Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Kennywood Opening Day Report May 3rd, 2014

Kennywood's opening day had some of the strangest weather I have ever seen. Some of the time there were ominous clouds, some of the time it was clear, sometimes it drizzled, occasionally it poured, and then you would see the ominous clouds disappear. For the most part the weather was alright. Even if it were a rainout, Kennywood has enough indoor activities such as the Carousel, Exterminator Roller Coaster, Grand Prix Bumper Cars, Ghostwood Estate, Garfield's Nighmare (Old Mill), the Arcade, and more to do that even on a rainy day there is still plenty of fun. 

The weather was nice enough to get multiple rides on just about everything. We stayed from opening to close. The park still needs some finishing touches before the summer season really kicks in, but we had a blast. 

The day was started with school bands serenading us in the entrance gate plaza. We heard them play some Journey and the National Anthem to kick off the Kennywood's 116th season here in 2014.
 I love the carousel fountain in the main entry plaza. They really took great care to make this gate look great.
 When I was at the park a few days ago, these beautiful and sculpted roses, were covered. I always love this type of art. These small details like this and the fountain really help to create a fun and relaxing environment in a park.
 There goes Brit in her redcoat. George Washington drew his sword. Then again, George was a Brit when he crossed at this spot in defeat during the French and Indian War.
 The gates were open but the rides were not set yet. The workers were getting their final preparations ready for ride opening. There is something serene about walking in a park in the morning before the rides get going.
 Dentzel is calling us! I love the park's carousel.
 The Thunderbolt and newly renovated Potato Patch are calling us. I would like to see them commission someone to paint a mural on the new awning if that is possible.
 I love this point where the Thunderbolt, Turtle, and Phantom meet
 Block tests were going on the Phantom. This man climbed up the lift to get them set.
 I love the view from this spot across to Braddock.
 We opted to get our first ride of the day in on the Thunderbolt.
 Lots of new wood all over and the ride rode even better than it did last season! This new track work, coupled with the extensive track work from the offseason before, has made this ride as smooth and fast as ever. 
The residence of Sir Kenneth Ghostwood is staring over the Thunderbolt. I wonder if he is up in that window?
 The workers getting prepped for the day. You can see how this section of track was completely rebuilt.
 Employee test rides on the Phantom. There is no better way to get a work day kicked off than riding a coaster!
 It looks like they are having a blast! 
 The anticipation is building to get our ride in on the Thunderbolt!
 Empty test ride
 It was really strange not hearing the loud screams of riders being thrown to the side of the train down the huge helix drops. Just seconds prior to this shot, there was solid cloud cover, now the sun was coming out.
 Ahhhh that's better (for photo taking that is) 
 Here you can see the new headlights. They were not operational at night unfortunately, but they still look better than nothing at all in those spots. Even if they do not end up working, they still create a nicer look on the train. Only the red train has them and they only ran one train ops all day.
 Worker testing. I put these photos up to demonstrate the dramatic weather for the day. Super cloudy in this direction.
 Super clear skies in the other direction. The entire day consisted of weather like this. It went from the sunniest of sunny weather to the heaviest of downpours or little sprinkles. It was still a great day and the weather was as interesting as the coasters at the park.
Remember that all of these shots were taken during THE SAME RIDE! That is how variable the skies were.
 Lots of new wood.
 The first public riders of the season on the Phantom! The only train on the track was the new green train. I will tell you all about the new experience later.
 Hands up if you think this ride is awesome! It surely ties for my favorite.
After getting a the first public ride of the season on the Thunderbolt, we headed over towards the Phantom but opted to ride Swingshot while there was no line. They only had one side operational. Hopefully they are not having the same problems Cedar Point had with their Screaming Swing last summer. Either way, the midsize Screaming Swings like these are my favorite. I feel they are the most powerful. 
 Swing shot going one way and a testing Black Widow swinging the other.
 Next up was the Whip! I love these rides.
 So shiny I can see my reflection! Mangels was the man!
 I love the Lost Kennywood section.
 Next up was the Exterminator indoor roller coaster. The entrance way does not tell you much about what the coaster consists of. If you have not rode this ride and do not like spoilers, do not read my next few descriptions. The inside of the queue has this giant and old General Electric electric distribution panel. I believe it came from one of the nearby steel plants. It provides for a neat reuse of this huge piece of equipment and a cool thing to look at while waiting.
 The queue ends with an entrance into these spinning Wild Mouse cars. The loading on these is superb, pushing efficiency to the max for a Wild Mouse ride. I have never seen a Wild Mouse load so quickly. They also have FREE lockers for folks to put their belongings in to speed up the loading process. The way they handle this is masterful. The cars exit in one spot, all while rolling at a slow rate and then you hop in with the car moving. In this manner, the cars never stop rolling, as does the queue line. What lies ahead is a dark and disorienting ride in complete darkness. Every experience is different on this ride. It also has some great airtime and turns. It is a mix of everything and a very underrated experience. Reverchon spinning Wild Mouse models are very fun.
 As you may know, the Lost Kennywood section was modeled after the old Pittsburgh Luna Park. I recalled this image (from the LOC) when we were walking by. I wanted to try to capture it as well as I could remember, so I tried to have Brit do it. My memory was not too good about the image, but I tried :-)

