Rye Playland (5/29/04)

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 11:01 AM
The Power of Nostalgia

A few weeks ago, Joe Phillips informed us that he was coming to NJ for one of his semi-annual returns to his home state. After he suggested a quick trip to Bushkill Park as a way to kill some time, I reminded him that he had never been to Playland Park in Rye. Playland it was.

We picked up Linette as we made our way up Route 287 and made it to the park around 1:00, which left us a little less than five hours to enjoy all that Playland has to offer. Playland Parkway leads right into the Playland parking lot, where we were hit with a $7.00 parking fee. A little outrageous, I thought- what are they trying to do? Push us to take public transportation? At least the parking fee buys you some great access to the Super Flight parts that are scattered about the lot. Lots of yellow track and red support are sitting out in plain view, too bad none of them are taking the shape of a coaster just yet.

A tour of the park was in order, as we were kind of hungry and wanted to see what the park had to offer as far as food is concerned. Unfortunately, there isn’t much. Unless you like Burger King or Nathans, you are best eating outside of the park. We got reasonably-priced meals at Nathans and ate in the pretty wooded picnic grove behind the Ice Skating building. You have to love the views at this park. Everywhere you go, there are huge trees and a view of the Long Island Sound. After finishing lunch, we bought some ride tickets (as always, there is no POP plan offered) and headed over to the Flying Witch darkride by the Music Tower. I had never been on either of Playland’s acclaimed darkrides before and was just as eager as Joe to see what they are all about.

The Flying Witch is a multi-level ride-thru that features an awesome airbrushed façade and cars with heads that resemble the CCI rolling stock that runs on Mexico City’s Montana Rusa. The ride is very good, with decent scenes that rely quite a bit on flashing strobe lights. One thing in particular that got my attention was the clarity of the sound effects- everything was loud and not at all distorted or scratchy.

Across the midway, we gave Zombie Castle a try. It is a lot like the Flying Witch but is a single-level ride and thus a little shorter. But what Zombie Castle lacks in length it more than makes up for in shock value. This is, without a doubt, one of the most gruesome darkrides I have ever ridden. The gore isn’t nauseating- it’s no blood fest- it’s just that the scenes depict some pretty awful things happening to the human visitors that are trapped within. Again, the scenes were all very well-done and the sound effects were superb. Twist my arm and put a gun to my head and I still couldn’t tell you which ride I liked better.

Right next to Zombie Castle sits the Crazy Mouse that was new in 2003. The name would suggest a spinning Reverchon mouse but this is in fact a Zamperla Zig-Zag coaster very much like the Doo Whopper on Wild Wheels in Wildwood. The ride has a cool purple and blue paint job and the mouse cars are particularly cute, with little tails sticking up in the air. They’re quite small for the 6’3” person that I am, but I fit and we were treated to a brakeless mouse experience. It’s no Reverchon, that’s for sure, but Zamperla makes a damn fine wild mouse.

The Whip was on the way to the Dragon Coaster so we took a spin since Whips are amongst Joe’s favorite classic rides. The Playland version was running a little rough but it was very fast around the corners, making for an excellent ride (much faster than the Knoebels Whip we rode in April.) Does anyone know how these things work? There is one cable to which all of the cars are attached, and a second cable that just kind of “sits” there with a lot of slack. It doesn’t seem to do anything besides add to the noise of the ride. Can anyone tell me what the purpose of that cable is?

The Dragon Coaster was next and was the only ride that we had to wait in line for. Even then, it was ten minutes at the most. If there is one advantage to a tickets-only plan, it’s the fact that it keeps the lines to a minimum even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when you would expect to wait forever for each ride. Dragon was running just one of its awful Morgan trains, which looked as considerably less “beat” than they have in years past. Seating is still first-come, first-served, but we were fortunate to be at the head of the line and were able to get in the front car when the rope went down. Much to the dismay of the man behind us, who told us that the woman he was with flew all the way from California to ride the coaster. All I could think was that she was going to be very disappointed if that was indeed the truth.

