The Roaring 20s was a prosperous time for America and Euclid Beach Park. Following the acceptance of the automobile as a modern conveyance, travel independent of railroads, street cars, or trolleys caught on quickly. The growing economy meant many people could afford to spend their monies on a day at the park and to take vacations. During the so-called Golden Age of Roller Coasters, there were so many wooden beasts built, they seemed innumerable in their existence. Well-respected designers Frank Prior and Frederick Church are credited with several dozen examples from the famed Bobs at Chicago’s Riverside Park to the Airplane Coaster at Rye Playland park in Rye, NY. Legends of wooden roller coaster fame came and went, such as it was with the Crystal Beach Cyclone, a ride so daring and violent that a nurse’s station was permanently placed at the ride.
Euclid Beach Park received it’s own legend (at least in local history), the Thriller, built in 1924 and designed by Herbert Schmeck and Howard Stoneback for the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The Thriller had a somewhat unusual train design in that each car had 4 rows of seats.
With a height of 71.4 ft, and a length of 2,927 ft., this coaster probably achieved speeds in the ballpark of around 45 miles per hour. The popularity of this ride meant it had staying power, and it operated until the park’s closure some 45 years later.
Thinking about the Thriller and it’s different 4-row style trains, I began to consider what other kind of classic rides were common at parks in this age, and whether Euclid Beach had anything unique or more obscure.
Possibly one of the most famous still stands today but in Sandusky, Ohio. The American Racing Derby is a Prior & Church design. These are quite rare but I understand there were approximately 18 examples built, with Euclid Beach’s being one of the largest. You can read more about their history and design here.
Another common ride at amusement parks of this age was the tumble bug. A flat ride that moves about a circular track that bobs & dips, they are actually quite fun and have a very unique sound due to their creaky structures and numerous electric motors. You can still find some examples of these but they are exceedingly rare with only two full-sized variants left in the U.S. at Kennywood Park and Conneaut Lake Park, both in Pennsylvania.
An early water attraction was a circular pool with a cascading fountain you were actually allowed to swim in, which eventually was limited to just a decorative element. Apparently, prior to its becoming a more passive feature of the park, the “Sea Swing” ride allowed guests to skim their feet in the water as it spun swings mounted from a central structure not unlike any other swing-ride. The foundation still exists and it’s possible that it may be rebuilt into a fountain again with park improvements and construction happening directly nearby aiming to restore the presence of a pier to the park (though more of an ornamental one). You can read a local news story about recent construction here.
Many Clevelanders are probably not even aware that they are familiar with rides of Euclid Beach’s past, specifically the Rocket Ships. When the weather is good, the Rocket Car driving around the Greater Cleveland area is a common site (and there are actually two of them, and they cover a lot of ground).
Aside from this former flat-ride offering casual city tours, party-transportation, and ride-offerings at local festivals and events over the years, I have even seen wedding-parties having a blast riding around on these pieces of Euclid Beach Park history. You can find out more and plan your own ride with friends here.
Other common rides of this age found here were log-flumes, shoot the chutes, flying scooters, and Laff in the Dark indoor dark rides. I’ve also seen photos of Dodgems, miniature trains, and pony rides. Less common were larger free-wheeling roller coasters, one of which called the Flying Turns was immensely popular here. You can ride a reproduction of an original wooden bobsled-style roller coaster at Knoebels Family Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania.
What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden a tumble bug? What classic amusement parks have you been too? What are some of your favorite old-fashioned amusement park rides?