Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memories of Dorney Park's 130 Years - Part 1

130 years is a rather long time, and for an amusement park to operate continually all those seasons, well, that's quite an accomplishment!

The 2014 season marks the park's 130th anniversary, and early in the year the park shared with me some fantastic images they dug up from the archives.  Many of these have been used in the park as part of their celebration, but they're such an amazing look back that I wanted to share some here.

Here they are, in no particular order - we will jump around the decades so hold on tight!

We will start with a look at The Coaster, now known as Thunderhawk, back in the 1920s.  You can tell it was the '20s as the ride had not yet been reconfigured into the more twisted layout it has today.  That took place for the 1930 season.  The ride's station building was looking pretty magnificent if you ask me, an ornate look that was later replaced with Alfundo.  Trust me, we'll get to Alfundo later on.

Also of note is the fact that this postcard has the name "Joy Ride" at the top - I do not believe that was what the ride was being called at the time, rather that's just a general term for the adventurous ride.

If we go back to 1923, the winter time judging from that snow on the ground, we can see The Coaster being constructed.  With only the lift hill completed at this point, there was plenty more to finish.  If you look closely you can see the park's operator, Robert (Bob) Plarr standing at the very top.  This was around the time that Bob took over the park, so I'm sure he was rightfully proud of the park's big addition.  The Coaster was designed by Herbert Schmeck and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.

The facade on The Coaster's station building changed many times throughout the years, and while undated this one look pretty 1950s in design to me.  With signs advertising both The Coaster and the famous Skooter bumper cars, the building still hadn't seen Alfundo take over.  This "front" view of the building faced the original entrance to the park, which is now an employee only gate - so today you couldn't even really see this side of the structure much from inside the park.

This photo of The Coaster reminds us of something we could see today.  Then again, if you look at how those cars are literally parked up against the track of the coaster - well never mind!  Can you imagine pulling up and parking alongside the ride with no giant fence or other barrier in between the two?

Bouncing back to the station for the Skooters and the Coaster, here she is all decked out in her Alfundo finest.  The structure was redesigned with the giant Alfundo juggling at the top by legendary dark ride designed Bill Tracy.  Mr. Tracy actually designed a handful of rides for Dorney Park, though sadly none of them can still be experienced today.

The Skooter bumper cars are an attraction many of us have a distinct memory of, whether it be the sounds of the electric snapping, the smell of the old building, or perhaps the cars' impacts themselves.  The Skooters were Lusse bumper cars, known for their heavy body designs that allowed for some really great bumps!

Here is a view that the post cards up top could have been based off of, though this is a real photo.  Dorney Park grew as a trolley park, like so many, and it's pretty neat to see the trolley lines running through the park like this - complete with the overhead cables and all!  You can also see that the trolleys actually ran directly through The Coaster's structure if you look close enough.

This shot was taken looking back at The Coaster's lift hill, with the park's entrance tower in the back left and the Mill Chute ride seen on the right.  The coaster had been redesigned when this was taken, since you can see the track off to the right as well.

Castle Garden was an enormous hall that featured live music, dances, roller skating, and more.  I actually wrote about it years ago, and eventually the building burned to the ground.  For those not familiar, it was located along the park's lower lake, where the go-karts most recently were.  If you looked at this space today, Steel Force's giant helix would be roaring through this area.

This last photo for today is of an early turnpike style ride, which I never knew existed at Dorney Park.  The cars appear to have been driven freely through a confined course.  It's hard to even place where in the park the attraction was located, but it reminds me a lot of the Auto Race ride at Kennywood.  If anyone knows more, fill me in, please?

Stay tuned, there are plenty more photos to come!

All photos © Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom


Dave said...

The cars appear to be Traver, but it does not have their signature wooden running boards. Hmmmm

Unknown said...

Cannot get enough views of 'old' Dorney Park. My childhood memories of this great amusement park commence in 1967 when I was eleven years old. My mother and father packed a lunch which we ate several hours after our arrival under the trees by the lake near the parking lot out back. At my family's peak it was Mom, Dad and we five sons who went to Dorney Park. Looking back it was a great honor to have been at Dorney Park with my younger brothers who will still bring up those halcyon days of our childhood spent for one magical day per summer in the greatest amusement park of them all, Dorney Park. One final thought for now; when it came to be dusk the park took on an entirely different charm or tone as the lights came on. There was nothing else like Dorney Park after dark.