UA-20143982-1 The Grand Carousel at Six Flags Magic Mountain - The Coaster Guy
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Ride Profile: Grand Carousel

By on 02/28/2012

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Ride Type: Flat Ride

Manufacturer: Philadelphia Toboggan Company
Model/Style: Carousel – PTC #21
Year Built: 1912

When the plans were being drawn up for Magic Mountain back in the late 1960’s, the developers knew they would need a carousel as one of their main attractions. After all, for the better part of the 20th century a carousel was considered to be a staple of any quality amusement park. Rather than buy a new one, they shopped around and found a used one for sale that they could refurbish and add to the park. Fortunately for them, the carousel they bought ended up being quite the find.

In their heyday, carousels numbered in the thousands across the United States. There were very few places you could go where you weren’t that far from a carousel. Unfortunately, their popularity has dwindled over the years, in part due to newer and more exhilarating rides, and there are only a few hundred of them left today. The good news is that you can usually still expect to find one at most of the major theme parks of today. The only question is, for how much longer?

The carousel that Magic Mountain ended up acquiring was built by a company called Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC). The carousel is referred to as PTC #21 because it was the 21st of the 87 carousels that PTC built over the years. PTC is famous for its carousels and wooden roller coasters. They built their last carousel in 1930 and have been primarily focused on roller coasters ever since. The company was sold in 1991 and they used the opportunity to change its name to Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. They built 7 of the top 10 wooden coasters on the Amusement Today 2011 Golden Ticket Awards list. Their carousels, although a bit long in the tooth, are equally as impressive.

PTC #21 was built in 1912 and installed in West Haven, CT, making 2012 its 100th anniversary. There are only three other active PTC coasters older than #21 and one of them just happens to be at another Six Flags park. PTC #17 was built in 1908 and is currently in operation at Six Flags Over Georgia. According to the National Carousel Association, PTC #21 spent time in Milford and Hartford, CT before ending up at Savin Rock Amusement Park, back in West Haven, CT in 1921. It was called the Grand Carousel and would remain there until the park closed on September 21, 1966. Here is a picture of PTC #21 from it’s original installation in West Haven, CT:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Image © Philadelphia Toboggan Company

Take note as to how elaborate and intricate all of the decorations are. Even the chariot is flamboyant and graceful. Here is another picture of it from the same installation. The caption says “World’s finest carousel with it’s mechanics – Baker ; Bay, 1912. Built by Phila Toboggan Co. Phila, PA“:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Image © Philadelphia Toboggan Company

Magic Mountain bought the carousel from the defunct Savin Rock Park in 1969. They paid $350,000 for the entire carousel, minus the band organ, and another $1,000 for shipping to California. The original band organ played “Roll Out the Barrel”, but Magic Mountain must not have been interested in having that feature. Here is what the Grand Carousel looked like fully refurbished, as seen on a postcard, shortly after the park opened in 1971:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Did you happen to notice how there was nothing but green hillside wrapped all the way around the back of the carousel? That was the very edge of the park at the time. This next picture was taken several years later, sometime after 1978, as Colossus can be seen in the background. Take note at how much more mature the trees around it are:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Image © Dan Goodsell

Fast forward another 30+ years and this is what it looks like today:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

All the landscaping is now fully mature. Oh, and make sure you stay off the grass:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

No grassy hill behind it now. Just lots of midway leading to many other attractions:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

From above, it’s completely engulfed by the trees. They make great shade in the summer: 

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

The carousel is made up of 64 horses, in 16 rows of four. 48 0f them are called ‘jumpers’, as they go up and down as the carousel rotates. The remaining 16 are ‘standing’: 

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

The carousel itself was an all-wood construction and the platform is 57′ in diameter:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

As you can see in the old photos above, the carousel originally had two chariots, which looked like they were being pulled by the horses. I haven’t been able to find out what happened to them, but this bench is the only non-horse place to sit on the ride today:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

I’m guessing this void on the opposite side of the platform is where the other chariot was located. It’s possible they use this area for people in wheelchairs to enjoy the ride, but I’ve never seen that, or even a ramp to get them up and onto the ride: 

