Kennywood’s Past is Still Alive at Pittsburgh Museum
With Kennywood preparing for the record breaking Steel Curtain roller coaster in 2019, enthusiasts will spend the off season waiting in anticipation. A quick trip over to the Heinz History Center will provide enthusiasts with a large amount of Kennywood nostalgia from yesteryear.
The Senator John Heinz History Center has an impressive collection of artifacts related to Pittsburgh’s amusement park history. From the long lost Luna Park (inspiration for the 1990’s Lost Kennywood expansion) to amusement park trinkets, the history center has it all. For most enthusiasts the highlight of the experience will be the museum’s Kennywood archive.
The signature artifact is an the original car from the second Racer roller coaster built at Kennywood (the first Racer was built on the bluff where Steel Curtain is now located). The car is a 4 bench car, with leather padding and original lapbars. Built by Dayton Fun House, these operated from 1927-1982, when they were replaced by cars manufactured by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. The original cars were abandoned behind the coaster for many years, but one was eventually donated to the Heinz History Center. Before the park donated the train to Heinz, Kennywood’s maintenance team did a bit of restoration replacing some of the wood, upholstery, and repainted it using its 1970s livery. This restoration was necessary as the train had trees growing through it before it made its way to the museum.
If you look closely in the video, you will also notice Kennywood’s iconic height check figure on display at the front of the car. This is a reproduction of Howdy Doody, one of the cartoon characters used from the 1950’s through 1970’s to measure riders height before boarding not only the Racer coaster, but many other Kennywood rides.
Furthermore, the museum also has an original bumper car on display as well. The vehicle is from the Skooter ride, which operated at White Swan Park. The car was manufactured by the Lusse Auto Scookter, and was part of the Lusse 1959 production line. The car still remains in its original decorations and padding.
White Swan Park, located in Allegheny County near the Pittsburgh International Airport, operated from 1955 to 1989.
Aside from the two vehicles, a unique mural of late 1950’s Kennywood is also visible. The mural contains depictions of the Dipsy Doodle (Knoebels Flyers), Pippin (Thunderbolt in it’s original layout), Skooter, Sunlite Pool, Noah’s Ark, Bandstand, and Tumble Bug.
Vintage Kennywood artifacts aren’t the only items on display for theme park enthusiasts at the Heinz History Center. The museum is also home to a model of the first Ferris Wheel, which was built for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The ride was designed by George Ferris, a bridge engineer from Pittsburgh. The model was created in 2008 by students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Before leaving the museum, be sure to check out the gift shop. Visitors can purchase books about the history of local parks such as Idlewild and Kennywood. The books are incredibly detailed, and will entertain any enthusiast.
For more information, visit the official websites:
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