I cannot stress this enough: Morgan trains are absolute sh**. They are, by far, the worst rolling stock that can be fitted to run on a wood coaster. They bounce, shuffle and vibrate, even on a coaster with a profile and layout as simple as the Dragon Coaster. The seats are hard (even with padding), the lap bars suck and they make this awful noise that completely removes the sound that wood coasters are supposed to make. Just as much as I support traditional parks, I support any effort to take these things and roll them to the bottom of the Long Island Sound. As of right now, the only things noteworthy about the Dragon Coaster are a small pop of air at the top of one of the turns (maybe it’s the first one, I dunno- all the turns feel alike) and the restored Dragon tunnel which features a fog machine that pumps out quite a bit of mist. Very nice.

What isn’t so nice is the old P&C car sitting outside the Dragon Coaster’s station. First of all, it’s a tease. Second of all, it’s heartbreaking to see that beautiful lead car sitting out in the open, filled with rain water and rocks that people pick up from the ground and toss into it like it’s a trash can. This display of nostalgia looks like something new, as the concrete slab that the car sits on looks freshly-poured. If only they would add some kind of cover to protect it from the elements (and perhaps a fence to keep people from climbing all over it), the presentation might be more meaningful.

Ye Olde Mill was next. This thing blew me away two years ago when we rode after the rehab had been completed. I am happy to report that nothing has changed. You have to love the job that Sally did with this ride. The new scenes are incredibly creative and look fantastic, but all of the charm of a classic old mill has been retained, leaving a ride that works on a number of levels. Be warned: There are a few spots when you may get wet during the ride.

Walking past the Super Flight site (which seems very ill-prepared for a new coaster), we stopped at the Derby Racer. Sitting on your horse while waiting for the ride to start, it’s impossible not to look up at the roof of the building and be impressed with the architecture. What a cool pavilion this thing sits in! After waiting for what seemed like an eternity (the ride ops waited about ten minutes for more people to board), the start of the race had sounded- a nice touch- and the ride began spinning at a speed that made it impossible to sit upright. The lateral forces on this thing are so powerful that you’ll immediately understand why the ride ops insist that you put your left foot on the lowest peg and your right on the highest one- you’ll need all the stabilization you can get once the horses start moving! Something I noticed- the horses don’t start “racing” until the ride is at full speed. I assume there is a mechanism that is separate from the one that turns the table for the racing motion of the horses?

We strolled through Kiddyland, which is, without a doubt, the most impressive I have ever seen. The rides are packed in very tightly, and you have to appreciate the way that the Kiddy Coaster winds its way through the kiddy park like a larger wood coaster winds its way through a full-size amusement park. If there was ever a ride that makes me wish I was a kid again, the Kiddy Coaster is it. We also found the Kiddy Whip, Kiddy Carousel and Mini Scrambler particularly endearing! Although not a classic in the strictest sense of the term, most notable was a ride called the Demolition Derby. I have seen pictures of it but never knew that it was practically a copy of a PTC Crazy Daisy, except with actual demolition derby cars instead of circular tubs! Who makes this new version of the Cuddle Up? We were amazed at how close the cars come to each other when they switch from table to table.

We took a break from classics and headed over to the side of the park (near the Flying Witch) where Knoebels Whirlwind once stood. After being denied a ride on the bumper cars for being more than 6 feet tall (what kind of rule is that?) Linette and I rode the Double Shot, which was as good as the version that we rode at Indiana Beach the week before. Joe and I took a spin on the log flume which had two decent drops separated by some good rapids. Look towards the Sound at the top of the lifts and you can see the parts to the dismantled Hurricane coaster sitting by the side of the road (guess no one bought that POS yet.) After a ride on the Dream Machine (Moser swings) and Sea Dragon (I forgot how much fun they were), we went over to the Carousel to use our last tickets.

It’s a nice machine with Carmel horses- Joe thinks the actual carousel is a Mangels machine because of the way the horses “slide” on the base when the ride starts spinning. It was in nice shape, with the only issue being a great-looking organ that stood silent. Have you ever ridden a carousel in complete silence? It is really eerie… very unnatural. Also, the horses didn’t “slide” all the way on their tracks, so I assume that the ride wasn’t running nearly as fast as it could have/should have.