 Sadly the Bayern Kurve was down for the day. Hopefully it is up and running soon for it is one of my favorites and the only operating and remaining Schwarzkopf Bayern Kurve in North America. It is a very intense ride.
 Sky Rocket's in flight next to the Grand Prix Bumper Cars!
 I always love being in this section of the park. It is absolutely stunning and it is always a blast watching the Racer and Jack Rabbit trains fly by while hearing the Wurlitzer organ from the Carousel emanating through the sounds of laughs of screams.
 Hands up if you think this ride is awesome! These folks know the moon launching thrill that the Jack Rabbit's double down drop is about to provide. I think this coaster provides my single favorite spot of airtime on any coaster.
 I could stare at this view all day.
 This and the last few shots were all taken in the same spot. It is a great center of action.
 I really want to be on the Jack Rabbit right now!
 It was hard to catch trains in action on the Jack Rabbit while waiting for the coaster because the waits never exceeded five minutes! We probably rode the coaster about six or seven times.
 This view does not look like much, but we were really lucky and twice we ended up being the first to board, naturally riding in the front. We rode most of the rows on this visit.
 I love these old Vettel trains. It is nice to see that those bumpers look like that have not seen much usage
 Over to the Racer! This little guy had a bird's eye view of the five minute wait for the ride all day. If I were a bird, I would want to have my nest in the nicest coaster station in existence as well. I think this is my favorite station because of how beautiful it is.
 The newly renovated Potato Patch was hopping! It had a longer line than many of the rides. Kennywood is one of the few parks where folks talk about the food as much as they do the coasters.
 Over to the Phantom. Here we see one of the few remaining Steel Phantom Arrow Track pieces. This being the transfer track, even retaining the same black paint. They were only running the new green train today. The new purple train was not even on the track yet.
 Arrow track meets Morgan track. You can see the thicker spine on the Morgan track in addition to molded track connector pieces as opposed to bolted.
 The green train looked beautiful. The waits were very long for the Phantom all day due to one train ops and how much more fantastic the ride runs with these new trains. The original Arrow chassis are still the same but the fiberglass topper cars were replaced. The difference is that maintenance can get into the trains easier to work on them. As a result of this, the trains are actually heavier than before, leading to an even faster drop down that cliff and even stronger airtime if you thought that possible. There is also less shuffling, leading towards a better tracking train. 
 Back to Sky Rocket for the moment. This smooth-as-glass Premier launched coaster is still awesome as usual.
 All worries aside, the Volcano was back up and running again. It also has spectacular LED lights now that look superb. Now the Bayern Kurve is down, so hopefully that is up and running soon. 
 Rain delay: off to the arcade we go! I love the old machines they put up there as an impromptu museum of sorts. I would love for the park to add a museum similar to Knoebels and Cedar Point someday. 
 Noah's Ark!
 Back to the Phantom, SCHZZZOOOMMMM!
 The Phantom is better than ever and further cemented in a tie for my overall favorites. My other top favorites are Magnum, Millennium, Ravine Flyer II, the Phoenix, and the 2014 Knoebels Twister. I cannot decide between these which is my absolute favorite. I love pretty much all coasters, but those are my standouts.
 Hands up to head back down the world's tallest terrain coaster drop. There is nothing like careening down a cliff. I especially love how this ride's second largest drop is the first drop and how it gives you a head start down the massive 228 foot drop. The heavier trains make the ride even more amazing. They should clock the speed again because my guess is that is even a few more ticks faster than the stated 85 MPH from the original train configuration.
 That drop is really something else
 Back to the Thunderbolt!

