Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Worlds of Fun Off Season Photos 11/15/2013

Two blogs in one month? With three weeks until my dreaded nursing school senior finals I thought I would take a minute and bring you all excitement from our favorite place.   Of course photos weren't the only reason we headed out to Worlds of Fun last Friday. Our secret mission was to obtain one of these beauties (which I am sure our neighbors have other names for... *cough*)

Proud owners of a giant 7 foot kangaroo...

While out there we also got some photos of what's going on at Worlds of Fun this time of year.  So moving towards the gate, the Patriot trains are resuming their normal operating procedures for off season.

Here is a look at the Scandinavian shops (Baltic Bazaar) looks like its getting an expansion.

There are just a few "things" missing from this photo.  All those ambassadors that cleaned Voyagers pump screens over the years know this was LONG overdue.

Octopus is getting its cars removed as we were there for off season maintenance.

Panda Express (old Rangoon Refresher) is receiving a much needed new roof.  To bad I couldn't make this photo scratch and sniff, these are cedar shingles.

And another look at Voyager were it appears work is beginning on its original concrete supports.

Special thanks to Worlds of Fun PR manager Rachael Murie and head of Maintenance Wayne Meadows for the tour, and "new" addition to our collection!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow…

*Author's note: Since this is fairly long I have divided it into three sections to make it slightly easier to read: "Wayne's Background", "Immediate Future Changes" and "The Long Term Future"*
I might just have dated myself there, but I figured no tribute would be better for our interviewee this go around then a quote from supposedly Walt Disney’s favorite attraction (Carousel of Progress).  Plus it seems to fit.

As many know Worlds of Fun’s head of maintenance, Larry Hurst retired about a year and a half ago, to the dismay of Worlds of Fun fans everywhere…  A year ago almost to this date his replacement arrived.  Wayne Meadows.  To many of us he was an enigma.  True, we had heard he was from Disney (never a bad thing), but we all had to wonder would it be the same old, same old at Worlds of Fun or would we finally witness a little bit of the shakeup we had hoped for when Matt Ouimet was first announced as CEO of Cedar Fair.

Wayne’s Background:
So our first question, who is Wayne Meadows, and what does he bring with him in terms of experience?  It turns out quite a bit.  Not only did he come from Disney, he had 30 years to be ingrained in the Disney way.  He started at Walt Disney World in 1971, not in his dream job as Monorail Driver, but instead washing cars.  In 1972, he transferred to maintenance, and like anyone with a drive to learn, read just about every maintenance manual he could get his hands on, and as Wayne himself states, he would go out and take a look at the ride or attraction and think “Oh Yeah, that’s how it goes”.  It was a very hands-on learning experience. From one learning experience to another, he went head first into developing WDW’s first ride preventative Maintenance (PM) program.  As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, at the same time he was completing his degree at the University of Central Florida and graduated with a degree in Engineering Technology.

Just getting his feet wet, he would go on to be involved in the design and construction of EPCOT, working on the project from conceptual design to opening. Six months after opening he was offered the option to be sent to Tokyo Disney to set up the maintenance program there, and while doing so developed a well-earned respect for the Japanese work ethic.  In 1984, he went back to Florida.  A few years later Wayne was offered the opportunity to be a world traveler once more, this time to set up the maintenance program at Disneyland Paris (known as EuroDisney at the time).  If Tokyo was fascinating, Paris seems to have been exhausting as Wayne talked about traveling to Paris every two weeks for about a year.  At EuroDisney he was in charge of setting up the 200,000 square foot maintenance shop, (that’s about the size of a Super Walmart) “Fully staffed, fully equipped, machine shop, metal shop, paint, fiberglass, wood all the way down the line” complete with 687 maintenance personnel.  In 1989, he moved with his family to Paris and was there from ground breaking to park opening.  In 1992, he moved back to Orlando once more, and moved into general management, and more importantly became directly involved with the resorts trouble spots, and began working on turning those around.  (sound familiar?) In 2001, WDW began to look to reduce staff, and offered to quite a few of its managers, including Wayne Meadows, severance packages.  Thinking this would be a great time to start up his own business; Wayne took the buyout option and started his own consulting business entitled “Facilities Management”

In 2007 at IAAPA he was approached to work on Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi (capital of the UAB, located on the Persian Gulf) were he again worked up the maintenance for all the various operational groups (food, merchandise, operations, entertainment etc.), he got the park to opening in October 2010 and discussed the difficulties of working in a desert environment of 125 degree heat and 70% humidity, with that being said many rides here at Worlds of Fun would just not make it over there with the environmental extremes (Mamba comes to mind)

Wayne made it back to the US in 2011, for the birth of his first grandchild and in the summer of 2012 received a call from Ann Todoroff at Worlds of Fun. The rest as they say is history.

