Chippewa Lake Park

The Big Dipper



The Big Dipper

Built by the Pearce Family in the mid 1920's, the Big Dipper was one of three coasters in Chippewa Lake Park by the time the park closed. The Big Dipper, also called 'Coaster' for some time was one of a small number of coasters built by the Pearce Brothers. The Big Dipper is often thought to be the first coaster in the park, but actually there was a coaster of an unknown name that existed prior to the dipper. The previous coaster was much less conventional and required the cars to be pushed to the top of the hill. Very little information exists on this previous coaster other than that it was basically a hill, track, and a car in which people rode down said hill.

The Big Dipper remained a main attraction at the park until the day the park closed. It is said that it was the single most expensive upgrade ever added to Chippewa Lake and that it was well worth every penny. Its impossible to even guess the number of riders that took a trip around the out and back layout of the Big Dipper during its day.

The Big Dipper was a wooden Out and Back style Coaster, meaning just what it sounds, that the cars leave the station, make a long trip away from the station, make a turn, and head back to the station. This is in comparison to various other layouts of the time, such as figure eights, L shaped out and backs, etc. Of course in the days of steel coasters and computer engineering, the possible layouts are endless, but back in the day, the out and back was a very common design.

According to rumor, the Pearce brothers later contacted Chippewa Lake Park to get copies of their own coaster plans to build a similar coaster at Cedar Point. I've heard conflicting rumors on this, one saying that the coaster was one of the rides no longer at the park, and the other saying that the coaster that was built was the Blue Streak. The Pearce brother's history doesn't lend kind to this rumor however as I've found no evidence of any Pearce coaster ever existing at Cedar Point. It is possible that the plans were used by another builder.

Most of the Pearce coasters are now gone. The Big Dipper at Geauga Lake is said to be a very similar ride, however that is a Miller Coaster, so there would be many differences, and of course, it was recently defunct when Geauga Closed its gates forever.

The condition of the Big Dipper today is unfortunately very grim. Large trees have fallen through many sections of the coaster. The wood is rotted very badly. The station is finally starting to collapse, although given the neglect and amount of time that it has been standing, it is doing very well. The land on which the turn around area sits is basically a swamp now, so I can't imagine that any of the footers would be solid. In short, the coaster is well beyond any hope of repair. Locals have stolen or removed the coaster cars, the brake levers, signeage, etc. Recent rumors of development at the park site may mean that by the time you read this, the coaster will be gone, just shy of reaching its mid 80s.

Below are pictures from various trips to the park over the years from 1999 up to 2008. The winter trip that I took in 2005 was one of my favorite.. there was a certain peacefulness that you can only get on a cold snowy ohio winter day. Enjoy!


Pictures of The Big Dipper
Click any picture to see a full sized
Big Dipper Station in the Winter of 2005.
The split at the far end of the track. This leads to the turn around. The right is the outward path, and the left is the return trip.
Turn around to head back to the station. This is blurry, but the only picture I have of this in winter, so you gotta deal with it this time.
The brake Run Leading to the Station. Taken in the fall of 2007.
One of the many Dips, this one is still in really good shape surprisingly.
You can see the extent of the damage from trees falling through the track.. taken fall 07..
You can see the significance of some of the damage in this fall 2007 picture.
Trees have grown right through the track in many spots, and as you can see here, the track is sinking in to the damp ground.
The brake run always makes for a cool shot, I think because of the tree growth and that last bend coming in.
The station as taken in the spring of 2005.
The same split pictured at the top of this section, only this time with no cold feet for me... but wet feet instead.
A clear close up of the tracks as seen in spring 2005.
Brake run heading toward station in spring 05.
The lift hill in spring 2005
The 2nd hill passing over the tunnel.
The station back in 1999 or so. The brake levers were later stolen.
The brake levers before being stolen.
The turn around back in the early 2000's


To see the entire unlabeled gallery of all of my current Big Dipper pictures, click HERE
To see a few more additional captioned pictures like the above, click HERE

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