Old Mill (ride)

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Fata Morgana at Efteling in the Netherlands.

An old mill is a type of amusement park ride with unaccompanied boats floated on guideways through dark tunnels. These themed dark rides originated in the late 19th century and are known by a variety of names, including tunnel of love and river cave. While generally considered a gentle ride, a variation that ends with a climactic splashdown, similar to the modern-day log flume, is known as a mill chute.

Tunnel of love[edit]

In its earliest incarnations, riders were taken by two-passenger boats through dark passages. There were two major themes: a relaxing romantic ride encouraging the couple to cuddle, or a spooky horror ride encouraging the couple to cling to one another. The darkness provided a degree of privacy and the frightening scenes offered a socially acceptable excuse for the physical contact at a time when public affection or even holding hands was considered inappropriate.

With the development of other socially acceptable opportunities and less stigma for unmarried couples to engage in physical contact, these rides became less popular and were either re-themed into children's attractions or torn down completely.

River caves[edit]

Riders travel slowly on themed boats along an artificial river that meanders through decorated caves and tunnels featuring different themed scenes of lighting, sounds, props, animatronics, or other visual effects. The boats drift along on a gentle current, typically generated by a paddle wheel. This type of amusement ride became relatively common at amusement parks across the UK and the USA in the mid-20th century. The concept of the river cave is also very similar to those of the early scenic railways in that they attempt to be both educational and entertaining.

Once a popular feature of many amusement parks, river caves are now relatively rare and can be found in only a few locations, mainly in the UK and United States. Despite their popularity in the early to mid-20th century, the shift in focus to the thrill ride in the latter half of the 20th century onwards and the sheer age of the design and mechanics of these rides means that many have been dismantled and sold or destroyed altogether.

The ride's name stems from the fact that most were themed around caverns, with styrofoam stalagmites and stalactites housing detailed displays from around the world, through time and from myth and legend.

Mill chute[edit]

A "mill chute" is a variation of the old mill, featuring roller coaster-like drops at the end, in which riders get soaked. The major difference between the old mill and the mill chute is that the mill chute contains a drop at the end. Mill chutes have the same-styled grottos and caverns as old mills. Mill chutes were mainly manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s, while old mills were mainly manufactured in the late 19th century through the 1930s. Though old mills have drops, they are not as steep as the last drop on a mill chute (hence the name "chute"). The last drop on a mill chute ride is typically steeper than its first drop: though it is typical on roller coasters to have the steepest first drop, water rides have fiercer endings. The mill chute is considered the predecessor to the modern-day log flume.

Notable installations[edit]

