Back in the summer of ’08, we had a chance to ask a visiting Zamperla ride rep if his company could rebuild Coney Island’s legendary Steeplechase Ride, which closed in 1964. His reply was to whip out his cellphone and show us a vid of the Pony Express-themed MotoCoaster. It had just opened at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., on Memorial Day Weekend in 2008.
Zamperla, which won a 10 year contract to build a new Luna Park on the City-owned former Astroland site and Stillwell parcels, is expected to announce their ride line up this week. Now that Zamperla is New York City’s new Coney Island Amusement Operator, we think there’s a pretty good chance the Pony Express will become the Steeplechase Express, perhaps in 2011 or 2012. Here’s a look at the Pony Express courtesy of a vid by Ryan Childers via YouTube…
According to Zamperla’s website:
The Pony Express comes with two trains, each accommodating up to 16 rides in an innovative pedestal seating design that maximizes safety, comfort and ride freedom. Using the time tested flywheel and clutch launch system, the PONY EXPRESS delivers a high energy ride with low energy costs. Seated two abreast on their own horses, 16 riders are treated to an exhilarating launch from 0–60 km/h (0-37 mph) in 2.5 seconds. The horses then race to the finish line along a 450 meter (1476 ft) track reaching heights of 14.7mt (48 ft.) through a breathtaking series of exciting 65 degree banked turns. Like the MotoCoaster, the PONY EXPRESS can be adapted to any theme. Let Zamperla design a custom layout and specialized theme for your venue.
The Zamperla Pony Express pays homage to the Steeplechase Ride, but it does differ quite a bit in design. Most notably, the horses are part of a single train instead of racing against each other on multiple tracks. Another big difference: The ride’s seating design and restraint system are new and improved to comply with current-day safety standards.
Park World correspondent and coaster aficionado Paul Ruben recalls the dangerous thrill of riding Coney Island’s Steeplechase Ride:
It was back in 1959 that I learned what it was that has two heads, four eyes, six legs and a tail. Do you know? A horse and rider. It was then I rode my first sit-astride coaster, the original Steeplechase horseback ride at Coney Island. Remember that this was the same park that featured the human roulette wheel, which you rode at your own risk. Back then the only seat belts were on race cars, and they weren’t always effective, either.
On the Steeplechase, the restraint system was a bar to hold. Since then I’ve ridden the Steeplechase at Blackpool, the old Cycle Chase at Knott’s Berry Farm, and now Darien Lake’s MotoCoaster. Most impressive on these newer rides is the progress made improving the restraint systems.
Related posts on ATZ…
April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!
January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!
January 14, 2010: Zamperla Ride-O-Rama: Rock the Disko Music Video
November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP