Monday, July 28, 2014

Kennywood: Thunderbolt Dedication, KennyKon, and Urban Exploration, July 27th, 2014

So Sunday was a very special day at Kennywood. American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) recognized Kennywood for preserving one of the most unique roller coasters, the Thunderbolt. The coaster was named as a "Coaster Landmark." This was the park's third coaster to gain this distinction, along with the Racer and Jack Rabbit. This recognizes the park's wonderful preservation of Thunderbolt, a coaster with origins dating back to 1924. This coaster started off designed by John Miller, named as the Pippin, and with a course that traversed the ravine as the Thunderbolt does today. In the 1967-1968 offseason, the park superintendent, Andy Vettel, reconfigured this already awesome coaster to have a set of giant turning drops, the most distinctive part of the ride that you notice from the midway. These helix elements were added to the amazing drop right out of the station and the ride's largest drop, which is also the last drop of the ride. The coaster retains the same NAD trains that were added to the Pippin the late 1950s, trains without seat belts and seat dividers and with wonderful lap bars that create quite a bit of freedom for the random airtime the coaster provides. This coaster is one of the most distinctive and unique rides around, and it provides an extremely different ride, not just in each individual row, but in each ride. While every coaster provides a different ride each cycle, the Thunderbolt is vastly different each ride. The subtleties in this classic make this one of the most interesting coasters to ride. I highly recommend riding this coaster as much as you can if you have the chance at some point because you will be in for a big difference on each ride. 

Enough talk about the Thunderbolt, we opted to jump in and have a hopping time on the Jack Rabbit! This coaster has the single greatest moment of airtime I know of. While this coaster does not have the long and sustained course of Phoenix, or even the modern Voyage, John Miller, the coaster's designer built this ride into the ravine and utilized the first upstop wheels, something that is utilized on even the most modern coasters today. It shocks me that a 94 year old coaster still delivers the best pop of airtime ever created. The ride's double-down drop is legendary. 
 Off to the Racer! I think I enjoy this ride a bit more every time I ride. It is definitely not the most intense coaster, but it offers lots of fun, great lateral forces on the turns, and some nice little pops of airtime. It is a blast reaching out and high-fiving the riders in the other train. It also has one of the most beautiful stations ever made. The more I think about coasters, the more I realize that my favorite coaster is the one that I am riding at the moment. Most coasters have something awesome to offer. 
 Yeah I wanted to take another shot of the sign!
 *BZZZZZZZZZZ Click Click!* I love buzzbars for the freedom that they offer on a ride. I also love the fact that as soon as you hear that sound, you know you are in for a good time!
 Eh back over the Jack Rabbit! Boy they were really getting the trains out! The other train was out on the course and this train was already in the entrance area after having released all of the other riders in the exit area.
 Now over to the park's third legendary coaster, the Thunderbolt! There you see Joel Brewton taking a bunch of photos!
 The view from the Thunderbolt queue offers one of my favorite scenes in the park
 Now over the dedication ceremony. Here you can see the awesome Jeff Filicko prepared and pumped for the ceremony!
 Thunderbolt ZOOOOOOOM!
 Here you can see park GM Jerome Gibas accepting the recognition for the coaster!
 Here you can see ACE president Bill Linkenheimer, ACE historian and awesome guy, Dave Hahner (second from the left), and others, getting ready to present the plaque to the park. You can also see Park GM Jerome (far left), and Andy Quinn (third from the left) getting ready for the unveiling.
 I can never get enough of this view, and the coaster that ties for my favorite steel, the world's tallest terrain coaster, Phantom's Revenge!
 Today was pretty laid back. Kennywood is a great place to take it easy and take everything in. The character is awesome and the rides are great!
 Brit won the 500 ticket jackpot on the arcade's Wheel of Fortune game!
 That is a ton of tickets!
 The riders are about the experience my single favorite pop of ejector airtime on the Jack Rabbit!
 The blue train here is heading down the ride's first drop into the ravine. Mind you that this is BEFORE the lift hill.
 The airtime in this spot is so strong that I end up literally almost standing!
 Now for a ride to see the park's recently acquired property down the ravine behind the pavilions, a place I would love to see some expansion or a huge terrain coaster or two at some point.
 The area was a former rail yard. This main building is utilized for storing relics, spare parts, and props for the holiday events, Phantom Fright Nights and Kennywood Holiday Lights.
 This old train barn has the shells from the old Phantom trains that were replaced this year.
 Along with some lift chains
 And a teaser prop for the park's new Blues Brothers 2015 ride. Just kidding, but I wish I were not! Who else is down for a Blues Brothers themed ride?
 From an Impala to one of the old Model T cars from the Turnpike ride that was removed to build the great Sky Rocket launch coaster.
 Garfield and Odie? Have they gotten started already?
 Wow! Talk about a classic!
 And another classic!
 The entire train barn filled with cool stuff
 You can only see a little bit of the Racer from down here. I would love to see some sort of steel themed area come down here or something. The park has a unique opportunity to do something cool with these industrial relics.
 Old log flume troughs! 
 Kennywood, you look confused! Did you forget your name? Just kidding. The park acquired the boats from Hersheypark's beloved and long lost Canyon River Rapids ride for usage on Kennywood's Raging Rapids ride. They almost have enough boats to start another rapids ride, but this ended up being a good buy for the park since the boats were identical and some of them were in better shape than the boats that were being utilized. The Raging Rapids remain an extremely popular ride for the park and it made sense for them to purchase an identical set of boats for a seemingly endless supply of spare parts. 
 Continuing with the Urban Exploration of the park, we move on to the former repair barn. This building is not utilized and it remains almost untouched. The rail yard closed around 30 years ago, and it is believed that this portion closed even earlier than that. At one point a small creek near the building was blocked and the building became the way that the creek flowed.

 Lots of heavy equipment remains almost perfectly preserved remaining untouched for decades.
 Lots of awesome finds in this building! It feels like a big time capsule!
 I can only imagine the possibilities for this area of land. The park's size could be effectively doubled!
 Oh look! There is one of the old Turnpike cars! It is cool to see them have it on display!
 Obligatory picture of the legendary Thunderbolt!
 And of the park's spectacular 1926 Dentzel Carousel. This is one of the most stunning carousels in existence! 
 I can never get enough of this carousel!
 I can also never get enough of Pac-Man! You can never play just once! The park's arcade is also serves as a living museum of old arcade games!
 Now to wrap up the day with an 85 MPH drop down a cliff on the world's tallest terrain coaster, the Phantom's Revenge!
 Thank you for a great day Kennywood!
If you have never visited Kennywood, be sure to take an adventure to experience some of the one-of-a-kind thrills that the park has to offer. It was very awesome seeing the park get recognized for their dedication to preservation. Kennywood is the only park in the world with three coasters recognized with the prestigious distinction of ACE Coaster Landmark. If you would like more information about planning a visit to the park, check out our report from this season's opening day and in checking out our book "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip," available through the drop down menu at the top of this page and at the many places listed at the listed link.