The Double Ferris Wheel

We’ll file this one under: The Amazing Rides of the Historic Long Beach Pike.

The heyday of the Historic Long Beach Pike was from 1902 to 1955 (when Disneyland opened). It was one of five amusement zones in the United States. Rides were just being invented and Long Beach had some unique attractions, not found elsewhere.

The Double Ferris Wheel as designed by Ride Designer Trish Tsoiasue 8)

Built by the Allan Herschell Company of New York. the Double Ferris Wheel was designed by two brothers, Elmer and Curtis Velare.

The brothers called it The Sky Wheel, and it was a double Ferris wheel, with two wheels going in different directions. It was a built sort of like a teeter totter, with one wheel going up and the other down.

From Wikipedia:

“Two wheels of eight cars each were connected with an armature. The armature would allow loading/unloading of the lower wheel while the upper one revolved, then top and bottom wheels would swap and when both were loaded and spinning, several turns of the armature provided serious thrills.”

I don’t have images of the historic Pike’s double Ferris wheel that I can share, but I expect to start learning how to draw soon.

The photo I did find, was from a book of really great references, THE PIKE ON THE SILVERSTRAND, published by the Historical Society of Long Beach in 1982.

In the meantime, please check out the video of the double Ferris Wheel I created in LEGO(r) bricks as a LEGO Great Ball Contrapton. It looks nothing like the double ferris wheel created by the Velare brothers, but perhaps it can be the model for a new sort of ride!

The Amazing Rides of The “Old Long Beach Pike”

This post is a post in my digital notebook. All details ar subject to change and this post is subject to update.

The term ‘Wild West’ was usually attributed to the period before the Long Beach Pike, which was the name given to the downtown waterfront amusement area since 1902.

In digging around, even as little as I have yet dug, I am discovering the wonders and stories of the old Pike. In 1902, there was no Disneyland. The Long Beach Pike WAS the amusement. It seems to me, that in 1902, theme park rides were not created just by one or two large companies that hired ride designers. They were created by the companies of the ride designers themselves. The amusement areas were not coordinated by a single entity, they were participated in by different entities that delivered different rides. At least… It appears to me that this is so. Perhaps I am wrong. I’m still sorting through all the details, and will update this post when I find out more.

In one of the many discussions I have had about the ‘old Pike’, I was sharing about the influence of Coney Island and the similarites between Coney Island (which I’ve never visited, but now think I should) and the Long Beach Pike. Coney Island started in the early 1800’s and was a destination resort for the wealthy. The conversation went around to the role of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark in Coney Island’s development. However, it appears that Tivoli Gardens may be in a different category from Coney Island and officially opened in August, 1843 – later than Coney Island.

Regardless, I am discovering the very interesting rides of the old Long Beach Pike, and amazing facts about them.

I’m listing them here for my future reference, and expect that I’ll be digging around for more information on each of these.

This list is taken from Wikipedia’s listing on the Long Beach Pike, but I am copying it here as my working list.


