The days of youth and the mechanical elephant ride.

Chester England 1953 .Chester zoo one of the biggest Northern English park and zoo in the world.  Here , at my parents feet on a day out in hot July weather we drove for a day of adventure. In the zoo the Victorian mechanical elephant named Jumbo took me on a ride along with other children on each side of the back of this wonderful attraction. The cost as about one shilling a ten minute ride around some of the outside enclosures of penguins and sea lions. Parents looked on as the ride wobbled from one side to other gently progressing on its way to impress each passenger from a high saddle in the air. It was thrilling at that age being 4 years of age. It was noisy I recall as parts driving the beast made old by the passage of time grinding together inside the outside skin of some sort of rubber. On that saddle it was some 7 feet off ground. My father watched in awe and told me later that it seemed dangerous to him to ride it as it sounded really as it was breaking up. Next time we went I was around 10 and Jumbo had passed into retirement. No one really knew where it was nor seemed to care as it was not missed by insurance brokers backing the zoo on public dangers. Yes rolled by all forgotten I took my sisters children to that same zoo costing so much these days. We had a good walk around but now it seemed sad to cage wild animals.The reptile house took president with the children and best was the enclosure of desert Mearcats bob up and down vanishing in harmony into the holes in ground then in long line reappearing to watch us heads turning same way like the crowd watching Wimbledon tennis match.

Electric-mechanical-elephant-x80Structure of a steel framed elephant ride.


8e365fc62b28a9736900e79f72010be4--vintage-photography-vintagJumbo by Frank Stuart 1949  Essex. England.

I made enquiry   from the reception out of interest about jumbo. Explained all but the youth of 23 had not a clue as to my question , or indeed any single knowledge of the subject. Jumbo was no more that was a fact now the mystery begins.

in research I begin to see that long ago when Queen Victoria visited London zoo a mechanical  ride was there on view. So it seems mechanical rides made in many zoos all vanished around same time as jumbo. 1956-60.  Too costly to repair too dangerous in the eyes of zoo insurance groups most likely. Then what happened to the Victorian elephant rides is my question. Ingenious and life like many of them to the eyes of a boy who wanted only another ride on jumbo before that boy hastened into man hood. We know will try to trace the way they all went. Jumbo from the zoo went to North Wales and served for rides another decade before being scrapped. The Essex Jumbo was stored in a car garage until Frank Stuart died. The new owner bought the house but Jumbo had vanished. Some one out there must know what happened to this master piece made in 4 years from 9000 parts by its inventor and the end product presented in 1949 served from 1950 as an attraction on the Essex lanes giving local children rides. Stuart had even paid to licensed Jumbo to use the roads. Had it insured and had it serviced at home. It was no doubt the talk of that area in the days of yore when such things could be done and licensed.  An era of splendor a world of innocence just after the horrors of World war.

It was perhaps a magical time to have been a child. Nothing was impossible then to do. What happened after was no where near as fascinating ever. Rules of safety big brother watching and the nanny state replaced freedom. That is what happened. As for all the jumbos that thrilled us then ,sadly nothing now exists outside of memory. I hope the photos help understand what the value of such would be today in this world of electronics high technology and space? Then to us void of all this Jumbo was extraordinary and magical. Driven by wheels chains and momentum eventually being fitted with gas engines and using the exhaust as the trunk smoke filtered out and all said Jumbos gasping. Children then so grateful for anything as sweets on ration clothes on ration food in shortage after the war we had no sugar no real toys that could not be made by parents. i was far luckier my parents back from service and with us made a world of plenty for us. Yet I grow up happy and with values and open kindness for the many days and love of peoples who have helped to make me see we need each other more than we will ever know. The days of yore are long gone and here this moment with all we have will anything ever be as magical to the youthful mind as jumbo, ever again.


Jumbo from Chester zoo then traced to North Wales coast around 1959. After that gone forever. he may not have been so well made as Frank Stuart  made  but in my day as boy this chap was  just wonderful it moved by its own device without the rider by a switch system at its rear. as you can see the ride fare here had deflated by 50 % . My thought is the owner could not have made it pay to do this work. Exit Jumbo hello factory employment as many car plants and electric light bulb manufacturing offered well paid full time employment which paid far better than mechanical rides ever did.  Jumbo here looks totally faded next to his duty life as Chester Zoo days. i doubt if anything of him is left to show he existed. Like the times both are only memories.

God bless you all this day and forever more.



Sir Kevin taking you back in time to show you one day in a  childhood and how innocent those days next to now.

Copyright Kevin James Parr Bt 2018



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