How Velocipede Carousels Work

Other Vintage Amusement Park Rides and Games

A carousel sits near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
A carousel sits near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Tony Burns/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

While the velocipede carousel is unique in its incorporation of human power, other vintage amusement park rides are appealing simply because they're a bit different than what we typically see today. One example is Rowboat Swings. The Fête Paradiso collection contains some that date to the 1930s. This "ride" is basically a set of traditional swings, where one person pushes another. Instead of the swingers sitting in a bench, bucket or strap seat, however, they sit in a boat. Another vintage ride owned by Fête Paradiso is the Flying Chair. One version is pint-sized for kids, while another contains larger seats for adults. Unlike today's colorful, plastic seats, the vintage ride features posh red-velvet ones [source: Cohen].

Only six Caterpillars are still in existence today. This ride, found at most American amusement parks in the mid-20th century, features two-seater cars that run around a circular, undulating track. As the cars zip along the track, a canopy slowly envelops each one until all cars are covered. For those watching, the string of covered cars looks like a caterpillar inching along. To add to the fun, bursts of air would randomly puff into the cars to startle riders. Of the six Caterpillars left today, only three still have an operating canopy [source: Entertainment Designer].

An interesting vintage carnival game still in existence, also part of the Fête Paradiso collection, is the Music-Hall Ball Guzzler. This 1934 wonder consists of several hand-carved and hand-painted heads with mouths that open and close. The heads are caricatures of celebrities from that era, like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Their mouths are operated from behind, by hand. Players grab fake apples and try to chuck them into as many mouths as they can. In the past, if you got five in before the mouths shut, your reward was a bottle of wine. (The game was created in western France, not surprisingly) [sources: Rohan, Cohen].

Author's Note: How Velocipede Carousels Work

I've never ridden a velocipede carousel, but the concept resonates with me. In the 1960s, when I was a preschooler, my family occasionally went to a local amusement park. My favorite ride wasn't the toy boats or the tiny airplanes, but a simple track where kids peddled tiny bikes with their feet. It's fun to "help" the ride a bit.

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