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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Auto Racer in Rock Springs Park

One of my favorite rides in Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh, PA is the Auto Race. It is a fun and rather tame flat ride which allows your child to be the driver of an electric vehicle and puts you, the parent, in the backseat. Unlike Kiddie Turnpike Cars, Auto Race Cars are not limited by a groove or under auto rail. There is some steering control limited only by a trough-like wooden track. Kennywood’s Auto Race also known as the Auto Ride was built in 1930 by the Harry Traver Engineering Company and is the last of its kind. According to Wikipedia, “When it opened in 1930, it had several small hills placed in the track, but these were soon removed due to rear-end collisions caused when cars couldn't get up and over them on rainy days.”

Three years prior to Kennywood’s Auto Race, Rock Springs Park owner C.C. Macdonald drained the splash lagoon of the dismantled Victorian Shoot-the-Chutes Ride (above) and built a raised and twisting Auto Race wooden track within its walls.The photograph above shows the Auto Race track under construction in the splash lagoon pool.This image appeared on a brochure signed by then president of Rock Springs Park, C.C. Macdonald. The image has been enlarged to show riders in cars on the track. Notice the crowd viewing a high wire “free act” next to the Carousel.

A story was told to me at a book talk event which suggested previous owner C.A. Smith, when taking a test run on the Auto Racer in Rock Springs Park, crashed through the guardrail and was seriously injured. I have not been able to verify that story, but do know, if true, he must have fully recovered as he went on to raise prized cattle for several decades after.

See another image of the Auto Ride in Rock Springs Park in my Image book on page 59.

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