OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The yellow cars clickety-clack up the track and squeals of delight fill the air as the Galaxy roller coaster rises, plummets and glides through its final days at Palace Playland.

Breathless and beaming, 5-year-old Emma Baehre of Plattsburgh, New York, scrambles back to earth and eagerly recounts her experience.

“I screamed to the top of my lungs,” she says, barely containing herself. “I thought I was going to throw up, but I didn’t.”

Coaster lovers can ride the Galaxy through Monday, after which the park will close for the season and its owners plan to dismantle the steel structure that has been a cornerstone of New England’s only beachfront amusement park for 20 years.

Joel Golder and his son, Paul, are clearing the way for a $4 million expansion that includes buying a 1-acre parking lot next door and having a much larger coaster built in Italy. The Galaxy, built in the 1970s, is for sale once again and has at least one interested buyer, Joel Golder says.

The expansion plan, which is up for town approval on Thursday, is part of Golder’s longstanding effort to keep people coming to the 4-acre park that he bought from the Osher family in 1996.

“We’re constantly upgrading the equipment we have and we’re always adding new equipment to keep things fresh,” Golder says. “You either gotta keep going forward or you’re gonna go backward. And we think investing in Old Orchard is a good thing.”

Golder, 69, has worked in amusement parks since he was 10 years old, following in his father’s footsteps. He started shining shoes at Paragon Park on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts. He graduated to running rides for others, then started buying and operating his own rides. His career has taken him from Salisbury Beach in New Hampshire, to Revere Beach in Massachusetts, to Coney Island in New York, to name just a few locations.

Now, Golder is growing a business that employs several family members, numerous seasonal workers from here and abroad, and eight year-round safety and maintenance crew members who work on the park through the off-season months.

The Galaxy will be dismantled this fall and the new coaster will be installed during the winter. It will arrive in Boston Harbor in 27 shipping containers and will be the only one of its kind in the United States, Golder says.

“It’s going to be exciting when we open next year and people see it and ride it,” Golder said. “We’re proud of what we do, we want to show it off and we want people to enjoy it.”

Called the Sea Viper, the new coaster will be twice as tall as the Galaxy, rising 70 feet above the white sand beach, West Grand Avenue and nearby pier. At 90 feet wide and 210 feet long, the new coaster will larger than the Galaxy, which is 60 feet wide and 160 feet long. The Sea Viper will carry as many as 24 people in six cars, compared to eight people in two cars on the Galaxy.

“It’s still going to be a family coaster,” Golder says. “There’s no loop and it won’t go backward. We cater to families and teenagers.”

Some people are sad to see the Galaxy go, Paul Golder says. A compact coaster, it has many features that coaster lovers like, including its space theme and lighting that calls to mind a bygone era.

“They have memories of riding it,” says the younger Golder, who manages the park. “It’s what they’re used to. But they’re excited for the new one.”

Calvin Miller, 9, of Acton, Massachusetts, has no such reservations as he steps off the Galaxy with his father, Ben.

“We’ve been coming here every year since I was 5,” Calvin says. “I love the Galaxy, but I can’t wait for the new roller coaster.”

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

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