Saturday, December 10, 2016

New Gate Review of Videos

How many years have we talked about how the park has desperately needed a new gate and the answer always was that it wasn't done because they wanted the money to do it right.  Well I think we finally are getting a taste at just how large a scale "getting a new gate" will take.  First I thought before we get into the questions we should start with some facts.

#1)Baltic Bazaar (Norma's Funnel Cakes), Tivoli Central, Tivoli West, Gate and Ticket Booths are all gone as of now.

#2)First Aid (the structure), Tivoli East (old Ski Heis), Chickie and Pete's, Fjord Fjarlene and Plaza gifts are staying but many of these structure may be re-purposed, or partially so.  

For a size comparison I am presenting the area of the original Americana main gate.  It may make the
size of the new area which appears immense appear in scale to the original gate area.

So onto the videos...

This is the most interesting video for me as it's inside the actual park and you can see how much things have changed (I refer to this as the shock and awe video).  First and foremost everything past the trees is completely gone, the ticket booths, old guest relations, Baltic Bazaar and Tivoli West and Central picnic areas.  Pretty much everything under the arrows above is gone.  It's quite striking.  At 9 seconds in you can see that the old First Aid IS still there, and this corresponds with what we have been heard, in that First Aid may be becoming the new Guest Relations.  If you look closely you can also see a gray colored wall behind First Aid, this is also a placeholder from the old gate, in that this is the same fence that separated the guest area from the maintenance back area.  Continuing on you can see the four Silver Maples that stood in the gate area are still there but like I mentioned everything beyond them is gone.  My question is where will the gate stand?  Will it be immediately behind the trees or will there be a new large open space such as the mentioned International Plaza?  Some who have brought up just how large the area being demolished is question whether this new large tract will also feature new group picnic areas (a good guess since two have been demolished) or even possibly for new additions in future seasons.

This video was by far the hardest to figure out WHERE exactly it was shot from.  If you see the aerial  photo above I have pinpointed approximately where we think it was shot from.  At the start you can see a tree line in the background and behind that a mass of cars (cars are frequently stored in the lots in the off-season from the nearby Ford Claycomo plant), I believe that we are seeing H lot behind the trees, and the foreground area is what was originally the boneyard or park dump.   Also during the first few seconds of this video you can see a white structure, as well as a bright blue porta potty.  The white structure is the bump out of the Tivoli that you can plainly see in the aerial photo above.  Between the porta potty and the Tivoli you can just barely make out the old train shed that ELI is stored in during the off-season.  What is also missing, which may not be obvious, is the large white propane tank that was always stored across the road from ELI, it was from this tank that the smaller propane tanks carried in ELI's tender were refilled from.  So where will it go now?  Another question we have no answer for.

A very similar video to the one above, but this one shows a slightly different view and is one where it is plainly obvious that this area was the boneyard as the earth walls that are so familiar to anyone who has ever visited the boneyard.  Up on the rise you can see just a bit of G lot and the old walkway into the park.  One thing is certain this is a VERY large area.  With the movement of the gate it was almost without question that the boneyard had to be moved but without that quite literal hole in the ground, it really opens up the space and makes the area virtually unrecognizable.  I say this as a good thing, it makes me really want to see the artwork for this area just so I can see the grand plan.  Will all this space be inside the gate?  Will it be outside the gate?  Originally Falcon's Flight was intended to be located in the new gate area, so obviously there is room for a new ride to go there, and I doubt it will be in 2017 but what about 2018 and beyond?

Once again we are left with more questions than answers.  One thing is certain the place will look a whole lot different on Opening Day 2017 then it did on Opening Day 2016!

Friday, August 19, 2016

New for 2017! An in-depth analysis

It’s the “back gate” not the “main gate”, we have said innumerable times,  explaining once again that the Scandinavian gate that almost everyone, including the park, refers to as the main gate was never intended to be the main gate.  The main gate as we knew it, was bulldozed after the 1998 season to make way for…........... Wait for it…............ Go Karts.  Finally, 18 years later, Worlds of Fun will HOPEFULLY have something it has not had since 1998, a REAL main gate.   On August 18th, 2016 the park made several announcements related to the 2017 season and in this (probably lengthy) blog post we will take a detailed look at each of the four announcements, and provide some insight and probably a whole lot of guessing into the details of each one.

The Henrietta and main gate as it appeared on opening day 1974.

Let’s go back though and look at some history though first (because you do all know WHO is writing this right?).  Worlds of Fun opened in May 26, 1973, and to enter the park guests rode a tram to the MAIN gate, bought tickets at a beautiful tree-lined plaza complete in Americana-style gingerbread trim and crossed the beautiful side-wheeler Henrietta to enter the park.  In front of them as is there today was Front Street Square.    There was a second gate at the time too, the group-sales gate, or back gate that lead into Scandinavia, buses could easily pull up and in later years bands, choirs, school groups could organize and enter the park as a group here too.  Other than for groups it was seldom used, in fact a large sign once hung above the back lots informing guests whether the gate was even open for the day or not. 

The Henrietta twenty-five years later, a sad remnant with debris floating in the surrounding moat.

