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The Caterpillar ride is a vintage flat ride engineered by the inventor Hyla F. Maynes of North Tonawanda, New York who dubbed it the Caterpillar when it debuted in Coney Island, NY in 1925. It is a fast-paced ride that generates a decent helping of centrifugal force, causing the riders on the inside of the seats to crush the riders on the outside of the seats. It was once found at nearly every amusement park around the USA, but is now so rare that an original Caterpillar ride can only be found operating in two parks today. Though only two Caterpillars are known to be operating, there have been reports claiming there are additional Caterpillars in storage or standing (but not operating) at a few other parks.
The ride features a complete circuit of motorized vehicles which are connected end-to-end all the way around the ride, in a manner similar to a Music Express. Also, the cars travel a circular, undulating (wave-like) track very similar to that of a Tumble Bug. This ride is famous for its green canopy that automatically, or manually in the case of Heritage Park's, begins to slowly surround the cars and fully encapsulate them once the ride reaches its maximum velocity, though DelGrosso's operates without it. When covered with the canopy, the ride tends to look like a caterpillar, which is probably how Mr. Maynes got the name for his ride. A high powered fan located at one point under the carriage of the ride, was traditionally used to surprise riders with a blast of air as the cars go around the track.
The Caterpillar most likely served as Moser Rides' inspiration for the popular Music Express (sometimes Musik Express or Himalaya) style ride. Without the canopy, the ride does basically look like a stone-age Music Express minus the theming, lighting, and loud music.
Caterpillar rides were manufactured by several old amusement ride companies including:
Maynes, the inventor of the Caterpillar and owner of the patent, was paid a royalty by the companies that built the ride, or sometimes the buyer of the ride.
The only three original Caterpillar rides still known to be operating are:
- The Canobie Lake Park Caterpillar in Salem, NH (operating with original canopy)
- The Heritage Park Historical Village Caterpillar in Calgary, AB (operating with original canopy)
- Idlewild and Soak Zone, near Ligonier, Pennsylvania (operating with original canopy and undercarriage fan; currently removed for refurbishment)
There are also newer remakes of the classic ride at:
- The Pavilion Nostalgia Park (a small portion of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park that was relocated to Broadway at the Beach) Caterpillar in Myrtle Beach, SC (operating without canopy)
- Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach known as Mulan