Name Location Opened Closed Designer Notes
Old Mill Ride United States Sea Lion Park, Coney Island 1895 1902 Paul Boyton [a]
Garfield's Nightmare United States Kennywood Park 1901 [b]
Old Mill United States Rocky Glen Park 1904 Circa 1913 Frederick Ingersoll
River Caves United Kingdom Blackpool Pleasure Beach 1905
Shoot The Chutes United States Rocky Glen Park 1906 Circa 1913 Frederick Ingersoll
The Red Mill United States Luna Park, Coney Island 1907 1944 [c]
River Caves United Kingdom Pleasureland Southport 1908 2004 Helters Ltd [d]
Ye Old Mill United States Minnesota State Fair 1915 [e]
Ye Old Mill United States Kansas State Fair 1915
Kärlekstunneln Sweden Gröna Lund 1917 [f]
Old Mill (Shooting the Rapids) United States Seabreeze Amusement Park 1920 ca.1940 John A. Miller
Ye Old Mill United States Iowa State Fair 1921 [g]
River Cave United Kingdom Dreamland Margate 1924 1984
Tokyo Canal United States Rocky Glen Park 1924 1950 John A. Miller [h]
Boat Chute United States Lake Winnepesaukah 1927 Carl O. Dixon [i]
Journey to the Center of the Earth United States Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom 1927 1992 [j]
Mill Chute / Lost River United States Hersheypark 1929 1972 Philadelphia Toboggan Company [k]
Old Mill United States Rye Playland 1929 [l]
  1. ^ The park was closed in 1902 and later reopened as Luna Park, with renamed and rethemed attractions.
  2. ^ Known as the world's oldest operating old mill attraction, the ride has been renamed and rethemed several times, to "Around-the-World" in 1954, "Hard-Headed Harrold's Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway" in 1974, and "Garfield's Nightmare" in 2004.
  3. ^ Redesigned in 1913[1]
  4. ^ Originally located at the first Pleasure park in Southport, it was moved to Pleasureland in 1922.
  5. ^ Opened by John Keenan in 1915, Ye Old Mill is the fair's oldest attraction. The fair purchased the attraction for $80,000 from the Keenan family in 2018.[2]
  6. ^ Remodeled in 1987
  7. ^ Restored in 1996[3]
  8. ^ Was a part of Nallin-Jennings half of Park in Moosic, Pennsylvania. Sometimes spelled as "Tokio"; Name changed to "Glen Canal" some time after World War II; Was built underneath the Pippin Coaster (1924-1950). The ride was destroyed May 24 1950 after a massive fire also took the Pippin, the Fun House, and Ben Sterling’s Penny Arcade (who owned the other half of the park).
  9. ^ Oldest Mill Chute ride in the US [4][5]
  10. ^ Themed "Journey to the Center of the Earth" in 1960 by dark ride designer Bill Tracy, the ride featured illuminated scenes of trolls, giant spiders, snakes, and miners.
  11. ^ Originally designed by renowned coaster designer Herbert Schmeck, the ride was rethemed in 1964 to the "Lost River" by Bill Tracy. The attraction was destroyed in 1972's Hurricane Agnes.
  12. ^ Remodeled by Sally Corporation in 1989

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1928 film The Crowd, a tunnel of love is featured in which the sides are voyeuristically pulled down at a place where couples are likely to be kissing. The 1951 Alfred Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train features a tunnel of love ride that becomes the scene of a murder.[6]

The tunnel of love was a favorite source of amusing scenes in Hanna-Barbera television series such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo, among others, often in a chase sequence gag in which rivals or combatants are shown entering the ride, then exiting in a romantic embrace. The tunnel of love has also been used in Disney cartoons, mainly a jealous Donald Duck storming the tunnel by foot and ruining the ride for a rival suitor and Daisy Duck.

In 1980, Dire Straits released a single entitled "Tunnel of Love" from their album Making Movies. Bruce Springsteen recorded an album called Tunnel of Love in 1987 and a song of the same name.[7]

A 1990 episode of the TV series 21 Jump Street was called "Tunnel of Love".

A tunnel of love is seen in a 1996 episode of Hey Arnold! called Operation Ruthless. A tunnel of love is also seen in a 2008 episode of The Simpsons called Love, Springfieldian Style and in a 2010 episode of the show American Dad! called "May the Best Stan Win".

In the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, an alternative future story published in 1986 that features the Batman, super-villain Joker fights with Batman in a tunnel of love and manages, after putting the superhero into a fit of rage, to frame Batman for murder of the Joker.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hoffman, Laura J. (2014). Coney Island. Arcadia Publishing. p. 46.
  2. ^ Magan, Christopher (September 1, 2012). "State Fair's Ye Old Mill: As timeless as a first kiss". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  3. ^ "Ye Old Mill". Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "Operating Classic Amusement Park Rides".
  5. ^ Smith, Ellis (October 25, 2012). "Lake Winnepesaukah to invest millions in 5-acre attraction". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  6. ^ Spoto, Donald (1983). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-31462-X. p. 346
  7. ^ "Tunnel Of Love: brucespringsteen.net". Bruce Springsteen. Retrieved 2010-05-18.

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