Formative Years
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 1957 - 1986 Intro
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 Olympic Bobs
 Orient Express
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 Edward Lange
 Charcoal Grill
 1986 - 1988

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The Caterpillar lasted five years, and gave way around 1960 to a gigantic new dark ride, the Orient Express, that rivaled the nearby Fun House in structural majesty. Three huge, multi-tiered pagodas, framed by intricate molding and set off by tiled roofs and bright lighting, enclosed a maze of s-turns, crash doors, and stunts that were augmented by strobe lighting and glow-in-the-dark paintings.

The Orient Express was the last project of this magnitude at the Palace for Ralph Lopez Sr., and according to his son, Lopez went all out, designing the facade, selecting colors, and creating the paintings. To give the face its distinctive golden tone, Lopez used a paint known as Indian yellow over silver leaf glazing.

Facade (partial) of the Orient Express (circa early 1960s). Courtesy of Sandy Berman. view larger image Partial view of the Orient Express facade (early 1980s). Photo copyrighted by Peter Szikura. view larger image "The Smallest Chinaman In The World" from the Orient Express. Photo courtesy of Peter Szikura. view larger image

The Lange family brought in an uncle, a set carpenter from New York, who spent days on a primitive saber saw cutting the scalloped moldings designed by Lopez Sr. Lopez Jr., meanwhile, put his own signature on the ride, creating the interior animations. He also made a placating modification to the exterior, using silastic to cover over a swastika symbol - a good luck charm in some oriental societies - from the chest of a giant Buddha figure that centered the exterior of the ride.

In Pretzel cars traveling over Pretzel tracks, riders flew in and out of situations designed by the Lopez family to curl their insides and tingle their scalps - all in just under two minutes. One room seemingly burst into flames. In another, a tiger leapt for the jugular. There were monsters and snakes, an Indonesian God snarling a set of extremely sharp teeth, and, near the end, an executioner graphically chopping off a head.

Leaping tiger scene from the Orient Express. Photo courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr. view larger image Indonesian God from the Orient Express. Photo courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr. view larger image Passengers on the Orient Express. Undated photo courtesy of Sam Vaccaro.