end of the park features more kiddie rides, a Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler, and two roller coasters.  For kids there was a Wacky Worm, and bigger thrills could be found on a production model Zamperla Windstorm.  Unfortunately the announcement came too late to still try to get in a spin on these rides, as they were already closed for good when the park came clean about their plans.

Most of the rides were added after 2000, although the property started operating the shops and restaurants a couple decades before.  I can't say it is too surprising that they are ditching their rides - Fun Spot Kissimmee is literally the bordering property to the East of the park!

While browsing Old Town's webpage I noticed that the park map looked familiar, really familiar.  That's the exact style that all the Cedar Fair park maps are drawn in - odd!  I always figured that Cedar Fair had them drawn in-house, which is why I never saw any similar maps out there.

Alas, I guess that assumption was wrong.  I'm not sure who draws the Cedar Fair park maps, but apparently they are able to be hired to draw others.  Does anyone know for sure?  If you do, fill me in!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

More On Six Flags Over Texas' New Justice League Dark Ride

First Look at JUSTICE LEAGUE: BATTLE FOR METROPOLIS from Six Flags Over Texas on Vimeo.

We're all pretty excited for the pair of new Justice League interactive dark rides coming to both Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Over Texas in 2015.  With the rides now announced, Six Flags Over Texas has created a video that takes a look at the current construction work under way.

Embedded above, the video allows Park President Steve Martindale to highlight the features of the creation that will appeal to guests.  It also shows off the impressive addition to the show building that has been built over the retention pond of the park's river rapids ride.  The funky looking construction we saw earlier has now transformed into a smooth concrete pad for the building's expansion to take place on.

If you haven't seen it, Screamscape also has a detailed look at all the suppliers of the various parts of Justice League: Battle For Metropolis.  The companies that are involved in the project are very impressive, and combined have project catalogs that include some of the best attractions on the planet.  Very promising!  I would love to see the budget for these rides, but sadly Six Flags does not release that information.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Six Flags 2015 Announcement Round Up

Six Flags Great America will spend all of 2015 celebrating the park's 40th anniversary, having opened during the country's bicentennial in 1976.  The celebration will not feature any large new rides or attractions, but will carry on throughout the season and feature a host of special events.

"In 2015 we plan to celebrate our park's history and how it has grown to one of the premiere amusement parks in the country," said park president, Hank Salemi. "From the American Eagle to Goliath, and Whizzer to X Flight, the skyline of Great America has grown impressively over the last four decades."

To help celebrate, two of the park's original themed areas, Carousel Plaza and Hometown Square, will be renovated to bring back a retro feel.  Three classic children's ride will also return, fully refurbished to a new generation to enjoy.  The park will also hold weekly celebrations to honor each of the park's roller coasters.

A new children friendly water play area will be built at The Great Escape in 2015, named Buccaneer Beach.  The addition will be a full renovation of the park's popular children's area, Noah's Sprayground.

"The refreshed and re-themed pirate adventure will feature pop jets, splash pads, children’s slides and water elements offering endless water park fun. The expansion to the upper water park will include new pool deck space and increased shaded water park seating."

“We are thrilled to rejuvenate this beloved family attraction in Splashwater Kingdom,” said Eric Gilbert, park president, Six Flags Great Escape Resort Properties. “The introduction of Buccaneer Beach is in direct response to our guests’ feedback and will breathe new life into this historic area of our beautiful water park.”

Located near Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags White Water will debut an extreme new slide in 2015, named Dive Bomber.

Standing over 100 feet tall, the trap-door release slide features a plummet of nearly 90 degrees at 40 miles per hour.  To replace the park's Cliffhanger slide, Dive Bomber will be the tallest attraction ever built at Six Flags White Water.

It is not totally clear if this is one slide or multiple, but I'm sure that will be revealed later as construction progresses.

Get ready for Halloween all summer long at La Ronde next year.  The park's 2015 attraction is Maison Rouge - Labyrinthe de la Terreur - or a straight translation of Red House - Labrynth of Fear.  The permanent haunted house features a pretty sick looking clown as its mascot, and appears to be taking place in a large carnival tent.

