At Apollo Con I attended the Amusements and Diversions in the Age of Steam – Magic Lantern show – by fantasy artist, Theresa Mather.
She showed us a photographic history of Victorian entertainment and oddities A popular fair attraction In the mid 19th century was the platform carousel with a circular floor rotating around a pole in it’s center and operated manually or by ponies. The carousel went steamed in 1861. Thomas Bradshaw created the first steam-powered mechanical carousel, (I call them Merry-Go-Rounds). That carousel and others of it’s day spun much faster than modern ones. It’s a wonder people were able to hold onto the horses during the ride. it was a thrill ride of it’s day. A high-point of early fairground art was the elaborate decorations created by Italian designers and craftsmen imported at the showmen’s expense and they even included lavish center organs.
The first Steampowered carousel inspired Frederick Savage to try his hand at making similar machines using the expertise at his agricultural engineering works at Kings Lynn.Savage’s first steam powered ride was a bycle carousel, the Velocipede. Savage also competed with several manufacturers to try to make carousel horses gallop and created their first platform galloper in 1885. The same year Messrs Reynolds and King designed the overhead crank system. By the end of the 19th century crank-action gallopers were a popular ride. The steam engine connected to a spinning top that in turn linked to the platform.One variant used galloping cockerels rather than horses.
In 1880 the partnership of Frederick Savage and William Sanger gave birth to another novelty ride, Sea on Land. Replicas of seafaring vessels were pitched and tossed by mechanisms beneath their hulls. Then a patent taken in 1888 introduced the Steam Yachts the ultimate mechanized swing ride. William Cartwright of Bromwich first succeeded in building a set using upright cylinders. The Steam Yacht rides used huge boats able to carry 20 or more people at a time.They even named the ships after giant ocean-going liners like the Lusitania, Mauritania. Cymric, and Celtic, although Olympia and Titanic proved short lived names..These rides were gorgeous in full swing as the boats had lavishly painted bottoms.
Savage also created the Razzle Dazzle ride, with seats and an outter wall it tilted side to side as it spun around. By 1885 Savage made the ride Tunnel Railways, a locomotive pulled carriages on a circular track with a tunnel. Frederick Savage enjoyed prominence as the pioneer of the steam roundabout but several engineering firms along with some amateurs. Robert Tidman of Norwich, Thomas Walker of Tewkesbury and William Howcroft, of Hartlepool, all emerged as competitive manufacturers of steam powered rides by the 1880s.
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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.