Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Blast From The Past - The Big Dipper At Camden Park

In January the Blast covered the Big Dipper's little brother, the Little Dipper. For those of you who don't want to look up that report, here is a bit of a fresher on the park's history.

Camden Park in Huntington West Virginia started out in 1903 as a picnic area for the Camden Interstate Railway. It is the only amusement park in West Virginia and possibly the only park is built around a two thousand year old Adena Indian burial mound.

In 1950 JP Boylin transformed the park from a carousel at the end of a trolley line to an amusement park for families of all ages. And, the Boylin family still own and operate the park.

The Big Dipper was built in 1958 by National Amusement Devices (NAD) with the company's owner Aurel Vaszin heading the design crew. Vaszin had started as an employee of great John Miller and later became associated in Miller's coaster building operation. In 1919 Vaszin started the Dayton Fun house & Riding Device Company, which eventually became the National Amusement Device Company

The Big Dipper is 1800 feet long, 50 foot tall and has a 35 foot drop. The rolling stock is the marvelous 3 bench NAD Century Flyer!

NAD was known for their thrilling out and back coasters, but the Big Dipper is proof that NAD could also built a fun figure eight design. It was said Vaszin often advertised, that his roller coasters had, "more humps per-mile."

By some accounts The National Amusement Device company in Dayton, Ohio created some 400 roller coasters by 1959 and many were the best coasters of their time. Sadly, the Big Dipper is one of a very few NADs remaining.

The Big Dipper still runs without buzz bars, no seat belts and manual brakes. There are not many of these classic woodies left, so get to Camden and enjoy a couple of them.