Posts Tagged ‘Polar Express’

With atmospheric footage shot in 2009, this new video by Steven Day vividly captures the late night scene at Coney Island’s legendary Polar Express. The independently owned ride on West 12th Street is famed for its mega sound system, live DJs, and long ride cycle with cars moving both forwards and backwards.

There’s also the allure of the crowd that gathers in front of the ride to see and be seen dancing in the street. Now required to shut down by midnight, the Polar Express as well as the rides at the now closed McCullough’s Kiddie Park across the street used to spin till 2 or 3 AM. Back in the day, Coney Island’s Himalayas would stay open till 4 or 5 AM!

The late Scott Fitlin, who made his family’s Eldorado Bumper Cars into a Studio 54-inspired disco palace with its own legendary sound system, once shared his boyhood memories of 12th Street’s Himalaya on the Coney Island Message board:

And back in 1969, I would be in my families place, and they would let me go out in the evening BY MYSELF, to go on some rides, everybody knew who I was so I was ok to walk around, and my dad would always tell me stay off of W12th st. The Himalaya was where the Black Spider is now, and they had the best sound and music at that time, a HUGE crowd dancing in front of the ride, and thats where my dad would always come find me. Hanging out dancing to Stax, and Motown in front of The Twins Himalaya! Then they would call out my name over the speakers from the DJ booth, and I would go up on the ride to the booth, Big Willie was the DJ, and he would show me how the ride ran, and the how the music was played. Then he would put me on the mic to scream out, HIMALAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Oh, I thought I was so cool, the stuff kids only dream about, I was doing!

And to a young boy, looking out at the street with what seemed to be thousands of people boogieing, THAT was THE ENTIRE WORLD for me right there! I honestly think that was the moment I got the sand in my shoes!

The Guerrero family, who own the Polar Express, have actually operated four or five different Himalayas in Coney Island, beginning around 1975 next to the Thunderbolt roller coaster. They moved the ride to Stillwell Avenue behind Nathan’s before buying the Himi on 12th Street from “The Twins.” The ride was later replaced with the Polar Express. In Day’s video, you’ll also catch glimpses of West 12th Street’s now demolished Bank of Coney Island and Coney Island Arcade.


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12th Street Amusements, Coney Island

Post-Sandy Reconstruction Underway at 12th Street Amusements, Coney Island. March 24, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

While Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park, Scream Zone, the Cyclone and Eldorado Auto Skooters opened on Palm Sunday, post-Sandy recovery was still underway at the Guerrero family’s 12th Street Amusements. A crew working on the Polar Express told ATZ they expect to have the popular Himalaya ride open for Easter Weekend. Their Saturn 6 and Bumper Cars are also expected to reopen by Sunday, but the Ghost Hole dark ride may take a bit longer.

If you’ve never gone for a spin on the Saturn 6, it’s a classic flat ride and a rare find. “Right now, I believe the only one in existence is at Coney Island,” says a ride fan on the CoasterBuzz forum. “Some people think the newer Dartron Hurricane’s are the same thing but the Saturn 6 cars are fastened directly to the arm in a manner so as they do not pivot when they are raised. This is one of those rides you can hear from way down the midway. The loud pop of compressed air being released as the arms raise up & down.”

Here’s a photo of Coney Island’s Saturn 6 in action a few years ago by amusement park photographer Jim McDonnell:

The classic Saturn 6 ride is part of 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

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