From the deck of the S.S. Canadiana – the boat used to ferry passengers from Buffalo to Crystal Beach Amusement Park – the silhouette of the Comet roller coaster could be seen along the horizon as the boat inched closer and closer to Fort Erie, Ont.
The Comet was, in fact, the first ride that greeted visitors as they disembarked from the Crystal Beach Boat docked along the pier. Perched seemingly precariously along the shores of Lake Erie, this fabled wooden roller coaster satisfied thrill-seekers for over 40 years until the park closed in 1989.
Designed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., the Comet replaced the Cyclone, whose tangled tracks of violent turns and a near-vertical drop required the park to employ a nurse at its exit. Deemed too dangerous and too costly, it was dismantled in 1946.
Two years later, the Comet, with a vertical drop of 87 feet and reaching speeds of 55 miles per hour, opened to much fanfare.
Much like the amusement park’s suckers and loganberry drink, the Comet quickly became synonymous with Crystal Beach. Its popularity, however, was not enough to sustain Crystal Beach, as the park could not compete against newer, larger theme parks.
After the park closed in September 1989, the rides were auctioned off. Charles Wood, owner of both Fantasy Island and the Great Escape theme parks, purchased the iconic wooden roller coaster for $210,000. It sat in storage at Fantasy Island until it was resurrected in June 1994 at the Great Escape in Queensbury, N.Y.
At the time, it was only the second roller coaster constructed at the theme park, and today it remains the park’s most popular ride, attracting more than 400,000 riders each season. The Comet routinely ranks as one of the nation’s best wooden roller coasters, and in 2009, it was recognized as a Coaster Landmark by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.
While thrill-seekers can no longer ply the waters of Lake Erie aboard the S.S. Canadiana, they can still make the nearly five-hour trek to Queensbury to enjoy the Comet – or they can enjoy it from their home computer through video footage from the park’s YouTube channel. Just be sure to keep your arms and legs inside the ride until it has come to a complete stop!
Be it the amusement park or the beach itself, many Western New Yorkers have fond memories of Crystal Beach in Fort Erie, Ont.
The News is searching for photographs and memories to accompany them from our readers for an upcoming photo project.
So dig through your old photos or slides and share some nostalgia with us. To submit photos, email email@example.com by before June 30, 2017.
Story topics: torn-down tuesday