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

When Magic Mountain first acquired the Grand Carousel, all of the horses were original and hand-carved out of wood. I’m not sure when, but at some point they had molds made from the original horses and created all new horses out of fiberglass:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Even though they are fiberglass reproductions, there is still quite a variety of horses. You can find them with or without a saddle, and in a variety of colors:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Even though some purists cried foul when they found out the park replaced the original wood horses with fiberglass, I can understand why they did it. Antique carousel horses are extremely valuable and fragile. They probably just wanted to preserve their investment. To be frank, many kids today do not respect other people’s property, which can be observed by all the gum, graffiti, and carved initials you see all over the park. Fiberglass is much more resilient and can easily be replaced. It’s also much easier to maintain. Although, I’m not sure how often this ride is cleaned. This poor horse doesn’t look like it’s been wiped down in quite some time. The entire mane is filthy and begging to be cleaned, as is the Grand Carousel sign in the very first picture above:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Remember I said that antique wood carousel horses are very valuable? Rumor has it that when Magic Mountain removed the original horses, they sold them off for quite a bit of money to collectors all over the country. In order to show off a carousel horse, you need a way to display it. Here is a drawing from the Magic Mountain art department on how they intended to display the original horses once they were removed from the ride:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Image © Robin Hall

Does the horse in the above drawing look familiar? It should. It was based on one of the original horses, which was eventually turned into this fiberglass version: 

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Here is one of the original, 100+ year-old hand-carved wood horses on a display stand. This was on display up in the Sky Tower museum for awhile, but it’s no longer there. Neither the pole or the stand look like they’re quite up to the specs in the above drawing:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

When you first enter the Six Flags Magic Mountain administration building, there is another one of these horses on display to greet you. Unfortunately, I didn’t happen to get a picture of it the last time I was in there.

In addition to the horses, there are other decorations that adorn the carousel as well. There are a total of 1,686 light bulbs on this ride, which really make it stand out at night. The postcard photo above gives you an idea of what it looks like at night with all white lightbulbs. As you can see below, there are now multi-colored bulbs installed.

Around the entire top of the carousel you will find cherubs flanking framed pictures, which I believe are called ‘scenery’ in carousel parlance. As far as I can tell, each scene is different. I also heard that this is not the original scenery for this carousel:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

The level of detail is incredible, especially considering that somebody carved all of this out of wood. Unfortunately, as pointed out above on other parts of the ride, everything is completely covered in dirt and in need of a good cleaning:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

There is a Savin Rock Museum in West Haven, CT that preserves and tells the history of the city’s storied past, including artifacts from the old Savin Rock Amusement Park. In 2004, a committee was formed to try and build a pavilion onto the museum to house the original Grand Carousel. When those plans ended up being cost prohibitive, they ended up looking at other carousels instead, but they did ask Six Flags Magic Mountain to donate one of the original horses to the museum. Six Flags repeatedly refused the request. Six Flags eventually gave in to the constant bombardment of requests, and a little pressure from some high ranking political figures, and agreed to ‘loan’ them one of the original horses to display in their museum.

The following picture is Harold Hartmann, the curator of the Savin Rock Museum and a 30-year employee of the Savin Rock Amusement Park. He oversaw all park maintenance up to the day the park closed. In fact, it was him and his two brothers who dismantled all 64 of the horses, boxed them up, and shipped them off to California back in 1969. He is standing behind Silver Fox, the horse on loan from Six Flags Magic Mountain:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Grand Carousel

Image © Thomas McDonald/New York Times

Six Flags Magic Mountain definitely has a very special carousel in its possession. It also appears that with one that was in the Sky Tower, the one in the admin building, and another on loan to the Savin Rock Museum, they haven’t sold off all of the original horses either. The entire carousel was closed in January 2007 for a complete refurbishment. The horses were removed and everything received fresh paint. I’m not sure if this is when the wooden horses were replaced or if that happened at an earlier date.

As I mentioned above, 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of this carousel. 100 years is a very prominent date for anything, especially an amusement park ride that gets used over 200 days a year. I was hoping that Six Flags Magic Mountain was going to hold some sort of commemorative event to acknowledge the achievement, but nothing ever materialized. The 2012 season was just business as usual for this ‘workhorse’ of the park.

