By Bob MacCallum
Reprinted coutesy of The Carousel News & Trader
On Sept. 28, 1969, Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, OH, closed for its final season. On that day it was still possible to ride all three of the wood coasters that had thrilled Clevelanders for much of the 20th century.
Thriller - Over the Top. Photo by Jim Wise
If you arrived at the park by streetcar or in later years by bus, the transit station and pedestrian entrance was right in the shadow of The Thriller on Lake Shore Boulevard, just east of East 156th Street, as the “dog leg” of The Thriller ran right along the road. If you walked under the coaster and went straight ahead after entering, you would come to the eastern end of the park by the entrance to The Thriller.
The Herbert Schmeck masterpiece first opened to the public in 1924. This coaster featured a 71’5” high first hill, and an out-and-back layout with the above mentioned “dog leg,” and was the most popular ride in the park. In early years on a peak day, three trains, each with three four-bench cars, operated. By the 1960s the ride ran with a two train maximum.
A postcard long shot of the Racing Derby
Adjacent to The Thriller entrance was the entrance to Racing Coaster, designed by John A. Miller, which first operated in 1913. The original name of this coaster was the Derby Racer. However, in 1921 the Great American Racing Derby (a carousel with horses that raced) opened, and to avoid confusion the coaster was renamed Racing Coaster. As with other classic racing coasters, it had one continuous track, so if you boarded a train on the left side of the station, your ride ended on the right side of the station. The structure was a double out-and-back, which paralleled the first leg of The Thriller.
NBC doing a radio broadcast from the Flying Turns in 1934
Just east of these two coasters was the entrance to The Flying Turns, a unique joint creation of John N. Bartlett and John A. Miller. It was the highest of the rides with that name, and a track that featured “barrels” for the free-wheeling trains to transverse. Each train had three articulated cars with six caster-style wheels apiece. Passengers rode two to a car, one person directly in front of the other. This ride opened at the beginning of the 1930 season.
During the first half of the 1960s, there was one other coaster that operated at Euclid Beach Park. It was called Aero Dips, and was in the north end of the park, near Lake Erie and the bath house. This junior coaster, another John A. Miller creation, originally opened in 1909, with the name New Velvet Coaster. Subsequent names were New Velvet Ride, Velvet Coaster, and, finally, Aero Dips. This ride featured trains with two three-bench cars, and was generally a younger rider’s first coaster before “graduating” to the larger rides above.
The final season for the Aero Dips was 1965, which meant in that year you had the choice of four different wood coasters in one park, which was equaled only by a few other parks in the United States at that time.
The American Coaster Enthusiasts, (ACE), was founded in 1978 as a not-for-profit, all volunteer club to foster and promote the conservation, appreciation, knowledge and enjoyment of the art of the classic wooden roller coaster and the contemporary steel coaster. The club has grown to nearly 7,000 members representing all 50 states, DC, and 12 countries. ACE publishes a bimonthly newsletter and a quarterly magazine. They also sponsor several events at parks each year.
For information, visit www.aceonline.org or call (740) 450-1560
This article originally appeared in the CN&T January 2009, Vol. 25, No. 1