Change happened in mid-1995, when new owner at the time, Cedar Fair, made the decision, along with many other parks at the time, to discontinue the tram service.  Unlike many other parks the Americana gate was set about a quarter of a mile walk from its nearest parking lot.  The point was to separate the fantasy world of Worlds of Fun from the dust and grim of the normal every day.  Though it is uncommon for a park's main entrance NOT to be visible from the park lots it is a concept employed successfully at one of the most successful theme parks in the world, Magic Kingdom in Florida and was also successfully employed by Worlds of Fun too.  It's that unique separation of the parking lot to the gate that gave Worlds of Fun its "magical" experience but also lead to the unique situation where its main gate no longer functioned when the trams were discontinued.  The problem is that quarter-mile or so was a even longer walk to most people’s car, the Scandinavian gate took over a lot of the foot traffic and became a still secondary, but now more often used gate.  The trickle of guests into the Scandinavian gate over the next few years turned into a flood and it turned the Americana gate, once a hub of activity into a ghost town.  Clarks’ Livery Stable (where Subway is now) where guests would rent a locker or a stroller saw scant guests normally, and was closed in most cases, The glass encased Guest Relations was boarded up, a lone ambassador sitting forlorn on a stool manned the single open turnstile on the once busy Henrietta, when the Americana gate was even open that is.  The writing on the wall was clear as day.    Mamba opened in 1998 to great jubilation, but on the opposite side of the park the Americana gate was closed, no one crossed the Henrietta anymore, very few even noticed it, and its green algae covered water that now surrounded it.  In spring 1999, the gate was gone, completely demolished with Go-Karts now in its place.  The solitary tree that once served as the tram turn around stood in the midst.

The Scandinavian back gate as it appeared in the mid-1990's

The Scandinavian back gate was all that was left.  Over the next 15-16 years the Scandinavian gate changed a LOT.  Landscaping was added, Guest Services had already been relocated several years prior, but it too was updated and enlarged. Attempts were made to make both the gate and surrounding entrance, feel, at least somewhat like a main gate.  An arcade became a gift shop, the original glass blower’s shop became a candy shop, the park’s full service restaurant  gave its outdoor dining patio to lockers and wheelchair rentals.   A beautiful hand carved carousel was added in 2011, though some attempts were half hearted, not all of them were, and it became more and more obvious that there was no way to band-aid in a main gate.   Many of the long time fans who had been coming to the park since the days of the trams took to taking first-time visitors through the “real” main gate by quite literally walking newbies over to the Go-Karts, and walking across what was left of the Henrietta into Front Street square. 

Finally, in 2017 the wait will be hopefully over.  So what will the new gate look like?  We have been given brief details by the park, that the new gate will be re-designed, that it will include an international plaza where guests can meet up, and that it will have a waterfall.  Many of us, especially long time Worlds of Fun fans worry that it will look just like all the other Cedar Fair park gates (well except of course, Cedar Point), like Dorney’s or Valleyfair’s, which are fairly identical cream colored clock tower entrances.  Maybe.  One thing is true first appearances ARE everything, and for the first time in almost twenty years guests will not have to pass through the rickety old Scandinavian gate, one intended to be a back gate, but forced to become so much more.

Dorney Park's main gate
Valleyfair's main gate

Onto the rides.  Two new rides for 2017 let’s see if I can get this right.  Falcon’s Flight and Mustang Runner.  First, as I am sure I am the only one geeky enough to notice, Falcon’s Flight follow’s traditional Worlds of Fun ride naming pattern, two words, both starting with the same letter. (Zambezi Zinger, Oriental Octopus, Finnish Fling, Viking Voyager, Fjord Fjarlene, the park was and is littered with them) So lets start there,

Falcon’s Flight facts, the ride is a Huss Condor, first manufactured by Huss Rides in 1984 it is one of two used rides purchased by Cedar Fair on its Europe legacy rides tour.  It will however, from reports be completely updated, and for all intensive purposes, be a new ride.  It is a 102 foot tall circular ride, with four arms, and four cars circling in each arm with a capacity of 56 riders per ride cycle.  It’s also a rather rare ride, this will be the first in the Cedar Fair chain, and one of only a handful in the United States, in fact the only other operational Huss Condor I can think of is at Hersheypark.   In the unconfirmed rumors division, we have heard that Falcon’s Flight will be replacing Le Carousel which interesting enough, and factually enough is Europa’s newest ride added in 1979,  making Flying Falcon, Europa’s first new ride installation in 36 years.

The second ride is a little more common, a Huss Troika, that the park will be naming Mustang Runner.  It will be located in the western Americana section where Krazy Kars/Crashem Bashem (Kiddy bumper cars) was located, the yellow building is still there for now.  It is unknown at this point whether the old Ski Hi Station (red barn) will remain.  The Huss Troika was first manufactured in 1973, and is as mentioned a much more common ride but one that is exciting to see the park adding as it’s a very enjoyable, not too overly thrilling of a ride. 

Both rides as mentioned were manufactured by Huss Manufacturing in Germany which also manufactured the Huss Enterprise known at Worlds of Fun as Zulu and the Huss Top Spin, which was known at Worlds of Fun as Thunderhawk. 

The last new announcement for 2017 was the addition of Winterfest to the parks 2017 operating calendar.  Parks opening up in winter or the Christmas-season is becoming a more and more common occurrence, however Winterfest is actually a take off of an old tradition at another Cedar Fair park, Kings Island.  Winterfest at Worlds of Fun is due to kick-off on November 24, 2017 and will operate for six weeks.  Though details are scarce the park is announcing that the new festival will feature 14 characters, lighting displays, ice-skating and live entertainment.   For a look at how Worlds of Fun may operate their Winterfest it is beneficial to take a look at the history of the event at Kings Island.  The original Winter Fest debuted in 1982, and featured festive lights, a large Christmas tree at the park’s signature Eiffel Tower attraction, ice skating in the royal fountain (located at the entrance to the park), the carousel and steam train were the only rides in operation.  In 2005, Kings Island attempted to bring back the festival with limited success,  and is again doing so along with several other Cedar Fair parks in 2017.

