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Crystal Beach Park, Ontario, Canada

Updated on February 25, 2013

Crystal Beach Memories

Crystal Beach was a wonderful traditional amusement park that evolved through its 101 years as Western New York's and Southern Ontario's Playground into a premier amusement park. Nearly everyone who lived within 100 miles of the park, enjoyed it's summer offerings every year. Although the park closed over 20 years ago people still talk about it and miss it very much. Here is a tribute to my favorite lost park. Enjoy!

Crystal Beach Started as...

Believe it or not, Crystal Beach was started as a religious camp by Buffalonian, John E. Rebstock, in 1888! Some sideshows were allowed on the property and became more popular than the religious services. In 1890 Crystal Beach reopened as a summer resort with rides, hotels and midway acts.

Thrills and Chills

Early Rides of Crystal Beach

Back when Crystal Beach Park was young, there were some really thrilling rides. They may not have been fast, were powered by man, mule or electricity, but without seatbelts and restraints, they were quite chilling!

The Razzle Dazzle was a large wooden ring suspended by cables to a center pole. Riders sat on the ring. There was absolutely nothing to hold on to. Two attendants pulled and pushed the ring until it was swinging and circling around as high and as fast as the cables allowed.

The Bump-the-Bumps was a tall slide with round bumps all over it. People slid down using burlap sacks. They were supposed to go over the bump and land on the flat surface on the other side, but some people didn't. Ouch!

The park had several fun houses. Inside were slides, moving floors, collapsing stairs, tilted rooms and rotating barrels that required people to walk through to get to the other side. One fun house had a dog house that patrons had to crawl through to exit. Another had a slide that dropped people into a giant wooden bowl that they had to climb out of.

Check it Out - My book on Crystal Beach

My book, Crystal Memories; 101 Years of Fun at Crystal Beach Park, is now sold out, but you can still read about the history of the park and see some rare photos in my new book, Western New York Amusement Parks. Visit my website and take a look!

Photos of Crystal Beach

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crystal Beach Park was adjacent to a lovely sand beach.Early ride, Venetian Swings, circa 1900.1930s promenade. In the background is the Circle Swing and the ballroom.1938 the Octopus ride debuted. The Cyclone can be seen on the left.The ballroom floor was always crowded in 1940s as people came to dance to the Big Bands.The Canadiana departs from Crystal Beach with passengers returning to Buffalo, NY.The Magic Palace was a fun house with tilted floors, wood slides, and crazy mirrors.The Sawmill River flume was the last major ride park owners put in. It debuted in 1981.The C.P. Huntington train chugs out toward the back parking lot.Little Dipper kiddie roller coaster.
Crystal Beach Park was adjacent to a lovely sand beach.
Crystal Beach Park was adjacent to a lovely sand beach.
Early ride, Venetian Swings, circa 1900.
Early ride, Venetian Swings, circa 1900.
1930s promenade. In the background is the Circle Swing and the ballroom.
1930s promenade. In the background is the Circle Swing and the ballroom.
1938 the Octopus ride debuted. The Cyclone can be seen on the left.
1938 the Octopus ride debuted. The Cyclone can be seen on the left.
The ballroom floor was always crowded in 1940s as people came to dance to the Big Bands.
The ballroom floor was always crowded in 1940s as people came to dance to the Big Bands.
The Canadiana departs from Crystal Beach with passengers returning to Buffalo, NY.
The Canadiana departs from Crystal Beach with passengers returning to Buffalo, NY.
The Magic Palace was a fun house with tilted floors, wood slides, and crazy mirrors.
The Magic Palace was a fun house with tilted floors, wood slides, and crazy mirrors.
The Sawmill River flume was the last major ride park owners put in. It debuted in 1981.
The Sawmill River flume was the last major ride park owners put in. It debuted in 1981.
The C.P. Huntington train chugs out toward the back parking lot.
The C.P. Huntington train chugs out toward the back parking lot.
Little Dipper kiddie roller coaster.
Little Dipper kiddie roller coaster.

Early Roller Coasters

In the early days Crystal Beach had a state-of-the-art Figure 8 roller coaster that really gave early 20th century patrons a thrill. It flew along the course at a scary speed of 5 miles an hour!

That roller coaster was replaced by the Backety-Back Scenic Railway in 1909. It was a breathless ride with a tunnel and an upward sweep of forward track that stopped in mid-air. While the train made its way up this half hill, a switchman switched the track below. When the train rolled back down, the cars rolled onto the new track and coasted off in a different direction.

There were no seatbelts on the cars. One person died when the train carreened into the turn into the tunnel. She was thrown from the car and was run over by the train. Although she was immediately attended by Dr. Roswell Park, who had a cottage at the beach, she died en route to Buffalo aboard the Americana steamship.

The Giant Coaster

AKA The Yellow Coaster

Built in 1916, the Giant Coaster was a side-friction coaster. Which means its cars rode inside a trench rather than on top of the tracks. Wheels on the lower side of the cars followed a track attached to the walls of the trench. For many kids this was their first major coaster. When Crystal Beach closed it was the oldest ride in the park!

Ride the Giant Coaster

You Decide on the Best Ride

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Which ride was the best at Crystal Beach Park?

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The Most Terrifying Coaster in The World

The Crystal Beach Cyclone

The Cyclone roller coaster was the most terrifying roller coaster in the world. Built in 1926 by famed coaster builder, Harry Traver, it was ahead of its time. This diabolical ride rose 96 feet above the midway and dropped passengers down a spiral dip "into hell." The double helix was so sharply banked it was mistaken for a loop. When the train entered the figure-8 element below the station it could be heard throughout the park. The only straight piece of track on the Cyclone was in the station. Riders were frequently injured on the ride so a nurse was hired to attend to injuries right on the station! By 1946 more people were watching the Cyclone than riding it. It was taken down after the 1946 season and its steel was used to build the Comet.