Immediate Future Changes:
So one may ask, what was the first item of business?  After getting Halloween haunt cleaned up and out of the way, the first order of business was to ask what the trouble spots were.  Of course Timber Wolf was the first item on the list, which was already slated to receive its new control system, but then came ThunderHawk.  It’s amazing how little one really understands without being involved in the inner workings and seeing the whole picture.  ThunderHawk’s problem as Wayne stated was that it kept blowing fuses, and like so many things in the park the fix up to this point was to replace the fuse, aka patch it up and let it go until the next fuse went.  We all remember this from a guest’s perspective, as ThunderHawk was up and down repeatedly from almost its opening day.  This wasn’t going to work under Wayne’s management though, it was time to find out the real, underlying issue and get it fixed, once and for all.  Wayne states, that while working at Disney the goal was 99.8% operational readiness. Obviously, as Wayne stated Worlds of Fun is currently nowhere near that, but as he stated its achievable, and that is one of his goals. Today, it appears the REAL issue with ThunderHawk has (finally) been resolved, and we are hoping for fewer “this ride is currently closed” signs in that region of Americana.

Another goal and quite frankly as Wayne states the most important goal is safety, “our #1 priority is safety always will be we will never compromise” He talks about how he talked with the guys (in maintenance) and made what seems a very obvious and simple comment to them.  He stated that if you would not let your own family on a ride, why would any else’s family be any different?

Of course people come for the rides, so let’s talk about the rides.  Our first point of discussion was Viking Voyager.  As some now know it is the target of a lot of work for this coming off-season.  The first decision when the topic of Voyager came up is cringe worthy for a lot of fans, and that was “does it stay or does it go?”  Wayne went to Frank (Wilburn) on the topic and it was decided that Voyager was an iconic ride, an original ride and that it needed to stay.  So they started at the bottom and worked up, starting with the footers, checking for structurally integrity, for problems and condition and what needed work.  It was decided at the time that the trough needs work, as does the water storage pond as the control system (which hasn’t changed since 1973).  Seems like a lot of problems?  Not to worry about this 40 year old classic, though old, and having a few bumps and bruises its overall safety was never in question.  If it was, Voyager would not have been operating.

Of course what is a ride without its operators?  As many who have worked at the park in the previous years can attest, until recently there has been a lack of communication between maintenance and park operations (to put it nicely). It was Wayne’s plan to change that.  It would no longer be “no that’s a maintenance problem” or “no that’s an operations problem”, there are different responsibilities true, but Wayne talks about the importance and need to work together.  Things have already started to change in that manner.  Case in point Cosmic Coaster (aka Wacky Worm) which has required manual launch from its beginning in 1993.  What this means is that the ride operator literally has to push the train out of the station.  Over the years this has created a lot of problems with rider operators backs, ankles, etc. leading to workman’s comp issues.  For 2013, twenty years after its debut, Wacky Worm/Cosmic Coaster will have a kick motor.  And hopefully a lot fewer sprained ankles and sore backs.

Wayne visited the operations kick off this year before the start of the season by letting everyone know that THEY were maintenance eyes and ears, the first responders so to speak.  Instead of the nuisance that ride operators were seen as in the past, operations became an important tool in keeping the rides operating safely and the rider’s safe. Now if paint is flecking, or if there is a squeal, or a bad wheel, or some other unknown, unusual occurrence, rider operators are no longer afraid of calling maintenance to report it as they might have been in the past. As Wayne states he would rather get five calls that end up being nothing, then let one real major issue overlooked.  Wayne brings up the accident at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain to bring the point home; it was in this case that a rider lost their life due to simple maintenance negligence. 

So how about another original ride to the park, ELI? or more commonly known as the Worlds of Fun Railroad.  ELI operates by 100% steam power and must be certified as a high-pressure vessel.  Though a bit of a handful for both its engineers and maintenance, Wayne talks about its importance to the park as he states “probably 95-99% of guests see that (ELI) it’s a show piece and it needs to be treated as such, and it’s in rough shape”. There is a trend of wear and tear with ELI’s boiler, which should receive some work over wintertime, along with ELI’s paint, which at the time of interview was out for pricing. 

