Celebrating a Century of Family Fun and Thrills!
Steep hills, big dips, and fun bunny hops -- this coaster keeps generations of thrill seekers coming back for more.
When nearby Ontario Beach Park closed forever at the end of the 1919 season, Seabreeze found itself as the sole remaining amusement park in Rochester. The park set out on a decade of expansion that would transform a simple park with a few rides into the full-fledged amusement park that we enjoy today. The centerpiece of the 1920 expansion was the Jack Rabbit, a “mammoth-sized” wooden roller coaster that was described as “the largest roller coaster in New York State, outside of Coney Island” by the local newspaper. It was the fastest roller coaster in the world, and was visually stunning to passengers riding the electric trolley cars as they arrived at the park.
The Jack Rabbit was designed by John A. Miller (1872-1942), one of the greatest coaster designers of the era. It was constructed by Harry C. Baker (1887-1939) in just eight weeks using 120 workmen. The Jack Rabbit is the oldest existing coaster to feature Miller’s revolutionary under-friction wheel design that locks the coaster trains to the track, allowing for larger and steeper drops that produce greater speeds.
The Jack Rabbit, which opened on May 31, 1920, uses portions of the park’s natural topography. This allowed Miller to design an exciting out-and-back terrain coaster that was truly unique to Seabreeze. The ride features 2,130 feet of track with a thrilling 75-foot first drop, Miller’s signature camel-back, airtime-producing hills, and a tunneled helix with a final surprise drop through the ravine before returning to the station. The tunnel, a favorite part of the Jack Rabbit today, was added in 1928.
In 2020, the Jack Rabbit celebrates its centennial anniversary, making it the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in North America and the fourth oldest in the world. Today, one-hundred years later, the Jack Rabbit remains as a centerpiece of Seabreeze, bringing family fun and thrills to people of all ages!
The Technology Behind the Fun
On October 28 1919, John A. Miller received a patent for his invention of under-friction technology on pleasure railway structures (as roller coasters were often called at the time), and the Jack Rabbit is the oldest existing coaster to feature the new design. This new method kept the coaster wheels locked to the track, which ushered in a whole new era of faster speeds, steeper hills, and negative g-forces. When it first opened, the Jack Rabbit was the fastest roller coaster in the world.
A giant drive wheel, which once pulled the Jack Rabbit to the top of the first hill, is now on display in the Carousel Museum. It’s ten feet in diameter, made of maple wood, and weighs 1,000 pounds. A 12-inch leather belt strapped around the wheel generated enough force to pull the train to the top. This old style machinery has since been replaced by a modern drive system.
"Pay As You Leave"
When visiting Seabreeze in 1920, admission to the park was included in your trolley fare. Each attraction within the park was individually priced, and you’d pay at the cashier booth located at the attraction’s exit. On the Jack Rabbit, each passenger was given a serial-numbered punch-card upon boarding, which the operator would punch after each trip around the track. Upon exiting, you would surrender your punch-card to the cashier, and pay the total fare due. A relic from the past, the words “Pay As You Leave” can still be seen painted on an overhead beam in the station.
Coaster Car Designs
Over the years, three different types of trains were used on the Jack Rabbit.
1920-1945 (top image): Original trains by John Miller, featuring bench seats with an open front. As was customary for coaster cars during that era, there were no locking lap bars or seat belts, and the trains were equipped with rigid handles for riders to hold on to. On the busiest days, the Jack Rabbit operated three trains of three cars, each holding twenty-four passengers per ride.
1946-1988 (center): Trains by National Amusement Devices (NAD), featuring a sleek stainless-steel body with a headlight on the front. These trains featured the latest in coaster car safety: the locking lap bar. The trains were refurbished in 1978 and the stainless steel body was replaced with solid Formica, one train in red, and the other in green. Each train had three cars, holding 18 passengers per ride.
1989-Today (bottom): The train by Morgan Manufacturing, features individual bucket seats and an updated lap bar design that sits closer to the lap, providing additional comfort and safety. This train has trailered fiberglass cars which provide for a smoother ride, and also reduces the wear & tear on the track and structure, helping to preserve the Jack Rabbit for generations to come. Along with the addition of this train came a redesign of the loading platform, converting it to a modern “flush loading” design where passengers load and unload at the same stop. This resulted in a streamlined operation with increased capacity.
Honoring a Milestone
On August 15, 2015 the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) recognized the Jack Rabbit as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark, a designation reserved for rides of truly historic significance. The renowned group of roller coaster fans “commended the management of Seabreeze on its continued operation and preservation of a historic classic during its 95th year of operation”. Coaster buffs from all across the country descended upon Seabreeze that day, to help us celebrate this new landmark status.
Several years later, amusement park historian and author Jim Futrell published his 2018 work, Images of America: Seabreeze Park. Copies of this wonderful historical and pictorial book about Seabreeze are available at the park’s gift shop, at local bookstores, and also online.
The Making of Memories Continues
Generations of families and friends have made lifelong memories “riding the Rabbit.” For children, their first ride is a rite of passage, having finally reached the 48-inch height mark and climbing on board with a parent or grandparent — who themselves remember taking their first ride many years ago. For others, it’s the memory of riding with friends on a warm summer day — hanging on tight over that first drop, wind whipping through your hair going over the hills, and screaming as you plunge into the dark tunnel.
Whatever your memories, we hope that you’ll share them with your friends & family and cherish them forever. We’ll see you at Seabreeze this summer — and if you’ve never ridden the Jack Rabbit before, we invite you to “hop on board” and join the millions of members of the Rabbit Riders Club!
Celebrating 100 Years of Ridin' the Rabbit
Still the Oldest Continuously Operating Coaster in America!
Seabreeze never opened for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even still, the Jack Rabbit ran many times over the course of the summer. Our permanent staff, seasonal managers, families and friends hopped on board this classic coaster for a thrilling ride. The streak is alive: the Jack Rabbit remains the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in America!