Sunday, August 8, 2021

Indiana Beach: Park Visit and Dreier Looping Construction Report

Indiana Beach! Where to start with this park? This is a place that I have wanted to get to for a long time, and on a little midwest trip, we finally ended up getting to it. I heard all kinds of awesome things about this park from people, and everything great that I heard was true. This is a place that I desperately wanted to get to for years, since it has three CCI creations, and lots of charm. The "back from the dead" comeback story of this park, with purchase by a Chicago based businessman, Gene Staples, after other bidders failed to emerge upon news of the park being sold, was even greater incentive behind us getting to this park. Nothing could have prepared us for how truly awesome and unique this park is. It is always great going to a laid back park like this the day after going to a large corporate park. Laid back parks like this always refresh and relax me.

From your first steps into the park across an old suspension bridge, to the coasters lining the entire shoreline of the park's peninsula within view of the entrance, you immediately know you are someplace that is really special.

The structure of the unique and beautiful Hoosier Hurricane. A huge portion of the structure for this ride is located over water. This ride is the closest thing I can think of to a modern version of a scenic railway. This is only the third coaster installation that was opened by CCI, back in 1994, and it is a fun ride. It is mostly devoid of airtime, though we had a great ride in the second row at the end of the night where we felt a solid pop of airtime in the second to last airtime hill. There are some solid moments of lateral forces, especially in the turnaround, throughout the ride, and the turns at the top of the lift hill are an absolute blast. This ride is so much fun and the greatest thing about this ride to me, other than the sense of speed and lateral forces, is the sheer beauty of this ride within its surroundings. My first thoughts about this ride were that it is like the wooden coaster version of Steel Force or Millennium Force, with a neat and graceful layout that provides awesome views of the scenery, without having too much airtime and having some good lateral force moments. Visiting this on a Thursday, the park did not have a ton of people in it and I rode in pretty much every row on the train, many times just going back and forth between rows in the station to a row without anyone waiting for it. First car is where it is at with this coaster. 

Another awesome thing with this (and neighboring Cornball Express) is that its PTC train has buzz bars. These two coasters have to be the newest coasters to have been built with buzzbars, which are single position PTC lapbar restraints that have a cool buzz associated with them when the lapbars are engaged by the operator. They are the only two row cars that I am aware of having buzzbars.

As soon as you cross through the impressive Hoosier Hurricane, you see the amusement park really unfold. You immediately see the other side of the shore on the peninsula of the park in Lake Shafer, with a series of rides like a Chance Yo-Yo Swing Ride, a Paratrooper, a sky coaster, a waterpark, and more built on platforms right over the lake. 

They even have a carp feeding station on the edge of the lake.

The star of the park's wooden coasters for me is Cornball Express. Built in 2001, this is one of the last coasters that CCI ever built. It is pretty heavily intertwined with the structure of Hoosier Hurricane, and the fact that CCI was able to jam three coasters into such a small plot of land is just incredible. Cornball Express is an out of your seat airtime machine. The back seat specifically has really strong airtime on every hill, and the front car has several moments of really strong airtime. The extreme airtime is accentuated by the buzzbars on the PTC trains. I also rode in every row and most seats on this ride as well, thanks to the light weekday crowds. 
Our first ride on Cornball Express was in the backseat, and you feel like you are going to get launched to the moon, then the following airtime hills are just as wicked. 
Cornball is an airtime machine. 

Steel Hawg was our first S&S El Loco, and my goodness was it fantastic. It feels like a Wild Mouse that has been transformed into the most intense and wicked contraption possible. Smooth as glass and the beyond vertical drop, which was the world's steepest at 111 degrees, is so neat. The layout manages to surprise every time. We rode it two times in a row when no one was in the station around opening at the park and we absolutely loved it. I wonder why they do not use that track style anymore? It is smoother than what they currently use. 

This section of the park crosses over a wetland and little inlet on the peninsula. The platform for their Arrow Antique Cars is really cool. In the background you can see the strange Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain.

The first coaster entrance you pass by is the Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain, a bizarre dark ride and wooden roller coaster combo with three cars that look like bird cages. While the ride is fun, my back would prefer that they let Gravity Group come in to make some sort of custom creation with Timberliner trains, for backwards airtime without back supports is not a fantastic experience, though it is fun at the same time. I know that with different ride vehicles, this ride would be absolutely perfect. 

