When I was a child I hated rides. I didn’t like getting spun around, or dropped. Whilst in the US last year I conquered this fear, thanks to the help of Mickey Mouse, and in the process became a little addicted to roller coasters. Unfortunately in Australia, unless you live on the Gold Coast and have access to the major theme parks we have slim pickings for the coaster enthusiast. But there’s one stand out coaster, far from the sunny beaches of Queensland, right on the (sometimes) sunny beaches of St Kilda.
Atop the giant smile of Mr Moonface (the entrance gate to Melbourne’s Luna Park pictured above) is the oldest continually operating roller coaster in the world, the Scenic Railway, a wooden coaster built in December 1912, that’s right she’s now almost 100 years old, a fact the operators like to remind you as you board the beautifully carved red dragon carts.
By far the most popular ride in the park, you can expect to wait a little while to board the Scenic Railway, and there’s only one train, but it’s well worth the wait. I had been eagerly waiting to ride this coaster since returning from the US, when I found out I’d soon be living close by I knew it would be something I’d frequent quite often to get my coaster fix. I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d gone all my life without riding it, which is exactly why it was on my list of 50 Awesome Things To Do In Melbourne.
Sure enough I couldn’t stay away very long and made my way to Luna Park to knock this Awesome Thing off my list. I had sent some texts out to see if anyone would be interested in accompanying me, but everyone had prior arrangements, so I headed out alone. At the ticket box I was told that in the event of rain the roller coasters would be the first things to shut down, so I headed straight for the Scenic Railway. The park wasn’t ridiculously busy, which was handy, but there was still perhaps a 20 minute wait.
The Scenic Railway is not only the oldest continually operating roller coaster in the world, but it also has another interesting feature, it’s one of only two coasters in the world that utilise a brakesman, who stands in the middle of the train.
The ride climbs up over the entrance gate before dropping down a number of hills, which while looking pretty tame from the ground have an excellent bumpy thrill to them onboard. The track trails around the entire park, it forms the parks walls, once around the outside takes you over the largest hills and drops, the second time around sees you go over a series of smaller hills. If you have long legs you might find your knees get bumped around a little. It’s all great fun though!
The Scenic Railway isn’t the only coaster in the park though, whilst it used to house another wooden coaster; The Big Dipper built in the 1930s (Check out a bunch of cool historical Luna Park photos here), it is now home to the Metropolis, a metal Mad Mouse roller coaster (pictured right) with some very nice, steepish, drops and classic winding tracks, and the Silly Serpent, a children’s coaster which although the track is only small, you do get to go around it a number of times. Two girls riding behind me would yell at the operators to make it go faster at the end of each lap, and I’m sure they thought it really was going faster each turn. Riding it solo had me flinging around the carriage on it’s sharp bends. For a children’s coaster it was actually a lot of fun.
You’ll find an assortment of other rides at Luna Park as well, which all combine to create a great day out. Many of the rides you’d see at other amusement parks, shows or travelling fair grounds, classic things that spin you, dizzy you, drop you and have you hanging upside down momentarily. Many of these rides were built in the 1970s, and do show their age a little bit. A new lick of paint on a number of areas of the park wouldn’t go astray. The carousel built in the 30s though still looks wonderful.
I was tossed about on The Spider and left feeling rather dizzy, and I rode the Twin Dragon (Pirate Ship) twice. I loved the feeling of ‘am I going to fall out?’ as my stomach rose up to my chest with the movement of the ship. I also rode the G-Force and took a walk through the mirror maze. I laughed when I heard some children ahead of me bump into the mirrors, ‘what a childish mistake’ I thought, before I myself bumped into one too.
The line for the Ghost Train, which still runs on the original 1936 track, was a little long for my liking, especially as it was getting cold, and I was feeling a little queazy still from The Spider. I also didn’t get a chance to ride the Pharaoh’s Curse or the Enterprise because I was afraid of things falling out of my pockets. Next time I’ll come better prepared.
There are a few different methods for park entry, it’s free to just enter through the big smiley face and have a wander, but if you want to ride anything you’ll need some tickets. A single ride is $9.50 for an adult (cheaper for children), so if you just wanted to ride the Scenic Railway that’s an option, or if you’ve got more time and want to make a day of it you can get an unlimited ride pass for $42.95 (cheaper for children). For this price you get a wristband and can go on as many rides as you want from park open to close.
This is a great option if you intend on riding everything, and more than once, I would suggest having a wander around the park to see what is on offer before selecting the type of ticket you want. That way you’ll know how many rides there are, and what you’re interested in riding.
For me the Scenic Railway lived up to the hype! I smiled like a child the whole way through and loved e very bumpy second of it. There’s nothing like riding a traditional wooden coaster, and such an iconic one made it even more special. For more information about Luna Park in Melbourne visit their website and if you have a suggestion for another Awesome Thing I could do in Melbourne, check out this post and let me know!