Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Blast From The Past - The Williams Grove Cyclone

Editors note: We are finally back in the chilly Mid-West after a whirlwind 2 weeks on the left side of the US and The Blast From The Past returns after a 2 weeks hiatus

Williams Grove was a quaint little picnic park in Mechaniacsburg PA,that operated from 1850 to 2005, when flooding due to Hurricane Agnes cause major damage to the park. The Williams family owned and operated the park until it was purchased in 1972 by Morgan Hughes for $1.2 million.

Hughes, who was in his mid-80s when the park closed, attempted to sell the property in 2007 to someone who would keep the park intact and operational. Sadly, he was unable to find a buyer. The rides were auctioned off the same year and Hughes died in his sleep at his Pennsylvania home in April at age 88

The gem of the park was the wild & woolly Cyclone! This moderate size out & back was designed by Oscar Bitler, built by PTC and operated from 1933 to 1995.

The Cyclone was damaged by fire on 9/25/1995. And, in January of 1996 the station and part of the track collapsed under the weight of a heavy ice and snow. It sat dormant in 1996, but was reopened in June of 1997 after $500,000 in repairs and operated until the park closed down.

The Cyclone was originally named the Zipper, the name was changed when the park purchased the train from New Jersey's defunct Palisades Park Cyclone. At 2300 ft in length , with a maximum height of 65 ft and a 60 ft drop, The Cyclone reportedly ran at speeds up to 65 MPH.

So, how did it ride? While is was fun, it was also far from smooth. The train rolled out of the station and trekked up a cockeyed lift hill, rocking back and forth as it climbed the 65 foot lift hill. Reaching the top, the train shuffled around a left hand 180 turnaround.

The first drop had a good bit of airtime and was followed by some small hills before entering the second turnaround. Most of the hills offered airtime and you felt as if the train would jump right off the track,even on a straight flat sections.

After the second turnaround, there was a nice hill that took a jog to the left.The train continued to shuffle along and just short of the station, an evil skid brake violently brought the train to nearly a dead stop. There was one last bunny hill before a nasty little ejector hill launched the train into the station & riders into their lap bars. And, with a sigh of relief you realize you survived.

It has been 7 or 8 years since we have ridden the Cyclone and I am not sure I would still be able to tolerate the roughness of the ride. And, while I seriously doubt the Cyclone would come close to meeting today's safety standards, I will have fond memories of those wild rides, watching the maintenance guy nailing down supports as the train climbed the lift of the rickety old ride and then hurrying back to stop the train before it can roll through the station.


Sabrina said...

Wow, this Blast hit close to home - literally! I'm originally from Mechanicsburg and lived 5 minutes away from Williams Grove. Unfortunately, I didn't get to visit the park too often because my parents were a little afraid of it. It was such a cute place though! I especially miss the funhouse. I went to one of the auctions just for old times' sake.

The Cyclone was actually the first woodie I ever rode. I'm sure that's one of the reasons I was scared of coasters for so long. :-) I've been meaning to get out there to see what's left of it, although it will probably depress me.