one of the most dangerous, unsuccessful rides ever produced
The Swingin’ Gym (also known as ‘The Flying Cages’) has hurt and maimed large numbers of its riders, with the original design almost uninsurable within a few years of operation. If you own one, you have a giant piece of carnival art, and a great fitness apparatus if you can master it!
The ride action is very simple and relies on the physical exertion of its passengers to keep it moving; stopping it is another matter altogether! Basically through human strength, a single rider rocks the counter-weighted cage back and fourth until it swings over the top.
Within a few years there were all too many reports of riders getting slung over to one side, battered and bruised by their very own momentum with riders sometimes ending up unconscious, with broken bones, split heads, grazes etc. Nevertheless, the ride concept was incredibly original and if not for injuries of lesser coordinated riders, would have been highly profitable and easy to maintain for its owner as the below advertisement suggests.
Grover Watkins of Watkins Rides (AKA Venture Rides & Hi Lite Rides) recalls he made his first Swingin’ Gym for his own park in 1959. “We built over 400 through 1969, selling them at $10,000 each. The idea came from an old German ride that was over 100 years old. It was a fantastic ride, but the darn thing was dangerous. It resulted in a lot of stiff elbows, broken teeth, etc. “I finally quit making them because I couldn’t design out the accidents. I learned, to my sorrow, that I had been betting on the coordination, balance, etc. of the public and you can imagine when somebody with a few drinks in them got on it.”
Due to their relatively low cost, many more were manufactured worldwide, with at least 13 units manufactured in the UK, and many more custom-built designs rolled out in a very short time across Europe.
A small number of modified units still make appearances across Europe, with enhanced safety including extra padding and supervisor-controlled disc or air brakes in the advent a rider loses their footing.
What a conversation piece of backyard play (or exercise) equipment!