by Gary Radice
: Added October 2003
Who better to share their memories of the Virginia Reel at Blackpool Pleasure Beach than someone who actually worked on the ride during its final years? Ian Beech's 2003 interview and archive photographs here on themagiceye provide a fascinating insight into the last days of this classic coaster!
The Virginia Reel was not named after the way the cars 'reeled' down the track, nor was it named after the country dance of the same name. Quite simply, it was  named after Luna Virginia Riehl, the daughter of the ride's creator - a Mr Henry Elmer Riehl of New York USA who patented the ride on November 26th 1907 (Patent Number 872253).

themagiceye would like to convey its sincere thanks and gratitude to Rosemary Riehl (HE Riehl's daughter) Marjolane Ball (HE Riehl's daughter), and Rosemary's daughter Louise Virginia Poole for providing information to accompany the magnificent photographs on this page.

The photo top right shows Henry Elmer Riehl standing in the foreground to the right in front of the barrier. The baby being held is Luna Virginia Riehl
"...the man holding her is Virginia's Grandfather on her Mother's side. Daddy was associated with the Pullman Train Car Co. Detroit and was in charge of their exhibit at the Worlds Fair in Buffalo when he met Skip Dundy and Fred Thompson. They were showmen. They liked Daddy and asked him to back to New York with them where Mr Dundy had just bought Luna Park in Coney Island, and he offered him the management of it.
"When Virginia was born on 1 April 1908 Mr Dundy insisted she be named Luna (after his sister in whose honour Luna Park had been named).
"On the back of the photograph it states: 'Virginia Reel 1909 - Grandpa, Virginia - Dad and Mr Meyer'. I Don't know who Mr Meyer is."
Marjolane Ball
In the Mardi Gras photo on the right, HE Riehl is the man on the left. The person with him is again either Skip Dundy or H E Riehl's father in law.
Blackpool's Reel was built by William Homer Strickler, who was born in Chicago, USA. Strickler completed his masterpiece at Blackpool in 1922.
The ride stood for 60 years until it was replaced by The Ranger in 1982 and then a few years later by The Rainbow.
Today (2003) the Globe Theatre and cash machines now occupy this hallowed spot.
The Reel was Strickler's second commission at the Pleasure Beach; in the same year he also built the magnificent Noah's Ark.
Sadly, W. H. Strickler died following a fall whilst building the Noah's Ark at Southport (about an hour's drive down the coast) and is now buried in the Layton cemetery in Blackpool.


The Reel at Luna Park, Coney Island in 1909. Photograph: Marjolane Ball

The Virginia Reel on a float at Mardi Gras 1908. Photograph: Marjolane Ball

The Reel shortly after construction. Note the original Water Chute behind and no Fun House or Grand National - the Reel predated both of these rides and the Big Dipper. Photograph: Les Tomkinson Collection


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