Same thing with Autobahn, even Wayne admits “it’s embarrassing”, he brings up that they have gotten in touch with Majestic Manufacturing (the company that manufactured autobahn’s cars), and have been quoted $4500 per car, and there are plans to build up the Autobahn fleet for 2014 and beyond.  However Wayne did respond to the question regarding returning Autobahn to its full-sized floor, stating that currently there are no plans to return the floor to its original configuration.

Ride vehicles as a whole are sometimes difficult to replace Wayne goes on to talk about.  Case in point the old Arrow cars on Le Taxi Tour (Arrow Development/Dynamics), which as some know went out of business several years ago.  Due to this situation the park is now dealing with a whole other issue, that of obsolescence.  There is no way to get parts from the original manufacturer, so the plan for now is to scrap the parts from the existing cars.

Another fixture of Europa since we are talking about that section of the park is the Moulin Rouge that has been sign-less for quite some time… So replace or enhance the old sign?   Wayne states:

“Replace, much enhanced replace, the old sign, kind of created a hornet’s nest there, it was about ready to fall in, it was so rotted, I was concerned if it would even make it through the season without falling through the canopy.  I know the temporary little sign, that’s not what we were expecting, but what Debbie Strong has been working with Missouri Neon are some jam up, redo of the front entrance of the façade basically.  So, we are working through the costs situations now, and what you will see is a much improved marquee coming up.”

So nice new sign, for Moulin Rouge in the future… and possibly more.  Not just another Worlds of Fun patch job.

The Long Term Future?
So what are the future plans for the overall park? In Wayne’s words they are “to bring up all the structures and buildings to the standards we think it should be”, Wayne states though this isn’t the old Cedar Fair anymore.  He goes on to say “we have found that what works in Sandusky, may not work in Kansas City, or Richmond or Toronto or wherever”.  It’s a new Cedar Fair, he talks about Matt Ouimet (Cedar Fair CEO) coming from Disney and his new expectations for the company and its parks.  This includes moving beyond simply investing in new rides, but also investing in the entire park experience, such as overall park infrastructure.

Case in point the pavement.  As Wayne so enthusiastically stated “you don’t need a technical degree to see the pavement looks like crap” When he came at the end of the season last year he noticed how worn out it was, and then when the sealant is laid down this spring he stated that it brings it up to a much more “less despicable” appearance.  But the “less despicable” appearance doesn’t last long with daily wash downs and foot traffic.  Wayne specifically comments about how he noticed that the sealant in places (not the asphalt just the sealant!) was up to ¼” thick! That’s from the sealant being applied, year, after year after year.  He states that replacing the asphalt is part of the park’s 5-7 year integrated services plan.  

We began seeing this process just a bit last off season when Pizza Pier/Gyro’s was completely gutted and replaced.  Maintenance with Wayne at the lead is going through every structure with a fine-toothed comb… Asking questions, When was the roof replaced last?  How’s the flooring, the electrical, structural? What needs to be replaced? Then the job is to prioritize and replace what can be replaced during the off season.  Wayne quotes an old FRAM Oil Filters Slogan, “you can pay me now or you can pay me later”, and that if you pay me now you won’t have to pay me as much later… Take care of things and actually REALLY take care of things, and you won’t have to be replacing things as much.  The goal as Wayne put’s it is continuous improvement, including making the park look better, this includes landscaping….

Wayne had noticed the forgotten liberty bell shell of a topiary left abandoned near the greenhouses, and figured that’s something easy to get back in the park and replace.  So those of us that remember the Liberty Bell from Bicentennial Square may be seeing it again sometime soon.  Thanks to Wayne and a lot of help from landscaping.

Landscaping, pavement, signage… many seem insignificant reading it here, but as Wayne states so eloquently its all about the details “it’s the details that will make you or kill you, its frustrating for me that we can’t do more quicker, I want stuff to happen and I want it now.”

