My fondest memory and quite possibly my favorite amusement ride of all time is the Mill Chute. The Mill Chute embodied the best characteristics of a dark ride with its long mysterious tunnel, the added element of water and the bonus of a very steep coaster-like plunge and splashdown as its finale.

The Mill Chute was built in 1929 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in the hollow next to Spring Creek which provided the water source for the ride. The boarding dock area to the ride as well as the tunnel section, hidden by well-placed shrubbery and trees, was painted a pale green. As evening approached, the neon lettering on the ride’s boarding station lit up in beautiful pink.
The Mill Chute had several four-passenger wooden boats. Each boat, properly spaced apart, drifted through a concrete guideway trough into a dark musty-smelling tunnel and past different dioramas. The ride operator disengaged the wooden brake lever and once the boat left the station, it almost immediately entered the tunnel with posted warnings Do Not Stand Up and Keep Hands Inside The Boat. I recall just inside the entrance there was a large plaster relief portrait of Disney’s Geppetto character. It’s difficult to discern what the Mill Chute’s theme was intended to be, but in the late 50s it seemed to revolve around Pinocchio.
The Mill Chute was a gentle ride with soothing background music as the boats silently glided through darkness, making one almost totally oblivious to the outside world. The silence was interrupted occasionally with the lapping of water and the wooden boat banging against the narrow concrete walls. One scene featured a Pinocchio head that bobbed up and down inside a large jug.
The painted backdrop showed politically incorrect depictions or caricatures of black slaves. It’s important to remember that some of these scenes were probably installed during the 30s and 40s. They were very poorly lit and obscured with protective wire fencing. Midway through the journey boats passed a large paddle wheel that generated the current in the channel to propel the boats through the tunnel. Passage through the tunnel--with that wonderful musty smell—lasted about two and a half minutes.
Above: Philadelphia Toboggan Company catalog descriptions of three decorative devices used in the Old Mill.
As the boat entered a final bend and the emergence of daylight you anticipated the much-dreaded watery plunge just ahead. An elderly ride attendant braked the boat at the bottom of the mill chute lift hill. The lift chain was engaged and the boat was carried upward with the classic clanking sound. An overhead sign warned Hold On To Your Hat. The boat crested the hill, then plunged down what seemed a bottomless chute and splashed into the murky water below, soaking the laughing riders.