Williams Grove Amusement Park Saturday, June 16, 2001
“See, kids, when they close a road, they put up big signs, like this one.....”
Being from a state full of mega-parks, its nice to leave Ohio once in a while for the smaller treasures of America. This trip our destination was to eastern PA. where we hit several hidden gems and a few of the larger players. There are numerous reports of Hershey Park, Dorney, and Knoebles, in which we hit, but there is a friendly little fun spot south of all of that. Williams Grove Amusement Park.
With chips, soda, Depeche Mode Cd’s, and maps, we hopped aboard “Arrow Guys” Fueled Up 1990 Toyota Celica on the third part of out trip. With me and Arrow Guy, and our buddy, Darren in the back, our day started off with a visit to both DelGrosso’s (formerly known as Bland’s) and Lakemont. Now it was time to tame the Cyclone and Wildcat at Williams Grove. The rain hit us on the entire leg of the trip to the park. Water beading off the windows in gallons, the road before us flooding with rain, and waves of water exploding from cars passing us by. Fortunately, the clouds would move on, and the day would continue with scattered showers.
Upon getting off the expressway, we had no problem arriving at the park. Some construction, made it a little bit challenging, but we managed. Upon parking in a stone and mud lot, we proceeded to the front gate. Though essentially, a coaster trip, we didn’t want to stray away from the other sorts of rides. So we paid our two dollar admission and proceeded to pay by the ride. The woman at the gate, had said due to weather, they would be closing at 6:30. It was now 5:30, and we had some time.
Williams Grove's parking lot is separated by a river and a road. So, to enter the park, you have to cross the road as well as a bridge in which the admission booth (which looks like an old ride control booth) is located. With a Knoebles feel, the park is nestled in the woods. Trees cradle every ride, the pathways are concrete and asphalt and stone. The buildings seem to be in excellent condition, considering their age. The rides are easily accessible. The structures reminded me of the old buildings at the late Chippewa Lake Park, with their unique architecture dating back to the 1930’s, and with the way this place is built within the woods, The place reminded me of an abandoned amusement park, especially in sections of the wood coaster, and some of the peeling paint on some of the buildings, but was saturated with character. The park is also situated near a small body of water with a small island on it, I really didn’t get a good look, but it seem to be very picturesque. This was my first trip to the park, so I wanted to get the most out of it.
From what I have learned, the owner used to be the same person who was famous for his concession of rides at Palisades Park. He was also the person who inspired parks to buy European rides such as the Matterhorn, and Bayern Curve. I have heard that most of these rides are the very ones that operated at Palisades, for he owned several of them when Palisades closed in the 1970’s. Though the park seems like an old park on its last leg, its really quite flourishing. The midway of European rides bring glitter to the shady walkways, the rides are in good condition, clean and attractive, the swimming pool is clean and refreshing. The employees are intelligent and attentive.
One of the joys that I finally got to ride was a Chance Twister. The one at Lakemont a few hours earlier, had not been running, since it was stripped of its cars, and I never thought I would get to ride one, but here was one right in front of me, and unfortunatly, I really didn’t think much of it. The Twister is a poor man's version of a Tilt-A-Whirl, and has some design flaws. First, the seats are only so-so weighted, so you get more whipping than spinning, also, the main running frame, that the wheels ride on, is an octagon style shape going around the ride, instead of a perfect circle, so you get a lot of bumping as the ride spins and the wheels are bare steel without the standerd polyuriothaine. Not a very impressive ride here. They had several other neat rides, like a strange Paratrooper. Like the classic Hubritz hydrolic park model, you start spinning, and then tilt up. This ride seemed to go a little bit too fast, because the cars were tipping out and you could not feel the weightlessness that other paratroopers give you. I have no clue who made it. Next to the coaster, there is either a Chance or Mack matterhorn on a trailer that came from a park in New Jersey. The owner is debating on selling it or placing it in the park. I was surprised that the park did not have an Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel, I would have thought that this would be such a great park for one.
A list of flat rides: Monster (Eyerly) Swing ride (?), Twister (Chance), Bumper Cars (?), Music Express (Mack), Paratrooper (?), Carousel (?), Tilt-A-Whirl (Sellner), Fun house (?), and several kiddie rides as well including a kiddie wheel with the supports for it only remaining.