Which brings us to our last major point…Bicentennial Square.  What’s in its history?  No one really plays midway games anymore, atleast not like they used to thanks to all those hand held smart phones and angry birds… So either rehab the buildings or convert the area to another use.  Even Wayne talks about the area being a massively underutilized area.  So what is its future? Wayne has some ideas for the area, and they are quite a departure from prior Cedar Fair thinking.  He leaves us all with a parting though… Look around at all the other theme parks in the world, really there are some elements here that we are really missing if you think about it…” 

I do have to say after not so silently grumbling about Worlds of Fun calling itself an “amusement park” over the last few years, it’s a breath of fresh air to have someone on the inside so to speak refer to Worlds of Fun properly as a “theme park”.  Wayne goes on to further expand on the differences between the “old” and “new” Cedar Fair, about how it’s not just important to add the next great big thrill ride and slap a snake on the front and call it theming (referring to Mamba) but that’s its also about the big picture the whole story…

“you walk into any of the Disney parks, and stories being told, you walk down main street, and it’s turn of the century type and everything is seeing that, and then you go into tomorrowland,  frontierland, whatever, everything has a theme and a story behind it as well.  Something I think over the years here was lost and I guess and I remember early on, a lot of the live entertainment, like the robbery of the train, that sort of thing.  That’s what helps make an entire park, different lines of rides, atmosphere, food, whatever you want to say, there are certain things we can tweak to improve as well, without just throwing in a thrill ride.  To me you are missing part of the market there”

So is this the new vision of Cedar Fair? One that instead of catering exclusively to the thrill rider, now focuses once again on every guest young, old and everything in-between that crosses through the gates?  Will we see future rides added that everyone can enjoy together?  Also, will we see an increased interest in the intangibles, theming, landscaping, atmosphere? Only the future will tell us.

One thing is for certain, the desire is there to make the park better and provide an overall improved experience for guests.  One key point that indicates this is his obvious frustration, frustration in the way things are, frustration in wishing change could be faster, frustration in even the small details.  However, in this case frustration is a good thing, it means that things will be changing. As Wayne states “when I don’t care is when I will quit” and I don’t foresee that being hopefully for a long while.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

9 Old Rides: The Original Rides from 1973

9 Old rides.  Those that are familiar with Disney lore, know that the 9 original imagineers that worked with Disney were labeled the 9 Old Men.  Old, but valuable for the years of service, and love that they provided to the Disney company.  So it is true with our 9 old rides.  Those left still operating from their 1973 original debut.  Like the old imagineers, these rides have their bumps, dings, tears, and just plain signs of age and in some cases neglect by the park itself.  Many are overlooked, just part of the fabric that makes up Worlds of Fun, but like so many things, it is those that are overlooked that are often the cornerstone of the park, the rides and memories that everything else came after.  Oriental Octopus wouldn’t have become Tailspinner if it wasn’t partially for the addition of Orient Express, Taxi’s wouldn’t be with us if Hunt Midwest had added a gigantic planned coaster.  Most importantly though these rides are not just steel, oil and mechanics, they are memories.  For that reason I would like to start with a story of my own.

Almost thirty years ago my mom took me to Worlds of Fun, I was 6 years old, and we rode the Sky Hi.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Twenty years ago, working at Worlds of Fun on the Viking Voyager I began to wonder about that old gondola ride I rode at Worlds of Fun.  What was its name? What had happened to it?  My father took me down to the Downtown Kansas City library in the summer of 1996 and I “discovered” a 1973 souvenir map, and most importantly the name of the ride… The Sky Hi.  So began a long, sometimes tedious research and re-discovery of the park’s short, but important history.

Last year I had a realization.  I had never covered the history of what was actually THERE, in the park.  That changing of a simple word from “WAS” to “IS” can make a huge difference.  After all aren’t rides that have operated now forty years entitled to their own history?  Don’t they have their own important stories?  So I began thinking about a blog series on the “IS” rides instead of the “WAS” rides.  And so here we are.

