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Spins & Spills

Published: 
07 May, 2010

Last summer I visited the historic Sylvan Beach Amusement Park in Sylvan Beach, New York, and was pleased to find a Rotor. I hadn't ridden a Rotor in years. Riding the Rotor gives me the spins.

The original Rotor appeared in Germany back in 1955. Built by Anton Schwarzkopf, it was operated by its inventor, Ernst W Hoffmeister from Hamburg. The Rotor at Sylvan Beach is one of 38 that were made by Chance in the US. Most were sold to carnivals, but a few found their way into amusement parks. In the early 1970s, Chance manufactured both stationary and portable versions of the Rotor that are still found in several American parks, the last built in 1993 for Elitch Gardens.

Although you’ll still find a few doing the rounds in Europe (they seem to have been making a comeback in the UK in recent years), they are almost obsolete on the travelling circuit in the US, replaced by Wisdom’s modern-day equivalent, the Gravitron.

Like the Gravitron, the Rotor uses basic centrifugal force to pin its occupants to the outsides of a wooden cylinder. Once the optimum speed is reached and the riders are safely stuck to the wall, the operator lowers the floor, leaving riders stuck high up the wall. As the cylinder gradually slows to a stop, riders slowly slide down the wall eventually landing on the lowered floor. The Gravitron's floor doesn't drop; wimpy ride.

Discovering the Sylvan Beach Rotor took me back to an earlier time. it was the 1970s. I remember riding the Rotor at Crystal Beach, near Buffalo, New York. This was before pay-one-price at most amusement parks. Each ride required tickets. I loved the Rotor because, as long as you stayed on the ride or on the observation deck, you could ride at no additional charge. Six tickets? Ride forever!

Or at least that’s what I hoped. I liked to ride the Rotor upside-down. You would begin the ride against the cylinder laying on your shoulders with your feet up in the air. As the speed increased and the floor dropped away you were plastered against the wall head down and feet up. For just six tickets I did this seven times in a row, and got the spins. Big spins. I didn't feel well. I staggered to the top rail on the observation deck and hurled over the side into the bushes. A protein spill. But I did not leave the Rotor, so I could ride again. What a bargain!

I rode one more time, upside-down, and suddenly it no longer felt like much of a bargain. Spill number two. Lost my desire to ride anything else that day. Went home.

Yes, the Sylvan Beach Rotor took me back to an earlier time, but I did not ride it. Rotors give me the spins. From the observation deck it was fun to watch young riders experience the charm of the Rotor. I explained to several how to ride it upside down, but today's youth are just not as adventuresome as I had been. Or as foolish.








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