You know how on Sesame Street, they indoctrinate children into the concept of corporate sponsorship and the empty and meaningless existence of consumer society by saying each episode is brought to you by a letter and a number?
Well, guess what.
Today’s trip report is brought to you by the letters S and C and the number 7.
I’m doing it this way for two reasons. One, because I had a difficult time writing Luna Sydney and I wanted a change of pace. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Two, because I nicknamed the Scenic Railway the Scenic Spine Cruncher and then everything began falling into place around those two letters. I thought hey, why not? Just because I’m about to go mad from having the Sesame Street theme song stuck in my head for weeks doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. At least that’s what the voices are telling me.
So let’s jump right into this by picking up where we left off and forging the link with Melbourne’s Sydney sister. First up:
The Soul Curdler
You may recall my saying that if the Luna Sydney Face didn’t disturb you, then to just wait until we got to Luna Park Melbourne.
Meet Mr. Moon.
Have you ever seen those photos that make the internet rounds every Halloween of the costumes people wore around the turn of the twentieth century? You know how you look at them and wonder how people ever thought that was something to photograph for posterity instead of, say, some motivation to break the record for the 200 meter dash?
Take this one, for example. Look at the person on the far left. Look at the tiny, unevenly sized eye slits, the way the fabric is pulled taut over the nose tip, and the gaping indent over the mouth, like the slackened jaw of a skull. Look at the person in the foreground, whose crooked stance renders its mouth into a distorted, mutant sneer. Now look at the guy in the middle, the scarecrow thing with the hollow black eyes and the cavernous black void of a mouth.
Now look at Mr. Moon again.
Or, better yet, look at his previous incarnations (particularly the one on the top right).
At least with Luna Sydney’s Face, it still looks human, albeit of the ventriloquist dummy, definitely-going-to-murder-you-in-your-sleep type. The thing that gets me about Mr. Moon is his ashen skin. I mean sure, it’s LUNA Park and a mascot named Mr. Moon is obviously not going to greet you with rosy cherubic cheeks. But that waxy skin gouged with abyssal wrinkles, and those Cathy Ames teeth, and those pencilled-in eyebrows that match the freak show of greasy paint and ham-handed contouring that is eyebrow fashion these days—that’s venturing into clown territory.
In other words: hell no.
There’s another thing that goes around on Facebook every Halloween. It’s a like-and-share image that says something along the lines of Halloween falling on a Friday the 13th for the first time in 666 years (I like to call this image “Insecticide for Facebook Friends”). Friday the 13th is, however, pertinent to Luna Park Melbourne: it was the day Mr. Moon’s ghastly maw opened to its first guests. Not in October, though—it was December, and the year was 1912.
Melbourne’s was the first of five Australian Luna Parks (today only this one and Sydney’s survive. The others were located in Glenelg, South Australia; Redcliffe, Queensland; and Scarborough, Western Australia). Overlooking Port Phillip Bay in the St. Kilda suburb of Melbourne, it was the brainchild of a Canadian entrepreneur named James Dixon Williams, who wanted to capitalize on the formula that had made Coney Island’s amusement parks so successful. Although he’d only been in Australia since 1909, he had already made a name for himself by the time he proposed the amusement park in May 1911. His background was in theater/film and he’d established a number of posh cinemas throughout the continent. He had also been involved in the always exciting enterprise of selling novelty walking sticks.
Luna Park is neither the original name nor even the original park on the site. In 1906, the Dreamland amusement park opened on the same plot but failed after just one summer (leading one cheeky reporter to nickname it “Deadland”). When Williams leased the land, he envisioned a Steeplechase Park like Coney Island’s whose hallmark attraction would be a horse themed coaster encircling the park (similar to this one). The plan for the coaster was scrapped over potential safety concerns, but the scenic railway on the roster remained.
Williams worked alongside three brothers from Los Angeles by the name of Phillips: Herman, Leon, and Harold. They brought in T.H. Eslick as their chief engineer, whose résumé boasted over a decade of experience at amusement parks on four continents.