  • Laff in the Dark, Dark ride featuring three animated ballyhoo characters over the facade center, a Laffing Sal, Laffing Sam and Blackie the Barker, which was the first to deteriorate from weathering.
  • River Ride, [dark ride] ride in cars. Spooks, converted to walk thru attraction. Voodoo Hut, walk thru attraction.
  • Round Up, a Frank Hrubetz Co. 30 passenger tire drive single trailer model 18-18.5 RPM, 45° tilt, with chain restraints.
  • Rotor trailer model with previewing platform. Sold to Magic Mountain as Spin-Out in 1979.
  • Alpine
  • Wilde Maus aka Wild Bobs
  • Loop-O-Plane by aka Hammer
  • Roll-O-Plane
  • Loop Trainer, aka Looper
  • Scrambler
  • Looff Hippodrome (1911–2005) with Carousel (1911–1943) see below.
  • Carousel (1944–1979), three course, open air.
  • Niagara Barrel), a wooden spiral slide (often mis-captioned as Bisby’s Spiral Airship.)
  • Horse Race, a W.F. Mengels Galloping Carrousel, two course, rocking style carousel.
  • Space Capsule, observation crane, also known as Moon Rocket and Kiddie-land Hi-Ride.
  • Octopus.
  • Crazie Maize, storefront House of mirrors.
  • Skooter, indoor Bumper car.
  • Dodgem, Reverchon flat ride bumper car.
  • Fun House, storefront walk-through of challenging paths.
  • Tilt-A-Whirl by Sellner, later renamed Tilt.
  • Super Trooper, umbrella ride.
  • Sharks Alive, diving bell, submersible shark tank view.
  • Sky Ride, Watkins chairlift.
  • Snowmobile.
  • Kiddie Land – a collection of several carnival style children sized flat rides and truck rides, such as “hot walker” style miniature boats and sport vehicles.
    • Giant Slide.
    • Go Karts, Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine powered go-karts.
    • Miniature Train (?-1979), a “Bud” Hurlbut steel coaches with gasoline powered ‘steam form’ locomotive.
    • Wheel of Fun, child Ferris wheel, 6 cages.
  • Sky Wheel, double Ferris wheel: Built by Allan Herschell Company of New York. Two wheels of eight cars each were connected with an armature. The armature would allow loading/unloading of the lower wheel while the upper one revolved, then top and bottom wheels would swap and when both were loaded and spinning, several turns of the armature provided serious thrills.
  • Davy Jones Locker- dark ride, ride on cars.

A variety of roller coasters.

Larry Osterhoudt and The Cyclone Racer

Larry Osterhoudt with his partial model of the Cyclone Racer.

I visited with Cyclone Racer enthusiast, Larry Osterhoudt on Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 3:00 PM.

Larry’s on a mission to re-create The World’s Greatest Ride, the old Pike’s Cyclone Racer roller coaster, on a new pier in downtown Long Beach. He’s spent years studying old photos and videos and collecting facts and tidbits, not just of The Cyclone Racer, but also of roller coasters of old around the USA.

It may seem like a Wild Idea, but we all know that some of the best ideas start as Wild Ideas. Whether Larry’s vision of a new Pike with a new Cyclone Racer will be realized, time will tell. Today I will share with you some interesting tidbits that came up in conversation with Larry that day. It’s not everything I learned that day, some I will save for another day.

Larry walked me through the 17 hills of the Cyclone Racer. I’d heard the number before but, not having thought too much about the way a rollercoaster works, the meaning of the 17 hills didn’t impress me. That day I realized this: The only conveyance of energy to the roller coaster car was then, and still is the chain that catches the car and takes it up to the top of the first hill.

After that, it’s all gravity and momentum.

The roller coaster needs to be able to complete the run each time, consistently, regardless of the weight of people in it.

This is what fascinates Larry Osterhoudt. Here is a video of the 17 hills of the Cyclone Racer design, as analyzed and captured in his engineering drawings.

Larry Osterhoudt shared with me his modeling of the 17 hills of the Cyclone Racer roller coaster.

Laffing Sal

I’d seen Laffing Sal before, so when I saw a photo of and reference to her in my new copy of Patricia Ann Stockdale’s book “The Long Beach Pike”.

I wondered. “Is that the same Laffing Sal that I saw up at the Musee Mechanique on San Francisco’s Pier 45?” I am sharing the video I took there… It’s not ‘our’ Laffing Sal, but is very close. The clothes and hat might be different.

I found a reference to Laughing (laffing) Sal on Page 45 of the book: The Long Beach Pike by Patricia Ann Stockdale.

Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam were large animatronic characters that were mounted above the “Laff in the Dark” attraction (ride) on the Pike. Wikipedia shares that another animatronic character, Blackie the Barker, was made by the same company and was also mounted above the “Laff in the Dark” attraction. Another site mentioned that Blackie the Barker was the first to deteriorate from the weather. Since they were made in the 1920s and 1930s, it would make sense that the Laff in the Dark attraction was built before or around those years. Let’s call it a research to-do point.

Funnily enough, when I brought up the subject of Laffing Sal, a visiting friend mentioned that he had seen the character at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. We looked it up, and sure enough, it was! It makes me wonder “What else is on that boardwalk?”