Ride the Cyclone

Cyclone Computer Simulation

This gives you a better idea of what it was like to ride the Cyclone.

The Comet

The Comet landed at Crystal Beach in 1948. Stretched along the shoreline, the Comet gave riders plenty of excitement on its 14 rolling hills, tight turns and dogleg sections. Its lakeside location added fear to the ride as passengers had a bird's eye view of the lake bottom from the top of the 96 foot lift hill. Built from the Cyclone's steel structure, the Comet topped out at 54mph. Its unbridled speed came from the low-to-the-ground profile. Its consistent performance has put it on top ten wooden coaster lists for many years.

When the park closed the Comet was sold at auction to Charley Wood, former owner of Fantasy Island and Great Escape. Once it was taken down, the Comet was stored at Fantasy Island until the town of Queensbury finally approved environmental laws for the Comet to be put up at Great Escape in Lake George. The Comet debuted at Great Escape in 1994 and has been thrilling riders ever since.

The life of the Comet

My nephew, Carl, is in the first part of this video, front seat, right side. We were asked to Great Escape to film a show on the Comet. It was a rainy day which is why the boys are wearing goggles and rain ponchos.

Cyclone/Comet Debate

Which ride was the most terrifying?

Suckers and Waffles

You can still get Crystal Beach suckers and waffles. A great treat anytime!

Pick Your Flavor

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Which flavor of Hall's Suckers did you like the best?

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Waffle Dilemma

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Where Did You Eat Your Waffles?

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Why Did Crystal Beach Close?

There were many reasons Crystal Beach closed, but these were the main problems.

1. The land was worth more than the park: rides, etc.

2. Several owner changes in the last 10 years the park was open.

3. Lack of money to upgrade.

4. Lack of updated ride offerings.

5. Lack of vision. (Many traditional parks in Crystal Beach's situation have become an eclectic combination of old and new rides and have been successful. Examples are Waldameer in Erie,PA; Knoebels in Elysburg, PA; Kennywood in Pittsburg, PA.)

6. No room to expand.

7. A lack of rides. In the final decade there was a trend to remove or sell rides and replace them with game booths or flower beds.

8. The sale of the antique carousel and the inappropriate use of the profits from the sale.

9. Charging admission. Locals and cottage residents were offended to have pay admission. They were used to wandering around the park at will. Again, traditional parks like Waldameer and Knoebels have free admission and offer wristband or ticket options to ride.

10. Poor management.

11. Loss of major company and school picnics to the competition.

12. Competition from newer parks with modern thrill rides. Had Crystal Beach's owners had a vision to celebrate and promote the park as the area's only traditional amusement park and acquired some rare rides from other parks that were closing, the park could have been successful in attracting patrons and enticing back former patrons despite the competition.

Remembering Crystal Beach Park

My friends and I helped to make this video for a local public television station a reality through our videos, photographs, and postcards. For us it was a labor of love. Enjoy this trailer.

My Hometown Amusment Parks

I was one of those lucky kids whose parents liked amusement parks as much as I did. We couldn't afford to go to Walt Disney World, but we made the local park circuit at least once every summer. I saw many of those parks close, so I decided to preserve their memory in one cohesive book. Whether you are a park enthusiast or not you will be amazed at many of the photos and surprised to learn that Lucille Ball worked at a park only 90 minutes south of Buffalo, NY.

My Other Favorite Amusement Park

Knoebels down in Elysburg, Pennsylvania may not look like Crystal Beach, but it has a similar feeling. A traditional amusement park with tree shaded walkways and a large picnic grove, Knoebels is family owned and operated since its inception in 1926. It has a nice eclectic mix of old and new rides. All but one of the park's roller coasters have been saved and either rebuilt or relocated by Knoebels. The Phoenix is a cousin to the Comet, designed by the same man, Herb Schmeck of Philadelphia Tobaggan Company.

Do You Remember Crystal Beach? Share your memories.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @secondhandrose lm: OMG!! Yes i remember when they enclosed it and turned down the lights. It was amazing. I would ride over and over again. It was on the top of my list of favorites!! I miss it so much!!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I remember Crystal Beach and went there many times as a kid, I loved the rides and being by the lake. My family still has a cottage not far from there. I miss going, but I can still get the suckers and my favorite waffle to remind me of the visits. I am grateful that those did not disappear too.

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      secondhandrose lm 4 years ago

      @anonymous: The Scrambler was one of my favorite flat rides. It was really fun when they enclosed it and we rode it in the dark!

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      secondhandrose lm 4 years ago

      @franmail: I envy your Crystal Beach experience. My parents always talked about renting a cottage, but never did. I would have been there every day too! We lost Sam, Comet Manager, a few years ago. He told me a lot of interesting things about taking care of the Comet. If you ever get the chance, go ride it again at Six Flags Great Escape. Same great ride. It's just missing the lake.

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      franmail 4 years ago

      we lived at the cottage all summer. I spent all my time at the park,,,before it opened wandering by rides looking for loose change and then to beach or roller rink. Rides were for the NIGHT...Because i lived there, I was a familiar face and mostly rode rides for free...but Never the Comet,,but I bought employee tickest and rode comet daily! To this day I still love coasters...most recently rode Titan in Texas, 6 Flags...biggest coaster in Tx...if was a blast at 65 I still love the thrill or a coaster!

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      opatoday 4 years ago

      Nice Lens thanks for sharing

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      What a blast it was for me and my three sisters to travel all the way from Buffalo to Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada on Sundays! We would run from one ride to the other just laughing and having fun. Only one other sister loved the Scrambler as much as I did and we would ride it back-to-back-to-back!