1926 Reeves Mfg., No.20 Giant Roller Coaster in Original Box

1926 Reeves Mfg., No.20 Giant Roller Coaster in Original Box

This is the No.20 Giant Roller Coaster manufactured by The Reeves Company, Milford, CT. A mammoth size toy measuring nearly four feet wide, it's the largest clockwork toy roller coaster ever produced in the U.S. It comes fresh from a private collection where it resided for many years. Yellow, black and red steel litho, it's in pristine excellent+ working condition and is the only example of the toy, or box I've seen. 

About three years ago I sold a nearly identical mechanical coaster built by the Conestoga Corporation, Bethlehem, PA.. It too was called the Giant Roller Coaster and was virtually identical in size, layout, and concept. It had no box. At first I thought this was the same toy only built by another company, but after closer inspection I recognized that they were completely different. 

The concept between the Reeves and Conestoga coasters is the same. That is, a small coaster car is released at the high end of an inclined track. Gravity rolls it downwards over a series of hills until it reaches the opposite end of the track where it drops into a chute. The car returns automatically on a lower inclined track. It must then be automatically raised back to the original starting height. 

To get the car back to its starting height Conestoga used 10 large steel marbles as counter-weights to raise a miniature elevator lift inside a tower. The marbles were displaced by a trip-lever activated by the returning coaster car. It was fairly complex, but not too difficult to figure out. I thought this design was unique until I found this magnificent Reeves Coaster complete with its original box. 

Unlike the Conestoga toy, Reeves didn't use counter-weights. Instead, it uses a clockwork motor; and being an all clockwork mechanism, timing becomes an essential issue. Now it gets complicated. To make it work consistently it had to meet the following criteria: 

  • The car has to be elevated and released automatically at a specific height sufficient enough to tilt the coaster car onto the start position. 
  • Once released, the timing has to be such that the elevator drops back to the base of the tower before the coaster car completes its run. 
  • Simultaneously the motor has to be in position to be tripped again before the car completes it run. 

To accomplish this Reeves used a series of clockwork motors, an external cam, a triple pulley system with cord of a specific length, and a trip-lever. It's really a marvel of engineering and, outside of an automaton, is probably the most complex toy mechanism I've seen. Rather than get bogged down into explaining the innards I've provided step-by-step numbered photos showing its operation. 

Thankfully for the user the operation is seamless. Wind it up. Set the car on the track and off it goes! Because the motor runs only when the trip lever is released it works for an unusually long time. I got 15 cycles out of it before it started to run down. Every cycle was consistent, smooth, and flawless. In contrast the working time for the Conestoga toy was limited by the number of steel marbles that could fit into the tower. If the marbles jammed it also stopped.

There are several other differences between the Reeves and Conestoga coasters which I've outlined in the last two photo's. Based on its complexity, sturdier clockwork mechanism and gold finished metal finial (versus Conestoga's wood) I believe that the Reeves product was produced first.

And then there's the original box. It's incredible that it still exists especially when you consider the weight, shape, limited availability, and cost of the toy. The box is long, low, and flat; somewhat similar to an Erector set box. It uses the Reeves motif of black and red diagonal halves on each panel. The cover features an intricate, nearly panel wide illustration of the actual toy. The catalog number, manufacturer name, and address were printed below it. The toy name was printed on all four cover aprons. The box is complete with both its original cover and bottom sections. 

Size: 44" long, Tower 12" tall. Base 2½" wide. Coaster Car 2¼" long. 

Sold: Mar. 2009

Price Sold: $ 2000


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Subject: 1926 Reeves Mfg., No.20 Giant Roller Coaster in Original Box

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