Rye Playland: May 29

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Rye Playland, May 29, 2004.

A family wedding got me back to my home state of New Jersey over Memorial Day weekend and since I was in the area I decided to meet up with fellow Wood Coaster Fan Club co-founder Rob Ascough and his girlfriend Linette for a sunny afternoon romp at Rye Playland. It was my first visit to Rye and I was anxious to experience the historic atmosphere as well as some of the older rides the park has maintained throughout the years.

The humidity of the previous week finally broke and we had bright sunny and cool weather, perfect for an amusement park visit. There would be no dropping dead from heat exhaustion and no severe dehydration forcing the purchase of a $25.00 cup of sugar water. We pulled into Rye’s parking lot shortly after 1pm and Rob generously forked over the $7 parking fee. Track for the new Zamperla flying coaster was strewn across the parking lot with no sign of imminent erection. We stepped over the pieces and entered the park. The most striking feature upon stepping inside is the matching art deco detailing and careful symmetry of pavilions and buildings. Rye was one of the first completely planned amusement parks and they have done an amazing job of staying true to the original 1928 layout. Several original rides remain and many modern rides have found their way in but the historical integrity of the park has not been compromised. It’s no wonder that Rye Playland has been designated a National Historic Landmark!

We took some time to wander the grounds and soak up the atmosphere, admire the architecture, and take in the beautiful view of Long Island Sound. The park appeared well maintained but it still had a "lived in" look that conveyed a sense of history. Nothing seemed contrived, artificial, or "plastic." First order of business was a visit to the ticket booth. Rye has a particularly annoying policy of not offering a P-O-P plan and with many of the major rides requiring 4 tickets and at nearly $1 apiece it doesn’t take long to empty your wallet. I suppose the high cost of rides does keep the lines short but it sure would be nice to be able to reride some favorites without the "guilt" that accompanies the thought of buying additional ticket books.

First up were the two traditional dark rides Flying Witch and Zombie Castle. Both very similar and both very good. Next up was the small wild mouse coaster named "Crazy Mouse" much to my chagrin, the ride was not of the much loved spinning mouse variety but a compact standard mouse. A decent ride made even better by the lack of onride braking. Another 4 tickets gone away. Just down the midway lives the historic whip one of 7 remaining original 1928 attractions. It is a 12-car model that runs fast with a good whipping action. It seemed a little rough and the drive cable appeared to have a lot of slack in it. Could this be the reason for the violent ride?

Upon exiting the whip, we discovered we were next to the station for the famous 1928 Prior and Church Dragon Coaster. We got in line (about the only significant line we would encounter the entire day). A short wait and 4 more tickets later we found ourselves occupying the front car of the Morgan trains. Dragon Coaster is a large ride, an attractive ride (especially with the newly renovated dragon tunnel), and a very mild ride. The water mist coming out of the dragon’s mouth was a nice touch and there was even a mild pop of airtime at the top of a hill but overall the coaster just doesn’t do too much besides slowly winding along the course. It really felt like the train would roll to a stop on the last couple of turns and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find no brakes in the station. The coaster rumbles alone until it has literally run out of energy and barely limps back into the station. The Morgan trains leave a lot to be desired. They look like crap, ride like crap, and feel like crap. I wish I could have ridden in the original P&C trains! An original 2 bench P&C car is on display near the loading station. It was worthy of a picture. The Morgan trains were not!

The third historic ride we came to was the 1928 Prior and Church Racing Derby. Cedar Point fans will be familiar with this rare ride although Cedar Point’s version is quite tame compared to the experience at Rye. It appears to be a carousel and it has many elements in common but it is so much more. It simulates a galloping horse as the ride turns faster and faster with the horses moving up and down and front and back as you appear to race the horse next to you. You really need to hang on to avoid being thrown from the ride.

After the Derby Racer, we wandered kiddieland and admired the cool little rides that we weren’t allowed to ride on. Most notably, the wooden kiddie coaster complete with miniature NAD century flyer trains. It was unique in that is completely circled most of the kiddie rides. Other notable pieces included a pristine kiddie whip, a kiddie carousel, a cute little kiddie scrambler and demolition derby, a ride nearly identical to the old crazy dazy or cuddle up rides. We hung out in kiddieland as long as we dared and quickly exited before we were accused of being pedophiles and headed back into the "adult" sections.

It was time now to try out the Old Mill. This water dark ride is constructed underneath the Dragon Coaster and while it doesn’t feature a mill chute, it does give a long enjoyable ride through dark tunnels filled with many surprises. The Old Mill is another one of Rye’s remaining historical attractions and like everything else in the park, it is well taken care of. After finishing the Old Mill, we realized we had run out of tickets and Rob generously bought another ticket book for us to share. We decided to check out some of the other, not quite so historic flats. Rye Playland is a small park but they have managed to squeeze in a surprising number of attractions and Rob and Linette had a good dose of the Double Shot. Rob and I braved the cool weather with a trip on the Log Flume. The bumper cars looked enticing – modern cars running in an old building and still called the "Auto Scooter." Alas, riding these cars was not to be as Rob’s imposing 6’4" frame violated the maximum height requirement of 6 feet. Instead we took a spin on the Dream Machine – a Moser swing ride (with a very short ride cycle). Rob and Linette tried out the Sea Dragon swinging ship and we eventually spent the last of our tickets on the park’s historic carousel. A big and impressive band organ was apparently not operable resulting in what was perhaps my first totally silent carousel ride.

We had done all the riding we planned to do and decided to take a little time and walk the boardwalk made famous from the Tom Hanks movie "Big." The promenade led to the swimming beach, a pool, a (closed) restaurant and a couple of food stands, arcade and the Playland History Museum. We left the park in the early evening but it was open that day until midnight. Playland is a beautiful little park with a fantastic setting, a great appreciation for its history, and great architecture. The only things that stand in the way of making this a perfect traditional park are the high parking fee, lack of a P-O-P option, and the need for a powerful wooden coaster to complement the family friendly Dragon.

Many thanks to Rob and Linette for their generosity and showing me a great time!

Pictures are available here.

*** Edited 6/4/2004 3:09:43 AM UTC by millrace***

millrace said:

The bumper cars looked enticing – modern cars running in an old building and still called the "Auto Scooter." Alas, riding these cars was not to be as Rob’s imposing 6’4" frame violated the maximum height requirement of 6 feet.

Very nice TR! Even though you make me sound like some kind of freakishly-huge monster. What, no comment about my sensitive skin? ;)

I agree... it was a great day, and I'm glad that you enjoyed yourself. I knew that would be your kind of park!

I'm not sure if it was your sensitive skin or your freakishly huge size that was scaring the kids in kiddieland!
My skin was fine on Saturday so it had to be my size. You could hear the screams: "Look! There's the guy that can't ride the bumper cars!!!!"

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