I believe it’s Eslick who is credited with the architecture and detailing on the entrance and exit façades, which, Mr. Moon aside, is magnificent. It’s in the Moghul style (think Taj Mahal type buildings) and when it’s lit up at night it’s positively stunning (apart from those soul piercing orbs of eyes Mr. Moon’s got going, that is. Did you know that when this place opened, his eyes rolled from side to side? No? Well, it turns out the purpose of this, according to a souvenir brochure, was to “express Mr. Moon’s joy in being at last able to get down amongst those humans in whose love affairs he is supposed to have taken a fatherly interest since the first song writer wrote the first love song—and ran short of a snappy rhyme for ‘coon’”. Yessir, nothing more romantic than having a fatherly figure third wheeling your date and boring down on you with those eyes. At least our old Sydney pal Reverend Calder would have had one less thing to complain about.)
It seems the Friday the 13th grand opening was anything but unlucky: the park has remained in almost continuous operation since then. That’s an amazing feat, considering that:
a) The first night’s entertainment concluded with two guys in an elephant costume walking on a high wire…
…and b), there was a show in the first year called “The Curious Flea Circus” (and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like).
That’s also amazing when you think about how many parks out there foundered during the Depression and both world wars. Luna Melbourne survived WWI by hosting fundraisers, scaling back operations (for example, only the Scenic Railway and the funhouse remained open during the 1915-1916 season), and providing wholesome family entertainment like the “Kaiser’s Kitchen” show, which encouraged patrons to lob crockery at a figure of the kaiser (note to self: don’t clear out that shelf of old pans and dishes until we see how the next four years go). Not even the blackout restrictions during the wars closed the
gates mouth, which is all the more impressive when you consider how integral illumination has been to the park’s ambiance—it used to be called “the place of 50,000 lights.”
(Not that there weren’t a few rough spots along the way. In fact, the park was closed for a few years following WWI, which leaves me puzzled over the Scenic Railway’s oft cited “longest continually operating coaster in the world” accolade.)
The Phillips brothers remained with the park until their deaths. As for Williams, he went to the U.S. in 1913 and established a film company that would later merge with Warner Bros.
Not a bad legacy, all things considered.
Like its Sydney counterpart, Luna Melbourne is tiny. I was surprised how small it was. Here’s the view looking one way…
…and then you make a 180 degree turn, and there’s the rest of it. Really. That’s it.
Which means you might be surprised to learn there used to be a second full size wooden coaster nestled in there. It was called the Big Dipper and ran from 1923-1989. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, given what you’re about to read), it was demolished when a critically needed refurbishment was deemed too costly.
A few other iconic but dearly departed attractions from the early years include the Palais des Folies (the Coney Island Funnyland of Melbourne that was called the Giggle Palace in later years before a fire destroyed it), River Caves of the World (a dark ride that was preemptively demolished after the deadly fire on Luna Sydney’s version), Noah’s Ark (walkthrough funhouse; Kennywood’s is the only one of its kind left), and Jack ‘n’ Jill (water chute).
Between 1990 and 2012, there was also this Galaxi called Metropolis.
As of our visit, the park map listed 17 attractions occupying this tiny triangle of a park (though they’ve since added some horrid looking Wisdom spinning thing).
Some are old.
Some are new.
Some are in between.
Some I’m only showing you because I have a photo of it and don’t know where else to put it.
But all of them require mustering the courage and steeling your soul to face Mr. Moon’s jolly countenance first.
Admission is free at Luna Park Melbourne. The cost for one ride is a whopping AUD$10.95, so I’d recommend going with the unlimited ride wristband (as of this writing, that costs AUD$49.95; $39.95 for ages 4-12; $17.50 for ages 0-3 (the latter of which might sound a little nickel and dimey because most parks don’t charge for kids that young, but remember, it’s not a POP place)).
I have in my notes that, before we paid, the admissions attendant did two things: 1) she mentioned which rides were out of commission that day, just in case we hadn’t seen the sign listing same in the window (amazing how simple that is, eh Dollywood?) and 2) she pointed to the list of prohibitive medical issues you usually see posted at ride entrances—heart conditions, pregnancy, back/neck trouble, etc.—and asked if we had any of them. On further reflection, however, I believe I am in error on the second point.
