Midway Park was established as a trolley park in 1898, making it one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the United States. Today it is operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation – and it seems to be popular; we arrived at opening time and there were already a large number of children in the ride area, presumably from a camp group. Visiting enthusiasts should make a particular effort to visit the small museum at the back of the gift shop next to the carousel building. It includes an electromechanical pinball machine, a working Donkey Kong, assorted pieces from old rides, and a collection of historical advertising posters.
The Little Dipper (#2082) was pretty much as expected; a lively family coaster. The hard snap that we experienced on the similar ride at Hoffman's Playland was absent from this installation, but that was likely because the drop from the lift hill here was nothing like as steep. It was clearly the most popular attraction in the park, with a continuous queue of guests throughout our visit.
The park is home to a 1946 Herschell Carousel, located some distance away from the main ride area and thus quite easy to miss. A member of staff laughed at Megan when she went to buy tickets, but sold them to her anyway, allowing us to enjoy a ride that seemed to go on for a very long time; we were given at least five minutes on board, and probably longer. The ride is distinctive for having an exposed drive mechanism at its center, something rarely seen.
Conneaut Lake Park
24th July 2014
Exactly two years ago it was my privilege to enjoy a tour of Conneaut Lake Park given by a number of staff from Adams Amusements. Though the park was officially closed at the time, we were nevertheless given the chance to ride both operational roller coasters as well as the historic dark ride. The future of the park was far from certain at that stage, which hasn't changed; as of this writing, the land that the park sits on is due to be sold by the county sheriff in a few months. For now, however, the park remains open, and the vast majority of its rides are operational.
We began our visit with the Blue Streak, still operating with the NAD train rather than the classic Vettel. The physical appearance of the lift hill did little to inspire confidence, with a mixture of painted and unpainted lumber, visible rust, and several missing planks. Portions of the ride have been retracked in recent years and those sections are okay, but the rest of the course is a bit of an ordeal, particularly in the back seat. There was a nasty pothole at the base of the first drop, and a particularly evil slam to the side in the turnaround section.
This writer considers Devil's Den to be a dark ride, though it could legitimately be thought of as a roller coaster; it has a chain lift, a drop, a momentum driven climb, and no onboard propulsion in the cars. It opens with a tour past the "infamous gum wall", a thoroughly disgusting collection of dried chewing gum dating back at least half a century, before continuing into a respectable if somewhat cheesy ghost train.
The park is home to a particularly ornate Carousel dating from around 1914. The carvings on it are unusually detailed, and the designers added a few different animals among the standard horses, including a bunny, a bear, and the pirate cat pictured above. The band organ appeared to be limited to three different tracks today, and the tuning was more than a little off, but park management is to be commended for keeping the original hardware going; perhaps in time it will be fully restored to its former glory.
We'd wanted to ride the Tumble Bug but it was out of commission today. As a consolation prize, we tried the Witches Stew, a classic flat ride manufactured by Grover Watkins and one of the few left in the world. Best described as a four-car scrambler on an angle, the spinning motion did my weak stomach no favours, though I did at least manage to avoid the ignominy of a protein spillage.
We stopped in the gift shop on the way out, figuring that the park needs every penny that it can get, and to our surprise discovered a collection of souvenirs from the late Geauga Lake, as well as a veritable treasure trove of old amusement park publications. I came away with three issues of Inside Track, including one from January 1993 with an interesting story on page three:
The 55-year-old Blue Streak roller coaster may operate for the 1993 season after all. Conneaut Lake Park president Charles Flynn had stated that the historic coaster wouldn't run this year due to high maintenance and liability insurance costs. Following that announcement and an auction of some of the park's rides and equipment, five investors have stated that they would like to buy the park and operate the coaster (and other attractions) as usual. Final negotiations are expected to be completed sometime next month.
Twenty-one years later, the story continues.
Memphis Kiddie Park
24th July 2014
As its name suggests, Memphis Kiddie Park is geared at a younger audience, with a selection of different rides available to any child that can sit up unaided. All but three of the rides have a maximum height limit of 50", the exceptions being the Carousel, the Train, and the roller coaster. While management at the park is welcoming to coaster enthusiasts, it nevertheless felt quite odd to be in a place like this without children in tow. We elected to minimise potential embarrassment by getting our credit and leaving as quickly as possible.
Little Dipper (#2083) has a placard presented by ACE that describes it as the oldest steel coaster in North America still operating in its original location, though only the track dates from that time; the original rolling stock was replaced in the early 1970s by a three car train from Bradley and Kaye. It was a tight squeeze to fit both of us in one row while still being able to close the lap bar, but we managed it by crossing our legs. The added weight made the lift hill struggle a little, but it got there in the end, and there was even something approximating to airtime on the various hills.