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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Steampunk Waterslide: 1904

Steampunk Waterslide: 1904

Off South Bass Island in Lake Erie circa 1904. "The Water Toboggan. Put-In Bay, Ohio." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

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Pay to Play?

I'm not certain, but other slides like this that I've seen, charged one fee to just slide down on the water lubed track, and a bit more to use their wicker and burlap 'toboggan'. After your high priced ride, the operator would haul a couple of ritzy riders back up-slope by steam power, avoiding the plebeian, and lofty, staircases.

Why Steam?

I think that the steam is for the winch to pull the cart full of used toboggans up the center track for reuse. The two outside tracks, really slides, are for people going downhill in a hurry.

Water pump

Maybe the boiler powered a pump. Most water slides have to have a steady stream of water in them to make them work.

"Put-In Bay"

Just around the corner from Put-Out Cove.

Shoot the Chutes

This look like a variation of the "Shoot the Chutes" rides which were featured in many an amusement park at the turn of the century. Patrons rode down the ramp on a toboggan or skiff which ran off the end of the ramp and splashed into the water. In this particular example I believe an attendant would have rounded up the used toboggans and loaded them on the wheeled cart, which was then hauled up by steam power to the top of the platform. The cart itself wasn't used by riders.

Skipping across the water

Is what you did on the water slide in Willow Springs-Little Rock. The park opened in 1928 and is still operating today. This photo brought back memories of the toboggan slide operating from 1960-2002. I remember you rented the toboggan by the hour, and of course it was lightweight enough to carry it up yourself. Very speedy ride, and when you hit the water you could skim and skip many yards on top of the water.

Another Angle

"Hi. I'm Lionel Hutz."

You may remember me from such lawsuits as Onion Belt v. Escalator and Buttocks v. Surface Tension.

Use at your own risk

That construction looks pretty precarious. One wonders if it could pass an engineering inspection today.

Looks Like Fun

It looks like there were lots of fun things to do before the lawyers took over.


A gold star to our host for an appropriate use of the term "steampunk." The thing looks fun — it appears you'd ride the toboggan down until the rope suddenly catches it and you go splash.

Ski Lift?

This is a weird one. The steam boiler has to be there for something. I suspect a steam winch that pulls the car up the track. Then the operator (wearing hat, on the top right) has to release the car once the waiting boys (girls didn't do this in those days I guess) have gotten into it.

It slides down the track by gravity and hits a stopper. Those two waterski-like things at the bottom of the track, probably. And the boys get thrown off into the water, labeled 3.5 feet deep? Must have been fun.

[There are at least half a dozen girls here. Including the one riding in front! The "waterski-like things" are the toboggans. - Dave]

Wild Wild Water Slide

Growing up in Florida, I saw my share of water slides, but not like this. Looks like it was designed by the fiendish Dr. Loveless.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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