Here’s a short video of what the carousel looks like today:

43 Comments

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  3. Eric

    02/29/2012 at 12:31 am

    Just a note…Philadelphia Toboggan Co. did not build Colossus. It was designed by Lorenz and Williams and built by International Amusement Devices (IAD). Some have said that Colossus was inspired by Montaña Rusa at La Feria Chapultepec in Mexico City. That ride was also built by IAD.

    The second set of trains that ran on Colossus from 1979 till 1986 were PTC three-bench trains, however. At one time, the red side (Goliath side) ran trains backward throughout the year.

    • Kurt

      02/29/2012 at 5:58 am

      Thanks for the correction, Eric. I actually knew that and wondered why I wrote what I did. After looking at my notes, I had gotten that info from the PTC website. Now I’m wondering if they even built all seven of the top ten coasters that their site says they did. I’ve removed the comment about Colossus.

  4. Eric

    03/02/2012 at 8:09 pm

    Glad I could offer the information.

    I just reread my comment and noticed that I didn’t even mention that your profile of the Grand Carousel was excellent! In fact, I even learned something myself. I wasn’t even aware that they had replaced the original wooden horses with fiberglass ones, but I can certainly understand why. The originals would have been vandalized beyond repair had they remained on the carousel. I hope as many as possible are stashed away someplace where they’ll be safe.

    For a long time, I’ve known of that place nearby that has some old stuff from the park, but have never known exactly where it is and whether anyone can check it out or at least get close to it. Being able to see old stuff from the park (that isn’t in the Magic of the Mountain museum up in the Sky Tower) would make for a great time!

  5. Eric

    03/06/2012 at 10:58 am

    That means this year its the 100th aniversary of grand carrousel!!

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  9. Joanie

    04/14/2012 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you so much for reporting on the history of this carousel. I grew up in West Haven, and spent many hours on this carousel before Savin Rock was shut down. Before moving to California I had been told that the carousel at Magic Mountain might be the one from Savin Rock, and I was happy to see this article stating that it was in fact the Savin Rock “flying horses” as we called them, and that you gave some of it’s history. I have ridden it since in place at Magic Mountain. It holds a place in the hearts of all who had the pleasure of riding it when at Savin Rock. I would love for the park to have a special anniversary for it, but I do understand that it is the coasters that most all come to see.

    I am often searching for info on Savin Rock and was thrilled to see the original West Haven Carousel photos you included here. I wish more were available to be seen on the internet, but I seldom see any. I hate the thought of this history being lost. Although as a kid, I hated the thought of ever having to ride the chariots, the original ones were magnificent and very detailed. I wish they were still part of the carousel today.

    • Kurt

      04/14/2012 at 5:41 pm

      I’m glad you liked the article, Joanie. I knew virtually nothing about carousels before I started researching the history on that one. I found it fascinating. It was like a whole different world back when carousels were king of the midway. You may already be familiar with it, but there was an Images of America book published by Arcadia Publishing about Savin Rock. Here is a link: http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9780738544762/Savin-Rock-Amusement-Park

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  11. Evelyn Dunbar

    06/21/2012 at 11:01 am

    I too grew up in WHCT rode the horses many times two best memories 1st 5th birthday rode the up and down horse by myself without being scared and got a new big baby doll 2nd 10 yrs old rode them one summer day and caught the btass ring 7 times in a row had 8 rides for one nickel bragged all week

    • Kurt

      06/21/2012 at 9:29 pm

      Those sound like some very fond memories, Evelyn. 🙂

  12. Betty Facciuto-McLaughlin

    08/08/2012 at 5:24 am

    I rode the “flying horses in west haven , Ct. when i was a little girl back in 1953 .. It was the greatest …my dad used to take me (Tony Facciuto) on visitation sundays ..I would ride for hrs. never catching the brass ring ..but always on the horse that went up and down .. I would wave to my dad who would be close by ..Oh for those days again ..No other Carousel was near as good as my “flying horse carousel of long ago ..

    • Kurt

      08/08/2012 at 10:10 am

      Everyone I’ve ever talked to about that park has had nothing but fond memories. It sounds like it was a very magical place for its time.

