austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Softly sigh it, try it, try it, just for fun

Canobie Lake Park's oldest roller coaster is called the Yankee Cannonball, which opened in 1936. Amazingly, considering it's a wooden roller coaster, it used to be at another park: the ride, as Roller Coaster, was in Lakewood Park of Waterbury, Connecticut, from 1930 until 1935. Lakewood Park had been a privately-run amusement park until 1928, when the city seized it for taxes, and although they put in a roller coaster the amusement rides faded out over the years. That still exists as a municipal park.

Roller coasters inspire good questions about the nature of identity, especially when they get moved. Canobie Lake Park's plaque outside the Yankee Cannonball mentions ``when the ride was dismantled and moved, each bay had to be shortened by 6 inches to fit within the smaller ground area available at Canobie''. Too small a change to make it really a different ride? Well, how about this: ``The first hill of the ride was demolished by Hurricane Carol on August 30, 1954, but it was rebuilt the following season''. Rebuilt to the same plan? I don't know either. The ride was known as Roller Coaster when it was at Lakewood. The Roller Coaster Database says it was known as Greyhound from 1936 to the 1970s, and the plaque says it was named the Yankee Cannonball in 1983. This seems to leave some time under-documented. Either way, Greyhound and Yankee Cannonball are great roller coaster names.

It's a sweet roller coaster, too. It's essentially the classic out-and-back format, although with a dogleg to the right after the lift hill. This brings it out toward and partly around the parking lot. The effect isn't quite the off-into-the-wilderness look you get at, say, the Beast from Kings Island, but it does mean people arriving get a sweet view of the ride's whole extent. The only disappointing thing was that the line was huge, because it was a nice, sunny Friday in early August. We had to wait something near an hour to get to the station. Happily we were placed just right that we were first ones onto the train when we got our turn --- there's no waiting for selecting your seats --- and we got a front-seat ride.

I held out hopes that later in the day, or in the evening, the crowds might be lessened. A bit after dinner they were shorter, but that still didn't make it short; our re-ride came after a wait of something like a half-hour. We also harbored thoughts of going in as the park closed, but the park was on to us: they close the ride queue ahead of the park's closing, so, no last-minute run-on for us.

The park's newest, and other major, roller coaster is named Untamed. It's part of a vaguely hunting-lodge-themed area of the park, dark timber-style launch stations and fences and bears carved into the fence's finials. The lights in the station are even set into what I imagine are artificial antlers. The ride uses a vertical lift hill; you go directly up and only find out for sure you're near the top of the hill when the car tilts over and plummets. It's a fun ride, smaller than its sisters like Fahrenheit at Hershey Park. It's just about 72 feet tall, although it stands out at Canobie Lake Park as one of the tallest rides the place has.

We wandered out of the gift shop, where bunny_hugger found the T-shirt she really wanted from the park, and which we failed to get; the entrance's gift shop didn't have it, and that part of the park was closed by the time we returned at the end of the evening. Behind the ride we followed a little quasi-secret path around to the arcade that had Hercules; we also found ``Gerardo's Garden''. As promised the place was growing bunches of vegetables, possibly in support of the concessions. We didn't know, although someone (Gerardo?) was moving a sprinkler around. There was also growing what looked like the makings of a corn maze, identified as ``The Magic Seed (Coming This Fall)''. It was set up with a bit of a barn opening, including with a couple of chickens off to the side.

One group was billed as an Ameraucana Rooster, the other as a Red Star Chicken. That's all the explanation we got. There were a bunch of them, though, and we spent more time than you might have guessed at this amusement park we might not see again for years if ever simply watching the chickens. They watched us back. And any animal, watched long enough, will do something surprising. These chickens would dig out little nests in the dirt and flop over sideways, just like our pet rabbit showing off his fluffy white belly. We really have no explanation for the chickens; they're just some more mysteriously present animals at an amusement park this year. (Wikipedia says the Ameraucana lays blue eggs, which is pretty neat.)

The roller coaster we weren't sure we should bother riding was the Dragon. This is a tiny kids ride, a powered roller coaster, that gets its speed from a motor rather than chain and doesn't depend on much of a drop to keep its speed. Serious roller coaster fans tend to not think much of powered coasters, and kiddie rides like this that could fit in at a travelling carnival. We decided, ah, we were there and when would we be there again? And what's wrong with powered coasters anyway? Plus, you know, two-tailed dragon-shaped train. Anyway, cute ride, and they give out two circuits of the track, which is about as much as my knees would take.

The roller coaster we got to last, and the tallest by ten inches (says the Roller Coaster Database), was the Canobie Corkscrew, again a nice snappy name for the ride. It's also a ride of some historic significance, which the park tries to explain in its informational plaques. The ride dates to 1975, when Arrow Dynamics started making the first really successful roller coasters with loops. (There were a couple made around 1900-1910, but they were by all accounts brutal to the riders, and short-lived.) That's when every park in the world bought a ride named Corkscrew. But this one --- which the plaque says was the second in the world to invert riders twice --- was originally known as the Chicago Loop, which is another great name.

It had been installed from 1975 to 1980 at Old Chicago, an indoor amusement park-slash-shopping mall that only operated for a couple of years. After the park closed the ride went to the Alabama State Fairgrounds, where it became Corkscrew, and in 1987 it came to Canobie Lake Park. This also had quite a line, though not so bad as Yankee Cannonball or Untamed. I suppose the crowd's got used to it. It's a fine and nice-looking corkscrew ride. It's got a few rough patches, where the track starts to lean; they hadn't quite got the bugs worked out of transitions in those days.

The ride, in its Old Chicago setting, is reportedly seen in the 1978 film The Fury, which I've never seen.

Outside the Canobie Corkscrew we saw a place selling macaroni and cheese. Also a couple of hearses waiting for September and the park's Screeemfest Halloween weekends. Ah, what a prospect.

Trivia: Among rubber novelty items listed in the 1939 Johnson Smith catalogue were fake hunting knives, pencils, cigars and cigarettes, dollars, gum, nuts, ice cream, eggs, chocolate, bananas, doughnuts, and pretzels. Source: American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide To The Formerly Funny, Christopher Miller. Rubber pretzels?

Currently Reading: Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms, Wil McCarthy.

Tags: amusement parks, canobie lake park, new england parks tour
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