The German actor Heinz Rühmann, the American author John Steinbeck and the roller coaster “Leap the Dips”, located at Lakemont Park, have one thing in common: They were all born in 1902. Whereas the artists mentioned above left this mortal coil a long time ago, “Leap the Dips” is still operating as the world’s oldest roller coaster.
Situated in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the amusement park, founded in 1894, is more like a family park and cannot be compared with big players such as Six Flags or Disney – rather with the Dutch amusement park “De Waarbeek” which houses the world’s oldest steel roller coaster. Having an average speed of 16 km/h (around 10mph), the wooden coaster “Leap the Dips”, designed and built by Edward Joy Morris, is 12 m (around 41 ft) in height and its drop doesn’t even meet 3 m (around 9 ft), but it surely is one of the good old coasters and its elderly design creates a certain thrill.
Back in 1996, the ride was designated a “National Historic Landmark” by the American government – an award which strongly emphasises the coaster’s historical significance and which is rarely given. This implies a responsibility for maintenance. Therefore, restoration works of around one million dollar were carried out between 1997 and 1999. Due to the coaster’s old age, maintenance also played a very important part afterwards. The wood supports often need to be replaced and sometimes cars stall out, unable to gain enough momentum to finish their course.
Despite all adversities, they have managed to preserve this coaster for posterity instead of replacing it by a more eye-catching ride, because these old classics have meanwhile captured the visitor’s heart. At the present time, where things are rapidly exchanged by newer ones it is important to keep in mind “Oldie, but Goldie”.