    • Joyce Kudla Dufresne

      01/12/2016 at 8:44 pm

      I remember Ssvin Rock very well. My parents or my grandfather would take me an my sisters there quite often. It so sad to have it gone! What a wonderful place ssvin rock was! It was in the mid to late 50s to the end of savin rock that we would go. I remember always going on the merry go round and being afraid of not being able to hold on to the pole because to me, being so young, I was afraid wouldn’t be able to hang on because the po!e was thicker than my hands could wrap around! I was too afraid to try for the ring for fear of falling off if I let go of the pole! I have so many wonderful, happy memories of savin rock! I wish we could go back in time! Kiddy land was our favorite until we were big enough to go on the “big” rides. Loved the flavored popcorn too! It came shaped as a brick and I think the name on the label said Terry’s. It was so good! I have lots of wonderful memories of savin rock! Wish the merry go round was back where it belongs!….Joyce Kudla Dufresne

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  14. Gina

    09/20/2012 at 9:29 am

    Wow- I finally could see the ‘Flying Horses’ I used to ride in the 1950’s when the carousel was at Savin Rock Amusement Park in West Haven, Connecticut! I remember as a small child endlessly looking at the hand painted scenes that graced the top between the cherubs and mirrors- very intricate and fully detailed oil paintings they were! As happy as I was to see my beloved flying horses again, I was very dismayed to see such very inferior artwork have covered over those fascinating paintings. I still look to this day for any photos of those intricate paintings which once graced this carousel. I hope to one day find such photos. Thank you for letting me see my ‘flying horses’ once again.

    • Kurt

      09/20/2012 at 9:54 am

      Hi Gina! Thank you for visiting my site and leaving a comment. I’m happy I was able to put a smile on your face. The next time you’re in Los Angeles, you should swing by the park and take another spin on the flying horses. 🙂

    • Ann

      11/12/2017 at 12:14 pm

      HI Gina , Are you on Facebook ?
      Ann

  15. Patrice

    11/05/2012 at 9:56 am

    I am so thrilled to view the comments about our carousel. I too grew up in West Haven, CT and rode the carousel every promotion day in grade school. It was a tradition for many local elementary school children. I am also part of the committee trying to bring a carousel back to West Haven, CT. Thank you for writing about it.

    • Kurt

      11/05/2012 at 10:25 am

      It was my pleasure, Patrice. I really enjoyed doing the research on that article.

  16. lynn carter wrzosek

    11/09/2012 at 7:11 pm

    I too was from West Haven , Ct & rode the flying horses very year at promotion time. My Dad (Bob Carter) told me I was too little to catch the golden ring, but that he would get it for me. Which, he of course did! I sure wish I kept one, but I think if you turned it in you could go on again. Naturally, we always wanted to go just one more time!! What a shame we lost such a treasure. Happy 100th to the grand ‘ol girl!! Lynn carter Wrzosek, Douglas, ma

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  18. Jean

    03/18/2013 at 8:55 pm

    It’s the flying horses! Savin Rock closed when I was little, but I sure do remember the “flying horses.” Thank you so much for the pictures. Savin Rock was a very special place to people in our area, and it holds such cherished memories.

  19. J. Lynch

    03/22/2013 at 9:24 am

    I have been told that my grandfather, Joseph Lynch (DOB: 3/21/1890), worked on the maintenance of the carousel as a youth while he was visiting his uncle in Connecticut during the summers. Joseph had two sisters, Carolyn and Mary and one of them married a Hartman. Do you have any more information about Harold Hartman? I have also been told that Alexander Lynch (my grandfathers uncle) once owned the carousel. Do you have any further information about ownership while at Saven Park?

    Thank you. Also, I enjoyed reading your article.

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  21. Zac

    05/05/2013 at 6:19 pm

    Whenever I check out keys, you have to go through the communications building. The key office is inside this gargantuous warehouse, so you have to enter 2 doors. Between the 2 doors, if you look up you can see multiple horses for the carousel. They appear to be the original wooden horses. Ive seen atleast 10 of them, and thats just from a quick glance up.

