Pennsylvania's Picnic Groves and Trolley Parks (PAGE 3 OF 8)
by Phil Gould
: Added February 2013
Conneaut Lake 

Starting life in 1892 as a picnic ground the park aimed to take advantage of the area's natural beauty. Rides were introduced some years later. In recent times the park has struggled to survive and is now operated by a community trust. Some of its attractions are standing but not operating (some of these are barely standing) but many of its historic rides are still providing fun and laughter to visitors as they have done to generations before.  

Much as I tried I could not arrange a date when I could visit the park in opening hours on my tour. But as I heard this could be one park that might not be here next time I visited the States I thought I would stop off anyway. An air of melancholy seemed to hang over the park when I arrived in the early evening.

Close to the entrance were three rides a Sellner manufactured Tilt a Whirl dating back to 1949, a Hrubetz Lifting Paratrooper from 1981 and a Flying Scooter from the defunct Old Indiana Fun Park. Walking along the tree lined Park Avenue I spotted The Tumble Bug. Installed in 1925 this is the only other example of the Harry Traver built ride still in existence. It looked in pretty good condition too.

Opposite this ride was the park's roller coaster the Blue Streak. Built in 1938 it is the only surviving Edward Vettel shallow track designed coaster still in existence. The ride was constructed to run through the woods and It was very difficult to get any photograph of the track as when I visited thick foliage obscured most of the structure. In an adjacent building was the Muller Carousel that dates back to 1910. This was all shuttered up so I didn't get to see the ride itself. Across the midway from these rides were the park's bumper cars. Built in a permanent building. The park has been home to a set of Dodgems since the 1920s although the original version burnt down and the ride took up residence at its current locations in the following decade.

The main midway is called Park Avenue but this is intersected by Comstock Street and a number of attractions are built along this thoroughfare. The first ride I spotted was the Devil's Den a Pretzel Manufacturing dark attraction that dates back to 1968. It is gravity driven and there is a dip outside the dark section. A notice informed visitors that the ride was not currently operating. Next to this was the Witches Stew. This Watkins ride had only been installed in 1991. The generic name for this ride, which consists of four drums that are attached to two spinning arms and a main arm, is Tempest. It enjoyed limited success in the UK during the 80s when a couple of examples travelled and Butlins Holiday Camps installed some in their amusement parks. I had ridden Mulhern's version and remember that if you got a long ride you would come off feeling queasy. Next to this was a Chance Trabant that only arrived in 1997. I thought it is worth mentioning as these are becoming a rarer site in the USA and virtually non existent in the UK.

Walking across Comstock Street I came to the park's Kiddieland which is a veritable treasure trove of vintage rides. The entrance only dates back to 1992 but is modelled on the original one and does feature the original Bobbiehead looking down on youngsters.

Many of the rides were built by Allan Herschell. These included a Little Dipper dating back to the 1950s, carousel, boat ride, car ride and the Jolly Caterpillar. The shell of the restrooms, which were set on fire in 2010, are still crumbling in one corner.

Heading back to Park Avenue and moving towards the lake I found the an avenue of stalls and souvenir shops. Ornate wooden lamp posts lined the way down to the lake. The burnt out remains of the Fun House/Ultimate Trip building was just about standing. Adjacent to this was the remains of a Chance Toboggan coaster and Round Up. To say they were standing but not operating was something of an understatement. I doubt either will operate ever again. This brought me down to the water's edge where I found the Beach Club and the Hotel Conneaut. Apparently a Roll O Plane (Dive Bomber) had operated up until 2011. But this had been removed with a view to being renovated.

It will be a shame if this park did close as it occupies a unique position. I get the impression that both the Trust and local community want it to survive just that they are lacking the finance for major investment at the moment. However a couple of months after I had returned from the States I spotted some good news on the internet. Conneaut Lake had enjoyed a successful season and in 2013 the park would open on Mondays too in the main season. That would mean it only remained closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Let's hope this is the start of a more stable chapter in the park's history.                              


The Tumble Bug. Picture: Phil Gould

The Devil's Den dark ride. Picture: Phil Gould

The entrance to Kiddieland, "a veritable treasure trove of vintage rides". Picture: Phil Gould

The remains of the Fun House building. Picture: Phil Gould


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