I think she must have been warning us that we might leave the park with some of those conditions.
The Scenic Spine Cruncher
Are you dissatisfied with the present alignment of your vertebrae?
Have you found yourself wishing you could juggle a few discs around or bang your spinal column incessantly against a hard object to give that cerebrospinal fluid a rejuvenating ‘ole shake ‘n stir?
Are you just so tired of living a life devoid of plexopathic adventure?
Then say hello to the Luna Park Melbourne Scenic Railway!
Since 1912, the Luna Park Scenic Railway has been wending and twisting spines straight into the chairs and coffers of chiropractors the world over! An L.A. Thompson original (yes, the LaMarcus Adna Thompson—as in, the dude who designed the first ever Switchback Railway in 1884, which spawned the modern gravity coaster that we know and love to get in fights about with strangers over the internet today. I once wrote an essay in middle school naming him as the person I’d most like to meet from the past (because seriously, who wants to bother with George Washington or Abraham Lincoln when you could sit on an uncomfortable bench and go coasting down some ramps at a cool 6 mph?))…right, where was I?
An L.A. Thompson original, the Scenic Railway is one of the few coasters in the world that operates with a brakeman. Owing to the train’s lack of upstop wheels, it is the brakeman’s job to keep the train on the track. It’s a very important job because the only thing more painful than riding on the track
would be [might be, tbh this would be a close contest] careening off it!
We’ve all been inconvenienced by efficient operations and courteous clientele, but not anymore!
Thanks to a revolutionary breakthrough using cutting-edge Have A Six Flags Day Science™, your Scenic Railway experience begins with a well earned rest on these padded seats after enjoying multiple line jumpings and numerous definitely-not-aggravating-at-all ten minute dispatch intervals.
Then, simply pull down the restraint, pop a few preemptive aspirin, and let the cable lift take you up, up and away to your scenic sacrum squashing!
It’s so easy! Crest the top of the first drop and, in a hundred simple, quick and relentlessly vicious motions, let those vertebrae jiggle and bounce and jump like a bobblehead on a 4×4 dashboard! Let your ligaments ricochet to the beat of a thousand screeching nerve endings! Mash your myotomes into spasming misery! No longer will social gatherings be ruined by boredom when you can crush your coccyx with such wild abandon that your gait will be the life of the party for the next four weeks!
But wait, there’s more!
Grind and crunch your bones with ease through the bottom of the drop, then ascend the second hill and do it again! Shake those dorsal rootlets, rattle those ventral rootlets, and jerk that spine like a lasso!
The Scenic Railway works by targeting the spine with a succession of speedy and snappy jolts, similar to the rat-tat-tat-tat pops of a tripping circuit breaker. This staccato beating is delivered efficiently and probably not safely so you are guaranteed to hobble away with lasting memories!
Let a random, acute back spasm weeks later be a fond reminder of your bygone health!
Build lifelong rapport with the claims department of your insurance company!
Other roller coasters may leave you eager for more rides and you might waste precious minutes enjoying them, but with the Scenic Railway, you’ll be satisfied with just one ride! But don’t take our word for it. Just listen to these rider testimonies!
Richard says, “On a previous visit I purchased two rides for the Scenic Railway but after the first ride, I knew I didn’t need a second, so I used my other ticket elsewhere. I’d never been more sure of anything in my life.”
Megan says, “I was really looking forward to riding the historic Melbourne Scenic Railway. I thought it would be the sheer novelty of having a brakeman that would leave the deepest impression, but was I ever wrong. This wasn’t your normal wooden coaster jostling. Even my hair started coming loose. Tangled hair, tangled spine, the litany of expletives issuing from my mouth in the most uninhibited and incomprehensible stream of consciousness style anyone has ever witnessed since James Joyce diarrheaed out Ulysses—it was the most beautiful and poetic unity of mind and body I’ve ever experienced on a roller coaster!”
But wait, there’s more! All this fun is only from the first lap around the park! The Scenic Railway track has two levels of track and you’ll slam into lap two with a resounding blow that comes in two settings. Choose the Bone Zapper mode for on-ride use to bolster your back with a few extra convulsions; choose the Attention Zapper mode for queue use, which will temporarily erase the glazed expressions of you and everyone else in the queue enduring that ten minute dispatch cycle.
