While looking at early 1900 clips for today's Steeplechase post, I found this 2 minute video that shows the action of a giant merry-go-round similar to the Luna Park one I showed in my last post, Unique Merry-Go-Rounds. It's right at the beginning of this video, Let's Go Coney! Island (1932) and used courtesy of British Pathe TV which has an extensive library of documentaries, movies and historical clips like this on YouTube.
Images of Steeplechase rides fascinate me because the closest I've seen at present day midways are usually the type where you squirt water, or roll balls, into a funnel-type hole and the amount of balls, or pressure, moves your horse, or other animal, racing across the booth. But watching a horse race, and riding a horse in a race, are totally different experiences.
Steeplechase rides involved full-size horses which raced around an inside-outside track that often ran the circumference of the amusement park. They were fast, cozy rides where wooing men could hug their sweethearts as a safety feature without fear of reprisal. Children rarely rode alone, and safety straps weren't used until the third or fourth decade of the 20th century.
This black and white undated image from Wikimedia shows the Steeplechase Ride in action at Coney Island, New York.
|The Steeplechase Ride, Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, NY, undated. Courtesy of Wikimedia|
This next image is a postcard of the same steeplechase ride at Coney Island, but with a different view. Also called derby races, they were the closest ride one could get to racing without a live horse, although derby rides were mostly used on carousels. (I'll cover carousel derby races in my next post on October 5th.)
Steeplechase Ride, Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, NY, undated postcard
The following 33 second clip of the Steeplechase Mechanical Horse Ride at Steeplechase Park is fun to watch, either here, or on the YouTube site where you can read the comments of people who actually rode this ride back in the day. I can't quote them here, but it's very interesting that the ride was fast and there wasn't much to hang on to.
The Forest Park Amusement Park in Chicago, Illinois contained the only Steeplechase Ride in the midwest. Built in 1909, the 6-track ride was gravity-driven whereby the wooden horses were pulled up the incline by chain, and then allowed to glide down and around the track like a coaster. Since the more weight the horse carried, the faster it went, romance-hungry couples used the ride as a way to squeeze tight without raising eyebrows.
|Finish on Steeple Chase, Forest Park, Chicago, Illinois, undated. Courtesy of Living History of Illinois and Chicago Digital Library|
Forest Park's Steeplechase Ride was half of a mile long and built between the Chutes lagoon and the Giant Safety Coaster, as shown in the following postcard. Both Forest Park postcards are courtesy of Living History of Illinois and Chicago Digital Library.
|Steeplechase Ride between Chutes Lagoon and Giant Safety Coaster, Forest Park, Chicago, Illinois, undated. Courtesy of Living History of Illinois and Chicago Digital Library|
Although popular, in 1913 Forest Park razed The Steeplechase Ride along with others during restructuring to make room for newer rides. Today, the Eisenhower Expressway cuts across the location where Forest Park's Steeplechase and other rides once provided family entertainment. (Source: http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/pdf_files/Forest_Park_Amusement_Park.pdf)
A gravity-powered 4-track steeplechase ride, Peck's Prancing Ponies, existed in Old Orchard Beach, Maine from about 1910 onwards. The 1909 patent by Charles F. Peck states, “The invention…will give the passenger a rocking motion similar to that which is obtained by riding a horse without injuring the person or any undue jarring during the manipulation of the device.”
|Peck's Prancing Ponies, Sea Side Park, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, undated.|
Peck was right in that it was the nearest thing to riding a live horse, but from the videos and comments of a similar ride at Blackpool, UK, The Steeplechase is a thrilling and scary ride filled with jarring bumps and turns. How do I know? The Blackpool Pleasure Beach website states this:
Get ready to ride the Steeplechase! Swing your leg over your very own horse and buckle up ready for a race with jumps, twists and turns. The Steeplechase is a one of a kind three lane steel coaster where there can only be one winner!Under the usual height and physical ability requirements, we see you need the ability to keep your posture under "dynamic conditions" as well as "withstand high G-forces and/or sudden changes in direction of forces." Basically, they are the same as for any high-speed coaster.
Although the Steeplechase ride at Blackpool wasn't opened until 1977, it is a very good representation of the ones that have been torn down to make room for "improved" rides. Blackpool's version runs 3 parallel tracks for a length of 1500 ft with 30 mph maximum speed reached.
Here's a video of this modern Steeplechase ride, Steeplechase (Track 2 Green), Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Mounted On-Ride POV, from the viewpoint of a rider using a GoPro attached to the grab handle:
On the other hand, if you want to see what it looks like to someone watching from the sideline, check out this cool video of Steeplechase - Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Off Ride where it looks like they're going very fast and you can hear the kids' screams to match:
The main difference I see between the original and the modern steeplechase rides is that the older ones weren't banked, therefore you didn't lean in and go smoothly around a corner, but stayed upright for a more jarring experience. And although I wouldn't want to lean over and stare at the pavement forty feet below, or another coaster crossing beneath my feet, I know that it's easier on the body if it's a smooth transition around the bend.
