If there were two roller coasters that captured the imagination of Rhode Islanders in the 1960s into the early 1970s, they were the Wildcat at Rocky Point Park in Warwick and the Flying Fish at Crescent Park in East Providence. Anybody who rode them has a story to tell. Although separated by Narragansett Bay, the two thrillers were joined at the lift-chain, if you will, with twists and turns more confusing than the tracks they rolled on!
Before we get into (or onto) the Rhody coasters, a little history please. Both the Wildcat and Flying Fish were Wild Mouse-model coasters. Unlike traditional coasters which rely on steep drops, speed, and varying g-forces to generate thrills, Wild Mice employ flat, hair pin turns, which, when coupled with the narrow wheelbase of the cars, gives the illusion of derailment. In essence, the cars were bigger than the tracks! The hills on wild Mouse coasters mostly serve as a momentum boost in between tiers, although some were known to release ejector g-forces.
While the modern day coaster may have three sets of wheels…
… the older Wild Mouse coasters had a center track with inverted up-stop wheels sometimes known as “mushrooms”. The road rails and the paired central guide rail were fastened to U-shaped cross ties. Compared to more modern track structures, the track appeared impossibly flimsy.
The history of the Wild Mouse ride is unclear up until the late 1950s. Before then, there were some similar rides that appeared in Europe, such as Devil’s Coach, built by the German showman, Heinrich. It was in 1957 that the German roller coaster company, Mack Rides, claimed to have built the first wooden Wild Mouse (Wilde Maus) ride as we know it today. Yet this claim has often been discredited by coaster historians. This kind of coaster became extremely popular in both Europe and the States throughout the late 1950s, prompting a number of companies to build their own versions. One of those companies was Carll & Ramagosa, Inc., the former owner/operators of Casino Arcade park in Wildwood, New Jersey. In addition to their other business interests, the partners built rides, showcased them at their parks, and then sold them. One of these rides was their Up N’ Atom, in 1957.
By all accounts, Rocky Point Park purchased this ride right off the pier, so to speak. The purchase of the Up N’ Atom was even reported in Billboard magazine.
But shortly after it arrived in Warwick, things got weird. A clone of the Up N’ Atom began emerging near the Palladium — it was a coaster being built by park staff! In an interview found on the bonus feature disk of the movie You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park, longtime park employee Walter Bailey recalled:
“The Up N’ Atom had to be opened by the Fourth of July. And it didn’t open. They (park staff) took all the measurements of the (coaster’s) piers, and they built another coaster and they called it the Wildcat. They had to change where the people loaded and unloaded. And when the other ride didn’t open on time, Vincent (park owner Vincent Ferla) told them (Carll & Ramagosta) to take it out and the following year they (Rocky Point) opened the Wildcat. ”
But when all was said and done, a coaster named the Wildcat stood tall. And it was even promoted in this 1958 brochure as you see in the panel below.
But wait! Flip through the brochure and you’ll see a photo of the new Wildcat, or is it? Closer inspection proves this to be the Up N’ Atom once operating in Wildwood.
How could this be? Apparently the brochure went to the printer before the Wildcat was completed, hence, the image the park submitted was a postcard of the coaster they actually purchased – the Up N’ Atom of course! Is your head spinning yet? Hold on because the story gets better!
Carll & Ramagosa, Inc. announced in 1958 that it had sold a coaster to Crescent Park.
Question was, what happened to the coaster they sold to Rocky Point? The one that never operated?
The answer, it went to Crescent Park! Seems this Up N’ Atom had been retooled to become the Flying Fish!
The Flying Fish opened in 1959 on the site of the park’s former Pony Track. Patrons got a view of Narragansett Bay when the car turned to the left enroute to the first turn. Rocky Point’s coaster was to be erected on undeveloped land across from the Salt Water Swimming Pool in order to utilize the Bay view. But that ended when the staff erected its own coaster near the rear parking lot.
There is no known documentation of any bitterness from Carll & Ramagosa, Inc. over Rocky Point’s decision to clone their Up N’ Atom. But the partners did rename their new Up N’ Atom the Flying Tigers. Was it a jab at the Rocky Point Wildcat? You be the judge!
Meanwhile, the Wildcat had its passengers clawing on the handrails at Rocky Point.
And the Flying Fish attracted schools of fans at Crescent Park!
Most Wild Mouse coasters had a short lifespan. So how did the two fare in Rhode Island?
To be continued..
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall movie collection
Wild Mouse Research:
More about the Wildcat at