Climbing a Dragon - Playland Park 7/17

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Playland Park
Rye, New York

July 17, 2003

I was talking to my friend Joe (nightride from Coasters2K) about his upcoming trip, asking him when he was going to be in the area, that maybe we would meet up. He said that the first day of the trip, Thursday, the 17th, would be at Playland and Lake Compounce. Hmmm, I said, maybe I could get off. He went on, saying that he was talking to someone and Playland, and that he would be able to get a backstage look at the park. Now I definately had to get off.
I did get off from work, and headed out to meet Joe on the New Jersey Turnpike. It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, those nice white puffy clouds in the sky. I got the the Woodrow Wilson rest area at about ten of eight, we were to meet there at eight. The time comes, and goes, and no Joe. Finally, with no way to reach him, I head for Playland, hoping to catch up with him there.

About half an hour after leaving the rest area, he calls my cell phone, saying they were at the rest area. By this time, I was almost in New York, so we decide to just meet in the parking lot at Playland.

I got to the park just a little after ten. I knew I had some time, so I took a walk around to get some pictures. Playland has some remarkable architecture. It was the first truly planned park, and everything is art deco, a style that really appeals to me.

Joe and his traveling companions got to the park just at eleven. Traveling with him was his father, Bill, and Jeremy (RCTFan from Coasters2K). upon their arrival, we headed for the administration off, where we meet Jon Gordon, assistant to the superintendent's office at Playland.

We headed back for the Dragon Coaster. John gave us a great behind the scenes tour of the coaster. We got to in, around, and under the trains, as well as a look at the lift machinery, much of which is the same machinery that was put in place in 1929. But, most impressive of all, was a walk up the 80 foot lift hill of the coaster. We did not stay there long, but just got a spectacular view of the park as well as the "V" shaped coaster. It was by far the best experience of the day, and I must thank John and Playland for offering us that opportunity. We also got to ride on the test run of the coaster. Which that really is not the best ride to go on, since the coaster has not been warmed up yet, it was still a cool thing to do.

A little background to the Dragon Coaster, it is one only three Prior and Church coasters left. It is a beautiful ride, a true piece of artwork. Unfortunately, the coaster's original trains had been replaced with Morgans, which with their much lighter plastic bodies, offer a slower ride. on the bright side, the Morgans bearings were replaced on the off season, giving it a better ride, and even better news, the park is looking to replace the Morgan trains entirely. Replacing the Morgans will be the original trains, restored and retrofitted to fit today's needs. It is something the park hopes to do, but is not definite. I can only hope, they will certainly bring this coaster back to life. What is definite will be a completely replaced tunnel, with a new dragon's head which will have light up eyes and may even spew smoke as the train enters it.

After our ride on the Dragon, we saw the Whip running next door. We were invited to ride, which I gladly excepted. This Whip may be one of the best anywhere. It was running full tilt, bouncing back and forth even on the straight aways. Great ride, run as it should be run.

We next headed over to the museum, where some ride pieces were on display, including one of the old Dragon Coaster trains, a flying skooter, and the park's fire truck, which, we were told, still runs. The museum also has plenty of pictures of the Airplane Coaster, the legendary coaster that was torn down in 1957. Talking to one of the grounds keepers, he said that the Airplane was a coaster that did not want to come down. It was built so well that when they tried to pull it down, the chains snapped and the coaster popped right back up into place.

We headed back to the administration building and visited Jon's office, or, well, cubical, which happened to be Fred Church's office at the time of the parks construction. We now got the opportunity to see a simulation of what the Airplane Coaster would have been like. It was very neat, and showed just how awesome this ride was. We split off from Jon and going to enjoy the rest of the park.

We did enjoy the rest of the park. After hitting the ticket booth (Playland offers no pay one price), we headed off for the Hurricane. I had heard a lot of bad things about this ride, but found it not to be so bad. The seats are very poorly made, with unpadded lapbars and these protrusions on the headrests that don't quite fit around your head. But, I found by keeping your head forward you don't bang around too much. Joe and Jeremy found the ride horrible though, because they are much smaller then me, and do not fit too snuggly, so their legs banged back and forth against the lapbars. While to me it was not a bad ride, you should not have to ride a ride a certain way (other then conforming to the park rules) to be comfortable and enjoy it.

We next hit up the Double Shot. It is a standard 80 foot tower, and is still a fun ride, with lots of floater air at the top. Over to the Old Mill we went. The park renovated it last year, though when I rode it last year it was not yet complete, the stunts weren't working. This time the stunts worked, and it is a great dark ride. Watch out for the thunderstorm!

We split for a little bit, with Joe and Bill heading for a second ride on the Dragon Coaster, and Jer and I headed for the Derby Racer. It was a fine day for a race too. We each got an outside horse, and let me tell you, if you have only been on Cedar Downs, you have no idea what you are missing, because this ride is a far fast, more intense ride then the same one at Cedar Point. The outside horses reach about 25 MPH, while at the same time they move up and down and back and forth, creating for quite a workout for the rider. The ride ops also get a workout, for they show off their acrobatic talent jumping on and off while the ride is going full tilt. It is one heck of a sight, but they never fall. The ride goes so fast that they actually have to lean inward or they would be thrown from it.

