Luna Park in St Kilda opened to the public in December 1912. It operated sporadically over the next few years as the First World War and resulting shortages of parts caused maintenance problems with several of the amusement rides.
In 1922, management representatives travelled to the United States and Great Britain and new attractions were purchased including the latest 'roller coaster' ride. This was a development of the 'scenic railway' offering more speed and steeper climbs, turns and descents.
The carriage incorporates a patented device to hold it on the rails with wheels running on the underside of the rails. This design belonged to the Miller and Baker Co. of Bridgeport, Connecticut USA and was known as the 'Under Friction Locking Device'. John A. Miller had patented the device in 1912.
The Miller & Baker Company was dissolved in 1923. Thereafter John A. Miller (1874-1941) carried on his own business building 'Big Dipper' rides across the United States and overseas. These included the famous Blackpool 'Big Dipper' in the United Kingdom and the Coney Island 'Thunderbolt in New York.
The St Kilda Luna Park roller coaster was known as the 'Big Dipper' in common with other John A. Miller roller coasters and opened to the public in 1924. It was demolished in 1989 following safety concerns.
The usual configuration for each carriage set was three 8-passenger cars joined together. There were originally three sets of carriages in use. The Museum Victoria carriage is apparently car two (the middle car) of carriage set No. 3. This accounts for the number '3' on the rear seat. It was purchased by the Museum from Mr Allan Osborne in 1996.
The carriage required extensive restoration and conservation work in 2007 by Museum Victoria staff to prepare it for display. It had been modified towards the end of its life with crude metal seat side-rails and steel angle brackets to bolt the loose, worn seats to the chassis. The seat were rotted and upholstery torn. An original carriage from the Sydney Luna Park in the Powerhouse Museum was examined to determine the design of the original seat side rails which were duplicated by the Scienceworks Workshop. Museum Victoria carpenters made new seats of identical design to the originals and these were attached to the chassis. The old seats have been retained. The original 1920s paint scheme was determined by examining the many layers of paint on the chassis which was cleaned and treated by Museum Victoria conservators before it was painted at Scienceworks.
From the ground up, the carriage consists of a metal undercarriage with wheels, a heavy wooden super-structure, and then the four carriage seats. Each of the seats is designed to seat two adults and are upholstered in dark red vinyl which is now in very poor condition. From the front, the wooden sides of the first seat are painted yellow, the second seat is blue, the third is yellow and the fourth is blue. The seats are surrounded by metal safety railing which is painted black. On the back of the fourth seat is a sign, red text on white painted sheet metal. The undercarriage has four wheels to go on the widest part of the track and four four sets of inner safety wheels which grip the inner part of the track. At the front of the carriage are two chains hanging loose; to the rear is one chain and a spring-loaded coupling arm.
Place & Date Used
Sign, back of rear seat: ' Do not stand up/Keep your head up/Keep your arms and legs inside car.'
Type of item
130 cm (Length), 130 cm (Width), 340 cm (Height)