by Danny Miller
Most of us keep a list of some sort of all the roller coaster we have ridden, and some of us like to have rankings and compare them to determine which ones are best. Lost in the mix of doing this is talking about those rides that are now gone and can no longer be ridden. There are far too many of them to count, but there are several iconic ones that come to mind. Today I’ve picked five coasters that I never rode before they went to the big scrap heap in the sky to highlight in a list of notable defunct coasters.
HERCULES @ DORNEY PARK – It’s not a topic that I bring up often, because frankly, I don’t like to mention that I never rode Hercules. It may surprise you, but despite living just fifteen minutes from Dorney Park, Hercules is a coaster I never rode. My first real trip to Dorney Park was in 2005 during Hydra’s debut year with my 8th grade class. I had gone to Dorney once prior as a kid, but was too small and probably wasn’t at the age where I would have wanted to ride even if I could. I remember going to my grandparent’s house and driving by Hercules. We would sometimes even stop at the side of the road to watch it. But all those years as a tot admiring the once record-breaking drop, I never rode it.
Time and reprofiling weren’t kind to Hercules, and it was unceremoniously demolished at the end of 2003 in favor of a new B&M floorless coaster that, while a good ride, lacks the pop and pizzazz I imagine Hercules must have had. The park paid a nice tribute to Hercules by laying in the back-story to Hydra, but it doesn’t ease the pain. Park employees actually call the basement of Hydra’s station “The Herc,” usually used as a meeting place for supervisors. I have ridden hundreds of coasters, but this is one that my dad, aunt, and late grandfather will always have that I won’t.
DRACHEN FIRE @ BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG – Almost in the same category as Hercules, Drachen Fire is one of those coasters that is well-known largely because it wasn’t a favorite. Drachen Fire was birthed after B&M backed out of the project, allowing Arrow to come in and build the already-designed layout. The unique maneuvers are what made Drachen Fire so sought-after, but also led to its undoing. A new style of train that failed to relieve the roughness gained much criticism, and the park even removed one of the inversions a few years in to try and improve the ride experience. Combine all of this with poor placement in the park, and Drachen Fire was a recipe for disaster from the start. It may not have been a great ride, but Drachen Fire is one of those rides like Son Of Beast. Even if it’s a bad ride, I want to be able to say it was a bad ride for myself.
AIRPLANE COASTER @ RYE PLAYLAND – In the glory days of Rye Playland, they had what is considered by many to be one of the greatest coasters ever built. The Airplane Coaster, built by Fred Church, was the star attraction in Rye for nearly thirty years until 1957. It was high, fast, and incredibly thrilling, and it’s considered by historians to be one of the last great coasters to be built in the Golden Age of coasters in the 1920s. Rye Playland still exists today in a state of disrepair, but the also-popular Dragon Coaster still operates there to this day. Many locals believe that the rebirth of the Airplane Coaster could spark a comeback for Rye Playland, and there is even a Facebook page dedicated to demanding its return. I would certainly enjoy seeing this ride come back, as I would get a chance to experience what could have been one of the greatest coaster of all time.
CYCLONE RACER @ LONG BEACH PIKE – I’ve mentioned this ride a couple of times over the years, but the Cyclone Racer could also be put in the category of one of the greatest coaster ever to have been built. Fred Church’s only racer design ever, the Harry Traver built wooden twin stood proudly above the Pacific Ocean, pursued by everyone in the area. Dubbed “The World’s Greatest Ride,” Cyclone Racer appeared in many different ways over the years, from a glossy white, to an awesome natural wood color in its final years of operation. Several pages and websites call for the return of this historic coaster, and recently, there have been discussions that the ride may find a way to return to Southern California. Whatever the result is, I’m sure most of us wish we could have had just one ride on the “World’s Greatest Ride.”
TRAVER TRIPLETS – So I may be cheating here by squeezing three coasters in to one, but the infamous “Traver Triplets” are undisputedly the three most intense coasters ever built. The Crystal Beach Cyclone (the most famous of the three), the Palisades Park Cyclone, and the Revere Beach Lightning all were nearly identical in design, and were Harry Traver’s most dubious creations. They each had nurses on duty at the exit, as riders often got off the ride with neck/back pain, headaches, nose bleeds, and even broken bones. On Lightning’s second day of operation, a rider was actually thrown from the train and killed. After a while, the trio scared riders so much, it became a spectator sport, and the rides were torn down. Lucky for us, the Crystal Beach Cyclone was used to give rise to the Comet, another fabulous coaster that we can still enjoy today at Great Escape in Lake George, New York. I don’t know about you, but I would have died to ride one of these three coasters, and depending on my luck, it may have almost been a reality!
So there is my list of five defunct coasters that I never rode that I wish I could have. Do any of these rides make your own list? Would you make a special trip to ride if any of these rides came back in another form? Leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts!