California’s Great America has been busy this offseason, and whenever it reopens from its pandemic-induced closure, guests will notice a spruced-up park, carrying the momentum of the previous years’ work....
The vintage Arrow Giant Dipper car travels to Playland!
In 1984 the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk announced that it was planning to replace the roller coaster cars on its world famous Giant Dipper, the historic wooden coaster built by Arthur Looff. ACE members Nancy Redden and Mike Chew immediately rented a truck and headed down the coast to try to get one of the cars.
The old Arrow cars of the historic red and blue trains (the original colors: they’d been painted green and yellow by 1984) were going to be upgraded with new Morgan trains. For $200, Mike and Nancy bought a middle car of the old red train. Weighing about 800lbs, the coaster car strained the forklift and barely made it into the truck.
Nancy Redden and Mike Chew brought the Giant Dipper car to Oakland, CA, where they have stored it for the last twenty-five years. “We had a great time with it in the front yard!” Redden says. “My family, my neighbors…even my pets have been in it and had their pictures taken.” The enormous double car sat on the street, protected by tarps. For over two decades Redden and Chew periodically washed and waxed it. The Giant Dipper car survived numerous El Niños and even a run-in with an East Bay Municipal District truck, which backed into it, causing some minor damage.
The car traveled the Giant Dipper track from 1955 to 1984, and still sports the original foot brake. “I used to put people in it and pull the bar down for kicks!” Redden laughs. “They couldn’t get out because the brake release is outside of the car!” She fondly remembers rides on the Giant Dipper — dashing into the initial tunnel and then creeping up the lift hill in it and feeling giddy anticipation of the first drop.
On Friday, September 17th 2010 the old Arrow car took the first step to being put back into service. A team of ACE members and Playland-Not-at-the-Beach volunteers went to Oakland and uncovered the tarps from the car and loaded it onto a forklift truck to begin its journey to El Cerrito, just ten miles away. The new home for the car is Playland-Not-at-the-Beach, the museum of fun. “We are very excited about what will become our newest attraction -– Roller Coaster Rampage!” explains Master of Fun Richard Tuck . “For nearly five years Nancy Redden and I have been discussing bringing the roller coaster car to our museum. At long last we have it on the premises. Now the fun can really begin.”
The Giant Dipper car is here!
ACE members will get their first opportunity to experience Roller Coaster Rampage at the annual Yuletide Party at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach held the first Saturday of December.
The arrival of the Giant Dipper car further cements the relationship between the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Playland-Not-at-the-Beach. “Charles Canfield and his team have been wonderful to us,” enthusiastically says Frank Biafore . “Last year they gave us a set of Fascination games. Then, last month they gave us an antique Ferris Wheel seat. But the Giant Dipper coaster car is the best of all. Guests to our museum of fun are going to be overjoyed at the surprises we have in store for them.”
The Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz has been in operation since 1924. ACE designated it a coaster landmark in 2007.
Frank Biafore with the Giant Dipper at Playland.
— Richard Tuck
— Photos courtesy of Playland Not at the Beach