Thursday, September 17, 2015

Vintage Postcards: Kennywood Amusement Park!

It's time for more vintage postcards from the collection of GDB reader and contributor Ken Martinez! Today we're going to be visiting the venerable Kennywood park in Pennsylvania. Here's Ken with more info:

Kennywood is a traditional amusement park located on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River. It began life as a trolley park created by the Monongahela Railway Co. back in the late 1890's in order to attract riders to use the entire length of their line. A picnic grove park was established at the end of the line to do this. From that point, the park grew into what has become one of the best traditional parks in the United States.

Kennywood's swimming pool was a hit when it opened in 1925. The pool measured 350 feet by 180 feet. Note the large bathhouse along the far end of the pool and the fountain to the right. The fountain also featured special lighting effects at night after the pool closed for the evening. The pool closed permanently after the 1973 season due to maintenance problems.

One of several midways in the park, this one featured a Rock-O-Plane (manufactured by Everly Aircraft Company), a Laff-in-the-Dark ride and a 1950's "sci-fi"-looking kiosk. I love the architectural elements and designs featured at amusement parks from this era.

Visitors stroll along the curving walkway between the entrance to the "Racer" roller coaster and the Kennywood Lagoon. Other notable classic wooden coasters at the park are the "Jack Rabbit" with its double-dip drop and "Thunderbolt" which is continually rated as one of the top coasters in the world. Note the rowboat in the lagoon.

This postcard features the "Racer" in action. the Racer is one of only a handful of Möbius wooden racing coasters in the world, the other two being "Montaña Rusa" at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Mexico, and the "Grand National" at Blackpool Pleasure Park in Lancashire, England. a Möbius coaster as one continuous track, so when you board on the right side you will return on the left side or visa-versa, therefor only having ridden half of the actual track length.

I don't know what style this design would be called, but I love the look of this bridge. There are more rowboats pictured here.

Still as popular as ever, Kennywood has ben entertaining visitors who seek and discover this gem of a park in the Pittsburgh area for over 100 years. Hope you enjoyed. There are more Kennywood postcards to come.

Information source material:
Kennywood... Roller Coaster Capital of the World - copyright 1982 Charles J. Jr. Jacques
Kennywood (PA) - Images of America Series - copyright 2004 David P. Hahner Jr.
Roller Coaster Database

Thanks (as always) to Ken for his scans and all of his efforts to share these vintage postcards with us!


Nanook said...

Oh Ken-

Kennywood is my favorite 'traditional' amusement park - so it's a thrill too see these images form yesteryear.

Another wonderful "feature" of their Racer roller coaster is the number of places where riders of one train could outstretch their arms and join hands with riders in the other train. What fun.

Thanks, Major and Ken-!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, wasn't that dangerous? The new Twisted Colossus at Magic Mt. has a portion of the track where the passengers of two different cars can virtually "high five" each other.

I used to love the Rock-O-Plane ride at the traveling carnivals. Do they ever appear at carnivals these days?

All of the riders in the "Racer" cars seem to know that their picture is being taken. There is a guy in the green and yellow car that appears to be standing up and waving. What a showoff! I wonder if the girl on the right side of the front seat of the orange and yellow car was genuinely scared, or if she is just mugging for the camera?

Snow White Archive said...

The "Racer" riders sure do look like they're "posing" for the camera.

That's a massive pool. No wonder they had maintenance problems.

Greta vintage postcards!

Snow White Archive said...

Ah, I meant to write "great" vintage postcards. Not sure who "Greta" is. Maybe she's the girl in the front seat of the orange and yellow car looking scared. ;)

Nanook said...

@ TokyoMagic!-

Danger is my middle name. Actually, the speed of each train wasn't all that great, and it just seems like harmless fun.

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, Glad these brought back memories for you. It's amazing the traditions on coasters that seem to have been around forever like raising hands up above the head, joining hands when the dueling/racing trains align, goat tricks on runaway mine trains and/or blacking out on Goliath (which I nearly did).

TokyoMagic!, From what I understand, the joining of hands on the Kennywood Racer is a long standing tradition. I don't think park management would allow it if it was truly dangerous, but there's always a first time. What I have an issue with is the guy standing up. It doesn't matter what speed a vehicle is going. Standing up in a coaster is asking for real trouble, of course unless it's a B&M or Togo.

We do have a Rock-O-Plane up here at the Boardwalk, but they do seem to be rare at the traveling carnivals these days. In my book, it's a carnival classic right along with the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Snow White, I'm glad you enjoyed these greta postcards. I think they're greta too!

Nanook said...


Guilty as charged. I stood up on (many) coasters, and am still here to tell about it. (Not the Racer, however).

I did enjoy standing up on The Revolution - and, NO, not in the loop - I'm not quite 'that' crazy-!

There is something to be said about raising your center of gravity.... And being in the front seat just makes it that much more thrilling.

K. Martinez said...

Nanook - No wonder you hate the OTSRs on The Revolution. So no seatbelt or lap bar? Or did you just raise you butt off the seat a little? One rider got killed on the Giant Dipper years ago when he stood up from his seat while riding the coaster. I'm glad you made it.

Nanook said...