As Winter Fest is a traditional Kings Island event, a look at King's Island version at KI Central might be of interest:

Those were the facts, now we enter into the world of speculation.  Nothing I write going forward has been confirmed by the park in any way shape or form.  Many of the attractions at Kings Island could easily be copied over to Worlds of Fun, A Christmas tree in Americana, (the art work shows a large Christmas Tree in Front Street Square), while we lack a large fountain for ice skating that King Island possesses, I could see them using Ripcord lake, or possibly creating a flat ice skating rink somewhere else in the park.   However "flat" and "Worlds of Fun" do not seem to go hand in hand, this detail should be interesting to see how it unfolds.  Also, a key aspect of the event is live entertainment, this makes me question whether Tivoli Music Hall may be on the list for renovations, since it is in many ways functionally the same as it was in 1973.  Another consideration is that many buildings were either not built, or have not been renovated in such a way to operate in cold temperatures, bathrooms and fountains are shut down in the winter, most buildings that I am aware of do not have heat, so there are many logistical mountains to cover so to speak prior to next November.

In regards to rides questions began immediately after the announcement.  Would there be rides?  Some said no, as Kings Island only operates their steam train and carousel during the event historically.  However, nearby Silver Dollar City operates almost every ride as long as the weather is favorable and meets necessary temperatures.  Worlds of Fun has stated so far that they are considering about two dozen possible rides for operation.  Im guessing at this point the list will include the Worlds of Fun Railroad, the Carousel and possibly Cyclone Sam's, in fact a online poster (not affiliated with Worlds of Fun) mentioned temporarily re-theming Cyclone Sam's to a blizzard instead (Blizzard Bill's?) which I thought was quite creative.  Last point is the so called elephant in the room, though Winter Fest is being hosted at several Cedar Fair parks it’s a question as to how this event will compete with nearby Silver Dollar City’s Old Fashioned Christmas, the folks at Carowinds must be asking the same question as their market is not to far from Dollywood, which also hosts a Christmas-time event, it’s a question we will most likely not have an answer for until December 2017.  It will be interesting to say the least as in most cases its rare for the general public to visit the park past the traditional end of October closing date. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Screamroller Model for its 40th Anniversary!

Check out Randal Strong-Wallace's and newest roller coaster model of the 1976 Screamroller!  Just in time for the 40th Anniversary of Screamroller's Grand Opening on April 24, 1976!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Screamroller 40 Years

It’s a sunny afternoon in a living room somewhere in Kansas City, Missouri. The year is 1983, a young girl sits poised in front of the family television, watching a Saturday morning cartoon, it breaks to commercials, and all of a sudden a exciting adventure plays across the screen. It’s a commercial for the Kansas City theme park, Worlds of Fun, and its newest creation is just being announced with a flourish and a flash of light, it’s the EXT.  It doesn’t matter if she isn’t tall enough or brave enough to ride this amazing ride, it’s the adventure and excitement that it entails that becomes to the girl, and as of that moment, there is no place more exciting and enticing than that park.

Though this story is from 1983, and the ride, Extremeroller, it seems fitting to begin a discussion of Screamroller, the ride that would also be known as Extremeroller later in its life than with a very true story,  as its my own story, or history so to speak.

Both photos above are Corkscrews, but only one is Screamroller.  Believe it or not the brochure on the left for Worlds of Fun, is NOT Screamroller, it's actually Knott's Berry Farm's Corkscrew.  Though the rides are very similar its easy to tell them apart by the style of the corkscrew upper supports, which are quite different. (black and white photo provided by Debbie Reasoner)

But while my personal story with Screamroller might start in 1983, Screamroller’s real story started much earlier, earlier than even April 10, 1976.  It started instead on May 24, 1975, when the world’s first modern inverting coaster opened to the public, at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. A local paper, The Independent, called it a “70-second thriller”. The Corkscrew’s lines when it opened were only half jokingly referring to as ending in the next county.

Designed by Ron Toomer, at the time Engineering Manager of Arrow Development of Mountain View California, it was his job to engineer a successful looping coaster.  Looping coasters were first introduced in the 1890’s, known usually as either Loop the Loops or Flip Flaps, they failed primarily due to a lack of engineering knowledge, of those that built them. These earliest of looping coasters were built with a perfectly circular loop, causing extreme gravitational forces on their riders.  This engineering flaw spelled a short end to this first chapter of looping coasters. Enter Arrow Development in the 1970’s, Ron Toomer took a scientific approach to the looping coaster.  In a 1976 engineering conference covered by The Argus of Fremont, California, Ron Toomer stated “Before a coaster is offered to the public, it has been checked by computer, analyzed by mathematical experts and test-ridden over 2,000 times”.  That doesn’t stop the ride from experiencing kinks as Ron Toomer went on to explain, that the Corkscrew at Knott’s itself required chassis replacement after only 5,000 rides as the originals were considered inadequate.

 Construction of Screamroller including the "Toping Out" a tradition with almost every coaster, or large building.  Usually a christmas tree is hung from the highest point as in seen in this photo.

The clamoring of riders to the Arrow Plant in Mountain View, California should have been the siren’s song of warning when it came to the popularity of the Corkscrew.  Hoards were already showing up at the Mountain View plant, attempting the scale the fences and RIDE corkscrew, before it was even completed!  With its introduction, Corkscrew not only literally kindled the flame of the coaster wars, but packed Knott’s Berry Farm with future coaster fans to the gills.