So today let’s look at the nine original rides, rides that have made it from 1973 to today, and are still in operation.  Some of them are limping along, some have changed names, some more then ONCE!, some haven’t even operated all forty years.  But they have one thing in common.  They were all there on that opening day forty years ago, May 26, 1973.  They are:

The Worlds of Fun Railroad/ELI
Krazy Kars (Crashem Bashem)
Scrambler (Scandia Scrambler)
Autobahn (Der Fender Bender)
Flying Dutchman
Le Taxi Tour
Octopus (Oriental Octopus/Tailspinner)
Finnish Fling
Viking Voyager

Viking Voyager

Viking Voyager or simply Voyager as most people call it, was one of Worlds of Fun’s premier rides when the park opened.  It shared that distinction with Zambezi Zinger, in that every 1973 ride operator desired to end up at either Zinger or Voyager, they were the Place To Be, so to speak.   Of all the original rides left, it is by far the largest complex, and truthfully probably operates as close to its original capacity parameters as any of the original rides.  Unlike many other “unit” rides, it runs probably about 80% of its original capacity.  Maximum capacity on Voyager is 24 boats, it is not unheard of for Voyager these days to run 18.  There are many things that make Voyager unique. Manufactured by Arrow Development (the same company behind the development of Pirates of Caribbean, not to mention Screamroller and Orient Express too) multitudes were built after the first Arrow log flume, El Aserradero opened at Six Flags over Texas in 1963.   

Viking Voyager in 1973, ambassadors from Voyager should wince when they notice that the roof on the boarding dock was an addition not original!

Today, there are few Arrow Log flumes operating.  Many have been removed to make way for the newest, latest, and greatest thrill rides.  Parks have had to make the decision (including Cedar Point) due to the limitations of their landspace.  Worlds of Fun’s abundant land and size has been one aspect that has saved a few of Worlds of Fun’s rides from the graveyard, and it has what has saved this popular family ride from the axe.

A "tradition" for Voyager Ambassadors was the end of season "suding" or "soaping" of Voyager.  We at worldsoffun.org do not condone this action... and plead the fifth as far as involvement in the past.  However, some unknown ambassador would pour soap into the bottom of Voyagers dry trough at the end of the evening before, and when water was added the following morning... well you can see the results.

Of course, those that have worked Voyager have dozens of stories to share, its original operators panel is replete with 40 years of initials carved into it, the double whistle/roar of the pumps when they come on in the morning, the hornets (enough said?) or even the unforgettable white soap suds rising out of the flume early in the morning.  Some things it seems just do not ever change.

An "abused" or "well loved" (Depending on how you look at it) Voyager panel.... and this was shot in 2006. 

Of course no history of Voyager would be complete without mentioning the beloved dragon heads.  For 20 years (half of Voyager’s existence) the flume boats had striking red dragon heads at the bow of each boat.  In 1993, the boat heads were removed.  But there are still signs at the ride (These boats may bump) that still sport the red dragon heads, and if you ask anyone what they miss most about Voyager, it will almost always be those dang dragon heads.  So why remove them?  There are two schools of thought.  1)The boats were too heavy, requiring that the trough be patched repeatedly, so the heads were removed making the boats, now, too light.  (the scourge for any unload attendant on Voyager from 94 onwards) or 2)The heads blocked the views of riders on the on-ride photos.  Both are good arguments, and the truth is it might actually be both.  Still the heads weren’t actually removed, the entire boat was replaced.  I still vividly recall in 94 the old Voyager boats left to rot in the back of the employee parking lot. 

Yeah! Lets do this again!

So Voyager we love you, we are so glad we still have you, and we hope you continue to provide many somewhat dry, thrilling rides for years to come.

 Fling on a busy operating day, in the background you can see Scrambler and the WOFRR two other original park rides.

Finnish Fling

Finnish Fling, or simply just the “fling” is known usually either as a)that ride that spins and everyone sticks to the side (thanks to centrifugal force), or b) the ride that makes every one sick, this of course, depends on who you are and how strong your stomach is.  However, in the amusement industry Fling is more commonly referred to as Rotor.  Manufactured by Chance Rides, a company still in operation in Wichita, KS  (Currently known as Chance-Morgan) Rotor’s in general were incredibly popular rides back in the 60’s.  Almost EVERY park had one. Over the years the many rotor’s have been removed, to a point where there are less then a handful of Rotor’s left in operation in the United States.  Finnish Fling is the only Rotor left in operation in the entire Cedar Fair chain of 17 parks and one of only four continuously operating Rotor’s in the United States today.  That’s saying something.  When Worlds of Fun opened the Kansas City Star followed the Trainer family around on opening day May 26th.  The article specifically highlighted what it called the “Finnish Flum” and discussed how the family almost passed this small ride up, but were told by disembarking riders, that it was one “not to be missed”.  Today, it is not uncommon to see the line snaking down Fling’s precariously narrow queue line, making it still a very popular thrill ride, forty years later.

