In an earlier post I expressed my disappointment upon realizing that when The Great Escape announced they were to bring back some of the old Storytown relics, they meant as roadside scenery to the fifteen minute train ride. Well, tonight I found a video clip of that ride, featuring the Storytown relics.
It has literally been decades since I have ridden that route on any Storytown train. During my last trip, the person I was with and I were all set to ride it, however, her ten year old son was about to ride solo on the Boomerang and I kept saying things like, “You’d never catch my ass on that thing”, “I wonder how often they do safety checks”, and “Have you ever visited that site where they report all the amusement park accidents and deaths?”. After that she pretty much yanked me out of the line because she was all concerned for her kid. I can’t imagine why.
What it is, to be exact, is a final farewell to the original park and it’s legacy. At least, that’s how I see it. First, Storytown USA, some of the fairytale monuments which used to reside where Timbertown now is. Then it’s Ghost Town, some scattered about wagon wheels and buggy parts and an old stage coach replica. Lastly, it’s Jungle Land.. which I have to say, pains me the most.
You might want to keep watch on the young girls who can be seen throughout the video sitting in front of the camera man. They look at the relics in wondrous curiosity, never to know where they truly came from or what they mean to people like myself. They will never have the pleasure of climbing on PoPo or standing in the mouth of a giant whale (who sadly is not seen on this train ride with his friends). They will never have to worry about Humpty Dumpty falling down or seeing mice run down the clock. They won’t be scared to walk through Jungle Land because there aren’t any animals there anymore. Ironically enough these previously animated and joyful creatures have been taken from their natural environment and reduced to depressing, motionless, silent statues. Just like the animals in the circus.
I had forgotten just how isolated the ride is from the actual park. It’s not only creepy but it also seems fitting considering the Storytown relics which have been sequestered there, like artifacts in a museum. Look but don’t touch and before you have a chance to really see them, they disappear before your very eyes. The only way to see them is to ride the train (or swan boats I imagine), like a time machine, taking us back, if only for fifteen minutes, reminding us that “nothing gold can stay”.
Perhaps I am too sentimental over things like this. But without sentiment, life would be somewhat unbearable. Maybe I should just be grateful these relics still have a place in the park, no matter how hidden away they are. Without them, The Great Escape would also be somewhat unbearable.
It’s funny how other people’s memories ignite my own. Park rides and attractions aside, my absolute favorite part of Storytown USA was Ghost Town. Even as a small child. I can only conclude it is because growing up my favorite television series was Little House on the Prairie, and Ghost Town reminds me of that. Looking back in retrospect, I should actually have an aversion to that section of the park.
My first trips to Storytown were when I was quite young, and I could be wrong but I recall going every year for a period of ten years or so. Well, my most vivid memories of being there at such a young age happen to include my first legitimate childhood trauma, being forced to ride the Desperado Plunge. My very own mother forced me to ride the Desperado Plunge. But it wasn’t just the ride itself. Oh no. If you recall, the waiting period for that ride was at least thirty to forty minutes long. So imagine being forced to wait in a line that long for something that absolutely terrified you, by someone you were supposed to have trusted to protect your life. You would be screaming and crying the entire time too. And, to add insult to injury, they all fucking laughed at me, the entire time! Excuse my language. Some family I had. Anyway, by the time I was actually sitting in the log flume, I was fine. I don’t know what I was afraid of. Every year I had to ride the damn Desperado Plunge, yet every year I gave the queue stairs a much needed cleansing with my tears.
I guess I found a lot of scares and creepiness in things that simply were not scary or creepy to the average person. It’s my nature. The line to the Plunge was almost like the ride itself. The fear came from dread because once you were on the actual ride, you knew what lay ahead and you knew there was no turning back. The ride itself was short, which somehow made the climax worse. Once we reached the peak of the plunge, just before entering the covered area before the main drop, looking to the left gave us a pretty darn good view of what we were now facing, the final drop. Once inside the vestibule, we could see those creepy statues working on whatever creepy shit they had going on inside of there, and I knew what was coming next. With a swift left handed turn, right before the rocking boat tipped over the edge of the massive slide, we plunged head first into a pool of dark murky water. Don’t you know? That’s where the animatronics from Jungle Land were waiting to get me. Just thinking about it gives me the chills. So funny how the mind works.
Ahh, but nothing, I mean nothing could beat the train ride through Ghost Town. Nothing! I remember this fondly and I often think about it as being the most pleasurable experience for me as a youngin’, as far as rides are concerned. It was great. I heard that bell clinking and clanging and I knew it was time for those people to get off and for me to get on. Because back then that train ran it’s track around the Plunge and through a replica ghost town complete with horses and wagons and dilapidated buildings. But that’s not all! The train also ran through some caves which surrounded the Plunge, and quite possibly caves that the Plunge was built over? I am not sure, it was a long time ago. But they were great. Neon dayglo and cowboy lookin’ men worked hard in those caves. It was dark, quiet, and cool. A nice relaxing ride through the old west. I always got the urge to jump out of the train car and into Walnut Grove.