Six months later, November 13, 1975, Worlds of Fun jumped on the bandwagon, and announced the addition of the new 3.5-acre addition, Bicentennial Square, and at its heart would be the brand new, blazing white, Screamroller.  Screamroller would be a very-near identical twin to the Corkscrew at Knott’s Berry Farm, but it wouldn’t be the 2nd version, or even the 3rd… Corkscrew coasters had become quite a phenomenon in just a span of six months, and like the beanie babies of the 1990’s, had become a hot commodity, everyone wanted one. Worlds of Fun would be the 5th version of the Corkscrew coaster, following the likes of the Chicago Loop at Old Chicago, the Wabash Cannonball at Opryland park, and the Corkscrew at Magic Harbor (Surfside Beach, SC).

However, as hot a commodity as the new Arrow Corkscrew was, it was still an amazing, gapping mouth open moment for those in the region, so much so that on April 10, 1976, two weeks before its announced grand opening, Screamroller gave 27,000 rides… 

Grand Opening day, April 24, 1976, for both Bicentennial Square and the Screamroller, wasn’t going to be your normal run of the mill day either, it brought out the finest festivities the park could offer, on behalf of our country’s 200th birthday.  A musket and cannon salute by the continental volunteers of Marceline, a replica of the liberty bell was on display, patriotic music was to be played by the Wentworth Military Academy, and in TRUE American fashion, there was a roller coaster and a 76 foot long hot dog…

Lee Derrough, General Manager of the park at the time went on to comment “We are extremely please how well the Screamroller and Bicentennial Square were received by our guests on our two preview weekends.  We feel our increased attendance is a good indication that the new ride and area will be immensely popular additions to Worlds of Fun”

Screamroller would reign supreme along with Worlds of Fun over the entire state of Missouri, as the state’s only looping coaster until Orient Express came into existence in 1980, and only then, in 1981 would Six Flags Mid-America (currently Six Flags St. Louis) finally compete, with Jet Scream.

The 1975 Corkscrew was the flame to the match that set off the Coaster Wars that were prevalent well into the 1990’s.  For the first eight years Worlds of Fun was not only a player but also well in the forefront. Orient Express, which came only four short years after Screamroller in 1980 allowed Arrow Dynamics to build exponentially on what they had accomplished with Screamroller.  Screamroller was revolutionary in 1976, towering at 75 feet tall, 1200 feet of tubular steel track featuring TWO upside down corkscrews, thrilling riders with one and half minutes of thrills.  Orient Express by comparison was light years ahead only four short years later towering 117 feet tall, with a track length almost triple that of Screamroller at 3,470 feet long, FOUR upside down elements including two massive loops and a boomerang, and an elapsed time of what felt like riders in the 1980’s as eternity, 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  Orient Express was a behemoth both to Kansas City as was as the overall coaster world.   However as mighty as Orient Express, and all the coasters that followed it would be, it simply would not have existed if Screamroller hadn’t come first.

And Worlds of Fun and roller coaster history wasn’t done with Screamroller either.

Arrow, the king of coaster builders of the 1980’s, had by this time built its first few great looping coasters with Orient Express and Loch Ness Monster; it had proven what needed to be proven.  What was left?  To do things never even tried before, so entered the era of the next decade of “trick” coasters, some stuck and became classics, and some did not.  The suspended Coaster, the six and seven inversion multi-loopers, AND the stand-up coaster.  The fight for the first stand-up coaster was fought directly between Worlds of Fun and Six Flags Mid-America in 1983.  Six Flags attempting to convert one side of the two track’s of the also Arrow-built River King Mine Train, while Worlds of Fun went for converting Screamroller, and it was a photo finish, with Worlds of Fun beating Six Flags and opening the newly re-named Extremeroller on May 24, 1983. 

Like the first Corkscrew in 1975 though, there was only so much the engineers could learn on a piece of paper, and much more to learn when the engineering was put to practice.  Extremeroller, and its St. Louis cousin Railblazer both were very short lived.  In the case of Worlds of Fun, about a year, the coasters, engineered for sit-down chassis, couldn’t handle the strain of the much taller, heavier, stand-up pods.  Though short lived, Screamroller or as it was later known, Extremeroller, had something very few coasters can say, a double shot at fame.

The 1979 Screamroller Crew posed with the train at the top of the lift.  From the 1979 Ambassador Yearbook.

As many know telling a story of Screamroller from an engineering, or even a guests point of view is really only telling you half the story.  Worlds of Fun from its very first season, had a secondary, but just as important culture, that of its Ambassadors.  For forty years every seasonal employee at the park wasn’t JUST an employee, or an associate, instead they were known as Ambassadors, an ambassador to the world of fun.  It gave an air of dignity to an otherwise rather hum-drum job.  In good seasons, Rides Ambassadors were loyal to their rides and to their fellow crew, and the best of seasons they were a family.  Screamroller’s crew was no less.  From 1983 until its last year, the crews of Screamroller played practical jokes, experimented with the equation of weight and motion of a 28-person multi-ton train to ketchup and mustard packets, and best yet they threw great parties.  Nicknamed, and then officially named, Scream Jam, these ever-not-so-park-sponsored events, were probably anything but dull, and properly enough had refreshments “sponsored” by the proceeds of the nearby Omegatron’s riders loose change.   And folks… this was just one ride, make no mistake the 1980’s were a good decade, and that’s just the parts those that lived it can remember.

