It was here in 1931. Gone ten years later!
Rocky Point’s Flying Turns coaster was by all accounts a thrilling experience. But the thrills were cut short by the hurricane of September 21, 1938; a storm that destroyed most of the park’s attractions.
For those who don’t know what a Flying Turns is, let me bring you up to speed, pardon the pun. Flying Turns is the name of a specific model of bobsled roller coaster. John Norman Bartlett, a British aviator in World War I, came to North America after the war with an idea for a trackless wooden chute, full of twists like a bobsled course, with toboggan-like cars, based on a bobsled ride that operated in Europe. He filed a patent for the idea in 1926. Bartlett met John Miller in 1928, and they commenced building the new ride. When the ride went into production, much of the idea was the same, but the cars looks more like monoplanes, which Bartlett designed. Miller worked on the loading station, supporting structure, braking system and incline.
Rocky Point’s Flying turns was the third such coaster produced. The first one at Lakeside Park in Dayton, Ohio and the second being the tallest Turns ever built — at Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Flying Turns was commissioned by then-owners of the park, the Castiglioni Brothers, who purchased the park as the Rocky Point Amusement Company in 1924. The brothers had heavily invested in the park since taking the reins, installing attractions to rival their New England counterparts, and leveling aging structures that were erected by past owners. Among the spectaculars they commissioned was the 77-foot high Wildcat coaster in 1926, built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) from a Herb Schmeck design. As you can see in the photo below, Rocky Point was hugely popular during the Castiglioni era.
By 1931, the Castiglioni Brothers were seeking another thrill ride. Major coasters had opened during the 1920s at several New England Parks, including Revere Beach’s Cyclone in 1925 and Lightning in 1927. Perhaps not wanting to top these coasters in size, the Brothers opted to bring in a coaster model not yet known to the East Coast. About the same time, PTC was recognizing the Turns’ potential and signed a licensing agreement with Bartlett and Miller to market the ride in North America—with the exception of the state of California. PTC’s Herbert Schmeck returned to Rocky Point Park to engineer the coaster but ran into some snags. Rocky Point had signed a 10-year lease with PTC to operate the ride so it’s not surprising that the company was intent on proving its ability to build the coaster. The ride opened late in the summer and Schmeck was required to stay on site for some time before he was able to get the ride operating consistently.
I’ve circled in red the Flying Turns in the 1931 aerial photo below.
At left is a shot of the loading station.
Below is the coaster at the loading platform.
And below is the lift hill.
As mentioned, ride was damaged by a storm on September 21, 1938. Judging from the damage inflicted by the storm as seen in this 1938 photo below, and given that the Flying Turns was located less than 100-feet to the right of this scene, it’s hard to envision a post-1938 operation. Yet, with the help of some lumber and the addition of some suspension cables, it was reopened in 1939 as one of the lone attractions at the shuttered park. It must have been a chilling experience riding the coaster with the ruins of the park around it. When the 10-year PTC lease expired in 1941, the Flying Turns ceased operations and was demolished.
Schmeck actually engineered a second Flying Turns for Hershey Park in August 1941. Due to the entry of the United States in World War II, and the resulting rationing of building materials, the roller coaster was never built.
In the years leading up to Rocky Point’s 1948 reopening, all traces of the Flying Turns were removed, and a new kiddieland and mini-golf were installed in its footprint.
If you’re looking for the former location of the Flying Turns at Rocky Point State Park, go to the area where the Flume once operated.
Photo credits: John Carothers, forestparkhighlands.com, Bob Goldsack, the You Must Be This Tall movie collection, George LaCross.
Research: Rutherford, Scott. The American Roller Coaster, MBI Publishing, 2000, p. 12
Rutherford, Scott (2004). “PTC built one Flying Turns at Rocky Point; Hershey’s ride was designed, but never built”. Amusement Today. p. 23.
Jump up ^ Jenkins Jr., Torrence (2006). Herbert P. Schmeck: The Forgotten Legacy. Knepper Press. pp. 91–93.
If you want to see a Flying Turns currently in operation, check out this video of the one built in-house for and October 2013 opening by Knoebel’s Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA.
Vintage footage from the circa 1929 Euclid Beach Flying Turns is here: