Idora Park Wildcat Roller Coaster
Posted by LOTGK on December 11, 2008
Idora Park – Wild Cat – Back Seat View
My family loves riding roller coasters. We have been on hundreds of them. From the modern steel coasters to the old fashioned rickety chain clanking wooden ones, we ride them all. However, Youngstown’s Idora Park, home of the Wildcat, was one of my particular favorites.
Idora Park is now closed, a casualty of an arson fire back in 1984 that burned the Wildcat and a good portion of the midway. The park lay in disarray for years before it was completely bulldozed and now just a vacant field stands there. Here is a video I took of the park back in 1988, four years after it burned. Idora Park – 1988
My loving wife Patty and I frequented the park while we were dating and loved riding the Wildcat. (She also insisted on me riding the Ferris Wheel which I have a fear of, but it was love, and she asked me in a way I could not say no. Patty asked, “If you love me you would get on the Ferris Wheel with me.” Needless to say, I was sicker than a dog when I got off and had to lay on a park bench for an hour before I felt better. BTW, that was the last time I was ever, or ever will be, on a Ferris wheel.) The Ferris Wheel spins in the wrong direction, but that is another story.
Back then, in the 70’s and early 80’s, the Wildcat was ranked as one of the best roller coasters in the world. In 1984, it was still ranked in the top ten. And for good reason. The Wildcat had killer hills, blinding speed, wicked curves, and a few dips that would lift you right out of the seat.
The Wildcat began like most coasters. Passengers loaded from a wooden platform. We would slide into the car, (Of course the back and front seats were coveted) strap on the leather seat belt, (Nowadays, coasters have restraints that snap down on your body so you cannot get out of the car but not the Wildcat, you could stand up and get out of the seat if you wanted. But who would be crazy enough to even think about getting out while the ride was in motion?) and wait for the operator to release the big wooden brake lever sending us off on a thrilling ride.
The coaster train would quickly move forward and dip down a slight hill into a dark tunnel. The wind rushing inside the tunnel was deafening along with all the girls screaming. The tunnel lasted about 15 seconds or so and when daylight appeared, we were at the foot of the first hill of the Wildcat.
Being a wooden coaster, the train glided up the hill just a tad and then locked itself onto the chain drive in the middle of the tracks. You could hear the chain attach itself to the train as it tugged and jerked us slowly up the hill smacking against the wood underneath. The chain would make clackity clack sounds and sometimes rise up and slam down in it’s slot making it seem like the chain would snap. (It never did)
Once we peaked at about 85 feet at the top, the chain disengaged and the train would slowly coast around a large bend heading for the first hill. Everyone would look out over the park and point out where they parked their car and other places. The front seat was the best view while the back seat was the fastest ride. At this time, everyone who was fearless raised their hands over their heads preparing for the deep plunge.
In a heartbeat, the train plunged down the first hill with steel wheels screeching against uneven tracks smacking against its wooden frame. People screamed, yelled, swore, and laughed just to get them through the dip. The coaster would reach speeds of 65-70 miles per hour on this first hill. (Urban legend had it that the coaster would exceed 80 miles per hour at night time after it had just rained. Something about the water and cool night air making the wheels slide faster)
At the bottom of the hill was a little dip that would lift you right out of your seat. You would have a split second of the feeling of weightlessness. (When I was much younger, a friend of mine, Guy, and I rode the Wildcat. At the bottom of the hill, after the dip, he was so light, that the force was pushing him out of the car. I grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back down.) I figured he owed me a sno-cone for saving his life.
Instantly, we were rushing up the second hill and then the wild fall down. Then the third hill. Then a wicked bend in the tracks forcing everyone to one side. Then a few dips lifting the riders off their asses and into the air. Then a vicious covered curve that would bring us speeding into the station for a safe landing.
The brake man would pull his levers and the coaster would stop. The people would jump out laughing and high fiving each other. (High Fiving – It was a 70’s thing) The people in line would then take their turn and jump into their seats.
Getting back to who would be crazy enough to even think of standing up while the Wildcat was in motion. Well, let me tell you about my loving Dare Devil wife Patty. (You thought it would be me didn’t you?) Patty used to work for Idora Park and the employee’s would have a contest on who could start from the back of the coaster and make their way to the front seat of the coaster before it went down the first hill. Patty won the contest.
Patty was in the back seat, the coaster would start, and when it came out of the tunnel, she was three cars ahead. Going up the hill, she would jump another car ahead. At the top of the hill and rounding the bend, she made her way to the very front car just in time for it to plummet down the hill.
LURKING ON THE GRASSY KNOLL