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.
To the left is a long shot of the Racing Coaster from a Euclid Beach Park postcard
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.
Photo to the left, Thriller, Over the Top Courtesy of Jim Wise
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 the 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.
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.
Photo to the left: NBC during a radio broadcast from the Flying Turns in 1934
During the first half of the 1960's there was one other coaster that operated at Euclid Beach Park. It was called the 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.
The above article originally appeared in The Carousel News & Trader, January 2009 Volume 25, Number 1. Reprinted courtesy of the CN&T and with the permission of contributing author, Bob MacCallum.
Bob MacCallum is a Board Member of Euclid Beach Park Now and a member of the following:
Euclid Beach Park's first operating season was in 1895. Greeting the first patrons were the Pier, German Village, Theater, Dance Pavilion, and Bath House. The parks second season, 1896, saw the addition of amusement rides: Ferris Wheel, Swings, Merry-Go-Round, and the Switchback Railway. The ride was modeled after the Switchback Railway designed by LaMarcus Adna Thompson and constructed at New York's Coney Island in 1884. Riders climbed stairs to a tower, boarded a car which was pushed out of the loading platform where gravity would take the riders down a one set of parallel tracks at about 6 mph. At the opposite end the passengers would disembark the train and a group of men would push the car up the other tower and loading platform and switched to the other set of tracks for the return back to the first tower. The ride was dismantled and removed from the park in 1903.
Image to the left is of an early Euclid Beach postcard.
With the Switchback Railway removed the Roller Rink was enlarged and a new roller coaster built. The new coaster built in 1904 was called the Figure Eight, built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
Photo to the left, the Figure Eight. Photo Courtesy of Euclid Beach Park Now
It was a gravity ride carrying four riders in two seat trains and pulled up the lift hill by chain. It had a figure eight layout and a circular loading platform. The Figure Eight was razed in 1908.
Image to the right "A trip in the Figure 8 at Euclid Beach Park, Cleveland, Ohio", from the Collection of John Marn
LaMarcus Adna Thompson, sometimes called the "Father of the Gravity Ride," had one other contribution to the roller coasters at Euclid Beach Park. In 1907 at the cost of $50,000 the Scenic Railway was constructed, a wooden double out-and-back scenic railway. When first installed the train consisted of three cars pulled up the starting hill by cables. Besides the loading platform crew, two brakemen rode the three car trains to control the speed of the train especially when approaching the cable sites. In the twenties the trains were reduced to two cars only requiring one brakeman. The loading station was very unique with its four towers. In many old photos of other rides at Euclid Beach Park the towers are visible.
On the right old post card, "SCENIC RAILWAY AT EUCLID BEACH PARK, CLEVELAND, OHIO"
This historic park has been a destination for Melbourne families for the past century. With 2012 celebrating 100 years of fun-filled adventures.
The most famous of the Park’s attractions is its Roller Coaster Scenic Railway. It boasts the title of being the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world opening in 1912. The only one of its kind with a standing brakeman in control aboard its moving carriages who can be seen in the video at the 3 minute 35 second mark.