1893 to 2000
It seems so long ago…our last rides on the Flyer Comet at Whalom Park. I was lucky enough to be on the last train out of the station that day in September of 2000 – my wife Lisa is still upset that she didn't get a seat on that train – and although we knew this might be the last, the thought that Whalom might be sold and not open again seemed rather abstract and unreal. Close? Well maybe, but the Carousel was back in its bowler-hat building thanks to the efforts of a few – we got the added treat of a ride on her that night as well – so it seemed Whalom had a cat's lives and would awaken again in the spring. But the park that survived 2 hurricanes and the amusement park contraction of the ‘60s and ‘70s had fallen to family squabbles and the allure of then pricey real estate.
Our first experience at Whalom Park came rather late in its life; our first visit was during an informal ACE gathering on Labor Day 1999. (We were new to the coasting life in those days.) This was a real old time park; a little frayed at the edges, but not nearly in the decrepit state of some other small, old parks we have visited. It was easy to picture men in suits and women in long dresses walking these paths.
Whalom had a great collection of rides, some quite old and unique. One of the last Tumble Bugs in the country (not running that first day, but we rode it in 2000), a Looper, and the only single file go-cart track we've ever seen.
And then there was the Coaster – the Flyer Comet. While not anyone's top ten coaster, this fine old (1940) woodie was a fun mid-sized ride that was still operated with manual hand brakes. One mildly rainy day Lisa got a triple because the operator couldn't get the train to stop in the station. On another trip the teenage girl who was running the ride got the train stopped on the first brake with no problem. We then watched her pull and lean on the lever, taller than her I believe, for a minute, then she turned, jumped the track and bolted out of the station, leaving us there 10 feet shy of the station. A minute later she came back with a man she had apparently conscripted on the midway to give the brake lever a good pull. She had neither the weight or strength to release us into the station! But no one wailed or cried (and this was not a trainload of enthusiasts) – Whalom was like being at someone's backyard barbecue, and no one was worried. We figured she'd be back...
The Ballroom, which tragically burnt down in March 2002, was a great old echoy space – a little scary when it was dark and empty and you were trying to find the bathroom; loads of fun with a crowd of kids of all ages in costume at the Whalom Pumpkin Park Halloween Costume contest.
We made quite a few trips to Whalom during its last year of operation, including WNYCC's Coasterfest 2000, and closing day, September 4, 2000. There will never be another park like it.
-- Duke Maxwell
(Based on a Park of the Month article originally published in the WNYCC Gravity Gazette, June 2002)
© Copyright 2002/2010 John K. Maxwell - all rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author.