UH OH—flawless pacing ruined this coaster! With the Scenic Railway, the second half of the ride is such an arrant contrast to the first that you’ll wonder if Luna Park really was telling the truth after all when they closed the coaster from 2007-2008 for what they said was an extensive restoration! Featuring less turbulent drops and a final turn as sedate as Granny tooling around in her Buick, your Scenic Railway ride ends with your mind as tortured as your spine!
You’ll respect the muscle and grit those brakemen need to control the train. You’ll love the obvious passion they have for their job. But can you accept the disclaimer they gave you in the station that the ride is old and therefore “a little rough”? Can you pardon what feels like a poor excuse for shoddy maintenance? You can’t go another day without finding out, so buy your Scenic Railway ticket now!
But wait, there’s still more! If you’re tall, you can double the pain value of your Scenic Railway experience for free! Simply sit as you normally would and you’ll receive a mosaic of deep creases and shredded flecks of skin on your knees at no extra charge! That’s back pain and knee pain for the price of one ride!
And that’s not all!
Opt for the back rows and you’ll gain a compendium of profanities to yell, grunt, groan, whimper, and yelp in a discordant and hilarious fashion—and it’s yours free for the whole ride!
So stop living a pain-free life of health and vigor. Don’t spend another day wishing you could play Jenga with your intervertebral discs—get out there and do it! It’s never been easier to be so utterly, utterly disappointed by a roller coaster. Get your grimace on and try the Luna Park Melbourne Scenic Railway today!
I’ve noticed that when enthusiast writers don’t know what to say about a coaster, they often resort to commenting on its laterals. You get the impression the writer was desperately trying to recall something about a particular coaster but coming up dry, and instead of just admitting it, they threw in this pointless sentence about laterals just to have something to say. I once read an article where the only thing the author could say about a Zamperla 80STD was that it had “nice” laterals. Besides the fact that it’s laughable a Zamperla 80STD could be “nice” in any way, there’s also the fact that this has got to be the lamest, vaguest and most uninteresting way to describe a coaster. Except in special cases—Wilde Maus XXL running trimless so your life flashes before your eyes, for example—who actually thinks laterals are a noteworthy feature on roller coasters? Now, as for airtime—yes. Forces so strong I start greying out? Yes. But laterals? Gee, we went around a turn and my body went sideways. Profound.
Naturally, Richard and I have both taken this to heart as an example of what not to do. We take ourselves very seriously as enthusiasts, you see. Otherwise we would be unable to experience the levels of butthurt necessary to be offended by things on the internet, and what kind of enthusiasts would we be then? It is thus very important that we use our time wisely in parks so we may produce trip reports of only the highest quality.
Thus, I shall now proceed with a critical and erudite reflection on the powered Silly Serpent. Participant observation comprised the foundational research method of this project, but a face to face interview with Richard while on-ride produced an edifying collaboration of opinion, which I now present:
Our ride on Silly Serpent consisted of five circuits.
The track layout featured an ascent followed by a downward helix to the right, upon the completion of which the train made a right turn back to the loading platform.
At the conclusion of the first circuit, I noted how the downward helix elicited forces that whisked our bodies over to the left side of the car.
I turned to Richard and said, “This ride has some decent laterals.”
As we rounded the bend into the station following the second circuit, I amended my previous statement. I said to Richard, “This ride has good laterals.”
The third lap prompted further amendment. “This ride has nice laterals,” I said.
Richard, meanwhile, had not yet expressed an opinion. It was clear he was deep in thought, taking care to gather enough data before selecting the most appropriate terms for his assessment. I, of course, knew better than to disturb him with any exclamations of fun and/or enjoyment. This is a serious hobby, you know. Finally, after the fourth lap, Richard was prepared to argue his thesis.
He said, “This ride has cromulent laterals.”
