Elsewhere in this issue (page 64) Gary Kyriazi makes the case for bringing back some classic and legendary wooden roller coasters. These early coasters were heavily twisted and the amount of track maintenance they required shortened their useful existence. Kyriazi suggests that their designs could be reproduced as hybrid coasters by Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC). Track maintenance for hybrid coasters is greatly reduced compared to the legendary woodies.
RMC has made a living by improving existing coasters that had either become boring or rough. Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Colossus was reimagined as Twisted Colossus, a longer and better ride. Cedar Point’s Mean Streak reemerged as Steel Vengeance, a much more thrilling ride shown here. Six Flags Over Texas’s Texas Giant became smoother and hotter as the New Texas Giant.
But I was fascinated by the prospect of the reappearance of, for example, the Crystal Beach Cyclone. It is considered by many to be the most extreme roller coaster ever built. The ride lasted only 40 seconds after cresting the lift hill. Opened in 1926, it was the only coaster to have a nurse on duty at the loading platform, full-time, and with good reason. As riders plunged down the first 97-foot (30 m) drop, the track veered 85º to the right. Passengers lost hats, purses, combs, and false teeth. They were thrown into their riding partners, cracking ribs. Many fainted. The layout was nearly void of any straight track and consisted of one extreme turn after another. To replace one rotted board, 100 feet of track would have to be removed, so maintenance was difficult By the end of its 20 years of operation, many more people were watching than riding the legendary Crystal Beach Cyclone.
I wasn’t old enough to ride the Crystal Beach Cyclone when the ride was dismantled, but I’ve long wished I had ridden it. So wouldn’t a new hybrid version by RMC be wonderful? The more I thought, the more I thought maybe not. Here’s why. The charm of the Cyclone started with it’s villainous black color scheme. The restraint system was such you had to hold on or possibly loose your seat. There was a lot of side thrust, the source of the broken ribs. Rebuilt today, it could still be painted an ominous black, but you would need to securely keep riders in their seats. Bursts of heavy side thrust is rarely found on today’s rides. Without side thrust and without fear of leaving the train mid-ride, and what do you have? A fast, smooth coaster that will be fun to ride. But it would not require the bravery to meet the challenge that the original Cyclone required.
In other words, the old classic coasters would have to be rebuilt to modern safety standards.
They wouldn’t be as thrilling, or fearful, as the originals, but they would be safer. Or to put it another way, you could rebuild the originals exactly as they were, but you couldn’t afford the liability insurance. We like today’s roller coasters exactly as they are. Fast, thrilling, and safe.