Old West Amusement Park (1)
Opening at the beginning of the last decade the Old West Amusement park was an ambitious, large-scale theme park packed full of gun-slinging fun and wild west wonders. For train fans it was a real treat, boasting several genuine locomotive engines made by Baldwin Locomotive Works (formerly one of the world’s biggest producers of steam locomotives). Just two years after its closure the Old West Amusement park sits dusty, leaf-ridden, and is slowly falling foul of the elements. How did it end up in this state? The general opinion is that it was too big, too expensive … the locals I spoke to said there was just no way to support such an attraction in such a remote area.
Smaller abandoned buildings usually don’t employ security guards, but theme parks (as we’ve seen with Nara Dreamland) tend to have security teams to keep random looters and explorers from getting inside. My fellow Japanese explorers in the Cult had laid the groundwork by finding and entering before me, but left no information for what to expect inside. I was nervous. Security guards, alarms, dogs … who knew what perils awaited me?
The road at the front of the park still attracts a healthy flow of traffic, forcing me to attempt a lengthier and stealthier entry. This didn’t prove to be difficult, and once inside I had three areas to explore: Westernland, American Dreamland and Mount Rushmore. I headed into the first area, and had a look around the game centre. I always try to explore as quietly as possible … but this time, with my big hiking boots, creaking wooden floorboards and years of uncleared leaves crunching underfoot, this was impossible. Police sirens wailed in the distance, dogs barked angrily nearby and passing cars seemed to slow down to get a closer look … everyone was after me!
After the previous day’s battle against the elements, the snow was relatively calm for most of the day, but came back with a vengeance as I headed toward Mount Rushmore. The main building —like the majority of the park— was firmly or locked or chained shut. Access to buildings was extremely limited, and as the snow got heavier, shelter was increasingly necessary. Some overeager explorers had smashed their way into the staff office area, I took a quick break inside.
I had an hour and a half max to see as much as I could of the park. As it turned out the restricted access to the buildings stopped me from taking too long in each area. If you take into account how much time you’d spent in a normal theme park, the time you need to explore an abandoned park is significantly longer. The snow was in danger of ruining the rest of my shots, but I had to keep going. To get to the third and final part of the park I had to cross over a river using the high bridge, which had already collapsed in several places.
No way inside here from the front. Someone had ‘removed’ a door from its hinges around the corner, giving me another chance to escape the snow. This was the cafeteria area … quite a nice selection of classic cars with authentic American licence plates – must be the real thing.
So far my presence hadn’t alerted anybody. In part two: church, caskets and my escape from the park.