The galley ship in front of Fling.  The trees have grown a little too. Photo from early 80's

As many past and present ride operators know many rides simply require the push of a button to operate, Voyager has a dispatch, Zinger had a simple “presence””, and though there are a few rides that are more complex to operate (notably Octopus in our list of rides) Fling could probably walk away as the most difficult to operate.  It requires a certain “touch”.  Why you ask?  Fling has no brakes.  Basically it’s either spin or no spin.  To stop fling the operator simple stops “spinning” the ride, and it slows, again thanks to centrifugal force, to a stop.  Not hard you say?  Well Fling's inner ride compartment only has one door.  It has to line up with the exit door on the exterior of the ride.  So no brakes, and getting guests out of the contraption requires a great deal of skill.

Fling in more modern times (2000 I believe), this was soon after its paint job that changed the color of fling from brown to its current green color.  

Besides Fling being a rather unique flat ride (generic name for non-roller coaster ride) it also has a little bit of a unique Worlds of Fun spin to it.  Of course, everyone knows Worlds of Fun was home to three main ships, the Cotton Blossom, Victrix and Henrietta.  Fling was also home to one of Worlds of Fun’s mini-ships.  Of just great of importance as the big guys, these small ships were found around the park and were also stars from many of the old MGM films.  Fling was home to a galley ship (ships with dozens of rowers).  It was removed sometime around the mid-90’s.  It is officially unknown what has happened to this ship.  Unofficially, a similar galley ship was found around the same time period abandoned in a field in Nebraska, and became part of the Planet Hollywood movie memorabilia collection.  We are continuing to work to find out if these two ships may possibly be one in the same.  Makes you go… hmmmm….

 The Oriental Octopus.  Occupying the pad now home to Bamboozler.

 Octopus in Pandemonium! Seen here painted in its "tomato-plant" color. (Below) The Octopus control panel from the mid-80's, notice the "spider" control.

The Octopus Panel from the mid-80's


Dear old Octopus another basic flat ride, in this case a Monster by Eyerly Manufacturing.  Though an incredibly common ride, Octopus ties its unique story to its history at Worlds of Fun.  It opened in 1973 as the Oriental Octopus, and was located where Bamboozler is today in the Orient section of the park.  In 1983, when Barnstormer was removed from the Aerodrome, Oriental Octopus received a new name, and a new home.  It became the Tailspinner, and remained atop the Barnstormer hill in the Aerodrome for many years.  In 1987, when the section became Pandemonium!  It surprisingly enough remained in its location, a thrill ride, in a children’s rides area.  It was also re-named Octopus, and re-painted into its infamous “tomato plant” color scheme. Finally in 1997, with the addition of Bearenstain Bear Country Octopus was removed.  Originally, we thought it was to be for good.  However, history wasn’t done with old Octopus.   If you remember our previous discussion about Aerodrome, another famous Aerodrome attraction, the Incred-O-Dome was removed in 1997.  Scandia Scrambler, was moved up to that location.  Octopus made it back to the park in 1998, this time in Scandinavia.  This makes the basic Octopus, one of Worlds of Fun’s most relocated rides, having called three different sections of the park home, and also being the one original ride NOT to operate the full forty years of park operation.

 Le Taxi Tour, and you ask where are the trees? They are there, just much smaller! You will also notice another of Worlds of Fun's original rides, the Zambezi Zinger in the background.  Zinger was removed following the 1997 season.

Le Taxi Tour

Taxi’s has the unique distinction of not only being another rather large ride (land-wise), that has been axed by many other parks for its land, but also being a ride that got very close to not making this list.  Back in 1995, some remember that Cedar Fair bought Worlds of Fun from Hunt Midwest.  Hunt was at the time developing plans for a massive wooden coaster, that some believe was to be called “Vampire”.  It is known that this coaster, had it been built, was to be built on the land occupied by Le Taxi Tour.   Now I am not going to get into the discussion of whether a wooden coaster would have been better then Taxi’s, or that we have Cedar Fair (grumble grumble) to “thank” for keeping Taxi’s. But that story is a unique cliff note in Taxi’s unique history.  Taxi’s like Voyager is another Arrow Development creation, the cars that riders board back in 1973 and today are one in the same.  Today though Taxi’s runs at about half of its original capacity, but is still an incredibly popular family ride.

