Upsy-Downsy-Daisy Roller Coaster

The image below is great, especially when you click on it for a larger version. Check out the expressions of the riders … priceless. Relative to what we have today, this is probably a joke, but I imagine at the time this was terrifying and probably the fastest vehicle the riders had ever been in. Not only that, but I imagine the safety measures were vastly inferior (or non-existent). No wonder so many of them are holding on for dear life. The kid in the second to last car just cracks me up.

Montgomery County, Maryland. The roller coaster at Glen Echo Park in 1926. (Shorpy)
Montgomery County, Maryland. The roller coaster at Glen Echo Park in 1926. (Shorpy)

The roller coaster above, the Coaster Dips, opened in May 1921 and was around until the park closed in 1968. Much to the dismay of local history buffs, the coaster was demolished and burned that year.

Coaster Dips was about 70 feet tall, and at the top, one could see the Potomac River in the distance, before plummeting to the bottom on the rickety wooden coaster.

In true GoDC fashion, I dug up a little story related to the coaster and Glen Echo Park in the newspaper archives. This one is from the Washington Post, published on August 23rd, 1926.

Humanity’s love of “going for a ride” is given 50 kinds of expressions at Glen Echo Park.

Recreation seekers can go in for mild aviation on the air rides. They can ride around and ’round on the merry-go-round. They can have water rides on the motor boat course and the romantic “Old Mill.” They can ride the upsy-downsy-daisy on the coaster dips. They can get a centrifugal thrill along with their rides on the “Whip.” They can even have harmless and playful collisions along with their rides on the “Dodgem.”

A whole flock of different rides, both in the solo and get-together manner are to be found in the “Midway of Fun.” You can have a toboggan ride on the big slide–using your chassis for a toboggan; you can ride on the kiddie cars; and for as long as you can “Take it” you can ride on the spinning “roulette wheel” and in the whirling barrel and on the “jumping horse.”

Even the Crystal Pool has its ride–on the water slide, ending in a mighty splash, and the swimmers, bathers and sun-tanners find it plenty thrilling. In the picnic groves you can have soothing rides that won’t cost you a cent–on the lawn swings.

Too bad this place no longer exists.

Montgomery County, Maryland, circa 1928. "Glen Echo Amusement Co." The Coaster Dips roller coaster at Glen Echo Park outside Washington, D.C. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. (Shorpy)
Montgomery County, Maryland, circa 1928. “Glen Echo Amusement Co.” The Coaster Dips roller coaster at Glen Echo Park outside Washington, D.C. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. (Shorpy)

I did come across a tragic story related to Glen Echo. This one was in the Post on June 4th, 1929.

A coroner’s jury in Rockville, Md., last night found that William J. Lawrence, 21 years old, Washington drug clerk, who fell from a roller coaster at Glen Echo, Md., Sunday night, died as a result of “being thrown from coaster dip at Glen Echo; causes unknown to the jury.” The body was returned to Corsopolis, Pa., last night. Funeral services have not been arranged.

John E. Mahaffey, 809 Portland street southeast, friend of the dead youth, said that he saw the boy fall from the car, but was powerless to help him. Justice of the Peace A. L. Moore, of Bethesda, acted as coroner and William E. Morgan, of Rockville, was foreman of the coroner’s jury.

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  • Glen Echo brings back lots of good memories, and the STREET CAR RIDE out there was a lot of fun!

  • As a kid growing up in nearby Woodacres, I could not wait until I was old enough that my parents would let me ride this roller coaster. Alas, when I was 12, in 1968, they tore it down, so one of my biggest childhood wishes never came true! We still live near there and it has been great to see the carousel restored and some of the other renovations and activitiess at the park today.

  • Glen Echo Park is still there. It’s still a popular place although no longer an amusement park. I believe they still have dances at the Spanish Ballroom. It is sort of an artist colony now and some of the facades and features have been renovated to glimpse a shadow of it’s former self. The streetcar line was funded by the park originally. My mom used to go there a lot. An older couple I know met there at a dance in the 1940’s. It started as an alternative community (Chatauqua) before the park. Here’s a history link

  • Pingback: Glen Echo Park: A Folksinger’s Favorite | Taylor Agostino Group()

  • Sheila

    I rode that roller coaster with my uncle when I was very young, and I will never forget it as long as I live. I was destroyed by it. My mother road every roller Coaster she ever found, and said that the one at Glen Echo Park was the one that topped them all, and no matter how many times she rode it, it always scared her half to death. She loved roller coaters. I was also at Glen Echo when Milt Grant was there. We were at the pool, but I was only about 8-9? then, my sister was a teen. I was also on TV because of that. Only saw it one time though, and I understand that storms in Fla. took all of his copies of his show with it. all gone. Good memories.

  • dave

    I rode it when I was 8 ( 1961 )

  • Pablo Hablo

    Is the roller coaster still there? I ask because there is one in the background of a scene from The Americans, supposedly in suburban DC somewhere, looks abandoned (Season 4, Episode 9, Philip giving Paige driving lessons). The show generally does authentic outdoor scenes, wonder where this one was shot.

  • MelodyS

    Thank you for posting these roller coaster photos. Billy Lawrence was my great uncle…. as my grandmother told it, he apparently thought that the dips and turns were over and loosened his grip. Looking at the pix gave the family descendants a unique view on the old story. I loved the old wood roller coasters – but they had restraint bars or seat belts by the 1960s, so much safer.