May 2, 2010

All a-bored

Here's the "C.P. Huntington," pulling out of Main Street station for a grand circle tour of the Mag--

Not so much.

It's apparently the C. P. Huntingdon, with a nameplate apparently intended to invoke comparisons to the railroad circling its distant neighbor in Anaheim. but this is most definitely not the Magic Kingdom. This is Oaks Park, a "historic amusement park" in Portland. I wandered around there yesterday and took this postcard shot. The little train is a (very) narrow-guide attraction of the typical carny design. Love the truck mirrors topping the locomotive cab.

Oaks Park covers 44 acres of grounds, mostly lawn used for company picnics and birthday parties. There's a midway and collection of rides: Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler, and versions of some that I rode often at old Magic Mountain, like the Himalaya, Electric Rainbow, and Jolly Monster. There's a dark ride based on the adventures of Lewis and Clark, which is about as close to a theme tied to its Pacific Northwest location that Oaks Park gets. It does have some history, most notably in the form of a vintage roller skating rink and dance pavilion.

According to Wikipedia, the park was built by the Oregon Water Power and Railway Company and opened on May 30, 1905, during a period when trolley parks were often constructed along streetcar lines. By 1985, the park was donated to a not-for-profit corporation. It celebrated 100 years of continuous operation in 2005, making it among the oldest in the US.

If you accept it for what it is, it's a OK way to spend an hour or so. Its most impressive feature, however, might be one that was never planned: A demonstration of the true genius displayed by Walt when he looked at similar parks and thought that there must be a way to make something better. "A family park, where parents and children could have fun together."

I find little difference between Oaks and California Adventure, but a world between the Disneyland that I knew and this typical, albeit historically charming, permanent carnival. Take the "C.P. Huntington." You might need more imagination than most people have to pretend that you're riding back to the turn of the century in these little cars. Walt thought families might enjoy and learn something on such a trip—so he gave them a genuine railroad, a genuine station, genuine engineers.

Disneyland is at its best when it retains that "genuine" quality. Whether it's rooted in the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow, or fantasy, it's an authenticity that can't be duplicated without tremendous effort. Oaks Park and its peers are nice, but they fall so far short that comparison is really impossible. And that's the way that "Disney" should keep it.


Viewliner Ltd. said...

It is that cliche... comparing apples to oranges, that comes to mind. Disneyland stands alone.

DIsney On Parole said...

Yeah Anne's Back!
always nice to see another perspective from the 80s!

Welcome back!