Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Old Friend

While visiting the Senator John Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I reconnected with an old friend. It was an original car shown here from the Kennywood Racer, which I first rode in 1980 or ‘81, I forget exactly when. I didn’t expect to find a coaster car in a history museum. Let’s face it, I didn’t expect to find myself in a history museum, but in a weak moment there I was.

Among other exhibits, the Heinz History Center has an impressive collection of artifacts from Pittsburgh’s amusement parks, including this original car from the second Racer roller coaster built at Kennywood. The first was built where today’s Steel Curtain coaster now stands. The car has four benches with leather padding and original lap bars. Built by Dayton Fun House, these operated from 1927 to 1982, when they were replaced by the current cars from PTC.

The Racer is a wooden racing roller coaster built by Charlie Mach in 1927 and designed by the legendary John A. Miller. The Racer features a Möbius loop layout, in which both of its trains travel along one continuous track. Each train returns to the station on the opposite side of which it began. For each cycle, each train travels half the track. In rare situations, a Möbius loop coaster train will travel the entire length of the track before returning, such as with Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

I especially enjoy Möbius loop roller coasters in part because they are so rare. There are only five in the world, including three wooden and two steel coasters. Perhaps the best known wooden one is the 1935-built Grand National at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England. I enjoyed riding it, and only wish I had been there two years ago to witness their claim to a Guinness World Record. On March 2, 2019, the Grand National broke the world record for “most naked riders on a theme park ride” when it was ridden by 195 people. Those riders’ mothers must be so proud of them.

In addition to Kennywood’s Racer and the Grand National, the third Möbius loop woodie is Montaña Rusa at La Feria Chapultepec Mágico in Mexico City. It was erected in 1964 by the National Amusement Device Company.

In 2011 Preston & Barbieri built Max Adventures Master Thai at Mirabilandia, Ravenna, Italy. This steel Möbius loop coaster has riders board both halves of the track simultaneously. Twisted Colossus at Magic Mountain, Valencia, California, was reimagined in 2015 by Rocky Mountain Construction from the 1978-built Colossus. Unlike other Möbius loop coasters, Twisted Colossus has one station and trains go through both sides of the Möbius loop on one cycle. The original Colossus was a traditional two-track racing wooden coaster.

While in Pittsburgh I also visited Kennywood and, of course, rode the Racer with the current PTC trains. But it was disquieting to find that old friend, the original Racer car that I once rode years ago, now sitting serenely in a museum. It made me feel old, too.

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