A list of Roller Coasters: Kiddie Coaster (Herschell) (Adults could not ride) Wildcat (Schwarzkopf) Cyclone (Bitler)
The new for 2000 ride is the Wildcat. This Anton Schwarzkopf built ride is slightly different than the Wildcat operating at Cedar Point, it has a much larger drop, and less turn around's, and without a station cover. Painted Bright orange, it really sticks out in its place. The ride is to your right as you walk in, there is a little yellow sign pointing to the left that says “Wildcat”. It looks like it has been erected in a persons yard, and sits at an angle is a grassy yard off the stone path. The coaster has no path going to it, so you have to walk directly through the grass. The ride is quite fun and ends with the famous hold-on-for-your-life final break. From what I have learned, this model also operated at Palisades, and was moved to another park in New Jersey, but I have no confirm on that. Behind the Wildcat are houses with signs off the path reading “Private property, keep out” Boy, how would you like to have a 50 foot coaster in your back yard?
The pride and joy of the park has always had mixed reviews. Back in the far left corner of the park is an old beautiful wood coaster, with half treated wood, and half white and peeling. Its not the most attractive coaster, mind you, but it packs one heck of a punch. The Cyclone roller coaster is a 1933 Oscar Bitler, it is an ACE coaster classic, it is also a very rare design, being the only remaining Bitler designed ride in existence today. Originally christened the “Zipper” in 1933, the Cyclone now runs One two-car, three-bench PTC train with the name “Cyclone” on it. Why the name change? Well, like many of the other rides within the park, this coaster features something from Palisades as well. The original train form the Palisades Park Cyclone. Instead of having to remove the classic “Cyclone” sign from the train, they just opted to change the name.Though with only two cars, the ride still maintains decent speed throughout the course. Slightly making a right curved turn out of the station, you head up a lift of about 65 feet or so, and do a large right U-Turn in the trees. From that point on, the train flings you over the bars as it runs a single out and back course, with a double down and double up, you fly out of the seat, accelerating past trees, then up to the turn-around which lost little speed, and gained more quickly upon its other bunny-hop, but by the second hop on the return leg, two caliper brakes slow the train to a near halt before the train inches one more half-hop into the station. Other than the brakes along the circuit, the ride still has its classic skid brakes.
The best treat was the operator of the coaster, Steve, who was also the lead maintenance worker on the ride. He has been on it for several years, and told us of some areas they had to lower and modify to run the ride smoother, as well as the safety of the ride, which is always the largest priority of the park.. From a retrack, to repairs from a truck hitting the ride (yes, accident's DO happen), it is well maintained and perfectly safe even if it looks as if it is not. He allowed us to walk with him behind the scenes and photograph it, and gave us details of what re-profiling they did, and was really enthusiastic about his work. It’s people like him that make being a Park nut all worthwhile! Thank you again, Steve!
After a few rides on the unique attractions and coasters, the park was beginning to shut down, and though the rain was very few and far between, it was still dark and wet, so as some of the last people in the park, we took one more look around, and left the park...but we will be back!
Upon leaving I watched the ducks in the river, how peaceful they were, and how lucky to be living next to such a great park!
John Peck Columbus, Ohio
*** This post was edited by john peck on 6/23/2001. ***
Last year my wife and I went to Williamsgrove (only a 20 minute trip for us). We rode twister and it was one of the wildest flat rides I have ever been on. AT first we thought it was going to be as you described, and as we heard the motor start to slow down we thought "That was it?" (it looked great, but was as you said, a bit of a let down). BUT THEN it speeded up again and we started spinning like mad! Then it slowed... then it speeded up again and more spinning... over and over and over again. I looked down and saw the ride op with this "evil" grin on his fact as his hand worked the throttle at just the right moments to send us on one of the wildest rides I can remember in a long time. At the end, as I helped my wife off (we were so dizzy and wobbly from the spinning that it looked like we just came out of our 5th happy hour in a row) the operator said "We're open till 6... come back again," and gave this wicked and demented little laugh.
Had it not been for his "creative" work on the throttle, this would have been a very boring ride.
------------- "I wasn't always this cynical, but then I started kindergarden..."
SLFAKE: Actually, near the end of the ride, The twister did slow down a bit then give a fantastic ride for a few moments, but kinda got back to the whipping effect. I shouldn't completely judge the ride by only one trip, but the first was slightly unimpressive. plus, It was raining.
KPJB: Yeah, ARROW GUY drove this one, his car is newer though. I just found out my Green machine has a brake cylinder that's leaking :-( I also saw Depeche Mode last night in Cleveland!!!! Great show, but they only played 2 songs from the 80's: "Black Celebration" and "Never let me down". They played like 5 or 6 from the new CD, Exciter. DM are my favorite band of all time, followed by the Smiths.
DM skipped Pittsburgh this tour... although if they didn't play their 80's songs I don't really mind that much. One of the best shows I have been to was DM in the rain on the Music For The Masses tour. Kick ass.
