Specific Type: Wooden, Terrain, Intermediate Coaster
The story of Hersheypark's Comet might be said to begin twenty-three years before the wooden terrain coaster that Pennsylvania thrill seekers today enjoy actually opened. That tale began when Milton Hershey decided that it was time to bring in some serious thrills to his leisure destination, and thus, Herbert Schmeck and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company erected Joy Ride, an impressive wooden coaster for its day. Later on, Joy Ride was renamed Wild Cat (not to be confused with Hershey's 1996 However, as years passed and newer rides came to other parks, Wild Cat eventually lost its ferocious bite.
Revamping the coaster was ruled out, so the wooden structure came down with plans for something bigger. Those plans called for a new claim to fame for Hersheypark: the tallest, largest coaster ever seen in the Pennsylvania region, at eight-and-a-half stories in height, and with some 3,360 wooden track feet to its name. And that name?Comet - a word that would soon be associated with Hersheypark for thrill seekers, like how "chocolate" is with the name Hershey.
With the Wild Cat out of the way, construction began on the new wild ride. To the delight of Hersheypark fans and thrill lovers in the Mid-Atlantic, Comet was completed in time for the 1946 season at Hersheypark. Indeed, Comet was a hit for its size and fifty-mile per hour speeds as much as it was for its T-shaped layout, which tapped into the potential of the terrain at the edge of the park. The ride remained a favorite, becoming a major part of Hersheypark and the centerpiece of its own 'Comet Hollow' section of the park. Revamping of the ride occurred in 1978, most notably in the area of the coaster's first and second drops.
There were a couple minor changes to the ride over the years. 6650, 10-watt chaser lights were added along the course of the ride. 30 years later in 1994, Comet received to new trains, which are called Mork’s Comet and Halley’s Comet. The old trains were retired, with one going to the Hershey Museum just outside the park entrance, and the other was given to the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE). In 2006 and 2008, the ride was retracked and new seatbelts were added, respectively.
Classic Philadelphia Toboggan Co. trains are boarded in Comet's station, with riders sitting two-abreast--six passengers per car. The four-car train rolls from the station and then all twenty-four thrill seekers on board start straight up the chain lift and climb above Hersheyparks's Comet Hollow. At eighty-four feet, the track realizes that it's as high as it's going to go, and starts pulling into the first plunge. White crossbeams pass underneath as riders descend, curving slightly to the right as they go towards a small creek below, then, leveling out a good ten feet over the surface of the water. Cometstarts pulling up into the sky and takes the train load over the crest of the second hill to level out for a tight flat turnaround along the border of Hersheypark. One-eighty, one-ninety, two hundred, and a few more degrees and the turnaround is complete and being followed up by a second dive aiming for the water below. The track levels and meets up with the first drop pullout to start on a run of track parallel to the lift hill starting out with a hill climbing out of the ravine that its in. Over the top of a speed hill the train flies, curving just slightly to the right, then after coming out of their seats, riders are forced back in them as they climb to the top of another turnaround. Comet's track circles around the station area with a U-turn to the left and with that complete, plunges again back to the ground only to start another hill. This time, the coaster climbs a good-sized camelback hump with the lift running parallel on the left, but instead of descending straight back down, the track curves to the right and swoops towards the bank of the creek, making a diving L-turn to the ground. From there, riders hurtle over a speed hop, then climb into another turnaround. The track curves beyond 180 degrees near the park entrance and sends passengers speeding back down and over another hop meeting up with the previous. Finally, the coaster completes a 90-degree left-hand turn, a dip, hop, and then brakes.
Over the years at Hersheypark, Comet has gone from a major claim to fame to a true classic.
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