Wikipedia notes that “Laffing Sal (sometimes incorrectly called “Laughing Sal”) was produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) of Germantown, Pennsylvania during the 1920s and early 1930s. PTC subcontracted fabrication of the figures to the Old King Cole Papier Mache Company of Canton, Ohio.[1]

The figure stood 6 feet, 10 inches (2.0 m) high, including a 12-inch (30 cm) pedestal. It was made of papier-mâché, consisting of seven layers of pressed card stock with horse-hair strengthener, mounted over steel coils and frame. It did not come with a hat — hats were added by purchaser — but wore an artificial wig and was missing an upper incisor tooth.[3] The head, arms, hands and legs were detachable and were held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts. When activated, the figure waved its arms and leaned forward and backward. A record player concealed in its pedestal played a stack of 78 RPM phonograph records of a woman laughing. When the records finished, an attraction operator re-stacked and restarted them.[1] A woman named Tanya Garth performed the laugh.[4]

‘Our’ Long Beach Laffing Sal In the Movies and TV

The following references are all taken from Wikipedia.

The 1954 Technicolor 3-D film Gorilla at Large features Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam at The Pike (then called Nu-Pike) in Long Beach, California.

A 1963 episode of Perry MasonThe Case of the Two-Faced Turnabout, features the Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam at the Nu-Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California.

An episode of The Magician with Bill Bixby features the Laffing Sal at the Nu-Pike amusement park in Long Beach in the early 1970s.

The Cyclone Racer Roller Coaster

The last remaining car of the Cyclone Racer can be seen at Looff’s Pike Museum at 2500 Long Beach Blvd.

The Cyclone Racer Roller Coaster was conceived of by Fred Church and built by Harry Traver.(1)

The Cyclone Racer was a two train racing roller coaster that graced the Long Beach Pike between 1930 and 1968. Built to replace the JackRabbit Racer in 1930, the Cyclone Racer was 94 feet tall and had 17 drops(2). This wooden marvel was built on a pier that extended a couple of hundred feet over the water and, looking down, you could see the ocean through purposeful gaps in the pier flooring, making the ride even more thrilling. (3)

The turns and drops were designed so as to make you feel as if you would be thrown off of the car and into the Pacific Ocean. It was indeed a race as, although two trains left the station at the same time, the winning train varied and depended partly upon the load of the passengers in the car. (4)

It appears that there might have been seat belts that could be fastened(5) but lap bars had not yet been invented(6). Note: Upon conversation with Larry Osterhoudt, the part of the Leave It To Beaver episode where I observed a seat belt was observed being fastened, was filmed on the Pacific Ocean Park Pier in Santa Monica. Other parts were filmed on the Cyclone Racer.

The roller coaster was featured in episodes of “Abbott and Costello” and “Leave it to Beaver” (7).

Rides cost 25c for most of the time the Cyclone Racer was operational. Near the end, the cost was increased to 35 c. (8) Note: Later conversation with Larry Osterhoudt shared that the initial cost was 15c. We observed together a photo with a 10c re-ride sign.

The braking was initially done through exertion of physical force, requiring the ride to be operated by men. During the war, this was changed over to air-braking, as men were sent to war, and women took over the role of ride operator. (9)

Larry Osterhoudt, who runs website, is interviewed extensively for the video “The Cyclone Racer”, which provided much of the content for this post. Actual video of the ride in action is downloadable from this website, along with considerable amount of additional information for your reading pleasure.

I was able to check out the CD “The Cyclone Racer” from the Bayshore Library in Long Beach. I could not find a copy available for purchase.

In 2003 a bridge, which design evokes memories of the Cyclone Racer, was built over Shoreline Drive. The story of that bridge is very interesting, you can read about it in the Los Angeles Times.

IF you love wooden roller coasters, you can still see one up close at Knott’s Berry Farm. Called the Ghost Rider, it was built in 1998 and appears to still be operational.


(1), (2) –

(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9) the Cyclone Racer on the PIKE World’s Greatest Thrill Ride Video, Authentic History Productions, 2004