No seatbelts at that time. When the ride operators would push/pull on the lap bars to make sure they were locked, I always pushed myself forward in the seat, so the bar wouldn't be tight up against my waist once the ride got underway - making it easier to stand up later on. The real trick was pushing the bar away from you when the train was in the loop, as centrifugal force tended to push the bar back down as the train was coursing through the loop. Well - you still want to be able to stand up through the final lengths of the track... Whhhheeee.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I remember seeing a documentary about Kennywood years ago (on PBS, I think)… I sure wish I could have seen it back in its early days! But it looks pretty great in Ken’s postcards too.

TokyoMagic!, wow, have you ever seen people on Twisted Colossus reach out to each other? I had no idea the cars got that close. I noticed that the “Racer” riders were all looking at the camera. I’m guessing that the girl was screaming (for fun), but you never know.

Snow White Archive, sure, that pool is big, but jeez, it seems like a shame to just tear it out. I still remember going to a municipal pool in southern Minnesota, and it was packed with kids every day of the summer. I wonder if it is still there.

Snow White Archive, ha ha!

Nanook, it all seems like harmless fun until someone’s arm gets torn off!

K. Martinez, funny you should mention blacking out on Goliath; I was fine on that ride, but I think I “grayed out” on Viper years ago. It was weird! Standing up on a coaster really does seem like a terrible idea, I wonder if there is any record of people flying out of the Racer.

Nanook, the loop would probably have been the safest place to stand up, since you would have been forced into your vehicle by the centrifugal force. But it sure would have been scary!

K. Martinez, if you have ever been on “Tatsu” at Magic Mountain, you would be grateful for those restraints. MAN, that thing is intense, and when you are way up high, moving slowly, and hanging in a “flying” position… it’s about as scary as anything I’ve ever been on.

Nanook, I thought you said that you didn’t stand up during the loop!

TokyoMagic! said...

Now I just remembered something I did more than a few times with a friend of mine when we were in our "teens". We would request separate seats on the Matterhorn so that we could undo our seat belts, and then we'd turn around and ride it backwards. DUMB!!!

Major, I haven't seen Twisted Colossus in person, but I read an article that referred to the part where the tracks turn inward (almost sideways) towards each other as "The High Five". It stated that riders could "almost" high five each other at that part of the track. I don't think these days they would ever build something new that allowed for guests to touch the riders in a neighboring car. Heck, I don't think they can build anything new these days that would allow riders to reach out and touch the interior sets or walls of an attraction. Isn't that just one of the many problems with Disney bringing the PeopleMover back?

Nanook said...


Oh no - I didn't stand up in the loop - you never know what damage might have been done to my neck or spinal column if the forces were too intense. I just meant I needed to keep the lap bar set at its original 'loose' position so once the train was exiting the loop, I could stand back up again.

K. Martinez said...

Major, I've never been on Tatsu, but it sure looks like a lot of fun. I have no problems with the restraints, but I don't fit on the Viper because of the OTSR (over-the-shoulder restraints). I'm tall and my torso's longer than the average tall guy, so it's too painful. For that reason, I haven't ridden the Viper at Magic Mountain or the Demon at Great America for many years. Strange thing is I could fit in them I was younger.

TokyoMagic!, I must've been a real square when I was a kid and teenager because I pretty much followed the safety and courtesy rules when visiting the parks and riding the rides. Even then I'd still get an occasional injury because I was tall and would hit my head on something.

Nanook, So, are you going to go for it again and stand up on the "New Revolution" coaster trains minus the OTSRs when they debut in 2016?

Back in the 1970's when I worked on the Giant Dipper, I'd push down each lap bar firmly and pull back up on it to make sure it was snug against the riders laps. If the lap bar didn't go under the rider's stomach and snug against the waist and lap with their butt and back firmly into the bucket seat, the coaster train wasn't going anywhere. If I suspected someone of pulling a fast one, I'd make direct eye contact with them so they understood I meant business and to cooperate. As ride operators, We were trained to be strict when it came to guest safety and we were.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I wasn't too much of a rebel.....just a little bit. I didn't know that Magic Mt. was redoing Revolution! I LOVE Revolution, but I didn't like the added OTS restraints either.

Nanook said...


I don't know if my inner-ears could deal with the "mild" thrills I experienced in yesteryear. If it weren't for all the lines at seemingly every single attraction in any park - I might give it a go. But I'd need to keep re-riding the coaster to get used to the G forces. I'm not half the man I used to be-! Hey, wait - that's (a modified) line I shouted-out during the screening of Aliens.

Nancy said...

Kennywood Park is my home park!! As you can see, very art deco, most of which is no longer there. I love the cool.

I never went in the days shown here; our school picnics were at West View Park, so my first visit to Kennywood wasnt until I was a sophomore in HS, 1972. It is a charming place, much like Disneyland, but of course on a much smaller scale.

If anyone here ever gets the chance to visit, please be sure you do. I know of people who come back every year from out of state just to ride the Racer, Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit and all of the great rides they have there. :-)

Thanks so much, Major, for including her on your blog. Thanks as well to K.Martinez for sharing these great postcards. :-)

K. Martinez said...

Nancy, you came to mind when I was writing this article about Kennywood since you've talked about growing up in the Pittsburgh area in your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed. Now if only I had postcards of Monroville Mall.