By the end of the ride, we were so damn busy laughing, that we—oh. Ahem. Excuse me. I almost had fun there. After a thorough study, we have deduced that Silly Serpent is a smooth and enjoyable ride. It would be problematic, however, to limit our knowledge to this evaluation, so we recommend that future researchers may wish to consider its impact on linguistic proficiency among the enthusiast community (haha not really, the truth is most academics (actually, mostly undergrad students in the humanities) don’t give a fuck if further research is conducted but they suggest it at the end of papers anyway because it sounds noble, takes up space, and will generally add a few extra points to their grade. Academia is swell).
To conclude, it had nice laterals.
Were you repulsed by that brush with academia? I don’t blame you. Academia is scary.
Just ask the fellas living in here. They’ll tell you.
Our next stop was the Ghost Train, a Pretzel dark ride added in the 1930s. There was a lot going on in there. I couldn’t photograph in there, so here is a succinct summary of the happenings within:
(And before you ask, of course this is the only reason why I took this photo.)
There was the usual collection of ghost train stuff like monsters glowing neon under black lights, clowns, a guillotine, a dapper old chap donning a top hat on his bare skull—but there were also some less common scenes, such as:
- A set of hands with no attached body plinking the keys of a piano, which isn’t all that scary in and of itself but I have a lot of childhood memories of dancing to polka tunes from my parents’ player piano, so…
- A wolf whose mouth suggested it would be a close call between putrefying flesh breath or a jaw locked to your jugular that would bring you down quicker
- A naked blonde ripping the heads off two equally naked blonde dolls, kind of like that dick Sid with his mutant toys in the first Toy Story movie
And then there was The Book.
It was one of the last scenes. There was a ghoul with a face only his mama could love: knobby skull, one eye bulging out of its socket, tongue lolling out of his mouth. I think he was studying. I mean, he was leering at a book the way Donald Trump appraises women on the 1-10 scale, so in a way that’s studying, I guess. And then he—brace yourselves, for this might give you quite a fright—
He closed the book.
And that was it.
I can’t even say he slammed the book. The sound effect was more along the lines of, say, a college student shutting their Econ 101 book in resigned defeat to begin seeking alternative career paths of the sort that are illegal in a lot of places. But hey, maybe it was a scary book. Or just a generally shitty book. There are plenty of them out there. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Fifty Shades of Grey. Anything by Ann Coulter. But, well, coming from the U.S. where intellectualism is scorned and ridiculed, I’m pretty desensitized to the horror of chucking books and education by the wayside. So this effect was…um…yeah.
But there you have it, kids. Stay away from the books. Reading is scary.
Sumptuous Class, Sublime Craftsmanship
Now this—this—was special.
If you think I’ve been a little too harsh with this place—because let’s face it, that Scenic Railway account has no doubt landed me on some shit lists out there—then sit your (probably aching, if you’ve just ridden the Scenic Railway, even if you’re too angry with me to admit it) ass down on the plush velvet seat in this chariot and listen up.
This is PTC carousel #30. It was completed in 1913, brought to Luna Melbourne in 1923 after its first home at Sydney’s White City Amusement Park closed, and, as you can see, it’s fucking beautiful.
Although my dad probably no doubt regrets having gotten me started on a hobby that’s taken me to such chic vacation hotspots as Bangladesh and the scenic squat toilets of China, I hope he can appreciate the slightly more rational love of carousels he also instilled in me. When I was little, I loved going to the Plymouth Meeting Mall in Plymouth Meeting, PA because he would take me on the carousel there. It was just one of those production model double decker Venetian ones, probably manufactured by Bertazzon—certainly not anything near as spectacular as a wooden hand carved carousel, but to a four year old that didn’t matter. I thought it was so pretty when it was all lit up and I loved that I could ride up high on the second floor. While intensifying coaster cravings had me apt to shun carousels as “baby rides” when I got older, I’ve since developed a reverence for them that I’d chalk up as “wisdom” were it not for the fact that this is me we’re talking about.
Nevertheless, I’ll make the effort to ride a carousel if I know it’s a spectacular one. Even Richard has picked up a greater appreciation for them, which is really saying something considering that any sane man knows letting a woman into his life is like summoning the horsemen of the Apocalypse.