Another view of Taxi's

Like many of Worlds of Fun’s original attractions Taxi’s has had various “pieces” that have vanished over the years.  Many remember the red water tanker that was located at the high point, center of the ride.  Though I have asked a few times, and meandered around the WOF bone yard just a few times (plus looked around various Cedar Fair parks to see if it landed there instead) I have yet to see even a glimpse of this small theming element.  


  (Above, Top) I had to search long and hard for this photo,  its the only photo was have of the old water tanker up at the top of Taxi's main hill. The Taxi signage, now in a safe place.  AKA Not the WOF boneyard.

Another park of Taxi’s that some of us remember is the Taxi’s photo signage that was at the turnstile of Taxi’s.  It vanished about the same time as the tanker… Thankfully we do know where it is.  Though it is not in good shape it does still exist, and hopefully someday I will spend some time to restore it.

(Above) An overview of Europa, the rides haven't changed a whole lot... If you notice though you can count the six coaches on the train. 

A current view of Flying Dutchman.

Flying Dutchman

Flying Dutchman probably ranks up there as the most overlooked of the original rides.  It is also one of the most rare though too.  In fact, though I have researched it, and visited probably most of the United State’s major (and not so major) parks, I have found only two other Flying Dutchman rides in the United States. Today only one of which is even in operation, which is at Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver, CO, the second being the Flying Dutchman at the currently non-operational Kentucky Kingdom amusement park.  I had a chance to talk with a fellow member of ACE from Kentucky just recently and he commented how excited he was to see and ride another Flying Dutchman.  So there you go.  Flying Dutchman was built and designed by Intamin AG, a Swiss company that is still in business today.  (most notably known for manufacturing Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster to name a few) Flying Dutchman at Worlds of Fun was its proto-type of the surprisingly named… Flying Dutchman ride.  Today, Flying Dutchman still offers a fun, and quirky ride aboard one of the ride’s small Dutch boats.  The ride itself is almost identical to a ride in 1973, except for the addition of seat belts, and the movement of the ride’s control panel.  Be careful though this small ride can pack quite a thrilling punch to the stomach.

Above: (Top) Der Fender Bender in the better days, notice the old Europa costume the ambassador is wearing.  (Below) the entrance to Der Fender Bender from prior to the name change to Autobahn. 

Autobahn/Der Fender Bender (AKA DFB)

Autobahn… so often forgotten that it is actually an original ride to the park.  If we were to be handing out awards to the original rides, Autobahn could easily walk away with “#1 ride that bears not resemblance to its original self”, and that’s not in a good way.  Autobahn started out life as Der Fender Bender, or DFB as it is 
 often called.  Its one of the few original rides I remember riding quite vividly as a child.  That was when it ran 20+ cars, ran its full course, and had a great center island that the cars would quite literally skid around.  So much fun.  Today, not so much.  Atleast half of its original course has been cut out, over half of its cars are gone, or atleast completely non-functional, and the one's that do function, could be said to barely do so.  Still, Autobahn is still with us.  It’s just one ride that I can’t talk about without commenting how much love this ride simply is NOT getting. 

 An early photo (1973) of Der Fender Bender.

So why the name change?  Many of the original rides have had name changes over their existence.  Usually due to a ride move.  But Autobahn/DFB hasn’t moved an inch since 1973.  The truth of the matter is Cedar Fair.  When Cedar Fair bought the park quite a bit of homogenization occurred, wanting to make the park as much like the other Cedar Fair parks as possible.  Der Fender Bender, became Autobahn during the transition.  Some though still have not accustomed to the name change and still call it good old DFB.

 Above: (Top) Scrambler with its original ELI Bridge factory paint job.  (Below): Scrambler later on in its classic Worlds of Fun color scheme.

Scrambler/Scandia Scrambler

Another original ride I remember riding extremely vividly, simply because I loved this ride as a kid.  Scandia Scrambler started out life in the Scandinavian section of the park, located where Octopus is today.  It stayed there until 1997 when it moved up to Americana to replace the good old (ancient) Incred-O-Dome.   So many of the rides we have looked at were “mass produced” rides, meaning Fling, Octopus and even Flying Dutchman were rides that Hunt could call up and order a ride from a flyer or brochure and get the same exact ride as the other amusement park half way across the country.  Unlike those three other “mass produced” rides, Scrambler was and still IS incredibly successful.  Built by ELI Bridge Co. (who also built ferris wheels, including Skyliner) Scramblers are probably the most prolific of any amusement park ride.  Quite literally the VW Bug of the amusement park world.  Cheap, dependable and fun.