Screamroller was the coaster of the 1970’s, Extremeroller of the 80’s, but as 1988 came edging up, so did the end of the decade, and the end of Screamroller.  Screamroller only operated twelve seasons at the park, a short life span for a memorable ride, and more important memorable experiences.  In its short time it saw Worlds of Fun grow from a small, young park with 60 brand new and exciting things to do, to a mature, beautiful park with over double the attractions, and a brand new water park to boot!   In the end Screamroller would be removed to make way for a coaster of the 1990’s, the Timberwolf, one of the first of a wooden coaster revolution.  Even Timberwolf though couldn’t make Screamroller go away for good, the loading gates still, almost thirty years later, don’t line up to the Timberwolf trains, because they were designed to line up to Screamroller instead.  Even many of Screamroller’s concrete footers can be found for those with a keen eye, and then of course is the entire entrance, queue-line and station which are nearly identical (there have been some minor changes) to the station Extremeroller left behind on its last day of operation, October 30, 1988.

No Screamroller wasn’t going away easy, and in fact it could be said to have lived even a third life, not in Missouri, not even in the United States, but in South Korea, as the Spiral.  The Screamroller and Spiral finally met its end just a few years ago.

Many times it’s easy to focus on the past, something I greatly enjoy doing because as I always say it keeps the long lost attractions of the past alive.  However, I think Screamroller’s testament is not so much its past, but the future it helped create, it and the company that created it, Arrow Dynamics spurred the coaster race, and for that we had many great rides such as Orient Express and today even continue to have such great rides as Mamba and Patriot to enjoy, both of which are direct descendants of the great Corkscrew and Screamroller.  To those of us who remember Worlds of Fun of the 80’s, and for those of you who remember riding Screamroller remember we were all young once, like they said in 1976 though when Screamroller opened, lets be young again… Twice.

Screamroller Panel and Operation
An interesting addendum to the story is the inclusion of not only the Screamroller Panel photo, but also identification of what each button/control does.  Many of these steps and controls are no longer used in normal operation of more modern coasters, since much of the fine-detail in driving these older coasters has been mechanized with the more modern varieties.

1) Controls On/Off.  This key-operated switch must be in the ON Position to operate the ride.

2) Low Air Pressure.  This light indicates low air pressure in the system.  The ride cannot be started when this light is on.  If this light should come on during operation of the ride, immediately bring all trains to a stop and notify your ride manager.  Notify Rider Operates and Maintenance immediately.  (Interesting enough Viking Voyager, also an Arrow product, has this same light).

3) System Power.  This a pull-to-start/push-to-stop switch with an illuminated head.  it also serves as the Emergency Stop (E-Stop) button.  It must be activated (pulled) to turn on control power.  It's head will be lit when control power is on.

4)Clear Block Left & Right.  This is a three position, key-operated switch with a spring return to center.   Clear the blocks by turning the key first to th left and then to the right.

5)Ok-To-Move-Track Switch.  The light indicates when the track switch can be moved from its main line position.  The time delay function described prior to this controls this light.  

6)A pull-to-start/push-to-stop switch with an illuminated head controls the lift meter.  The lift will run only when there is track continuity at the switch and the "B" block is clear.  The switch head will be lit when the lift is running.

7)Block Lights.  Indicates the status of the safety blocks.  Two for left (7a and 7b) and Two for right (7c and 7d).  The "A" block extends from the station to just beyond the lift crown.  The "B" block extends from the lift crown to the station.  The left and ride status lights should always be in agreement.  When control power is turned on, the Red Set Up lights will light.  When the blocks are cleared, the Green Clear lights will light, and the Red Lights will go off.  The presence of a train in the block will be indicated by White Occupied lights.  (Orient Express had these as well, the quad-buttons presence are very indicative of an Arrow Coaster)

8) Discrepancy Reset.  A discrepancy in status between any two similar right and left block functions will be indicated by the sound of a buzzer and the illuminated head of the Discrepancy Reset push button which will light.  The buzzer can be stopped by pushing the button.  Any such warning should be reported to Ride Operations and Maintenance for their attention.

9)Dispatch. This is an illuminated push button to release the station brakes.  There are two interlocked functions involving this button.  One ensures that a train comes to a complete stop before it is released and the other ensures a safe interval between trains.  A train may be dispatched only when the button is lit.  However, the button may be pushed at any time to adjust the position of the train to facilitate loading.

10) Release Trim Brake.  This is an illuminated push button with a light indicating that the trim brake can be released.  The brake can only be released after a train has been in the brake for several seconds.  This prevents the release of the brake as a train approaches.

11) Set Safety Brakes. An illuminated push button allows the safety brakes to be set at any time.  This may be done to test the brakes or to over-ride the automatic system and stop an incoming train.  The button will be lit when power is applied to release the brakes. (add on: Safety brakes are the higher pressure version of trims, that will stop a train in an emergency)

12) Open/Close Gates (Not Original).  Both Screamroller and Orient Express opened without gates, these controls were added after the fact.  

13) Buzzer (Not original).  This is automatic on more modern coasters.  The loud buzz heard when the lift starts, used to notify anyone on the lift that it is about to re-start.

14)Zag Brake (Not original), a brake located at the base of the lift.  It is unknown what exactly this break was added for, whether to line the train up to the lift itself, stop the train at the base on the lift, or some other unknown purpose.  Orient Express did have this same control.

