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October 19th, 2006

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10:03 pm - RIP Whalom Park Flyer Comet

1940 - 2006.

A friend of mine has died.

I wrote this on April 24, 2001:
On a bittersweet note, it appears that Whalom Park in Lunenburg might not open for the season. It was supposed to on Easter, as is its tradition, but it didn't. Now we're hearing possibly May, but possibly never -- the park hasn't been hiring and there's still maintenance to be done on the Flyer Comet that should've been finished at the close of last season. It doesn't look good.

One of the last old trolley parks (built on the end of a trolley line to attract fares), Whalom's an endearing old amusement park. There's no theming, no multimillion-dollar coaster, no extravagant stunt spectacular -- one of the park's bigger entertainment draws was the host of a local children's radio show -- but Whalom persevered over a century with a wonderfully old wooden roller coaster (the Flyer Comet) and a grand selection of flat amusement rides, like one of the last three Tumble Bugs remaining in the United States, and a Flying Scooters (from Mountain Park) that you can snap pretty well on a good day.

But Lunenburg is in Central Mass, off Rt 2, and deemed "hard to get to" by jaded metropolitan wanks. Riverside Park, 50 miles away, went Six Flags last year, and while Six Flags doesn't see Whalom as competition (they're mainly concerned with Lake Compounce in Connecticut) the attendance at Whalom has dropped considerably and you can most likely attribute that to the lure of the Flags. Add to this numerous (mis)management changes and a general feeling of malaise in the air and suddenly I'm really worried that the park won't open. The carousel will, however. It was auctioned off last year, sold by the piece, and now a group of concerned locals are buying the pieces back as much as they can. The carousel works, it runs, and has some animals back on it. It's lovely.

But as far as I know, I took the last ride on the Flyer Comet on Labor Day 2000. The park announced it was closing early that season (usually Whalom stays open through Halloween for a "Pumpkin Park" event) and so Greg Reid and I hurried over to Lunenburg and met up with the ACErs already there. We had a few minutes of Extra Ride Time after the park closed at 4, and after a particularly nice ride on the Comet, the platform guy just stopped and said "Ok, we're done." There were ACErs waiting to ride still. Nobody complained, because, really, you respect the platform crews like that. Or something.

I'm glad I didn't have that ride knowing it was the Last One. I might've put a lot more nostalgic melancholy on the memory than I did. The Comet was fun, as it always was -- and how it always should be. If it goes, I'll sorely miss it. But at least we were able to say goodbye.
"But you know," someone once said, "every year, when you were at Whalom on its last day, you always just kinda thought in the back of your head 'this could be the last one.'" I can't remember who it was who said it, but it was true.

Because then one time, it was the last one.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC)
I'd meant to e-mail you about this; guess I didn't have to, after all.

Why are they demolishing a roller-coaster with a bulldozer, instead of dismantling it so they could sell it?
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
The structure was too far gone. That's the first and foremost of it. The coaster stood unused since the end of 2000, so that's six years of the wood standing at the mercy of the elements without any kind of maintenance whatsoever. Wooden coasters require a lot of TLC, especially in a wintery off-season.

Second, the PTC train was sold off or scrapped, from what I remember, and third, the lift hill motor and chain were ripped off the ride and sold piecemeal. So for the last two years or so, what's been standing in Lunenburg has been a large collection of rotting wood. If any park wanted to save the ride, it'd have been cheaper for them to completely rebuild it rather than transport the existing wood. I can't think of any park that would consider buying up a large collection of rotting wood without a train or lift hill a sound business investment.

Not sure if plans still exist for the ride. It really was a simple coaster, however, but special. A traditional figure-8 with tunnel added to the back run. The coaster's special feature was a final curve that started out slightly banked, but you came out of the curve unbanked. An unbanked curve puts more lateral Gs on you than an unbanked curve, so you got this surprise sideways shove on the last turn, especially if you rode near the back of the train.

I've missed it for six years, I'll miss it for six more, but it's always harsh to see something being finally and utterly demolished.
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)
I swear to God, you should write obituaries.

My eyes always fill with tears when I read a Spatch Requiem.
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
Do you read anthrochica?
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC)
No, but maybe I should.

Those pics look to be of Lincoln Park. The big "dome" used to be a clambake pavilion.

... yup, the later pictures clinch it. That's the old Lincoln Park Comet. Awww.
[User Picture]
Date:October 21st, 2006 01:18 am (UTC)
They aren't the only ones. If you go back through her journal (is that creepy? I don't know) she occasionally posts photo sets of abandoned amusement parks throughout New England.
Date:December 11th, 2006 08:58 am (UTC)

Permission to quote you

Hi Mr. Spatch

I am writing a tribute article (no gory photos of the demolition) for my blog entitled - Legacy and Secrets of the Flyer Comet; please contact me as I would like to include your insights! mrtedglobal at hotmail dot com


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