by Carol Isett
of the Lower Pottsgrove Historical Society,
for The Post Publications
SANATOGA PA – Another long, hot summer is ending, but it’s worth noting that warmer weather lingers much longer in our area than it once did. The remaining sunny days give local residents a few more chances to visit a beach, or to travel to an amusement park for one last thrill on everyone’s favorite ride … the roller coaster.
At one time, local residents didn’t have to travel far, either, for it was a roller coaster that, in part, helped make Sanatoga famous.
According to an early souvenir booklet, Sanatoga Park on South Sanatoga Road in Lower Pottsgrove Township had the first roller coaster ride of its kind ever built in any park. It was called The Alpine Dips, and it was nearly a mile in length. The exhilarating and sensational ride was designed specifically for its location.
It occupied the most picturesque portion of the site, through the center of the park and dominating the crest of the hillside, where a full view could be had of its entire length. The Alpine Dips was installed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company at a cost of nearly $100,000, yet it cost just 10 cents (inexpensive now, but a sum to save for then) to experience its thrills.
Residents of Sanatoga and visitors were delighted by the new roller coaster. Excited screams of riders could regularly be heard echoing through the area.
Sadly, there also were screams – once – of terror.
Every possible safety device had been installed on the coaster, according to the booklet, and the cars were operated by highly competent guards. However a young boy, who had previously been warned by the guards against standing up during the ride, did just that. He lost his balance, fell to the ground, and died.
It marked the sole tragedy in the history of The Alpine Dips. There was another fatal accident on the grounds, but not related to the roller coaster; together, they represented the only two fatalities that occurred during the nearly 40 years the park was in operation.
The roller coaster was first operated by J. Rolland Kurtz, who later purchased it during the last two years of its operation. With the glory days of the fabled Sanatoga Park fading, Kurtz sold it in the late 1930s to Amandus D. Moyer for dismantling.
Using that wood, Moyer went on to found the A. D. Moyer Lumber Co. in 1939. The trusted and respected firm continues operating today in Lower Pottsgrove, on Armand Hammer Boulevard, and in Gilbertsville. It’s a good bet that some buildings still standing in older neighborhoods across greater Pottstown were built using lumber from the roller coaster. They represent the legacy of Sanatoga Park’s famous Alpine Dips.
Articles in this series:
- Maybe This Coaster Once Rolled On House You Live In
- ‘Love Among Rocks’ Forms A Township Legend Legacy
- On Corner Where You’ll Idle, Booming Market Once Stood
- When Winters Raged, Sanatoga Lake Was Place To Be
- In Township, Scouts And Cookies (Yum!) Have A History
- Family Appliance Business Has Long History In Santa-toga
- Love NASCAR Now? You Would Have Adored Sanatoga
- Timeless Treasures Fill Historical Society Chapel Offices
- Hilltop’s Still Making History, 59 Years After Opening
- Historic Answer To Heat: Township Swimmin’ Holes
- Need A Local Hotel? There Once Were Four, Right Here
- What’s Changed Most In ‘Grove Grads? Their Schools
- Shantz’s Mound Presence Made Sanatoga ‘Pheverous’
- Stars Danced In Lower Pottsgrove Long Before TV Show
- Never Heard Of Sanatoga’s Longview Hotel? Here’s Why
Editor’s note: The Lower Pottsgrove Historical Society was formed in 1985 to share the heritage of Lower Pottsgrove Township with its residents. It meets on the second Wednesday of every month at its museum and offices in the former Sanatoga Chapel, 2341 E. High St., Sanatoga PA. Author and society member Carol Isett joins society President Beth Scherer in writing about Lower Pottsgrove history for The Post.
Photos from the Historical Society, researched by Carol Isett