Special Thanks to Debbie Reasoner for providing a copy of the original Screamroller Operator's Manual as well as several of the photos seen above.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Opening Day Review 2015

"It’s opening day again, what’s going to disappoint me this year" That was my honest thought going into yesterday afternoon. I already knew two rides for sure were not going to be in operation that day, Scrambler and Timber Wolf, and I knew that was NEVER a good start.  I have to say though, I was pleasantly surprised and I am optimistic.  In writing opening day reviews, and attending opening days there have been years where you could throw a rock down the midway and not hit anyone.  Opening day's have also marked the beginning of the Worlds of Fun Music Festival and the choir group members have often been the only guests in the park!  That was certainly NOT true yesterday.  While I would never call yesterday a crowd, it was certainly significantly busy, and a good showing for opening day.  I also always pay attention to the guests and their overall demeanor and generally everyone seemed happy and having a good time, which is also a good sign.

Some new flags heading up from the back lots where we parked, C & D were both completely full.  Also a ton of new trees waiting to be planted. 

So, let’s get to the review. We arrived around 2:30-3:00 pm since both Jeff and I had ran the Rock the Parkway half marathon earlier that morning.   The first thing I noticed was all the cars in the parking lot and the scrambler cars there too (sad face).  There was quite a substantial line at one of the ticket booths, but we soon found out it was for season pass processing, and all the other ticket booths appeared to be open as well with short lines.  I always hate to see long lines when they are avoidable so I was happy about this.   As we entered the park I noticed the sign that displays the rides down for the day, and noticed in addition to Scrambler and Timber Wolf, Bamboozler and Boomerang were showing down as well.  "Great, more rides down" you know me, always the eternal optimist.  As we entered the park though I noticed how busy it was, it felt like a normal summer day, certainly not opening day, my parking pass worked, my season pass worked, cash registered were working, so far so good. The grass is green; the sky is blue, happy thoughts. I did like that the first thing I heard when I walked into the park was the carousel band organ and not the modern pop music I have been hearing in Scandinavia recently. 

The season pass processing line.  Please process your pass before opening day! 

SO where to go, Orient or Scandinavia?  I decided to check out Scandinavia first; specifically Viking Voyager since I knew it had received some work over the off-season and wanted to see if the updates had made any noticable difference.  For those that missed my off season review (how dare you?!) know that the Voyager splash down moat and lake had been either patched or replaced, as well as the filtration system for Voyager had been fixed.  I did not realize that the filtration system hadn’t been working, but after Jeff piped up and stated he was thinking it hadn’t worked since the 1980’s I was surprised.  I was even more surprised after seeing the effects.  WOW.  Even if you don’t ride Voyager go take a look, it looks pretty!  No flooding water out of the lake, no broken concrete, and the water is incredibly clear.  Even with the blue dye you can see the bottom of the lake and the trough. I mean who knew?!

WOF added three isolation valves to the park plumbing, and one was added here in Scandinavia.  Here we have the whole area cleaned up and pretty again.  Voyager also looking nice, clean pretty blue water. 

Worlds of Fun also added some theming to the ride, and I have to say and I never thought I would ever say this… it's almost overkill.  Almost.  I really like the new signage. (either that or I am not used to NEW theming).  If this is starting a trend towards theming I am ALL FOR IT.  

One of the many themed signs from Voyager 

Probably the highlight of Voyager though has nothing to do with the ride, or signage but instead the most important part of any park, it’s employees.  There are those that complain about slow loading, stacked trains (the 2nd train on a coaster having to park behind the 1st still in the station), etc. on opening days.  Though I am often critical of these things later in the season, and I firmly believe capacity is an important component of a positive guest experience, I also believe in giving employees the benefit of the doubt on opening day.  This is opening day, and though employees receive a great deal of training, NOTHING can train someone for a multitude of guests streaming in, except the real thing.  So instead of being critical, I will give a compliment.  At one point while watching Voyager operate, it stopped dispatching boats, and boats began to back up behind the unload position.  I believe this was as they were trying to open up the second load/unload side of the trough. The unload employee instead of following standard procedure, sent a loaded boat up to the load position to unload the guests on board.  He thought outside the box, and relieved the line of backed up boats, which could have possibly caused a larger problem.  Great job, great critical thinking displayed, especially on opening day.

The new Coke refresh station, and new signage in Scandinavia.

We made our way towards lower Scandinavia, the new Coke Refresh station was not open, but looked like it was being finished up, and looked nice.  Also for those that remember the Halloween Haunt signage, one of which is in near Finnish Fling, has been changed out for the regular season to general park information signage.  There are four located throughout the park that I noticed, which provide information on current location, which major attractions are in which section of the park as well as the park's upcoming events schedule.  Funny enough the label for the signage is “Around the World in One Day”, which I am guessing the park has picked up as a slogan for this 43rd season, and is appropriate considering the park is themed after “Around the World in 80 Days”.   My favorite part, for me at least, is that the sign is appropriately themed to it’s world location.

Finnish fling with some minor repair work, and new paint job on the Scrambler cars. 

I also noticed Chicken Shack was open, and found most counter service locations, except for Paisano’s in Europa open for guests, which is a good sign, especially due how busy the park was that day.

The motor is in for Scrambler in Scandinavia, and the Octopus/Scrambler station with the Octopus sign still up.

Across from Chicken Patio was the old station for Octopus, which will once again become the new/old home for the Scrambler, as Scrambler started out in that location when the park opened in 1973.   As a huge fan of Scrambler (it's one of the first rides I rode at Worlds of Fun as a child and its one of the few that I rode then that is still there), I am thrilled it is moving back to its rightful home in Scandinavia.  I really do like the new colors they are painting the station, as they are more the warmer, earth tones that the park was originally painted in.  The only comment I could make was I do wish they had removed the Octopus sign, as it is more of a reminder that that ride is not there.  I know of a good home for it… just saying.

