"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle..."
Well, that's what the song says, anyway. I wouldn't know, as I didn't see those alleged blue skies. I cruised on into town in search of Fun Forest. I found it easily enough, but proceeded to drive right past it. A concrete structure 30' up and a couple of miles long got my attention and I followed the span into downtown, then parked the little red wagon Footnote 1 in a more-or-less convenient garage. Fifteen minutes and $2.50 later, I was awaiting the arrival of the mighty Alweg, the 40-mph legacy of the 1962 Expo. I am referring, of course, to Seattle's famous monorail. The line is a shuttle, with trains operating on two parallel tracks. Downtown, though, the single platform is on one side, so a clever arrangement of retractable bridges allows passengers to board a train on either track. The monorail has an advertised top speed of 70 mph, "making it the world's fastest transit monorail," but cruising speed in Seattle is about 40 mph according to the operator's speedometer.
At the Seattle Center, the station platform is more like a subway station, with platforms on both sides for exiting and a load platform between the two tracks. Because it is the end of the line, the platforms are all connected at the one end of the station. A long ramp leads down to the Expo Center.
The maintenance shop for the monorail is located beneath the station.
Fun Forest is a small amusement park set up on concrete plazas at the Seattle Center. It is more or less bisected by the monorail station, with the kiddie rides on one side and the adult rides on the other. I headed down the ramp and directly into the kiddie ride area, where I failed to ride the Schiff roller coaster. Shame on me!! I did chat with the operator, though, who explained that the Windstorm had been taken down recently to allow for a concrete pour and the construction of a building behind the kiddie ride area, then reassembled. Inside the building are lots of arcade games (no Cyclone pinball machine, though), a set of bumper cars, a Mini-Jet, and a Frog Hopper.
On the other side of the monorail station are the rides for the big kids. I bought some tickets, and headed for the Windstorm. I have no idea whether this Windstorm is an SDC, an S&MC, or a Zamperla...but it is a Windstorm, it was operating, and for a portable coaster, it is about as good as you can get without a nameplate. This particular Windstorm runs brakeless and wild, with its two 3-car trains. I took rides in rows 1 and 5.
The ride has no first drop to speak of, but the lackluster drops at the beginning all lead up to one of the most insane moments on any non-inverting steel coaster. I am referring, of course, to that drop in the middle of the ride where the train heads up to the top of a spiral and nearly stops...but then tips over nearly horizontal and just falls off the edge of the Earth (or at least feels like it) and into the spirals for the end of the ride. The Windstorm is a lot of fun. I've been on two of these now, this one, and the one at Old Town down in Kissimmee, Florida. My understanding is that those two are among the best ones running. This one is no slouch, and it runs smooth and fast, clearly a favorite of the few people wandering the "midway".
All of the rides at Fun Forest are portable, and most are unusual. For the second time ever, I saw a Soriani & Moser Loop-On-Top ride, and for the second time ever I saw a Soriani & Moser Loop On Top ride that was down mechanical. I had planned to take a ride on the Orbiter, but I decided to ride the Windstorm again instead. Next to the coaster is an SDC (I think) Music Express (a copy of a Mack Music Express). I never got to see the ride operate, so I don't know which direction it was going, but what got my attention was the chamber and orchestral music coming from the ride's impressive sound system. Just a little unexpected from a midway piece! I toured the grounds and took some pictures, and here is what I saw--
|The Music Express looks a lot like the Mack version, but this one has a different style of lap bar, and a Caterpillar-like cover mechanism (though this one has no cover) behind each tub.|
|Ride Name||Manufacturer||Common Name|
|Century Wheel||Chance||Century Wheel |
|Windstorm||SDC (?)||Windstorm |
|Wild River||Reverchon||Wild River flume |
|Music Express||SDC?||Musik Express |
|Jet Spin||Soriani & Moser||Loop-On-Top (DDM) |
|Bumper Cars||Soli||Bumper Cars |
|Samba||Zamperla||Samba (dismantled) |
|Roller Coaster||Schiff||Roller Coaster |
|Snow Convoy||Zamperla||Convoy |
|?||?||Duck boat ride |
|Mini Pirate||Moser?||Mini Pirate |
|Frog Hopper||S&S||Frog Hopper |
|Elephant/Dragon Ride||Zamperla||Mini Jet 8 |
The Mini Pirate is an interesting ride; it is a kiddie pendulum boat ride. I don't know who built this one, but I wonder if this one came from Moser Rides. I know Moser builds such a ride...
Having explored the grounds at Fun Forest, I went around to the other areas of the Seattle Center. My timing was good, because a major food festval was going on...Seattle Bites or something like that...with lots of food vendors and live music on two stages. I had a really good piece of strawberry shortcake as I walked the grounds in the rain. The weather seemed to be deteriorating as it was getting colder and wetter as it got darker. I decided to go up the tower (the Space Needle) and take a look.
In spite of the bad weather, the view from 660' up was still pretty decent. The odd thing is that the upper decks of the tower are so crammed full of gift shops and eateries that it wouldn't much matter if the view were obscured by bad weather. I did venture briefly onto the outer deck, but due to the cold, blowing rain I decided I could see better from inside. 10:00pm was approaching, and it was time for me to go. I went back down to ground level, boarded the monorail and returned to my car. I needed to find a place to stay and to post a notice to r.r-c that the Seattle Windstorm is in fact still operating.
Fun Forest is a tiny little operation, as amusement parks go. It should be visited in the context of the whole Seattle Center facility (the Expo '62 legacy) which includes retail, dining, theatres, the tower, and a music museum now under construction. Much of the Center is undergoing renovation right now, so there are unsightly barricades all over, but the construction is not a major barrier to pedestrian traffic. I suggest parking downtown and taking the monorail out, but that is at least in part because I like monorails; in fact, I get the impression that many Seattle commuters do just the opposite, parking at the Seattle Center and taking the monorail to work. A P-O-P plan is not available for the Fun Forest rides, but there are some discounts on ticket strips. And an unbraked Windstorm is always worth riding!
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Trip Reports 1999
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--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Footnote 1: Not exactly a Radio Flyer, but a wagon nonetheless. It's hard to get used to not accounting for the trunk lid when backing into a parking space...