A few minutes remained before we had to leave, so we strolled over to the boardwalk and stopped by the museum. There was an old gentleman inside that seemed to want to talk about everything but the park, so fortunately the various pictures and exhibit pieces featured nice and simple descriptions. Aside from tons of photographs (organized in a loose chronological order), there is an old Chevy fire truck, a dodgem car, a flying scooter tub (nicely restored) and another Dragon Coaster lead car-, this one painted yellow with brand-new seat upholstery. This car sits up high on blocks so it’s easy to take a look at the flanged wheels and steel upstop plates that make P&C cars differ from most wood coaster rolling stock.

Playland is a beautiful place. Everything seemed to have a fresh coat of paint, and when the flower gardens fill in later this season, I expect the park to look the best it has in years. As I see it, the park has only three flaws. The Morgan trains on the Dragon Coaster have got to go. I hope the rumors of restored P&C trains are true, because these fiberglass pieces of garbage need to be removed and destroyed so that they may never ruin another coaster. The park could also benefit from a more thrilling wood coaster. A rebuilt Aeroplane would be nice, but even a small coaster like Cornball would be nice. Sure, the park has limited space, but after seeing what was done at Indiana Beach to squeeze rides in, I believe that anything is possible. And finally, a POP plan needs to be implemented, even if it’s a weekdays-only thing. I understand that a POP plan leads to longer lines, but Playland is a very expensive proposition if you want to ride all that the park has to offer.

Which, incidentally, is quite a lot. And to add to the problem, a lot of what Playland has is great. The darkrides. The Derby Racer. The Whip, Ye Olde Mill and an outstanding Kiddyland. The thing is, I have no problem dropping a ton of money at this park. They make an effort to preserve their past, and because of that, I’d gladly spend money here than a park such as Six Flags or Cedar Point if they happened to charge by the ride. Nostalgia and preservation aren’t selling points for an amusement park? Try telling that to the crowd that was enjoying themselves in Rye on Saturday.

*** Edited 6/3/2004 3:03:44 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 11:26 AM
After a stop here last August, I can back up most everything.

I especially agree on the parts about the dark rides (in particularly Ye Olde Mill), and the Morgan trains on Dragon coaster that "are absolute sh**." During that August 2003 trip, I only ran into two wooden coasters that I did not really like... Seabreeze's Jack Rabbit and Rye Playland's Dragon Coaster... and what one thing did they have in common? Morgan trains! Had they been running anything PTC's for example, I believe that my opinion of them would have been higher. Im I correct in assuming that the "Morgan" in these uncomfortable, cheap, plastic trains is the same "Morgan" that has built coasters such as Dorney's Steel Force with its large, comfortable trains? Kind of ironic...

But back to Playland...

I also agree that this park is EXPENSIVE to visit. BUT a higher cost of living in the area (compared to places like Knoebels who's ticket prices seem rediculously low in comparison) and the fact that this is in fact a Government Run (county) park could lead to that. As said, the only good thing about the higher ticket cost and no POP... shorter lines. We found the same as you found... every ride was a walk on except for Dragon Coaster ... and even that was a short (5-10 min) wait.

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 11:38 AM
Yes, Morgan trains were made by Dana Morgan, who is responsible for Steel Force and Phantom's Revenge, amongst others. You would think that Morgans would be okay on rides that travel is straight lines, but they are bad even on a coaster as tame as the Dragon Coaster. I'm told that the ride was infinitely better with the old P&C trains, so hopefully the restoration of the tunnel was only the first step in breathing new life into this classic.
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Thursday, June 3, 2004 11:54 AM
The only "trains" that I found to be more painful than Morgan (non Hyper) Trains are the cars on Chance Toboggans. You get the same stapled, cramped, uncomfortable ride as with the Morgan (non Hyper) Trains, but you also get the added bouns of the top of your head slamming against the roof of the car.

A close second to Morgan (non Hyper) trains are the trains that run on Morey's Pier's RC-48, in all of its knee breaking glory.

Third, was on Rye's very own (removed / defunct) Hurricane. May not have been the trains as much as simply the layout. My neck was snapped back and forth and side to side like a rag doll. Good news is, the numbness from the paralysis that goes along with ride hides most of the pain. *** Edited 6/3/2004 3:55:31 PM UTC by SLFAKE***

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 2:32 PM

Rob Ascough said:
Much to the dismay of the man behind us, who told us that the woman he was with flew all the way from California to ride the coaster. All I could think was that she was going to be very disappointed if that was indeed the truth.