"The carnival has been gone for decades, leaving behind ruins and decay. The house is still standing, but it is in disrepair and haunted by evil spirits. Clowns, once friendly and funny, went crazy and insane. Initially, the house tour is fun, but it ends in blood. Visitors can use different corridors leading to many parts, but soon they realize that this house is a maze of fear and darkness which they must escape."

The attraction is being advertised as having different paths you can take to get through, making it have a higher repeat visit value.  It will be designed by ACME Scenic Services of Montreal, who have a very impressive resume.

Finally, Six Flags Mexico has announced SkyScreamer, a high in the sky swing ride.  Standing 242 feet tall, the ride will feature red, white, and green - the colors of the Mexico flag.  Many of the promotional shots of the ride show the beefy tower that was used on the 400 foot versions of the ride, however I think that's just for media purposes.  I would expect the tower to be similar to the one at Six Flags Great Adventure, for instance.

SkyScreamer, like its counterpart at other Six Flags parks, will spin riders around in a nearly 100 foot circle at 35 miles per hour.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two Six Flags Parks Announce New Justice League Themed Dark Rides for 2015

Two exciting announcements were made today: Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis will both build a brand new interactive dark rides in 2015 named Justice League Battle for Metropolis.  The new-age dark rides will be fully immersive, utilizing 3-D glasses for riders and motion based six-passenger vehicles.

As guests enter the queue they are filled in on the back story of the attraction.  The Joker and Lex Luthor are planning to fill Metropolis with laughing gas, and even worse they've managed to capture Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Green Lantern.  Riders must board a vehicle equipped with their own laser "stun gun" and enter Lex Corp. in order to save the good guys and thwart the villains.

© Six Flags
The ride will allow riders to blast at targets and bad guys throughout the ride, creating an interactive and competitive scoring aspect to the attractions.  Six Flags will be working with several big industry names on these rides.

Sally Manufacturing will create the animatronics for the ride, Pure Imagination will work on the 3D graphics for the ride film, the gaming aspect will be done by Alterface, and the "first-of-its-kind, fully programmable, multi-DOF (degree-of-freedom)" motion based vehicles will be manufactured by Oceaneering.  It is especially promising to see Oceaneering creating the ride vehicles, which are capable of full 360 rotations, since they have an extensive background in creating some of the most advanced ride systems on the planet.

At Six Flags Over Texas the attraction will span nearly 20,000 square feet, using a new space built over the retention pond of the park's river rapids ride along with a former simulator building.  Six Flags St. Louis will use the building that previously was home to a Scooby Doo themed dark ride, I would assume removing the existing boat transportation system in favor of the Justice League ride system.

While not the same story line or exact same ride system, you can check out the first Justice League dark ride that was created in Australia.  If the Six Flags rides are similar, patrons in Missouri and Texas are in for a treat next year!

Larson Giant Loops to Debut at 4 Six Flags Parks in 2015

© Six Flags
Scott and Carol previously detailed the additions to Six Flags Great Adventure below, and their main new ride is the same that is going into three other parks in 2015.  The team at Larson must have been pretty happy when this contract was signed!

The Giant Loop, as the manufacturer calls it, is a 72 foot tall circular ride that completes several full rotations both forward and backward during the experience.  Riders sit facing back to back, which means that most of the 24 passengers look directly at other riders during the inverting.

© Six Flags
The new attractions all have different names at the different parks - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has named their Dare Devil Chaos Coaster, Six Flags America went with Bourbon Street Fireball, Six Flags Great Adventure the Looping Dragon, and Six Flags Over Georgia The Joker Chaos Coaster.

Six Flags Over Georgia is expanding their Gotham City themed section to add the Joker Chaos Coaster.  They are also building a second ride, a classic Tilt-A-Whirl named Harley Quinn Spinsanity.  Overall the 2015 expansion will cost the park in the multi-million range.

At Six Flags America, the new attraction will be added to the brand new Mardi Gars themed area.  The Bourbon Street Fireball will fit perfectly with the section's other new or refreshed attractions.

The Larson Giant Loop comes with an optional lightning package that will look great at night, hopefully the parks add that on.  Elitch Gardens added a Giant Loop this season, named the Brain Drain - check out coverage of that ride here.