When I arrived at Conneaut Lake Park this past July, there were maintenance workers high up on the lift hill. All roller coasters need maintenance and regular inspections, especially wooden ones that have structures that some describe as living or breathing. I never think of it as an ominous thing to see work being done (whether it be welding on a steel coaster or some sawing and hammering away at a wooden one). I was looking forward to riding Blue Streak and it was certainly the main draw to visit the park, and I believed the ride operator hanging around the station when he said that the ride would most definitely be opening.
Built in 1938, everything about Blue Streak is vintage, whether it’s the station, which appears to be entirely original, and especially the original train, still there on the maintenance track right there in the left-hand side of the station. Designed by Edward A. Vettle, the original train had been restored back in the early 2000s, but was no longer used due to revised state safety regulations in 2011. Vettle also designed the coaster itself (and nine others across the country, including the famed Zephyr at Pontchartrain Beach in Louisiana and the Cyclone at Lakeside Amusement Park in Colorado).
The Blue Streak operates with giant levers and a very old-style proximity alert (with an actual ringing bell) as the train is nearing the station on its return trip. After unlocking each row of seats manually, the riders depart at an exit just to the left of the lone entrance gate. Next, the operator gives a brief but mighty pull on the brake lever and Blue Streak inches forward to the loading area. There’s no real order to as to where you get to sit and we were directed into row 2, which was fine with me.
The current train is a 1960s era one designed by National Amusement Devices. Each row (of the 3 per car) has a somewhat perfunctory seat belt and a single nonadjustable lap bar. Sitting in the 2nd row was not a bad thing, I suggested to my cousin who was visiting the park with me, as you don’t sit on top of the wheels of the car, and often that allows for a smoother ride. Considering the ride had run since 1938 (except when it was standing but not operating from 1995-1996 and then from 2007-2010) it appeared to be holding itself together just fine. A $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant had saved this coaster after that last period where it didn’t run and allowed for a major replacement of a good portion of the wooden track. The park’s dedication to keep it going was clear.
Leaving the station, after the operator checked the minimal restraints and politely offered to put any loose items or backpacks onto a table in the exit area, you slowly enter a long dark tunnel that first turns 90 degrees left and then 90 degrees right and deposits you onto the lift hill.
As you climb up the hill, you are climbing up into the trees as well. It’s a very pleasant feeling, complimented by the aging structure rising in front of you which at times seems to want to just keep going and rejoin the trees and, for that matter, just rejoin mother nature altogether. So up you go into the trees to the top of the lift hill, which is a little over 78 feet tall.
The first drop feels quite steep and at that point the train just bolts away, keeping up good speed through a couple rounded hills then heads into the turnaround. Far away from where you started, the turnaround definitely has some shuffle too it, but you can see an old entrance sign and glimpse the old-school camping area just across the road from the park as you’re shuffled around.
On the way back to the station you get several nice airtime moments, and one excellent lateral shunt to the right as the ride shifts over alongside the lift hill’s structure. Next, you crest a slightly longer hill into a nice little drop into a valley then into a bunny hill. Finally, it hits another couple of fun bunny hills then you fly into the station at a somewhat alarming rate, seeing as the braking is done manually, and by the lone ride operator. Overall, I thought Blue Streak was a good ride. I didn’t feel the need to try any defensive riding techniques. Later, a front row ride provided more airtime but there was more pronounced shuffling and my brain felt a bit more bounced about.
My take on Blue Streak
I could understand why kids love it and immediately would get back in line for another go. Blue Streak is a solid ride and certainly a classic. It’s got lots of charm and plenty of excitement, and it is a privilege to be able to ride something like it with such a long history.
What do you think about Blue Streak?
Have you ridden this 1938 classic? Would you ride something that looks its age? What are your thoughts?