They have both a Sky Ride and full circuit train ride that serve as transportation from end to end in the park. I have the most familiarity with with Von Roll Skyrides, but I knew that this model was different. My guesses were that it was either a Herschell, judging by the iron baskets of the seats, or Eli Bridge, with that same iron basket aspect to the seats, and the iron lattice work of the supports. and (which apparently is the RCDB of chair lifts) has it listed as a Hopkins. The differences in this one threw me off and it looks so cool.

Here you can see how the lift hills of Cornball Express and Hoosier Hurricane intertwine, and with Lost Coaster out there on the left, you see just how impressive of a feat it was for CCI to fit three coasters in such a small plot of land. Make that four coasters with Schwarzkopf's Tig'rr sitting in the middle. The footprint of land under those coasters is even smaller, with much of the footprint being occupied by water. It is great that they were able to save this quirky gem of a park.

 The park's collection of flats is fantastic.
Out off the edge of the park, over near Steel Hawg, the park's project of trying to rebuild Dreier Looping seems to be at a standstill. This thing is going to take a ton of work to get into operating shape. With how massive this ride is, and how much work is going to need to go into it to rehabilitate, this is an enormous undertaking. Some parts of track will likely need to be refabricated somehow. I think the closest thing to this style of track would be made by S&S, unless Gerstlauer may be able to do it, since they are the company most closely related to Schwarzkopf. Whatever happens with this project, happens. The park is great as it is and it may be prudent to try to install the Schwarzkopf shuttle loop that they bought instead and fit that into the compact park somewhere. 

I inexplicably missed out on taking a full photo of Tig'rr. This Schwarzkopf Jet Star is a fantastic ride. We are huge fans of Schwarzkopf rides, especially their loopers and Wildcats. On this midwest trip, we got to ride two more Schwarzkopf production models, between this and Whizzer at Great America. As always with Anton's rides, this is a wicked little ride with wild laterals. It has the similar bobsled style cars to Whizzer, and Bayern Curve rides and it is pretty cool. It was added to the park in 1984, and was originally built in 1976 and operated at the former Holiday Park in Georgia. 
We spent a large portion of the day in the park's awesome Fascination parlor. This parlor is one of only eight remaining locations, of which we have done five. We have played the Fascination parlors at Knoebels, Geneva-On-The-Lake in Ohio, Darien Lake, the boardwalk in Wildwood, and this one in Indiana Beach. There are three other remaining locations that we have not done yet, including Sylvan Beach in New York, Looff's Lite-A-Line in Long Beach, CA, and in Seaside Oregon. This is an awesome place, along with the rest of the arcades and games at the park. We spent a good portion of the day in the arcades. I love days where you are able to ride all of the rides and take in many of the experiences that the park has to offer. This is such a well rounded park.

A view from the Ferris wheel. It is so easy to see how magical this park is from this angle. 
Here you can see the neat turnaround on Hoosier Hurricane, with the park's train running underneath the course of the coaster's track, along with Lake Shafer and the suspension bridge.

There is also something really magical about the park when the sun goes down and all of the night lightning and neon make the park glisten.

Indiana Beach is a park that is well worth going out of your way to check out. As a whole, this well-rounded park is easily one of my overall favorites. This was easily one of the best overall days we have ever had at a park. It is a special and magical place that you need to go check out. 

Our 2022 Roller Coaster Calendar is available now! For more info, check out this link. To purchase, use the dropdown menu at the top of the page. 
The calendar features views from: Knoebels, Holiday World, Cedar Point, Morey's Piers, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Kennywood, Hersheypark, Six Flags Great Adventure, Casino Pier, Carowinds, and Waldameer. For more info, check out this link. The calendar and our book on Pennsylvania Amusement Parks are available through the dropdown menus at the top of the page, and the bottom of this article. 

