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Historic Carousel and Coaster Still Thrill Riders At Western Pennsylvania Park

Idlewild Park (now Idlewild & Soak Zone) is the oldest amusement park in Pennsylvania (1878) and the third oldest in the-12 United Sates behind Lake Compounce  in Connecticut (1846) and Cedar Point in Ohio (1870).

A 332 acre site just west of Ligonier, PA, (now along U.S. Rt. 30) was acquired by the Legonier Valley Railroad and originally developed as a picnic grove.  The mountains were a popular summer retreat for Pittsbughers trying to escape the heat of the city and the park attracted crowds of visitors to the Laurel Highlands.   Eventually, it included campgrounds on both sides of the railroad right-of-way, an artificial lake created for boating and fishing, picnic tables, a large pavilion and a railroad station.

In 1931, the park was expanded and improved. Park Manager C.C. MacDonald planned and supervised the construction of rides, pavilions, lunchrooms, bandstands, and many attractions which are still part of Idlewild today, including a carousel built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC).

Still in operation today, PTC #83 was built in 1930 and spend the summer of 1931 at the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It was acquired at the end of the season by Idlewood Park as a part of its expansion.  It replaced a steam powered carousel from the 1890s.  PTC #83 is a classic wooden carousel with three rows of horses –28 jumpers, 20 standers, and two chariots.

In 1938, Idlewild acquired a PTC roller coaster.  Over the years, 147 wooden roller coasters were built by the company. Of these, 82 are still in operation today.

The Rollo Coaster was Idlewild’s first and only roller coaster for decades until the larger Wild Mouse coaster was erected in 1993. Built on a hillside, the Rollo Coaster has an out and back format and uses skid brakes operated manually with a lever. The ride features two trains, with up to twelve riders per train, and is located near the PTC #83 carousel.

The Rollo Coaster is built over steep hillside and the ride features many tight twists and turns which create a surprisingly exciting two minute ride and a sense of much greater speed than its 25 mph.

To learn more about Idlewild Park & Soak Zone
see idlewild.com.  When planning to visit Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands see laurelhighlands.org.

About the Author

In 2000, following a long and successful career as head of his own public relations agency, Jim became a freelance travel writer. In 2003 he was named travel editor at New York Trend. Jim travels widely in North America and Europe and has also visited in Asia, Africa, and Central America. He enjoys writing stories that bring alive his travel experience and entice the reader to visit new destinations. Jim is a member of the International Association of Black Travel Writers.

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