And speaking of spoils of war like the peace, quiet, and psychological stability of bachelorhood, this carousel’s theme is “War and Peace.” So that chariot where you’re resting your sore ass? That’s the Peace one. The War one is on the opposite side. Between them are 68 horses, placed four abreast, and decorated according to the theme: dark, mighty beasts donning armor and weaponry for War; lighter colored, mellow creatures adorned with flowers for Peace.
We chose the two lead horses pulling the Peace chariot because they were closer together and sometimes we’re romantic like that.
(Just kidding. Richard was going to go for the plushy chariot for ass/spine restoration purposes until I told him only old people ride in the chariots. I suggested the two nearest horses instead. Said horses then proceeded to land every jump with a jerk and a shudder. It felt like the cranking rods were sticking on every revolution. As I’m sure you can imagine, this astute selection of mine was very popular.)
At the turn of the millennium, the park brought on a specialist team to perform an exhaustive restoration, which saw the carousel pretty much stripped down and rebuilt from the ground up. Wear and tear over the decades had seen many of the original hand drawn details painted over, so one of the goals of the restoration was to uncover and recreate that artistry. It was a job that required:
- A hell of a lot of time (two years)
- A hell of a lot of money (over $2 million)
- A hell of a lot of sleuthing (scouring photographs, digging through PTC’s archives)
- A hell of a lot of patience (a single horse required about 100 hours of work to painstakingly remove all the paint covering the original coat, which was 20 layers thick in some cases).
But they did it. And they did it all by hand—carving, painting, detailing—all by hand, just the way it should be.
But wait, there’s more!
You’re looking at a 66 key Orchestrophone organ from the Limonaire Freres Company of Paris. It was made circa 1909 and is one of only five in the world. Like everything else, it is handmade, lovingly restored, and as beautiful as a cold bottle of orange Fanta on a hot day.
The whole of it—the meticulous craftsmanship of the colors, the detailing, the theming, the organ—makes for one of the richest, most elegant carousels out there. It’s a lesson in class and style that other parks would do well to imitate. But it’s not just the carousel in and of itself that warrants praise. The fact that Luna Park went to such efforts to refurbish it commands even greater respect. Here was a park whose carousel was in a dreadful state: the wood was rotting, the horses were missing body parts, the oil paintings on the rounding boards were water damaged. They could have taken the easy way out and replaced it with some cheapy fiberglass production model. Instead, they took the expensive, time consuming, and challenging road that was no doubt filled with lots of splinters and frustrated expletives.
Any park proud enough of its history and heritage to devote that much energy into preserving it is worthy of the highest commendation.
And yes, I stand by that even when it comes to the Scenic Railway. Perhaps that seems contradictory to my earlier self-shitlisting but hey, I never said I disparaged Luna’s commitment to keep such a rarity going. It may hurt, but just remember that we live in a world with Zamperla Volares.
The Sanity Challenge
Once in a great while, we are privileged to experience a park operations event so extraordinary, it becomes part of our shared enthusiast heritage of frequent and gratuitous complaining. Well, sometimes we applaud stuff, like Olympia Looping’s 14 second dispatches (that’s really a thing by the way), but…
Actually, just a moment, please.
OH GOD I LOVE YOU
…but mostly we like complaining.
Sometimes these complaints are warranted. And sometimes they’re not. (Okay, lots of times they’re not.)
But sometimes, we come across an incident so outrageous, so atrocious, so unbelievably catastrophic, that nothing can, nor probably ever will (sweet mother of fuck, at least we hope so), compare to it. Nothing can prepare us for it. Nothing can save us from it. And nothing can ever reverse the damage. The consequences are real. The fallout is permanent.
Fallout in this case being, of course, newfound excitement for things like dial-up internet, C-SPAN, and listening to a staticky, out of tune piano wheeze through the same loop of something that’s supposed to be music when you’re waiting on hold.
Let me ask you a question. What do you think is the most deceitful thing in all of human history? Religion? Wall Street? The notion that the United States is a land of democracy and equality?
No, no, and no. It’s not those.
It’s this sign.
Which refers to this ride.
We approached Sky Rider as we did any other Ferris wheel: armed with cameras, ready to capture some aerial shots. There were maybe 15 to 20 people in front of us, so we naturally assumed the 15 minute wait sign was accurate, if not a slight overestimation.
