Water Toboggan

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Water Toboggan
Other Name(s) Toboggan Slide
Type Water ride
Park Section The Grove
Built 1900
Opened 1900
Closed After 1910
Designer J. W. Pickens
Vehicle Type Ice Toboggan

Built in the ravine, across from the boat dock, the Bathing Pavilion and Water Toboggan were installed at Olentangy Park in 1900. The bathhouse was 100 feet by 13 feet and 9 feet tall. The slide was 50 feet wide coming off a tower that was 12 feet by 13 feet, with the platform 30 feet above the bathhouse roof, making the length around 100 feet long. Since the ground was about 3 feet above the water, the tower was estimated to be 46 feet above the water. Invented by J. W. Pickens, the amusement manager for the Columbus Railway Company since 1899, the slide was seen as a low-cost ride to build and maintain at parks with water features. It was built of 2 in. x 4 in. lumber. Access to the platform came from a central office at the bottom of the tower and up 3-foot-wide stairs.[1]

Riders using standard ice slide toboggans (16 in. wide and vary from 3 to 6 ft. long) faced a 40-foot drop followed by a second 15-foot drop, ending in water 2 feet deep at the end of the slide and 10 feet deep 30 feet away. The average slope was about 2.5 horizontal to 1 vertical, with the lower end tangent to the water and two horizontal portions joined by the two reverse curves. The ride was 40.5 feet wide, divided into two parts, 18 inches wide by 1.5 x 6 in. pieces rounded on top to avoid sharp corners. The left-hand part (slide proper) was not floored. The right-hand side was floored, allowing riders to make their way back up with a railing. The stringers on the slide were 2 x 4 inches, supported on posts, and held together by 1/2-inch tie-rods spaced 18 inches apart. The slide had iron rollers 1.5 inches in diameter and 18 inches long, spaced 18 inches apart. They were placed between the tie-rods, leaving holes in the "floor" only 9 inches wide. Gravel was dumped in the water to make a "clean and more agreeable bottom" instead of the existing mud.[1]

In 1906, the water toboggan was included in the bathing pavilion's price: 10 cents for children and 15 cents for adults ($3.39 and around $5 in 2023, respectively). This included transport across the river, bathing suits, and dressing rooms.[2]

The one at Olentangy Park was the second built. The first was built at the Mt. Vernon Electric Railway in 1896. As of 1901, the slide has not been patented, and no drawings have ever been made showing the details. A description in the Street Railway Review helped carpenters build future slides.[1]

The ride remained popular at the Bathing Pavilion until at least 1910.[3]


In 1901, Frank E. Grove and Frank Roddy were injured when the ride broke in two about halfway down. Grove's right foot was caught in the rollers, and three of his toes were broken, his leg was wrenched, and the right side of his body was bruised. Roddy was thrown from the ride and received painful bruises.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Toboggan Slide for Pleasure Parks." The Street Railway Review. Vol. 11. 1901. Published by Chicago: Street Railway Review Pub. Co. Pg. 89.
  2. "Bathing at Olentangy Park." The Columbus Sunday Dispatch. 17 June 1906. Pg. 2.
  3. Olentangy Park and Theater. Printed by the F. J. Heer and Company, 1910.
  4. "Hurt on Toboggan: Bunch of Accidents at Olentangy Park--Fine Ambulance Run." Columbus Evening Dispatch. 1 July 1901. Pg. 10.