James Koehl

Published: November 10, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Great article as always, Derek. I love things about the history of theme/amusement parks- it tells us how we got to where we are today. I also know that when I see your name on the byline I know it will be a quality article.
James Rao

Published: November 11, 2013 at 4:46 AM

Wow... that hand drawn depiction of scenic coaster Thompson built in Venice, California looks awesome. I tried to find some other pictures, but no luck. However I did read that the cool mountain theming only lasted about three years before the ride was remodeled. Even back then park operators were too cheap to keep up the props! *sigh*

(That side profile of Thompson makes him look a bit like Spencer Tracy, don't ya think?)

Thank you, Derek, for educating us about the amusement park industry one article at a time!

Mike Gallagher

Published: November 11, 2013 at 10:15 AM

"2300 ft long, 665 ft high drop at the end."

Hard to visualize, considering Kingda Ka is 456 feet high. Or am I missing something or reading it wrong?

Eric G

Published: November 11, 2013 at 1:04 PM

"2300 ft long, 665 ft high drop at the end.".

That's a misleading statement. To begin it didn't have a drop based on today's definition of what a roller coaster drop is, so it's a not a good term to use to describe it.

More accurately the track had a long, straight descent down Mount Pisgah with a total elevation change of 664-feet from the top to the bottom.

However, to put it in better perspective it took the cars 30 minutes to descend the 664 vertical feet (a rate of 22.1 feet per minute) and with the steam powered engine it took 50 minutes to ascend the same section. Today, kiddie coasters are more exciting!

Originally, it took 4 hours to ascend with mules pulling the cars uphill. I can't find any sources that support the 2,300-foot long length for that particular section with that vertical drop, but it may be correct.

In reality there was nothing thrilling by today's standards and it certainly wouldn't look as impressive as some of the rides today like Kingda Ka.

grant crawford

Published: November 11, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Wow, awesomely interesting. It makes me feel a little guilty though, particularly when I consider myself a theme park aficionado.

I live in Melbourne and I've never been to Luna Park (the only amusement park in our city). I went to Disneyland when I was 5, and since then have turned my nose up at Luna Park which is simply a small amusement park, very old school in its design with no real modern attractions.

Knowing the history of it now a bit better, and that our Scenic Railway is the oldest continuously running roller coaster in the world, I realise what a treasure we have and will have to take steps to rectify my non-attendance. I will also need to make sure that my own children do not make my mistake.

Thanks for writing this, it has opened up my eyes.

Derek Potter

Published: November 11, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Eric, the Mauch Chunk was a little more than that. There were a few incarnations of the railway. The early/mid 1800s version wasn't nearly as long, was still hauling coal, and was shorter and mule driven. The 18 mile long gravity driven, finished product was finished afterward, and by 1874 was exclusively a tourist attraction, which is what LA Thompson would have probably seen. It was quite faster than before, and many accounts refer to the ride as "harrowing". Call the drop a descent if you like. It's not meant to be a competition against modern day coasters.

Thanks for the kind words everyone. It's great to move forward into new things, but equally great to appreciate the old ones. There's a lot of beauty in the old things.

Mike Gallagher

Published: November 12, 2013 at 10:16 AM

James, you're spot on with the Spencer tracy comment. It truly is a mad, mad. mad, mad world of coasters and amusement/theme parks.
Eric G

Published: November 13, 2013 at 4:01 PM

If people described it as "harrowing" it was simply because there wasn't anything like it at the time. Today, an observation tower at a theme park is more thrilling.

I just think it's important to use the correct terms, so people clearly understand what you're describing.