Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Blast From The Past - The Rise and Fall of the Idora Wildcat Pt 1



Opening on Memorial Day of 1899, Terminal Park, built by the Youngstown Park and Falls Street Railway Company was known as "Youngstown's Million Dollar Playground" Like many "trolley parks" the park was built at the end of a trolley line to generate weekend revenue.


Without an admission fee, anyone who had the money for the trolley, could visit the park. Attractions at the park in its inaugural season included a bandstand, theater, dance pavilion, a roller coaster, a circle swing, and concession stands. And, by the end of the season the park had a new name ... Idora Park.


The Wildcat became a lasting landmark of the park. Constructed in the fall of 1929 by PTC and it was ready for the 1930 season. Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. knew the park want a superior, 1st class coaster, but there was a bit of a problem. The new coaster was replacing the old Figure eight, which was owned by a concessionaire, and getting the releases to tear down the old coaster and take over the land on which it was located was taking some time. PTC wanted to have the deal ready to close when the releases were ready.


By fall, PTC was working on the plans, with George J Baker supervising the construction. PTC was also manufacturing the coaster cars and providing the other coaster hardware. Herbert Schmeck, the company's premier engineer designed the twisted ride, employing an "aeroplane curve" for the 1st drop and a descending curve for the 2nd drop. Compact in size, the coaster's tunnels and banked curves had many people considering it one of the greatest coasters built in the 1920s. The ride's name was chosen by a contest, but the winner may have accepted a company suggestion, since Wildcat was a generic name often used by PTC. The company would use the name for most of their rides, unless the park owners specifically asked for something else.


The 1930 season was a milestone in Idora's history. A new slogan "Now-A Million Dollar Park" reflected the nearly $200,000 worth of improvements that greeted visitors that summer. The new roller coaster replaced the old coaster, the Midway was enlarged, a new dark ride was added and the PTC mill ride was replaced.


The Wildcat started off with a left handed turn into a long, dark S shaped tunnel. Exiting the tunnel, the train began climbing the lift hill, a quick right turn, followed by the first drop led into what many considered the most intense part of the ride, the fan curve.




The fan curve was a swooping left turn with a drop and as you dropped you got whipped to the right. The trains had fixed lap bars which allowed for a wild ride over the rest of the Wildcat's course. The rides finale had riders dropping out of a heavily banked right turn, into the tunnel under the fan curve and finally onto the brake run.





Check out next weeks Blast for the conclusion of the The Rise and Fall of the Idora Park Wildcat.


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