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Six Flags Great America Visit Report and Thoughts: July 2021

We had our first chance to visit Six Flags Great America this past week. It is a pretty good park, with lots of old and decent planning and landscaping remaining from the old Marriott days, with several classics remaining from the 70s and 80s as well. It is a solid amusement park that is pretty good for a regional chain park. It has held on to the classics much better than the last Six Flags park I visited back in June, Great Adventure. Six Flags Great America is chock full of 70s and 80s holdovers in rides and scenery. The planning aspects of 70s parks just do not seem to get done these days. 
Reflection pools and fountains add so much to the general feel of a park. The reflection pools and fountains at this park, add a good bit of charm and relaxation to the themed areas in addition to actual landscaping and some actual shade in most queues. Holdouts from the 70s and 80s actually remain at the park, and are wildly popular, as opposed to Great Adventure, which has removed most of them.  These classics include the double-decker carousel, Schwarzkopf's Whizzer (one of only two remaining Schwarzkopf Speedracer models), Yankee Clipper (One of only three remaining Arrow Hydroflumes that I am aware of), a Huss Condor, Demon (an Arrow corkscrew coaster that has awesome rock work for visual effects) and more. The day that we visited had extreme heat at around 90 degrees. The Yankee Clipper Hydroflume opens later than the rest of the park, and there were hundreds of people waiting when the ride was first opening, and an hour wait all day. This is a huge testament to just how loved and great of a ride this is.

Unfortunately, Demon has been closed for a few weeks and I missed out on it, but the rock work looks just awesome, and they had music playing around the coaster that was clearly from advertising back when it was new. The lyrics and song definitely share a bit of resemblance to the Move Closer to your World song, which you hear today on WPVI Channel 6 from Philly, and back then on news stations across the country, which makes me love it all the more. 
The first coaster we hopped in line for was Maxx Force, knowing how this ride is an S&S and the ride frequently goes down mechanically and that it has slow guest throughput with its operations. We hopped in the line right away and waited about twenty minutes. I really had no idea what to expect with this one. Kennywood's Steel Curtain is underwhelming to me in regards to the rattling the train does as it goes through the course and with how ridiculously long it takes for one train to move into the station after the other. Seeing how this ride is scaled up with a really quick launch, I was concerned that the ride would be even rougher than Steel Curtain, but it was surprisingly really smooth. 
Having worked at an S&S drop tower before, I felt so disoriented hearing that awesome sound that the air tanks fill up, release to the right level, hearing that air release stop, and knowing that it is going to launch. If you ever want to know every time an S&S tower or air launched coaster is going to go, listen for that shhhhhhhhhhh sound to stop as the air releases to the right level. The launch immediately follows. The launch on Maxx Force is easily the best I have ever experienced. With 0-78MPH acceleration in 1.8 seconds, it is the second fastest operating launch in the world, after Do-Dodonpa at Fuji Q Highland in Japan, another S&S creation, which goes from 0-111.9 MPH in 1.56 seconds. The launch on Maxx Force is so fast that it just takes your breath away. The course has four awesome inversions that are filled with hang time and airtime. My only knock on it is that it has a pretty short layout, even though it is a ton of fun. A solid mid-tier steel coaster. 

The park's ride collection is very well balanced, with nothing that will absolutely blow you away, but nothing that is bad either. This park is home to lots of firsts, including the first B&M invert (Batman the Ride), the second completed B&M Hyper (Raging Bull), the second B&M Flyer (Superman), and the first B&M Wing Rider (X-Flight). 
Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of RMC coasters, though I have to say that Goliath is fantastic and my favorite RMC, and the only one of their hybrid coasters (steel beam track with a few layers of wood underneath) that I have ridden. The quick and snappy layout is great and it would be higher on my overall list if it had more length. I love the fact that the elements have not been drawn out on this ride. The elements and transitions are quick, snappy, and forceful, and do not have the more drawn out and copy-paste aspects of the more recent RMC creations. I feel like recent RMC installations have cut back on intensity. Lately if you close your eyes, you cannot even feel the transitions on RMCs. Goliath was not like this at all. The snappy inversions and transitions, coupled with the extreme airtime make this coaster the exact opposite of RMC's offerings as of late and it is my favorite RMC at this point. It is a very fun, mid-tier ride, that would probably top tier if it were longer. Additionally, props to the crews on Goliath for really getting those trains out quickly. Most RMCs have dismal throughput, but the ride ops were able to just keep loading and dispatching those trains. 
This is easily my favorite RMC, even though it is short. If RMC built their current rides with these snappy transitions, they would not be as programmatic, drawn out, and cookie-cutter. 

