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The Talon House

New Age Coastering


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Technoloygy has vastly altered life as we know it on this planet. One can look at is as an invasion into the realm of "it's just fine the way it is, thank you!" or as a launching pad for new opportunities and experiences. And this includes the world of roller coasters, too. There are a tremendous number of coaster enthusiasts out there who simply prefer the joys of a John Miller wooden classic built in 1927. Oh, they may sample the new-age coaster that just opened next to the venerabel woodie, but afterwards they'll head back to their tried-and-proven friend from the Roaring Twenties.

One the other hand, there are those aficionados who simply love coaster thrills any way they can get it: wood or steel: chain-driven lift hills or linear-induction catapults (LIM); up-and-down camelback humps or mind-numbing loops, boomerangs, and other countless inversions.

Hypercoastering: Scaling New Heights

In 1989, Arrow Dynamics rocked the amusement park industry by being the first ride manufacturer to achieve the elusive 200-foot height mark for a contunuous circuit roller coaster. Called Magnum XL200, this groundbreaking steel thriller debuted at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. It earned the title of the worlds very first "hyper coaster," a term coined to designate a coaster standing 200 feet or taller. Though it was fashioned completely of steel--tubular rails atop a galvanize metal support structure--it had no loops and mimicked the traditional

up-and-down motion of the classic out-and-back wooden coaster. It was an instant success. *(I might add myself, that now there is a Giga, 300 feet or higher, and a MEGA, 400 feet or higher, that have been built.)

Arrow Dynamics and rival steel-coaster builder Morgan manufacturing introduced seveal more hypercoasters over the next few years. Each is and entertaining ride in many respects, but two stand out: Arrows DEsperado aat Buffalo Bill's near Las Vegas, Neveda, and the looping Steel Phantom at Pittsburgh's Kennywood Park attained the record for North America's tallest coaster drops: 225 feet.

Desperado isn't at a park, but is part of a hotel and casino complex at Primm, Nevada. In fact, Desperado's loading station is in a casino! Trains engage the lift hill and then exit the building through a opening in the roof. The lift hill crests at 209 feet, but--using a trick pioneered by Chicago's Riverview Park which had to circumvent city coventants limiting the height of a coaster--the first drop tunnels underground to achieve its record drop of 225 feet. Beyond are classic hills--some with outrageous negative G's--and swooo turns as coaster trains roar past parking areas and building fronts. The mile-long-plus ride concludes with an enclosed upward sprial.

Kennywood's Steel Phantom accomplishes its 225-foot drop in a similar way, as the lift hill is stands "only" 160 feet high, towering over the park's nearby coaster star, the Thunderbolt, with its 70-foot lift hill. The Steel Phantom's second drop is its record-breaker, diving 225 feet down through the structure of the old Pippin section of the Thunderbolt (actually under the bottom of the Thunderbolt's second drop) and over the bluff. The pullout is on a ledge partway down the bluff, and it sends trains back up to the mail level of the park where they go through the usual set of inversions found on today's steelies: vertical loops, barrel rolls, and such, some of them causing near blackout conditions for some riders.

NOTE: I might add here, that since the publication of the material presented here, The Steel Phantom has gone through some major changes. The inversions have been removed and the course reconfigured. The coaster still has the 225 foot second drop with it speed of 85 mph. The ride is now called Phantoms Revenge.

Taken from:

ROLLER COASTERS by Scott Rutherford

Published in 2003 by Lowe & B. Hould Publishers

Previously published in 2000 by MBI Publishing Company.

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