How innocent we were back then.
We entered the queue but made no advancement in it. That wasn’t surprising, though. That’s how Ferris wheel queues work—unload/load until you’ve replaced all the previous cycle’s riders with new ones, then send the wheel around a few revolutions nonstop. Except we remained at a standstill. And remained. And remained. From where we were, we couldn’t see what was going on at the loading platform, but the wheel had long since stopped circling continuously and begun the start/stop process of loading. Yet still we remained. The line wasn’t moving. We surpassed the 15 minute mark, still rooted to the same spot. And then we crept towards 20 minutes…then 25…
At first I occupied myself with the usual medley of queue activities:
Scoffing at Richard browsing Facebook on his phone and thinking myself high and mighty for not needing a smartphone to be entertained…
Taking artsy photos…
Marveling at the poor saps on the Scenic Railway, who looked as though they were mounted on springs, their heads and necks and shoulders convulsing in seemingly masochistic guffaws down every drop…
(Not many people know this, but the reason this is called Scenic Eats is because you feast your eyes on those helpless jiggling sacks of flesh and gorge yourself on the smugness that you’re not one of them.)
Beginning to wonder if we might have been better off trying our luck on the Arabian Merry because our levels of Australian merriment were dwindling by the second…
Recalling the explosive passion of my Valentine’s Day evening, which was, without question, the most ardently my digestive system has ever sung the praises of Australian Chinese food…
Wondering if the Twin Dragon pirate ship could spare a dragon to light a fire under the ride operator’s ass…
(Dreaming with open eyes? More like being a coma with open eyes.)
…and, finally, enviously eyeing Richard’s iPhone (which I begrudgingly admit, and which will delight him to no end when he reads this.) At the point where even I’m wishing for a smartphone to pass the time in an amusement park, we’ve got a problem. What was going on? When we finally shuffled forward and got a view of the loading platform, we found our answer.
What we saw was so appalling, I can’t tell if it’s the memory of it or the four cups of tea in me right now that’s making me quiver as I write this. This went beyond any Six Flags Day. This went beyond that time at Silverwood when a ride attendant halted all operations for a good 20 seconds to patiently instruct one rider on the merits of wearing a seatbelt. Hell, this even went beyond Chinese operations.
The ride operator was not unloading and reloading seats all in one go.
Please notice the number of empty seats.
We watched as the ride operator stopped the wheel, walked over to the car, undid the safety bar, undid the seatbelt, stepped back, waited for the riders to exit, stepped forward, closed and relatched the safety bar, and then return to the operating console. The wheel moved, skipping an occupied car or two, and then stopped again.
The ride operator walked over to the car, undid the safety bar, undid the seatbelt, stepped back, waited for the riders to exit, stepped forward, closed and relatched the safety bar, and then returned to the operating console. Once again, the wheel turned, sending another two occupied cars past the loading platform before stopping. And then—
The ride operator walked over to the car, undid the safety bar, undid the seatbelt, stepped back, waited for the riders to exit, stepped forward, closed and relatched the safety bar, and then returned to the operating console.
And on and on it went, again and again, over and over, skipping over certain passengers to keep the weight balanced. One girl hopped out of her seat with a gleeful “Hooray, I’m getting off!”
Only when the entire wheel was vacant did he begin loading. The new riders walked over and sat on the seat. The ride operator buckled their seatbelt, closed and latched the safety bar, walked back to the operating console. He set the ride in motion, sending empty seats past the loading platform so that new weight could be dispersed around the wheel evenly, before stopping it again.
And then he walked over to the car, undid the safety bar, stepped back, waited for the new riders to sit, stepped forward, buckled their seatbelt, closed and relatched the safety bar, and returned to the operating console. The wheel turned, more empty seats went past, stopped.
And the ride operator walked over to the car, undid the safety bar, stepped back, waited for the new riders to sit, stepped forward, buckled their seatbelt, closed and relatched the safety bar, and returned to the operating console.
Over and over, until all the seats were full. Then he sent the wheel around for its few revolutions before doing it all again. Unload all the seats, load all the seats, always two mutually exclusive procedures.