Jer loved the Derby Racer. We met up with Bill and Joe and headed over to the new Crazy Mouse. It is a new Zamperla ride installed just this year, but we did not get a chance to ride, it was down. The mechanic said that the final brake kept sticking. The ride did look good. They were running it through some test runs, and it ran trim free. It may trim with the extra weight of passengers, but there are not many places to trim it, so it looks like it could rival that which is at Hershey Park.

So, a second, or in some cases third, ride on the Dragon Coaster was in order. The ride was considerably faster this time around, giving some airtime in places, and proved to be the best ride I have ever had on the coaster. The ride is also very smooth, a sign of excellent maintenance. We finished the day at the park on the bumper cars. They had all new cars this year, 50 of them in all, and they gave a good ride, but they are no Lusse Skooters, and in fact, I found them not to be as good as the old Mach 5's they had last year.

Overall, the park is a strikingly beautiful place, with the art deco touches on the buildings, and the beautifully landscaped grounds. It makes you imagine what some of the Coney Island parks must have been like in the early 1900's, it has that same sort of look to it. The ride ops were also excellent, friendly, helpful, and seemed to at least look like they were enjoying their job. The park can get expensive, with no POP, you have to pick and choose rides, and a ticket book does not get you very far. Also, food was mediocre, with the concessions run by major brands, like Burger King and Nathan's, there was nothing different about it. Also, the souvenirs could use some work, there was no dedicated gift shop, and nothing that really caught my eye. The rides, though, were great, very well run and maintained. I look forward to a visit next year, when with luck, I will be able to ride Dragon with the great looking original trains.

Many, Many photos taken that day can be found here:

Thanks for reading.

Ask yourself; When was the last time YOU visited Conneaut Lake Park?

I loved Playland when I went. I'll be heading there next month and will hopefully ride there new mouse. Has it been open at all yet? I wish I could climb the lift hill, but I did get stuck on it:)
-Sean Newman
*** This post was edited by SFgadvMAN 7/24/2003 10:31:35 PM ***
I was at Playland for a radio event on the 15th where all the rides were free as long as you were cool waiting on pretty long lines. The Crazy Mouse coaster was one of three rides I went on that evening. I am not a huge fan of the mice as I would rather take a spin on their go karts for the same price, but for those who care, it was virtually brakeless flying through turns like there was no tomarrow. The new bumper cars were a huge step down from last years, and what is with the 6 foot maximum height limit? I am 5' 11", and found no issues with space or safety even if I was an inch or two taller. But there are some good times to be found trying to turn people around so they become extremely vulnerable targets. Thats the good thing about the enforced one way driving on bumper cars. One car gets turned around and 40 other cars are careening in the opposite direction. Makes for some great hits. Oh yeah... Nice trip report, glad you had fun. Makes me wish I had a car and my license.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value" -Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French Military Strategist and future World War I commander, in 1911.

Great TR. I had a similar excellent visit a few weeks back. I had not heard about the park wanting to replace the Morgans, but I would be thoroughly please for them to disappear!


The PBS show "Great Old Amusement Parks" shows the Derby Racer ride ops jumping on and off the ride. Is it just for fun or is there an actual reason for it?

I can't imagine Cedar Point allowing that!

Ripple Rock Amusement Park
Flying Scooter coming soon!

The ride ops circulate through the platform throughout the ride cycle to make sure everyone is sitting correctly (right leg on bottom peg, left leg on top peg, lean to your left, and no side saddle) - there are 56 horses that have to be watched. They also like to show off - as it is definitely a talent.

It is my understanding from the rides manager at Rye that this has been standard operating procedure since the ride has opened, and the Euclid Park's model was operated similarly until it's move (and slow down) to Cedar Point.


john peck's avatar
Did you just say there was a Flying Scooter? Is it a park model (10 tubs, high center) or a portible model (8 tubs, low center) ?
There is a clasic Flying Scooter car in the museum, but there are none in the park to ride.

Walking the Dragon was alot of fun. I was nervous because I was only walking up two planks of wood, up 80 feet, with only a piece of wood to hold me if I fall.

The Derby Racer was alot of fun. Its quite a workout, I must say.
OoOoOo....Boulder Dash *Drools Excessively*
"That helix turns me on" - Nightride at CoasterCon

Mamoosh's avatar
I'm finding this TR a bit late. Great news about bringing back the P&C trains...I've got my fingers crossed that happend.

mOOSH [loves Rye!]

A random Mooshter's Dawntionary listing: Dopeler Effect [n.] - the tendancy of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

rollergator's avatar
Funny, I thought you were more into Stoli...;)
your company's name and logo HERE...effective advertising at great rates!
As stated, there is no longer a Flying Skooter running in the park (though they really should have one), but they have one of the old cars in the museum. The number on the car is 10, so I assume they had a larger park model.

PS, would you believe the ride op at the Flyers at Knoebels last week told be he slowed the ride down because I was snapping them too much? Oh well, guess he doesn't run them too often.

Ask yourself; When was the last time YOU visited Conneaut Lake Park?

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