Moving into Africa, I noticed the large signage on Big Game Hunt from Snoopy’s Hot Summer Lights, in other parts of the park it appears that the lights and signage is being removed.  Hot Summer Lights was wonderful when it debuted, but I think it has run its course, and really should be removed.

New concrete pad at Congo Clearing/Gorilla Grill, as well as new tables.

We headed over to Prowler, and found it had a significant line, it was also running two trains which was a good sign.  Gorilla Grill was also open, and the new patio and tables looked nice after being completely replaced during the off-season.

Moroccan Merchant appears to have a new sign, and new themed signage. 

As we had noted on entering the park Boomerang was down for the day.  We had been told during the off-season tour that it was receiving a new control system, which it had needed for a few years, I am taking an educated guess but I a betting this was part of the reason it was down.    

Map case with the new map concept, this one was in Scandinavia.

Africa, near Moroccan Merchant, is host to a second of the new park directional signs, and since we are talking about signs, I thought I would bring up the map cases.  The map cases are all, (except the one by Nile) original to the park, and have always been home to a larger, park map.  This year, while I love the creativity that went into designing the map case map, I, and several others I spoke with dislike the fact that the map is only of the section of the park the map case is located in.  What happens if someone is in Africa and wants to know how to get to Patriot? 

New concrete block wall by nile, this used to be railroad ties.  On the right is Nile showing one of the drive drums. 

So moving onto Nile, it appeared to have a few updates that may not be entirely noticeable but important.  Number one, the drive drums were both working and working the RIGHT way.  About half way through last year one stopped working and never worked the rest of the season.  Drive drums are located at the base of the boatlift, and are used to prevent wedging of boats.  In order to work properly drive drums have to spin separate directions, one pushing a boat in, one pushing a boat out.  For years, they have both been spinning inwards, so for the first time in awhile they are spinning the correct direction.  So, a good sign.  Thank you maintenance! Nile also appears to have a sound track for the tunnel too, which is a nice addition.  Nile still needs work though, only three of the original eight geysers were working (four in each lake), would love to see more!

Drink stand by Mamba with new thatching.

Moving on, Mamba was also running two trains, and also had quite a bit of a line.  We loved seeing the drink stand up in mamba plaza with new thatching added to the roof.  This would be a great way to fix the Boomerang station too.

Next since we were up by Mamba we decided to head down Forum Road/Heart of America Blvd towards Americana, and headed towards Planet Snoopy.  We wanted to stop and take a look at the push motor that Cosmic Coaster had installed at the end of last season.  For those that don’t know since it opened in 1993 operators have had to physically push the train out of the station.  Now with the push motor, operators no longer have to strain their back, guests may not notice, but I can guarantee ride operators will! 

"As Scheduled?"

We next headed over to Timber Wolf.  First I know there is a lot of discussion both online at and the park about Timber Wolf.  I saw some of it first hand in the park. I am not in the slightest bit upset that Timber Wolf was closed on opening day.  I can’t say why, but from what I have heard, it’s for good reason.  What I am disappointed in is how it was handled by the park.  I wish they would have advised their patrons on the fact ahead of time.  Sincerely, I am of two minds on that, and I am sure they were too.  If they say something, they attract bad PR, if they don't then their fans are upset.  I completely get that, still I stand behind what I have said.

Thunder hawk no longer the world's largest lawn ornament.  On the right are some "fake" skeeball machines, the look like they would be, but are not.

I have to say what surprised me the most though was not far from Timber Wolf.  It was the ride I have nicknamed, the world’s largest lawn ornament in previous years.  Did not apply to today, because Thunderhawk was open!  HAPPY DANCE!  I honestly can’t remember an opening day Thunderhawk has been open, so this is a good sign.  We next decided to check out the old arcade, Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall/Snoopy’s Arcade.  As most know this arcade has changed very little in the last almost forty years.  This year though, it finally has no Skeeball games.  Not a single one.  Very sad for me as I love skeeball, so much I HAVE a skeeball machine in my garage.  Last year we were told only three of the about a dozen machines worked, now they have all been removed.  A moment of silence…

New barrels to replace the one's that have been falling apart.  New asphalt in Americana.

On a more positive note, more asphalt has been replaced in the park.  From the Europa/American bridge trestle, up to Game Street USA and back towards Viddle Griddle all has been completely replaced.  It looks nice, and this section really needed it.  Theming wise there were also a few old barrels that have been completely replaced as well.  Small detail, but nice to see.

A picture is worth a thousand words, new landscaping on Depot Hill (used to be large evergreen bushes).  On the right the "new" Worlds of Fun balloon/impact logo. 

Moving into the old main entrance square, its of worth to mention the new in-park Guest relations now located in the Brims and Bonnets/Charlie's Caps store location.  It is also sporting a new version of the park logo.  "Worlds of Fun" in the new Impact font (which I still dislike) with the old-style balloon.  Ugh, if I have to deal with the Impact font I guess the balloon makes it better… a little.  I DO like the new Guest Relations, they can do anything Guest Relations at the park gate can do, and it’s a convenient centralized location. I have been told that later in the season Guest Relations will offer cell phone charging services as well.

 This is a great point to discuss the new “Park Ambassador” position that Worlds of Fun has created this season.  Park Ambassadors man this new Guest Relations location but they also are found wandering the park, they can answer questions, celebrate a birthday or anniversary with a special pin, and in general help guests.  Great job.

