23 April 2010

A fantastically successful Coney Island attraction

There is a model of a rollercoaster sitting in the lobby of Disney’s BoardWalk, but what is the history of this early attraction? Turns out you don’t have to go far to get some information on the looping experience known as the Flip Flap Railway.

A deeper investigation of the lobby, which is filled with the sights, sounds, and feel of Coney Island reveals plenty of amusement history. One photograph that hangs upon the walls relates the following information about the Flip Flap Railway:
“George C. Tillyou, founder of Coney Island Boardwalk’s Steeplechase Park, once said: ‘Paradox: a successful ride must look extremely dangerous yet convincing that the ride in completely safe.’ The Flip Flap fulfilled both specifications, and was a fantastically successful Coney Island attraction.”

The Flip Flap Railway opened as part of Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park between 1888 and 1895, unfortunately, due to conflicting reports, a more accurate opening date cannot be determined. Designed by Lina Beecher, the two-seater, seatbelt-less coaster car would climb up the lift hill before sending riders screaming towards a twenty-five foot vertical loop that could impose a mind-boggling, for the time, twelve-Gs, before pulling back into the loading area. The Flip Flap Railway was the United States’ first looping rollercoaster, but, due to repeated complaints of neck and back strains or other injuries, the attraction was quickly discarded.

Whatever the stories, both factual and/or mystifying, it is nice to see a tip of the hat to the history of amusement attractions found in the heart of Walt Disney World.