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 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.


Michael said...

I remember the black on orange logo ring around the balloon. They put the white outline around the black approx 1996.

Julie Bottemuller said...

I was there June 4, 1973. My sister took me for my 13th birthday so my parents could re-decorate my room.

I worked there the Summer of 1978 and ate lunch everyday at Custer's Last Stand and had a crush on a cowboy that robbed Ole Eli!

I subbed as Sam the Panda for a week and lost 10 lbs. I was in a commercial but you couldn't see me because I was holding balloons behind the climber in the Alpine Village Play Area.

I worked in Uncle Sam's Skeeball Hall. I sold hats, t-shirts and balloons in Americana, Popcorn in the Orient, Candles and Candy in Scandinavia and Hats in Africa.I had so many costumes I had to have 2 lockers. I was there the day the Barnstormer malfunctioned.

I took my kids when they were little. But the last time I was there was July 2003. My daughter was about to turn 13.

This year my Grandaughter will be 9. It is about time we go back.

Koko Goldstein said...

My daughter and I were in the park a couple of weeks ago. I started chatting with an electrician. I mentioned that they had been busy. I had noticed several new signs and lights that hadn't been there a couple of weeks before. He said that they were working really hard on improvements. He also mentioned that as soon as the doors shut on the final day, Voyager was being taken out and replaced with a new ride. I don't know what it will be or if he should have actually told me that, but that is what he said. I guess we'll see.

Brody Johnston said...

It's too bad they are going to remove the octopus. ��

Shannon Rush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giggles The Gecko said...

It's too bad that only six of these nine rides still remain after 2017, I wonder how long till they are all gone. ;(

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ladi Leo Miko said...

After this year the Finish Fling, but as some people would call it the Floor Drop. It will be removed. So today my daughter, 18 & I, 42 rode it because it will be the last time we would get to ride it.

Ladi Leo Miko said...

After this year the Finish Fling, but as some people would call it the Floor Drop. It will be removed. So today my daughter, 18 & I, 42 rode it because it will be the last time we would get to ride it.

Ladi Leo Miko said...

After this year the Finish Fling, but as some people would call it the Floor Drop. It will be removed.

Unknown said...

Does anyone remember the saloon that had a slanted floor and pool table. Right by Cyclone sam