Missing a few trees in Europa.

At this point we decided to head back to Europa.  Europa this year has received a lot of updates, mostly good, one sad one.  First the bad news.  All the middle island trees near Autobahn are gone.  I am sure the reasoning was to open up the midway a bit, in my drug-tripping, completely irrational, moments I can dream that this is because they are planning on adding a new ride to Europa (something that hasn’t happened since 1979!).  To tell the total truth a lot of these trees were damaged in a storm two years ago, and probably also by having hundreds of lights stapled to them didn’t help either.  Jeff did remind me though and it’s a good point to all of my tree-loving readers that Worlds of Fun didn’t open with a forest of almost fifty year old trees, and that some removal to thin out the existing trees is to be expected.  Okay, fine.

A good look at the Autobahn building, the colors are growing on me.   

Moving onto the good news.  Europa’s own Autobahn, neglected and unloved, has finally received some love.  It looks fabulous.  New paint, new LED lights (they probably didn’t think I would notice?), new shingles, and 12 WHOLE OPERATING cars!   I almost had a coronary.  Ok now in my dreams I would wish they would open up the rest of the floor that has been now closed in, but I guess I can be happy anyway.

Deja Vu with a new paint job and signage.

Of course the other update to Europa was the also long neglected Déjà vu.  Déjà vu’ first received a new paint job, and like the “new” scrambler station it is also warm, and earth tone retro. The inside of the shop of course is what everyone wants me to talk about.  It’s retro too, as in Zambezi Zinger, Orient Express, “old” balloon logo retro.  There are some I am sure that are thinking… wasn’t this the company that took all these rides out? Why are they now trying to make money on their “mistakes”.  To them I say, Worlds of Fun isn’t just one person making decisions.  Déjà vu is one or two determined retail folks, standing up and saying “this is our history, and we need to care about it”.  Good for you, and I applaud that there is a small contingency at the park, actually employed there, that really does care to remember. YEAH I am not alone in my craziness. 

Zambezi Zinger shirt.

Still… and you have to know this was coming, I really wish this hadn’t been a surprise.  For example, the balloon logo isn’t really retro, for me at least.  There was the balloon logo with the “Worlds of Fun” across the front of the balloon that was used from 1973 until 1997.  then there was the Cedar Fair balloon logo, were the “Worlds” was stacked on top of “of Fun” that was used from 1997, until 2001. (when Snoopy came home, and they added the dog dish).  Me personally I see that logo and I think… Zambezi Zinger, dolphin show, main gate, all gone that year.  That’s when I started my first website that would become, for all those reasons and more, in 1997.  I also do like a few of the Zinger/Express shirts, but overall they look retro, in that they are meant to look like a new take on the old logo, instead of simply being the old logo.  I would have preferred a shirt that looked like a shirt that I could have bought in the 1980’s.  Still, overall I admire the tenacity, and give kudos to the concept, and will admit to wanting to buy at least a few things… when I have money to do so.  Ugh the cost of gold passes…

Wow, two paragraphs on a SHOP, but one last thing before I go on. Déjà vu is home to a nice model of the Zambezi Zinger, produced by a friend of mine, Randal Strong-Wallace.  Its great, but I have my concerns as far as how long it will stay in pristine shape.  People were already leaning on the wobbly plexi-glass, and trying to touch the thing, and this was opening day.

Randal is in the process of opening a museum in Independence for his model roller coasters, check out his website for more information or to donate:

Not mentioned a bit, but something I at least want to tackle is Moulin Rouge.  No Moulin Rouge show again.  Until 2013, there was a Moulin Rouge show that opened on opening day.  Last year I gave the park a pass with the renovation, this year… unless they are secretly renovating the inside of Moulin Rouge, which if they are I promise to eat crow happily, I am not amused.  Not at all.  What would have happened if opening day instead of being in the 70’s would have been in the 40’s? Yes, fewer people, but I can guarantee there would have been someone complaining about no shows… INSIDE. 

That’s all I will say about that.

Bamboozler in pieces.

So our last section is the Orient.  Not a whole lot going on there.  Bamboozler was sitting unassembled (mostly) in pieces, not super thrilled about that, but if I think about it, who really comes to Worlds of Fun to ride Bamboozler?  I am sure it has its fans, but its not a huge loss.  The bathrooms in the orient appear to be boasting a new coat of green paint, and they look nice.  Rickshaw Richards also has a new sign I noticed, but again not a whole lot going on there.  Remarking on the map case again, it was kind of funny with the Orient considering just how small a section it is, how it appeared all by itself on the map.  Really think this should be the entire park again.

Rickshaw Richard's new sign.

As we headed out about 8:30 that evening I noticed one other small detail.  The yogurt shop in Scandinavia, its not the lemonade store anymore, it’s the “Yodeling Yogurt Factory”, and the graphics are rather reminiscent of the old Worlds of Fun Scandinavian motif.  It’s also rather adorable, in a small world kind of way (in a good Small World kind of way, not a creepy, freakish, Brent Barr Small World kind of way)

 New yogurt sign.

So there you have it, six pages, but you have to give it to me there was a lot to talk about.  From the off-season trip I really didn’t think that this day would have gone so well, call me pessimistic.  Yes, there were a few rides down, that’s never a good thing, but its amazing how easy it is to overlook things like that when there are not a million other negatives to remind us, and other guests of them too.    Basically if guests are having a good time they are going to overlook a lot more negatives than if they are having a bad time.  Overall, a good start to Worlds of Fun’s 43rd season.  See you at the park!