Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Coney Island's Shooting Star

Coney Island in Cincinnati Ohio started out as a apple orchard in the 1870s, owner James Parker soon realized being located along the Ohio River could be very profitable and attract a large number of people. Parker sold the orchard to Ohio Grove Corporation and on June 21, 1886 "Grove Park, The Coney Island of the West" opened it gates

In 1887, the Grove Park name was dropped and the park name became Coney Island. Over the years the park prospered, becoming a full-fledged amusement park, with an assortment of rides and games, Coney Island was a Cincinnati institution. The problem was the park's proximity to the Ohio River made it prone to frequent flooding. In 1968, Coney island's management began talking with Taft Broadcasting about developing a new park on higher ground. Taft responded by purchasing Coney Island outright in 1969.

Taft soon began construction on a new park approximately 25 miles north of Cincinnati, off of I-71. Coney Island's rides closed on September 6, 1971 and many on them were moved to the new park, Kings Island. Sadly, none of the coasters were moved to Kings Island.

Throughout Coney Island's early days the park had a number of wooden coasters, many designed by Herb Schmeck and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The park's first "big coaster" was Schmeck's 1926 masterpiece, The Wildcat. The smaller, tamer Twister was built at the same time. The Wildcat ran until 1964, while Twister's run was much shorter.

In 1937 Herb Schmeck returned to Coney Island, the park wanted a new exciting roller coaster. Clipper was built on the site of the Twister and Sky Rocket roller coasters and parts of the Sky Rocket were used on the Clipper. The ride was quite different, it was acompact, twisted layout, with no straight drops and a double layer, tunneled helix finale'. The Clipper opened in May of 1937, it lasted until 1946 and never came close to the Wildcats popularity.

The park wanted to replace the Clipper, but money was tight, so the park asked Schmeck to return to Coney Island to make some alterations to the Clipper. Herb Schmeck completely redesigned the ride, while while the crew & construction supervisor demolished the parts of the Clipper that were no longer wanted. Construction began in the spring of 1947, Schmeck's design reused the station, lift hill and tunneled helix. Nine hills were added and the coaster was turned into a L-shaped out and back that ran along the river. The Shooting Star operated until the day the park closed and it's popularity grew to rival the Wildcats.

It's interesting to note that Herb Schmeck actually designed three different coasters that sat on the Shooting Star's site between 1926 and 1947.