Granted, this has nothing to do with coasters...
------------- Why do I smile at people who I'd much rather kick in the eye? -The Smiths...(and me)
Pittsburgh has coasters in it...now we talked about them... anyway....
It was a pretty good show, they had two other guys on stage with them, one a drummer and another a keyboardest. "Poe" was the opener at 8:00, and it took about 30 minutes for DM to go on stage, so it was about 9:00 when they were there. They played until about 11:00 with one encore. They didn't do "policy of Truth" or "World in my Eyes", but they did a lot from "Violator" But most of the songs were from the last 3 albums. I really wanted to hear "but not tonight" or "things you said" or "Everything Counts", but beggers cant be choosers. I really would like to hear their OLD songs live. (you know 81-87)
The cheepest "attractive" T-shirt was $30, so i didn't bother getting one, but they past out a post card at the gate. that if you send it in, you get a free autographed photo and a brochure of the fan club. I saw Cranberries/Toad the wet sprocket in 95, the Cure in 96, and Fugazi in 95. Other than that, I really havent been to many concerts Blossom is a nice place to see concerts, though its out in the middle of East Jesus.
Johnny Marr is back with (New Orders) Bernard Sumner on the new album by: "Electronic" titled: Twisted Tenderness (their 3rd at probally my least favorite album), and New Order are coming back with a new CD here soon. Now when will Morrissey get off his arse and put out more music?
Morrisey...uggh... I am still quite irate at him. In 1990 he was to play a show in Pittsburgh, "rain or shine" I get down there, pay for parking, etc. "Oh, sorry, Morrissey won't go on in the rain." FINALLY, last summer he came back. Then he announced 15 MINUTES BEFORE DOORS OPEN that he won't go on. His back hurts. I figure he can play with emotional pain, then he can play with physical pain, too. It'd just make "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable" be all more true.
I loved Electronic's first album. The second one I thought was so-so. I just wish Bernard Sumner would get back with Peter Hook instead of Johnny Marr.
The Psychedelic Furs came to Pgh twice in the past year. They just keep getting better. The odd thing about it is I really didn't like them that much in the 80's, but I really think they kick*****now. Richard Butler just seems like he's enjoying himself so much on stage. Such a relief from older rockers obviouly in it for more money.
Mmmm... new wave and coasters. If I could just combine them I'd be in paradise. Maybe we could get Disney to kick Aerosmith out of Rock&Roller Coaster and replace them with New Order. What better refrain for the ride than "let's go out and have some fun"
Oh, and Pittsburgh has coasters.
------------- Why do I smile at people who I'd much rather kick in the eye? -The Smiths...(and me)
I had no clue that Morrissey was so picky. He should be used to rain since England has so much.
****BREAKING NEWS**** Bernard Sumner & the gang have returned to New Order. their lateest studio album, NEWORDERGETREADY, will hit shelves by the end of summer. Gillian Gilbert is not returning (due to her child being ill), Billy Corgian (Smashing Pumpkins) will act as guitarist on the upcoming tour.
Let's get back on the subject here. I was with John and Arrow Guy at William's Grove. This place is amazing. It reminds me of pictures I have seen of defunct parks. There is a beautiful lake right in the middle of the park and the old buildings, although they are showing their age, are attractive to me because I am tired of the big theme parks. Anyway, the Cyclone is fantastic, but the big suprise was the Wildcat. This was the best Wildcat I have been on. It seems a little bit faster than the other models of this coaster I have ridden. If you go to Hersheypark, make sure you drive about 20 minutes away to the middle of nowhere to experience William's Grove. By the way, the parking lot is located across the road form the park and once you cross the road, you come to a bridge where there is a ticket booth. After you pay your admission and buy ride tickets or a P.O.P., the bridge becomes more of a time machine than a bridge. When you go, get ready for a step back in time to about 70 years ago when the words hypercoaster, gigacoaster, Six Flags and $8.00 parking fees didn't exist in anyone's vocabulary!
*** This post was edited by Darren Mullins on 6/30/2001. ***
I was there on the 16th as well. I sat in the station and talked to Steve for about an hour and a half. He was nice enough to run the ride for me when maybe he shouldn't have. Unfortunatley I missed the Depeche Mode concert since I was on my two week coaster vacation and never in the same city as they were. Oh well, at least I had exciter and black celebration along with me on the trip.
Good to see New Order will be putting out a new CD but their later ones weren't as good as Low Life or any of the other 80's CD's.
Most of the 80's music sure does suck, at least the stuff they play on the radio every day like we are still in the 80's.