Krazy Kars, I apologize we have no photos that I can find of the ride as Crashem Bashem.  Once again we realize after the fact those attractions that we overlook until its too late.

Krazy Kars/Crashem Bashem

When Worlds of Fun opened, the plan was no specifically designed children’s area.  Instead children’s rides and adult rides would be co-mingled, this was so that the entire family could enjoy the experience together.  Until literally a few years ago, many of the park’s children rides were still scattered sporadically around the park.  Over the last 5-6 years all of them have either found their way to Camp/Planet Snoopy or been completely removed. Krazy Kars remains the sole survivor of the kiddie ride exodus to Planet Snoopy.  It also seems to suffer the same fate as the adult bumper cars, except it simply needs more cars.  Like Autobahn Krazy Kars also has had a name change, without a move.  Krazy Kars used to be known as Crashem Bashem.  But again, when Cedar Fair bought the park there was no children’s bumper cars known as Crashem Bashem in the chain, and plenty of Krazy Kars, so Krazy Kars it became, and has remained.

ELI/Worlds of Fun Railroad

ELI has quite a unique story to tell like most of the other original rides at Worlds of Fun.  When Worlds of Fun was planned, the ride was designed so that guests would not so much get a tour of the park, but instead a chance to see others at the park having fun.  That was so they could decide where they too could have the most fun.  Today, though the park has greatly changed, a ride on the WOFRR has not, atleast physically speaking.  There are many interesting points about WOFRR and ELI.  Of course most know that ELI was produced by Crown Metal Products, a company that while having gone out of business in the 80’s, was and still is known for its many steam engines it produced for parks and zoos across the country.  Crown Metal’s can be found as close by as Six Flags St. Louis and the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, and half way across the country at the two Busch Gardens Parks.  

Above: (Top): ELI from its original season in 1973.  (Bottom): ELI as it arrived at the park in 1972, while the rest of the park was under construction.

Today, ELI still provides a ride behind an authentic steam engine, with no electricity involved.  The engine itself has seen small updates and maintenance through the years, but is for all intensive purposes almost identical to itself of forty years ago.  For more information on ELI take a look at a fact sheet we created in 2010 when we worked as engineers aboard the train.

I again apologize for the quality of these photos, but they are the only one's we have of the actual train robbery from Yumma Yucca Mesa.
The train ride as you might imagine has been and still is one of the most popular rides in the park.  The ride itself has seen various changes over the years.  In the 70’s and early 80’s riders were treated to a “train robbery” at the then named Yumma Yucca Mesa (train turn around near Prowler), where the train was “attacked” by the James Gang. 

Many other changes to the train have been made over the years.  The Depot station, used to boast a small gift shop.  Would be riders would enter through the depot station, (which was home to wood train whistles and the like), and then enter the waiting area outside to wait for their ride.  Now of course, the depot is a retail storage room.  Boo Hiss.  Of course the train has been downgraded in capacity along with it seems almost every other original ride.  When the park opened the train boasted 6 coaches.  A few years later, that number was downgraded to 5, and it stayed that way until about 7-8 years ago, when another coach was removed.  Both coaches are now in the boneyard (the park’s dump so to speak behind Tivoli).  That has dropped the trains capacity as you might imagine by 1/3, a lot for a ride that used up to 576 people on each ride. 

ELI as it appeared in 2008, more modern times.

Do you think I would leave you the reader on that somber note?  No.  Of course not.  We should all be very thankful that ELI is still with us.  In fact, thanks to Hunt Midwest (Hey I love Hunt as much as any other WOF fan!) we almost lost ELI.  Back in the 80’s Hunt tried to sell ELI to replace it with two small diesel engines.  Thankfully, no one had interest in a steam engine back then, and there were no buyers.  ELI stayed with Worlds of Fun, to ride off into the sunset. 

So there we go, forty years ago these rides were part of the “60 brand new and exciting things to do”, in 1974 as my dad would have said they would have been “Somewhat new and somewhat exciting”.  Today, all 9 definitely have never stopped being atleast somewhat exciting. They may not any longer be anywhere that “somewhat new” definition, but though some would classify they as old I prefer to think of them somewhat differently …they are not old they are CLASSICS. Long live these great rides, and the memories they continue to make for all of us.