Forty five minutes—FORTY FIVE MINUTES—after we passed the 15 minute mark, I shared that little girl’s cheer from earlier as we finally disembarked. As for the ride itself? Well, the view was splendid. We had plenty of time to admire it. In fact, if the seats had been facing the city instead of the bay, I probably could have passed for a native if someone had asked for directions later. We got our aerial photos, too.
I mean, it turns out photography wasn’t allowed, but by the time the ride operator made that announcement—which was only when he finally had the wheel fully loaded and it had dawned on me why pregnancy was on that list of health conditions we might identify with upon our departure—we’d already taken the photos we wanted and had moved on to counting our increasing wrinkles and grey hairs.
(You always hear the phrase “shot of a lifetime” and that day, I finally learned what it meant. This was worth precious moments I’ll never get back, right? Of course, you’ll have to excuse the blurriness; my glasses prescription had expired by the time I took this.)
Richard and I staggered away different people from the Sky Rider. Our eyes were glazed, our brains were numb. There was no way to unsee what we had witnessed. We had lost our innocence. There were forces in this world darker than we had ever thought possible. There were operations worse than Indiana Beach under Morgan RV Resorts. Policies more pointless than a nighttime “visual scan” on Boulder Dash. Inefficiency that not even a Happy Valley park on a bad day could top.
Luna Park, why—why, oh why, oh why—would you not combine the unloading and loading processes? What could possibly possess you to make them separate processes; what could possibly convince you it was reasonable to drag each out even longer by not attending to the cars in sequence when there were enough people in the queue to allow it? Why would you waste time ensuring proper balance when it solved itself?
I never thought there could be something harder to understand in this world than organic chemistry, but shit, there it was.
And so, at the end, there was Richard muttering to himself as he texted a friend we planned to meet for lunch that we’d now be late following this “little time out.”
As for me, I wondered how many benzodiazepines it would take to soothe my infuriation after such a “gentle” ride.
Luna Park Melbourne was a mixed bag. It didn’t live up to the outstanding days from earlier in the week. Part of that I attribute to the crowds. It was a picture perfect day on a weekend and the place was jumping. When we arrived, we had to wait a good three minutes for the crosswalk in front of the park to clear before we could proceed to find parking. That, of course, is not a direct criticism of the park itself. Parks need crowds, and just because I don’t like them (and just because the Melbourne lot seemed a bit less…let’s say refined) doesn’t mean the park is at fault.
The park is at fault, however, for their senseless operational policies in handling these crowds. The Scenic Railway’s ten minute dispatches were unwarranted and there is nothing to excuse the outrageous asininity that was the Sky Rider.
That being said, though, it could have been a lot worse if the employees had graduated from the Aer Lingus Academy of Customer Service, whose core curriculum includes such fine courses as “Introduction to Nagging, Scorning, and Belittling the Customer” and “Mastering the Art of Frowning.” Instead, Luna Melbourne’s employees were of the caliber I’d come to expect from Australians. Our visit began with the admissions girl giving that kindly warning of our imminent physical woes and ended with another worker cheerfully inviting us to add more clutter to our home with her offer to take as many souvenir park maps as we wanted.
Plus their purple uniforms were fabulous.
Nice as they were, though, it’s the operations that have left the deepest impression on me, unfortunately. Well, mental impression, that is.
The Scenic Railway took care of the physical scarring.
Today’s trip report has been brought to you by the letters S and C, and the number 7!
If this were true to Sesame Street form, we’d all be singing and dancing right now. So, are you ready? Here we go!
Sweepin’ the crowwwwds this way!
On my way to where the lines are long!
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Luna Melbourne?
Stand a spell
Be wonderin’, ‘What the hell?’
(Friendly workers though,
Their saving grace!)
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Luna Melbourne?
Laterals off the hook!
A carousel to ride a noble steed!
And a scenic railway where,
Where you will internally bleed!
So come on by the bayside
Mr. Moon will open wide
To enthusiasts like you—
Wait ew not them anything but them on this
Sweepin’ the crowwwwds this way!
On my way to where the lines are long!
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Luna Melbourne
How to get to Luna Melbourne
How to get to…