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  23. Pete

    11/02/2013 at 6:35 pm

    Attached is a link to PTC #21 sister carousel PTC#30 that is very similar in design at Melbourne s Luna Park that has been fully restored . PTC#21 most probably had a very similar color scheme

    Link

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/luna_park_melbourne/4028474112/

  24. Rosie

    02/24/2014 at 11:23 am

    Even though I’ve become more of a thrill ride seeker I still love carousels and (and I collect the miniatures) while SFMM’s is very pretty, I personally prefer the carousel at our County Fair, because not only does it have the traditional horses but it has other animals, lion, rabbit, sea dragon, bear, rooster, pig.

  25. Robert S Isenberg

    01/22/2015 at 2:11 pm

    I grew up in New Haven and Savin Rock was part of summer. What a great article. Thank you for the photos too. I don’t know why they left the organ. It not only played the pipes but drums and a variety of other instruments. It also played a couple of other tunes on the one music roll they had that worked. It could’ve been restored and add a few new rolls. The last summer it ran I worked in the arcade there but the Flying Horses were my favorite.

    • Sue wydra

      02/07/2017 at 8:29 am

      So right. I went on the first in 1950 or so..I never got big
      enough to try for the brass ring. We actually lived in walking
      distance until 1954..but we were never allowed near the Rock
      without our parents. If the older boys went..they had to sneak
      and didn’t stay too long. Even in the early 50’s parents were
      concerned for their children’s exposure to people there. If you
      lived in West Haven..you were more aware. But it was fun even
      while it was in crumbling condition in the 50’s. Money may have
      been taken out but very little was being added to improve it’s
      appearance or upkeep. In today’s world the lack of parking was
      also a huge parking even then. It was better suited to the trolley
      days when it was at it’s height and glory.

  26. jimbob

    01/24/2015 at 3:11 pm

    When I was in my late teens around 1968 or 69? not sure but anyway I was in California on a pier out on the Ocean. Santa Barbera? not sure but I saw the Carousel from Savin Rock there. I grew up in W.Haven and knew it well but there was a plaque stating it was from Savin Rock. No mention of it on a pier but I can tell you I was there and saw the plaque. I’ll never forget it because I had no idea were it went so when I saw that plaque my mouth dropped.

    • The Coaster Guy

      01/24/2015 at 3:31 pm

      It had to of been a different carousel. This one, PTC 21, came directly from Savin Rock in 1971 and was installed at Magic Mountain.

      • Sue wydra

        02/07/2017 at 8:24 am

        It was bought for $350K in 1969…Magic Mountain had it
        up and going by 1971.

    • Sue wydra

      02/07/2017 at 8:33 am

      It was sold here in 1969…and in 1971 at Magic Mountain it made
      it’s first California appearance. It was put in storage years ago
      there also…as deemed unsafe..they lent the Savin Rock Museum
      in WH one of the flying horses to display. Now there is a committee
      trying to purchase the flying horses and bring them back. That
      would be a nice thing if it happens..good luck to them.

  27. Carousel lover

    08/01/2015 at 3:31 pm

    It is so sad to see that the wooden horses are gone. That is what makes a carousel so unique and that is what makes this one not 100 yrs old anymore As historic preservation says- Only an original carousel with the original parts wooden horses, original poster pictures. pipe organ, and brass ring included can celebrate their life. I remember riding it at savin rock in mid 60’s and the horses were the largest and the chariots were amazing sorry they are gone also. I will remember it as it was from the picture of my sisters and I riding it at Savin rock.

    • James F Crowell

      08/23/2017 at 12:38 pm

      I agree… I rode it many times as well in WH. I saw it on a pier in California Beach..Santa Monica? can’t remember..it had a plaque there stating it was from WH. I guess they kept it there until the park was finished. No band in the middle ..that was the best part… I still see those types of bands playing for real at Clarks Trading Post in NH.. They always remind me of the best one yet that’s gone for good… too bad things have to change.. so sad.. No quality anymore in these things..

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  29. Janet Anne ham-depalma

    03/15/2017 at 4:24 pm

    My sister Mary Ellen and I lived about six blocks from the rock,spent most Friday and Saturday
    At the rock either on the horses or in Peter Frank’s funhouse we had a stellar youth.

    • The Coaster Guy

      03/15/2017 at 5:25 pm

      I love hearing stories like this. Thank you for sharing.

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