Similar to Great Adventure though, running through the motions to do all of the rides just feels like work. The rides are great, but waiting at least 25 minutes, and up to an hour, for pretty much everything had that feeling of feeling like work instead of play. Operations were not bad, but not great either, except for a few exceptions, including Goliath as we mentioned earlier.
Demon and Viper
Even Raging Bull had a 40 minute wait, and they opted to add a third train right after we finished our ride. They would dispatch the trains and then there would be a minute wait until the next train got into the station. Those B&M hypers are meant to be running with a huge capacity. Even a full queue, the line should move pretty quickly. I have looked forward to riding this for many years and I have to say that I enjoy it. As opposed to most other B&M hypers, this one is a twister as opposed to an out-and-back. It has several moments of good airtime like you expect on a B&M Hyper, but lots of decent lateral forces. This ride is way different from other B&M Hypers and it is a solid mid tier steel coaster. 
American Eagle is a visually stunning ride that I know could be good, at least through the first two thirds of the ride, with some serious track work. The ride needs serious work though. Even in spite of this though, the ride remains popular. With one side operating, the ride had a 25 minute wait on this visit. I feel that the best thing for this ride would be to get a company like GCI in to do some serious track work and add Millennium Flyer trains, to make the main course run smoothly up through the final part of the ride and then let them change up the boring finale. I do not think that bringing RMC would be a good option for this ride, because there are enough of their zero-g roll variations out there and the first drop, airtime hills, and enormous helix and then ridiculous momentum at the bottom of it is something that should be preserved in wooden coaster form. This could be a top flight coaster with retrack work done by GCI.
X-Flight is a fantastically fun ride. I prefer both Gatekeeper and Thunderbird over it, but it is still a ton of fun. This is such a cool concept and the elements are flawless and smooth, giving you the feeling of flying around the sky in a chair. 

My only complaint about the ride is the lack of shade in the queue area, except for under the station. 
Vertical Velocity on the left. Didn't capture my attention enough while I watched Goliath
Vertical Velocity is what it is, a fun Intamin Impulse Coaster. Did this one ever have the holding brake like Superman/Possessed used to have? That launch felt so weak after riding Maxx Force, but it is still a fun ride. You have to have a ton of rides and coasters for the sheer capacity needs of being a giant amusement park that is situated 45 minutes away from two major cities. 

Little Dipper is a fun little ride for what it is. Saving this is one of the coolest and most savvy things that Six Flags has ever done. Saving a local family favorite coaster, and adding a family coaster in a park filled with thrill rides for pennies on the dollar in a really tiny footprint. This tiny Schmeck and PTC creation is only 700 feet long and 28 feet tall. Not only does the park save a classic ride, it gets a lot of goodwill from the region and the coaster community for saving a ride from which lots of childhood memories were made. 
Raging Bull and Viper
Viper surprised me in how great it was. Smooth and quick layout with lots of airtime, and "near miss" elements as it weaves around the structure of the ride. Much better than I expected.

In the end though, my absolute favorite coaster in the park was Whizzer. As I said earlier, it is one of only two remaining Schwarzkopf Speedracer models, and it remains extremely popular. It had a queue that was halfway full, yet flew because of the high capacity of the ride, taking only about a 20 minute wait. 
The ride had decent crowds all day. The curved lift hill is a brilliant design, and then the seemingly endless turns are tons of fun. The weaving through the woods and over the water is something that is so neat. This ride is priceless and awesome. 
Batman! Is it missing the hoods or was it always hoodless?
Because of the heat and crowds and hopping in the car for the ride to Indiana Beach that evening, and the fact that we rode all of their identical counterparts at Great Adventure a few weeks ago, we opted to skip Superman, Batman, The Dark Knight Coaster, and Joker (in addition to the fact that one ride on an S&S 4D Freespin is enough for me). Sadly, Demon was down and we missed out on that. 
It was a decent day at the park! Six Flags Great America is a place that you have to visit at least once. 

Our 2022 Roller Coaster Calendar is available now! For more info, check out this link. To purchase, use the dropdown menu at the top of the page. 
The calendar features views from: Knoebels, Holiday World, Cedar Point, Morey's Piers, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Kennywood, Hersheypark, Six Flags Great Adventure, Casino Pier, Carowinds, and Waldameer. For more info, check out this link. The calendar and our book on Pennsylvania Amusement Parks are available through the dropdown menus at the top of the page, and the bottom of this article. 

2022 Coaster Calendar PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options