Erie, Pennsylvania, USA
Waldameer Park is an amusement park located in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Waldameer Park is a small, traditional style amusement park in Erie, Pennsylvania at the base of Presque Island. It stands as the fourth oldest park in Pennsylvania and the tenth oldest in the US. Like Knoebels and other smaller, traditional parks, entry to the park is free, with rides and attractions being covered through ticket or wristband purchases.
The park’s name is German for “woods by the sea”—an accurate description of the park. Starting as a picnic area known as Hoffman’s Grove, the Erie Electric Motor Company leased it in 1896 and renamed it “Waldameer.” Like many trolley parks of the day, a terminal was added at the park itself to increase attendance and interest in the park. In its early days, the trolley company began building up the park by adding in a dance hall and a carousel.
Over a period of two decades between 1902 and 1922, the young park would add three classic wooden coasters of greatly varying styles. The first of these, the Figure Eight, was a side-friction style coaster built by T. M. Harton. Five years later, the Scenic Railway, designed by Frederick Ingersoll, was added to the parks arsenal. Perhaps because the Scenic Railway only survived until 1919, the park decided to move forward with its next, and biggest, coaster, the Ravine Flyer. Built in 1922 by Harry Baker and designed by John Miller, the coaster was most famous for the fact that, after the first drop, the trains then took a ride out and back over a bordering roadway, Peninsula Drive.
With the addition of the Old Mill and other smaller attractions through the 1920s, under the ownership of Alex Moeller, everything seemed to be going great. The Depression of the 1930’s and a tragedy in 1938 nearly tried to end it all. Late on August 8, 1938, a train on the Ravine Flyer failed to clear the hill following the Peninsula Drive bridge crossing. As it volleyed back and forth between two hills, a woman on the ride became hysterical. In his attempt to calm her, a man climbed out of his seat, and when the train made a sudden stop, he fell to his death. The Ravine Flyer was closed for an inspection and was eventually torn down, not because of any issues with the ride, but because the owner’s wife was so devastated by the incident. This, only one year after the removal of the Figure Eight, would leave the park without a roller coaster for over a decade.
After the original burned down in 1937, a new dance all was added, the Rainbow Gardens, and several smaller attractions were added to the park throughout the 1940s. In 1951, the park added its first coaster since the Ravine Flyer’s addition nearly 30 years earlier, the Comet. The Comet was a small, family sized wooden coaster designed by Herbert Schmeck and built by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. The ride continues to operate to this day as an ACE Coaster Classic—curved station, skid brakes, and all.
In 1965, park owner Alex Moeller died, and was replaced by Paul Nelson, a family friend who had been working his way up to GM over the past years. Over the next fifteen years, Nelson upgraded the park’s infrastructure and added numerous attractions. In 1970, the Whacky Shack, a two-story haunted dark ride which still operates today, was added. He also added the Pirate’s Cove walk-through funhouse, the mile-long L. Ruth Express Train, the Paratrooper spinning gondolas, the Spider spinning ride, and the Sky Ride; all of these rides remain in operation at the park today.
In 1986, the park experienced its largest expansion to date, opening its Water World water park. The park sold off its classic Carousel in 1988, along with the Blue Goose ride, for $1 million. That money was used to purchase a new replacement Carousel from Chance Manufacturing with sixty operating horses, expand the water park with four additional waterslides, build a new restaurant, and build additional picnic shelters. As a result, the park closed out the decade with record attendance.
In 1992, the park added the Sea Dragon swinging ship, followed by the 100 ft tall Chance Giant Ferris Wheel in 1994, and the Wipeout in 1995. It was also somewhere during this time of expansion that the park began fighting to rebuild a modern version of its long-gone Ravine Flyer roller coaster, but opposition from the parks neighboring residential and campground areas would prevent this for quite some time. To celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 1996, the park replaced its outdated Old Mill log flume with Thunder River, an OD Hopkins log flume. With Steve Gorman, Paul Nelson’s son-in-law, joining the team as GM, the park closed out the decade with major renovations to its midway games and concessions, and the addition of the Ali Baba to bolster its line-up of thrilling flat rides.
To open the new millennium, the park added the Ravine Flyer III, an E&F Miler Industries family, steel roller coaster constructed over a man-made pond at the base of the Ferris Wheel. Because the park had already been in talks with Custom Coasters International (CCI) about building their long-awaited Ravine Flyer re-creation, the name Ravine Flyer II had already been reserved in anticipation, yet Ravine Flyer III would open first. In 2004, the park added yet another roller coaster, this time in the form of a Maurer Sohne spinning coaster, the Steel Dragon. Adding yet more thrills, in 2007, the park opened the 140 ft tall Xscream Drop Tower.
Finally, in 2008, after nearly 20 years of discussions, delays, legal issues, oppositions, and all odds, Waldameer was finally able to add the Ravine Flyer II to its list of attractions. Built by the Gravity Group, made up of the remnants of the dissolved CCI, at a cost of $6 million, the coaster stands at 80 ft tall with a 115 ft drop, reaching speeds of up to 57 mph along its 2900 ft course. Most importantly, and perhaps the cause of the most headaches in the approval process, the coaster retained the most famous element of its predecessor, the out-and-back cross over Peninsula Drive. Featuring a 165 ft long arched bridge over the Drive, the coaster also boasts six tunnels, a 60-degree drop angle, and a 90-degree banked turn. Debuting at #11 its debut year, the coaster was ranked as the 6th best wooden coaster by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards in 2009.
Following a record year, thanks to the opening of the Ravine Flyer II, the park added yet another family thriller with the Mega Vortex Disk’O ride, and augmented its attraction list with the addition of an entirely new Midway section. Heading into 2011, the park has plans to add a new Flying Carousel ride in the turnaround of the train ride, and beyond that hopes to expand its water park with a wavepool and children’s area. The parks success with blending the old with the new combined with the parks “never give up” fighting spirit, and the future looks brighter than ever for the traditional amusement park.
Present Roller Coasters (?)Edit
|Comet||Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc.||Wooden||1951||Operating|
|Ravine Flyer II||The Gravity Group, LLC||Wooden||May 17, 2008||Operating|
|Ravine Flyer 3||E&F Miler Industries||Family||2000||Operating|
|Steel Dragon||Maurer Söhne||Spinning||7/2/2004||Operating|
Past Roller Coasters (?)Edit
|Figure Eight||Ride Manufacturer Name Here||Wood - Sit Down||1902||1937||No|
|Ravine Flyer||Ride Manufacturer Name Here||Wood-Sit Down||1922||1938||No|
|Scenic Railway||Ride Manufacturer Name Here||Wood - Sit Down||1907||1919||No|