If she's from California, chances are she's used to Morgan trains. :)


I cannot stress this enough: Morgan trains are absolute sh**. They are, by far, the worst rolling stock that can be fitted to run on a wood coaster. They bounce, shuffle and vibrate, even on a coaster with a profile and layout as simple as the Dragon Coaster.

I take it you've never ridden SCBB's Giant Dipper? I think Morgan trains track just fine. It's everything else that's a problem.

-Nate

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 2:57 PM
SLFAKE: Good call. All pretty horrible examples of rolling stock, if you ask me. If anyone gets the gold, I'd have to say its the RC-48 trains. Those things are the worst of the worst, if you ask me.

Nate: I've never been on SCBB's Giant Dipper, but in another two weeks I will be riding the Belmont Giant Dipper. I'm told that ride is pretty good, even with Morgans. SCBB will have to wait until another trip, since this vacation is keeping us in the LA/San Diego area.

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 3:23 PM
Wonderful trip report Rob, I haven't been able to head out there yet, but I can't wait! Whoever fixed up the dragon tunnel did a fantastic job, from the pictures it looks great. I can't agree more about a small or medium sized wood coaster somewhere in the park. And yeah, Playland is VERY slow when installing new rides. They don't seem to be in ANY hurry to install rides lately. Do you think they will be able to get it open by July 4th? That is the busiest time of the year, you would think they would aim for at least then.
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Thursday, June 3, 2004 4:46 PM
I haven't heard much said about Belmont's Giant Dipper, although I don't believe it's a highly regarded as SCBB's. SCBB's ride is actually the smoothest wooden coaster I've ever ridden - it felt like a steel coaster - and, of course, it runs Morgan trains.

-Nate

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 5:18 PM
I was told that Super Flight would be finished by 4th of July, but unless some magic elves come to the park at night and really hustle, I don't see it happening. I don't understand why the park takes so long to add new rides. There is another new ride coming- the Twister- which park maps show to be some kind of Top Spin-like ride that is also MIA. All that exists is an empty field where the ride is going.

I think that people prefer to SCBB Giant Dipper to the Belmont Park one, but I am excited anyway. The last P&C beachfront twister? I am there!

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 6:05 PM
From the map, twister looks like it will be a Zamperla Wind Shear. Though its replacing the Chance Inverter I wasn't fond of, for some reason I don't like thrill rides in this location. It's a nice serene spot from what I remember. A good location for flyers though. I am also surprise no one has commented on the crappy name "Super Flight" for their flying coaster.

In other news, I was watching a little news special on the Death on Mind Scrambler. Changes to the ride will include "adding seat belts, more lighting and a second attendant." I hope the lighting doesn't take away too much from the cool disorienting feel it had in the dark with the music, strobe lights, etc. A video on the situation can be found here.

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 7:30 PM
Zamperla Wind Shear... I'll have to check that out, as I've never heard of it before. Seems like Playland has a good relationship with Zamperla.

I forgot that there was a Chance Inverter at the park. I know the site has a pathway that was left behind when the ride was removed, so I imagine that it will be used for the new ride. As of now, all that exists are some concrete pads that look as though they are movable... probably cheaper than pouring a concrete pad. The site is rather serene. Perfect for Flying Scooters!

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 9:57 PM
I believe the carousels organ is being rebuilt and repaired which explains the lack of music on the ride. But yes riding a carousel without music is eerie.
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Thursday, June 3, 2004 10:24 PM

NoRulz2k said:
From the map, twister looks like it will be a Zamperla Wind Shear.

I think it's actually a Moser Maverick, which looks similar to the Windshear, but I'm sure is much less painful.

-Nate

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Friday, June 4, 2004 2:01 AM
The organ looked to be in great condition, which made the lack of music all the more puzzling. If it is being rebuilt, then I can forgive the park ;) As long as that silence is not a full-time thing.

That Wind Shear ride looked pretty cool... you say its painful? I've never ridden one, so I wouldn't know. Did the park ever release any information about the new ride? I don't remember hearing anything about it, that's why I ask.

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