One thing I do regret about being so young at that time is that I was not old enough to enjoy the saloon. Not really. The last time I sat in the saloon was in 2005, my last trip to the park. Although I was an adult, I didn’t buy any beer. It was rather desolate and dark. But as they say, the show must go on and go on it did. I don’t remember the performance.
I love the idea of time travel and I feel sitting in the saloon in Ghost Town was as close to time travel as I’ll ever get. I wish I could go back when it was really alive and enjoy it.
In 1967 Storytown acquired a dark ride called Tornado, which you can read about here. Fortunately I did take advantage of this ride before it’s removal in 2003. It fit perfectly with the old west themed area and it’s a shame they removed it for the Canyon Blaster.
In 2003 the train and tornado were removed to make room for the Canyon Blaster. See press release:
LAKE GEORGE, N.Y., February 4, 2003 – A visit to The Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom in 2003 will be quite a blast as the Lake George based theme park announced plans Tuesday for its newest ride, a mine train roller coaster called the Canyon Blaster. The Canyon Blaster is the park’s sixth roller coaster, catapulting it into a whole new stratum of excitement and entertainment.
At a news conference in Albany, N.Y., vice president and general manager John Collins announced that the Canyon Blaster will be located in the Ghost Town section of the park, just east of another roller coaster, an indoor ride called the Nightmare at Crack Axle Canyon. Both the Tornado and the Ghost Town train will be removed to make way for the Canyon Blaster, which spans nearly half a mile (more than 2,000 feet) and rises to a height of 56 feet.
“The Canyon Blaster is an outstanding family ride, which dovetails nicely with our reputation as one of the best family theme parks in the Northeast,” said Collins. “With two lift hills, a speed of 45 miles per hour, a run time of more than two and half minutes, and a thrilling double helix to end the ride, the Canyon Blaster will be both challenging and welcoming for many of our guests.”
The Canyon Blaster is just the latest in a string of improvements and innovative new rides that have been added at The Great Escape since Six Flags, Inc. purchased the theme park seven years ago. Among the additions are three roller coasters – the Nightmare at Crack Axle Canyon, Alpine Bobsled, and Boomerang Coast-to-Coaster – as well as the Skycoaster, Lumberjack Splash wave pool, Paul Bunyan’s Bucket Brigade, and an Olympiad style grand prix go-cart track.
When the Canyon Blaster opens at The Great Escape in the summer of 2003, it will mark the rebirth of this steel mine train coaster which was originally manufactured and designed by Arrow Dynamics Inc. more than thirty years ago. (The term mine train is typically reserved for a coaster designed to simulate the movements of a runaway mine train – aligned closely with the terrain, distinguished by small, quick drops and turns). Arrow was commissioned to build the Canyon Blaster for the 1972 grand opening of the Opryland USA theme park in Nashville, TN. For more than a quarter of a century, the Canyon Blaster operated as the Rock n’ Roller coaster at Opryland, providing thrills for millions of fans.
However, on January 1, 1998, Opryland shut down and the Rock n’ Roller coaster was silenced. Six Flags purchased it and shipped it to the Adirondacks to begin life anew at The Great Escape.
The Canyon Blaster, thus, has something very much in common with The Comet, the wooden coaster that many consider the signature ride at The Great Escape. Just like the Canyon Blaster, The Great Escape rescued The Comet from possible extinction when it purchased the coaster following the demise of Crystal Beach Amusement Park in Ridgeway, Ontario, in the late 1980’s. The Comet was trucked across New York state – piece by piece – and reassembled at the Great Escape where it reopened to an adoring public in 1994.
While site preparation for the Canyon Blaster is underway, The Great Escape on Tuesday unveiled one of the cars that will make up the 3-car Canyon Blaster train. Each of the cars will have a distinct color combination: red with yellow and gold trim, yellow with beige trim, and blue with silver and gray trim. Up to two trains will run continuously along a cherry tomato track supported by columns outlined in smoky topaz.
Sporting an aesthetically pleasing and unique design, the Canyon Blaster will be able to accommodate as many as 30 riders at any one time. The minimum height requirement is 42 inches.
The Canyon Blaster is scheduled to open during what will mark The Great Escape’s 49th season. The park originally opened in 1954 as Storytown USA, then a five-acre theme park commemorating Mother Goose. Today, The Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom are two parks in one, spanning more than 140 acres of land, featuring more than 125 rides, shows and attractions.
The Canyon Blaster will join The Great Escape’s five other roller coasters which include: the Nightmare indoor coaster; the Alpine Bobsled; the Boomerang Coast-to-Coaster; the Steamin’ Demon, and of course, the legendary Comet which dates back to 1948 and has repeatedly been selected as one of the world’s top ten wooden coasters.
The Great Escape is owned by Six Flags, Inc., the world’s largest regional theme park company with a total of 39 parks in North America, Europe and Latin America. Six Flags parks serve 35 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Six Flags is a publicly held corporation with corporate offices in New York City and Oklahoma City. The Company’s stock trades on the NYSE under the symbol: PKS. American Online keyword: Six Flags.
In 2003 Ghost Town lost it’s charm and it’s magic. I remember it fondly and grieve for it’s passing.