It’s June, and what better place to hold a June wedding than next to a roller coaster? Chester, WV in the early 20th century didn’t have 6 amusement parks to choose from, the way nearby Wheeling did. But what it lacked in quantity, it made up in quality. The grounds of Rock Springs Park, close to the Ohio River, could accommodate 10,000 people, and included a carousel, dance pavilion, bath house, lake and large swimming pool. People would come by excursion boats, trains, or automobiles. This amusement park opened in 1898, though the area had long been used for picnics and family outings.
Rock Spring’s sumptuous landscaping enticed the park’s owner, Mr. C.A. Smith, to build a well appointed new home in 1905 on Pyramus Avenue, overlooking the park. There were often crowds of over 20,000 people at some of the larger picnics. On special picnic days or important holidays, the park had giant fireworks displays. And the free ice cream given away at the Golden Star picnic made that event especially popular.
In the early years, the park was home to three roller coasters. The roller coaster behind the couple is the ‘World’s Great Scenic Railway,’ a wooden coaster operated in the park from from 1907 to 1926. On this ride, the cars were powered up spiral tracks inside the station before beginning a mile-long descent through the forests of the park. Shortly after the scenic railway was erected, it was blown down by a great windstorm and had to be rebuilt. Renamed the ‘Cyclone,’ this basic out & back style coaster was designed by Harry Baker, opened again in 1927 and scared the bejesus out of its riders until 1970.
After more than seven decades of operation, the park was closed to make way for new approaches to the Jennings Randolph Bridge on U.S. Route 30. On Labor Day 1970, the last crowds departed. In June 1974, more than 1,200 people attended a farewell dance at the park before it all became a memory.