Specific Type: Steel, flywheel-launched, shuttle-looping
Knott’s Berry Farm arrived with a bang in the amusement park industry with the 1975 Arrow roller coaster, Corkscrew. While small by modern standards, the ride was the first modern coaster to attempt and inversion, the classic, eponymous corkscrew. Not to be outdone, several other major California parks added their own inverting coasters. Six Flags Magic Mountain contacted the German engineering visionary Anton Schwarzkopf and pioneered the vertical loop with Revolution 1976. California’s Great America (then Mariott’s Great America) then added a newly developed Schwarzkopf production model, a shuttle loop called Tidal Wave.
Knott’s, not wanting to be outdone, placed an order for a shuttle loop as well, but this time with one upgrade in the propulsion system to push it over the top. The coaster at Great America utilized a large weight situated in a circular structure beneath one of the ride’s spikes. This weight dropped, dragging a cable along that was routed via pullies to underneath the ride’s launch section, where it attached to the train. This dragged the train along, pulling it to a top speed of 57 mph/92 k/h in 6 seconds. This method, while effective, was expensive, inefficient, and required the train to slow down as in passed the launch track on the return run.
Schwarzkopf constructed four coasters propelled this way before coming up with a superior launch design. This new design used a 6.5 ton wheel to propel the cable. This cable attached to the train in a similar manner, and launched the train. This system provides a much quicker launch than the weight drop model, going from 0-55 mph/89 k/h in 4.5 seconds on Montezooma’s Revenge. The wheel speed is also adjustable, as it was tuned for 0-60 mph in 4 seconds for the Greezed Lightnin’, another flywheel model that was built for Astroworld in 1978.
But Montezooma’s Revenge is more than just a launch system. The ride is themed to the Aztec king Montezuma, who was overthrown by the conquistador Cortes. The ride’s name is a play on the name, changing “zum” to “zoom”. It also features several thematic elements around the ride, such as the wooden station and two rings at the entrance and exit to the station that encircle the track. These rings have a low clearance that can leave riders wondering if they’ll fit!
The ride begins in the station, when guests enter the trains to find that the restraints are mere lap bars, unlike the over-the-shoulder harnesses featured on most coasters with inversions. And the inversion here is quite imposing, as riders waiting to launch have to stare directly down the launch track at the sole inversion, an impressive vertical loop. As soon as the riders are safely loaded into the trains, the flywheel spins, and the train takes off, accelerating at a rate of 12.2 miles per hour per second to its top speed of 55 mph.
Then the train takes the first element-the vertical loop. Schwarzkopf is known for making his loops more circular than many other designers, leading to higher g-forces. Pulling out of this head-over-heels experience, the train pulls up to a 70 degree, 13 story spike. The train climbs this spike, but lacks the momentum to reach the top, and thus slides back down. (The ride features a bumper at the top of the spike in case a launch does go too fast). The train then goes through the track again, except backwards, creating a unique sensation as the train passes through the loop in the opposite direction.
The train rushes through the station, leaving behind a gust for the next passengers, and up the back spike. It travels up to a similar elevation as the previous spike. The train falls back down, finally stopping in the station after a frenetic 36 seconds of thrills.
Montezooma’s Revenge is a staple of the Knott’s line up. The original Corkscrew has moved to Silverwood in Idaho, Tidal Wave was removed in 2002 to be shipped to nearby Six Flags Discovery Kingdom but never reassembled, and Revolution has been tamed due to the introduction of over the shoulder restraints. But Montezooma’s Revenge has remained, with lap bars and corny puns intact.
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