Quiz time! Free digital high five to the person that can tell me the person who rebuild this section of the Thunderbolt lift hill when the Raging Rapids was built in addition to finishing up construction of the Raging Rapids.
 The new "bucket" option for the Goblet Pitch Whiffle Balls is pretty awesome. That is Brit's favorite game. My favorite is the racing one where you roll the ball, even though I never win. Scratch that, my new favorite is a mix of these two games, Fascination, that I recently discovered on our last visit to Knoebels. Both of us love that game.
 I can never get enough taking photos of the Thunderbolt. The lighting was not very cooperative though.
I was ducking under the helix drops during a small shower. It does not seem that the shower took away any enjoyment from the riders! 
 Dinner time at the Parkside Cafe. I love this building that dates back more than a century. It is also where we debuted our book back in December. 
 The rain is all gone! We sat on the patio and ate while we watched and listened to the carousel. I love this section of the park. It has the parks oldest trees in addition to some cool things like the Mushroom water fountain. It is a very tranquil section of the park.
 The frog that Brit won was taking in the rays of sun and the view.
 The Johnny Rockets in the original carousel building is not quite finished. According to Jeff, the restaurant should not be open until June.
 Time for a ride on the carousel!
 This beautiful Dentzel machine was built for our nation's sesquicentennial and Dentzel would end up getting sick and delaying delivery of the unit back in 1926. He built it too late for the celebration in Philadelphia and Kennywood swooped in and purchased this carousel for a discount. This carousel would end up being the last ever made by Dentzel. It is a beautiful carousel, smack dab in the middle of the park with a spectacular Wurlitzer organ. It captures my attention every time. 
 The location in the center of the park provides some awesome views of the Racer and Jack Rabbit.
 Back to another round on the wood coasters. The constantly changing weather was really something else.
 After this beautiful sun it decided to rain again so we opted to retreat in the Musik Express. This final short burst of rain would lower the crowds down even more.
 So naturally we went back to the Phantom!
 Testing 1..2..3
 The steel Phantom's Revenge meets the Braddock Edgar Thomson Steel Works just across the Mon River.
 I can never get the timing with both coasters going at once. Here you see the folks on the Thunderbolt starting to head down the coaster's largest drop into the ravine.
 Ok, enough views, I want to ride!
 The seemingly endless drop is building my anticipation.

 Still empty....

 Now it is back to business for the Phantom!
 It is funny when the hair tells the story about the airtime.
 Here you can see more of the new wood on the Phantom
 A closer look at the original trains with the new train toppers. They do not look too different from the originals. The trains still run with wheels from Arrow because the chassis are still technically Arrow.
 Boing! The Kangaroo was awesome as always. This is the last remaining Bartlett Flying Coaster. It was installed in 1962 and still is a crowd favorite.
 The sun is starting to set with the Sky Rocket still in flight...
 No one in line for the Garfield's Nightmare/Old Mill. I will volunteer a Saturday to take down the Garfield stuff if you would like? I would love to see this become anything else.
 Something special happens when the lights start to come on at Kennywood. The park doubles as a neon extravaganza at night, with beautiful neon, amazing coaster track lights, and superb LED refits on many of the flat rides.
 This time of the evening when it starts to get dark and the lights come on is my favorite time of the day in an Amusement Park.
 I love this view with the center flourescent lights on the Kangaroo and the new LEDs on the Paratrooper. 

 The carousel is even more stunning at night from afar
 This section of the park is spectacular at night as well. The Thunderbolt track lights coupled with the lights on the bottom of the Black Widow ride and the neon sign for the Traver Turtle, one of the last two remaining of those rides, makes this spot visually stunning.

 I love the old lights on the Thunderbolt. They are so bright that you can see them from miles away when crossing the Westinghouse Bridge in Turtle Creek.
 The new headlights on the red NAD Thunderbolt train did not end up working, but the train did look quite a bit nicer with the headlights instead of just painted wood.
 The skies looked spectacular at sunset with the strange clouds that were around. I love the way light appears through coaster track.
 The turtle looks like it is flying at the speed of light.
This is one of my many favorite spots in the park, the intersection between the Thunderbolt, Phantom, and the Turtle. I feel it perfectly captures the essence of the park as being both classic and modern.

 We got the first and last rides of the day on the Thunderbolt. That is a first for us and it was pretty cool.
It is time to say goodnight to this wonderful old park. This is a place that should be on the bucket list of any park fan for it has the coaster with the world's tallest terrain drop, three classic wooden coasters, a bunch of rare or last of their kind rides, and a great atmosphere. I cannot wait to see the park fully set for the upcoming season with the opening day bugs worked out, but overall, this was a wonderful day regardless.
 The small touches like this add so much to the atmosphere of this wonderful park.


  1. I'm going to say the Dinn corp did the modification for the rapids ride.

  2. Totally agree with you about Garfield. I went with my wife and brother-in-law yesterday, and it's sad that it's not fully functional on the inside (the dog and pizza box stunts).
    Now, working on that ride for the 1st five years that it was open, I felt absolutely necessary to give feedback to the team members when I got back to the station. The response I got from that really irked me, basically that they were aware but it wasn't going to be fixed. Hopefully that means that they'll finally re-do what should have never been redone from the Old Mill in the first place.