Alexander: Who’s ready for an epic coaster countdown!?
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In 1974, Schwarzkopf constructed the first modern roller coaster vertical loop. A gentle slope of track met the experimental “clothoid” loop followed immediately by a brake run – not an actual coaster, but a good place to start. When fledgling North LA amusement park Magic Mountain needed a dramatic strike against booming competitors, Schwarzkopf’s loop was packed up sent out West to become Hollywood’s next big star.
Schwarzkopf’s line of Jet Stars had grown to custom designs – the largest of these being the prototype “Jumbo Jet Extended Looping Speedracer”; a.k.a. Magic Mountain’s Revolution. The experimental slope-loop combo constructed in Germany was incorporated into a massive neo-Jet Star; gone were the restraintless toboggan vehicles and electric spiral lifts – in there place, two-abreast vehicles furnished with lap bars and a pair lift chains (one for hoisting riders to the first drop, one for slowly pulling trains though the station for continuous loading).
The magnificent Schwarzkopf looper stunned audiences and help carve out the next global thrill trend: coasters with inversions. Revolution runs slower than it did in 1976, but mature foliage elevates the ride from early desert scrub days, and while later designs have eclipsed it in size, the original vertical loop still leaves a big impression with adrenaline junkies.
Originally a Germain Fair Circuit staple, Quimera (originally Dreier Looping) spent 2 years in Malaysia and 5 years in the U.K. before making landfall at Mexico City’s La Féria Chapultepec Magico. The larger of two Schwarzkopf loopers purchased from Great Britain’s Flamingoland, Quimera has since transformed from funfair favorite to a different beast entirely.
A near-twin of Quimera, Mind Bender at Canada’s Galaxyland runs much like it did when it opened – minus a train modification. Both coasters feature a dramatic, diving first drop and trio of loops, but Quimera’s mutated path subjects riders to midcourse tire drives that launch ever-faster through a series of impossibly violent transitions. A snug fastening of the fighter pilot-style harness is a must for those hoping to escape Quimera intact.
Following a pair of acquisitions in the early 90s (Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Jet Star 3 and Kennywood’s Shuttle Loop), La Féria rose to the challenge of maintaining Schwarzkopf’s beautiful but aging designs. The 2005 acquisition of Flamingoland’s Schwarzkopf loopers by La Féria’s parent company, Aventura Entertainment, yielded a quick turnaround for Quimera – but what of the other looper? After years of no news, enthusiasts mused: Had Aventura’s maintenance department met its match?
At long last, Christmas week 2013 brought the miracle of Bullet – a ride that had no hope of surviving 8 years of limbo without the Herculean efforts of Mexican mechanical fortitude. The tire-driven, ampersand-shaped Shuttle Loop (originally called Wiener Looping; designed for a square plot of Austria’s Vienna Prater, then sold amid initial testing due to noise complaints) once again astonishes riders with its loop-threading station, forceful transitions, and its backwards/forwards launch dispatch sequence.
2. Mind Bender
With the ripples of Revolution’s success still reverberating globally, Schwarzkopf’s prolific manifestation continued at a breakneck pace, with the game-changing King Cobra Shuttle Loop at Kings Dominion ushering in the launched coaster concept in 1977, and the back-to-back looping Shock Wave at Six Flags Over Texas (yes, there are two custom Schwarzkopf loopers by that name) briefly taking the World record for coaster height in 1978.
A few weeks prior to Shock Wave, however, citizens of Atlanta, Georgia welcomed the arrival of what would ultimately remain Schwarzkopf’s greatest stationary roller coaster: the “Triple Looping” Mind Bender at Six Flags Over Georgia. Birthing the now-ubiquitous 4-sided tubular truss track system, Mind Bender instantly represented the gold standard in (over)engineering – its unprecedented “magic carpet” smoothness still dazzling riders in its 41st year of operation.
While similarities with its Texan fraternal twin are many, Mind Bender’s superiority manifests in unexpected ways: a substantial topographical shift mid-ride, a climactic, sunken vertical loop followed by an underground tunnel, and the signature diving helix “loop,” whose divine geometry would later resurface on several of Schwarzkopf’s follow-up loopers.
1. Olympia Looping
As far as timelines go, it can’t be said that many entities concluded production immediately following their peak achievement – most are doomed to fizzle into obscurity, lest they risk leaving a drop of design potential on the table. This brings us to Olympia Looping, Anton Schwarzkopf’s indisputable Magnum Opus and penultimate design project (the last being Kure Portopialand’s non-looping Andalusia Railroad).
While Schwarzkopf’s manufacturing plant ceased production in 1986, partner firms helped see the final Schwarzkopf projects to fruition. A remarkably sturdy execution, Olympia Looping’s design found itself in the capable hands of BHS Construction, whose fabrication of what remains The World’s Largest Traveling Coaster was matched only by the flashy brilliance of 5+ positive G’s and 5 carefully organized vertical loops – each representing the hue and positioning of a specific Olympic Ring.
Since its debut at Oktoberfest in 1989, thirty consecutive years of constant funfair rotation have followed. Still the icon of Berlin’s hometown achterbahn genius demonstrates ever-widening popularity gains that reflect an ever-broadening reach, with visitors of Austria’s Vienna Prater and London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland now able to say that they, too, experienced Germany’s greatest gift to the industry.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s Top 5! Stay tuned to Coaster Kings for our next countdown!