I sure would like the opportunity to try out a steeplechase ride if I had the chance.
In celebration of this month's release of Austen in Austin Volume Two, I'm giving away either a print or digital copy (winner's choice) of Austen in Austin Volume One to one person who leaves a comment on this post before midnight, Sunday September 11th.
Like the Austen in Austin Facebook page and keep up to date on all the giveaways of Volume One and Two.
Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, and The American Heiress Brides Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at:
They look like a blast. And completely unsafe! I love the images you found.ReplyDelete
Thanks Anita. I love revisiting our Austen stories.
Thank you, Deb. I'm so excited to read Volume 2, and because the stories are interconnected novellas, I'm going to set aside one weekend and celebrate Jane Austen's heroines by rereading Volume 1 and going right into Volume 2. Can't wait. :)Delete
Loved the videos! And yes! I would have tried the steeplechase if I'd had the chance. We never had one at any of the parks I went to when I was young, but I do remember when the local park had pony rides along a trail rather than the ones now where they just go in a circle. I was really surprised at some of the things women did in skirts in that first video.ReplyDelete
I know, eh, Vickie. I love watching the old videos because they give a true sense of the times. Old photographs are good, but people usually wore their best outfits and then sat for unnaturally long poses - not a true picture of real life. The videos however show spontaneous expression and examples of how the clothing reacted with body movements and other elements for a better picture of life back then.Delete
Thanks for sharing. :)
What an interesting post. I'd never heard of steeplechase rides, but as a "horse-crazy" girl I certainly would have loved them. These days I enjoy standing outside the corral and smiling as my grandchildren ride ponies at the local children's zoo.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Stephanie Grace. That's great that you bring your grandchildren to ride the ponies. Sometimes as adults all we see are the ponies going around in a circle and we forget that in a child's eyes that circle could be an enchanted forest or costumed parade - especially if we've filled their minds with books of adventure. You're doing good, Grandma. :)Delete
Thanks for stopping by and sharing that.
Wow! Thanks for sharing these great videos! Those merry-go-rounds look like fun...well not the one where you are sitting up on the edge, but the one where you are in the middle waiting to be flung off. And the Steeplechase rides look like fun, too. I would prefer the modern version, for safety reasons. But alas, all rides are out for me, because of a bad back. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.ReplyDelete
Oh, I hear you on the bad back. Not sure I'd want to be in that vulnerable position where I could get kicked, even if it looks like none of them are hurting. But my overall feeling is that it looks like "good, clean fun" and everyone is smiling, too.Delete
Thanks for visiting. I got you entered. :)
I have never heard of this before today! Oh my what a crazy ride that looks to be. I would totally do it! Thanks for the videos and pictures, it was fun learning about it.ReplyDelete
Good for you for getting out of the box! And you're very welcome. I got you entered. Thanks for stopping by. :)Delete
Anita, this was such a fun post! I loved the videos! Thank you so much for sharing!ReplyDelete
psalm103and138 at gmail dot com
You're welcome, Caryl. So glad you enjoyed them. I've got you entered for the giveaway. :)Delete
I've never even heard of these rides before! They look like such fun! I personally know quite a few people (including myself!) who would LOVE to try it out!ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing that, Elly. And that's why I love sharing these posts...because there is so much fun and good stuff buried beneath the boring history. :)Delete
I've got you entered.
Oh what fun!! What a fantastic post! And, yes. I agree. It would be fun to try out a Steeplechase ride!ReplyDelete
Would love to win a print copy of volume 1. Thanks for the giveaway!!
You're welcome, Sydney. I've got you entered. Thanks for stopping by. :)Delete
LOVED this and all the history and old photos!!! Thanks for the giveaway. It's on my TBR list.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Becky and you're welcome. I'm a couple days late responding, but I'm about to make the draw and your name is entered. :)Delete
Scary rides! I'll just stroll around and eat the fried food and sweets :DReplyDelete
betherin02 at gmail dot com
Oh yes to fair food, Beth Erin. I cannot go to a fair without buying an elephant ear, also called a beaver tail up here in Canada. My hardest decision is deciding on the topping, but invariably I go for the cinnamon sugar with apples. Sometimes the powdered sugar one, but it depends on the color of shirt I'm wearing since I don't want to show off that I've consumed this delectable fried bread that is loaded with calories... I just want to enjoy it and smile. :)Delete
Got you entered in the draw. :)
With the help of random.org, the winner of a copy of Austen in Austin Volume One is...ReplyDelete
Elly in Indiana!
Congratulations, Elly! You'll be receiving an email from me shortly.
Thank you to everyone who responded to this post.