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Ride Profile

Once a popular feature of the New Jersey shore, the Black Diamond is now thrilling and chilling guests at Knoebel’s Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

Passengers on this classic dark ride are carried in replica coal mine cars

powered by gravity, making it a rollercoaster, too. Paul Ruben reports


Knoebel’s revives classic dark ride

pened in 1960 as the Golden Nugget Mine Ride at Hunt’s Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey, the attraction was specially constructed by the

Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) and engineered by John Allen. Bill Tracy designed the ride’s theme through Amusement Displays. Built over three storeys, the top floor gave riders a mine ride through the “desert.”

It was one of the more original amusement park experiences of the time. The Golden Nugget’s track was constructed of steel and there were two short lift hills that carried the mine cars up onto the roof. Not only was it the first and only steel-tracked rollercoaster designed and built by PTC, it was only the second steel rollercoaster in the United States. The first, Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsled by Arrow, debuted the previous year.

Dick Knoebel

The pier changed hands several times and was eventually purchased by the Morey family. The Moreys pondered ways to restore the Golden Nugget. Ultimately, it was decided the costs to rehabilitate the ageing ride were prohibitive. Enter Dick Knoebel. “I always thought that the Golden Nugget at Hunt’s Pier was one of the best family rides out there,” recalls the president and co-Manager of Knoebel’s amusement resort. “When it closed in approximately 2000, I tried to obtain it from the Moreys for over five

years. When

they announced its impending destruction, I made a last ditch effort to obtain it and was successful. But I know a gold mine theme would not fit in here at Knoebels. Since we are on the edge of the Anthracite Coal Region, it was an obvious choice to theme it as a coal mine and we housed it in a replica coal breaker.”

New props

In late January 2009, Knoebel purchased the Golden Nugget track and trains. The coaster was modified and rebuilt on the location where the Knoebel’s former Bald Eagle habitat had been located, opening briefly as the Black Diamond last October before its official launch at the start of the 2012 season. The third floor of the ride is now enclosed completely except for a quick moment when the track exits the building to confuse riders. The feel of the original ride is similar, but with completely new props and modern technology. Riders in four-seater carts are grouped in pairs and taken up to the third floor and tbefore travelling down through the three levels in which various scares and haunts occur across 20 scenes. Coal and support beams line the walls throughout the attraction. On the top floor riders encounter an animated stubborn mule, burst pipes, a dynamite scene, and a dead canary warning of excess gas. The Sheppton mine disaster is recalled on the second floor before riders encounter a giant rat, a rat tunnel, falling rocks, ghost miners and a switch man. Descending to the final level, there are two skeletons in a mine car, a burning mine themed room, a waterfall and a first aid scene.

The 1,178ft-long (359m) ride occupies a building with a 120ft x 75ft footprint (36 x 23m), standing 45ft tall (14m). It can accommodate up to 450 riders per hour, using six eight-seat pairs of ride vehicles. Many modifications were required before Black Diamond could open, explains Knoebel: “The track layout is exactly the same as at Wildwood. However, we have adjusted the track elevations throughout to



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