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The million-dollar question at Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pennsylvania, is "When is the Flying Turns going to open?" The answer, according to Dick Knoebel, is "When it's done.” Park World gets a progress report.
“We knew when we took this project on that there would be serious challenges along the way," says Knoebel. But surely he can offer some insight as to when the ride will be ready? Maybe not: “We really can't give a definitive answer other than, 'As soon as possible’.”
The Flying Turns is a ride of largely wooden construction first built in Dayton, Oho, in 1929 by visionary World I Canadian flying ace Norman Bartlett and legendary coaster builder John Miller. There were seven Flying Turns built by Bartlett and either Miller or Philadelphia Toboggan Company between 1929 and 1939.
The appeal of this style of ride is that the "track" is less restrictive than a regular rollercoaster in that the train rides in a trough with no further guide than the curved walls surrounding it. The cars are allowed to freewheel to wherever in the trough centrifugal force guides them. The effect is like a bobsled ride, and also similar to the sort of daredevil barnstorming performed by aviation pioneers, hence the name "Flying Turns." Modern bobsled rides using a steel trough are available from Intamin and Mack.
Knoebel didn't think his ride would take this long to complete, as he originally hoped to open it for the 2008 season, but he isn't surprised at the delay. Unlike a traditional coaster, the park didn't have any working models to observe. They did use structural support T-rail salvaged from Chicago's Riverview Flying Turns. As they worked through the project they learned more and more about the history of the Turns and the challenges this ride presented to those who ran and maintained them.
Knoebel wishes he could have known everything at the start that they now know now. But even with the research that's been done they could not have known all that they do since they've seen a train run through the trough. In fact, they've seen several variations of a train run in several variations of the trough.
Progress has been made as problems were addressed and fixed. Mike Boodley is now working as a consultant on the project. Portions of the trough have been re-profiled. The service track has been moved alongside the brake run, and lift three is changed. A new train has been designed and ordered, and delivery is expected before the snow flies. If the new train is successful, a 2010 opening is likely.
Below: Dick Knoebel and the Flying Turns