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Comment www.parkworld-online.com Belmont Giant Dipper


original Luna Park that operated on Coney Island from 1903 to 1944. Four new steel coasters now sit next to the original, mighty – and still-operating – 1927 Cyclone wooden coaster. Currently underway in Long Beach, California is an attempted revival of the Cyclone Racer, another Prior/Church/Traver ride which stood on a pier in Long Beach from 1930 to 1968. Lifelong Southern California resident Larry Osterhoudt has made it his mission to resurrect the famous coaster. Osterhoudt told the Los Angeles Times how he was recreating the long-gone blueprints of the Cyclone Racer by “reverse engineering,” using the many existing photographs and film footage of the ride. He is determined to duplicate the ride down to every last detail, including cutting and shaving every piece of lumber to its original dimensions. He has also reverse- engineered the original Prior and Church trains, and he proposed to the City of Long Beach that a new pier be built so that the coaster would sit on it over the water as the original did, thereby ensuring the original's experience. "People think I'm crazy about it sometimes,” Osterhoudt told the Times.


Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier


More recently, the Giant Dipper has long been at


the top of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s maintenance list. In the September 2002 issue of Park World, owner Charles Canfield revealed that they had repainted the Giant Dipper a glistening white with bold, red track, as well as laying a wider track with thicker gauge. “Now the wheels don't run over the bolt holes, giving a smoother ride." When I asked Canfield whether this high cost repair is something that the park can market to the public, like getting a new ride, he just chuckled. In other words, no. Coaster buffs may care and appreciate the high expense, but the general public would never consider it or care, although they happily ride year after year.


Shenanigans So do the tracks of the highly banked coaster turns that today's customers still love so much have to be steel? Does that mean there will no more such shenanigans on wood coasters, other than the handful of historic examples that, happily, are still running? Not necessarily. It seems that a park can still offer wooden thrills, but not at wooden maintenance costs. To that end I contacted Rocky Mountain Construction, today's leader in the rebirth of the traditional, high-banked wooden coaster. Admittedly a facsimile, but a highly successful one. Rocky Mountain Construction began in 2001 by


repairing the track on existing wood coasters, the experience leading them to two significant inventions: Topper Track, that sits on top of the traditional laminated wood track to help absorb the stress, and the IBox, an all-steel track which simulates a wood coaster track. The IBox in particular has saved and resurrected several existing super-sized wood coasters that were maintenance nightmares. So, how about using RMC's IBox track to ‘bring back the oldies?’


“Utilizing our IBox track technology would be a


Maintenance nightmares The main obstacle in bringing back the famous old wood coasters is maintenance. The furious, tightly curved and highly banked ‘twisters’ that are particularly revered by coaster enthusiasts were maintenance nightmares, and their lifespan did not usually exceed 30 years. A perfect example of the maintenance issues associated with wood coasters can be found at Playland in Rye, New York. After the park opened in 1927 it debuted two wood coasters, the wildly convoluted 1928 Airplane Coaster, and the leisurely, rider- friendly 1929 Dragon Coaster. The Dragon, with its flat, gentle turns hits 90 years old next year. The legendary Airplane lasted 29 years, but typically, its laminated wood tracks took a beating on the turns, and the income of the ride couldn't justify the maintenance costs. It made financial sense to close the Airplane and keep the Dragon, although coaster lovers still bemoan the loss.


NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018


great track solution for the recreation of iconic wooden coasters,” RMC's owner and president, Fred Grubb, told me. “There would be significant long term maintenance cost savings compared with traditional track. We would be very interested in pursuing a project resurrecting an old iconic ride. However, we have never had a request to recreate an old nostalgic ride. Our customers are more interested in developing new state of the art, record breaking attractions.”


Rye Aeroplane


So, it appears it could happen. But will it? Would


it be worth it? Might we see the reappearance of such roller coaster legends as Riverview's Bobs (1924), Savin Rock's Thunderbolt (1925), Coney Island's Tornado (1926), or the Crystal Beach Cyclone (1926)? Most importantly, would the young coaster-riding public, who have never heard of these rides, even care? I mean, none of those old roller coasters even went upside-down! And while they may have been cutting edge for their time, they certainly aren't now. In the meantime, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk still pulls in millions of riders to its twisted 1924 Santa Cruz Giant Dipper, while millions continue to ride Belmont Park's wildly banked 1928 Giant Dipper. At least three other American wooden coasters have been successfully dismantled from closed parks, moved, and re-opened at newer parks to great success. Then of course there's the King: the 1927 Coney Island Cyclone, which has been near- duplicated worldwide, arguably most successfully at Six Flags Great America. These all perform well, as if to say, ‘See, this is how it's done!’ Maybe they know something we don't.


Gary Kyriazi is the author of The Great American Amusement Parks, and the writer/producer of America Screams, the first pictorial history and television special about American amusement parks. He has been a researcher and historian on American amusement parks for 40 years.


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