Specific Type: Wooden
The story of the Comet at Great Escape is one of those feel-good survival stories for a wooden coaster, where facing eliminating the ride was resurrected. It’s also one of the most unique stories for a wooden coaster, as it has operated as two totally different coasters at three locations, dating back to the 1920s.
Back in the late 1800s, a small waterfront amusement park called Crystal Beach popped up not far from Buffalo, New York, where guests could easily be shuttled via steamboat to the small Canadian park in Fort Erie. Probably the park’s most famous attraction was the infamous Crystal Beach Cyclone coaster, built in 1927. Built by Harry G. Traver, the coaster was one of the ‘Terrifying Triplets’ Traver built in the 1920s, notorious for their heavy banking, hard forces, and whipping actions. Legend has it some of these coasters had to have full-time nurses at the exit to care for guests whipped by the rides intensity.
The Cyclone featured a 90 foot drop, a spiraling first drop, steel hills and curves, a high-speed figure eight, turns banked up to 80 degress, numerous bunny hops, and a section of “trick track.” It stretched 2,953 twisted feet, with a max drop of 59-degrees, lasted an insanely quick 40 seconds, and pulled a harsh 4Gs. Of the ‘Terrifying Triplets,’ Cyclone at Crystal Beach was easily the most well-known. The ride held out until 1946 when it was finally closed due to high maintenance costs and falling revenue; such was the life of many wooden coasters at the time.
Here, it seemed the journey would come to an end, especially given the infamy of the Traver creations, which were a more wicked and dangerous version of the modern day Great Coasters International creations. All was not completely lost however, as John Allen and Herbert Schmeck, designers for Philadelphia Toboggan Company, reused much of the wood and steel from the Cyclone in the construction of the Crystal BeachComet in 1948. Though the crazy twists and curves and high-speed drops of the Traver creation was lost, the ride was reborn in an out-and-back configuration PTC was well-known for. Running strong in this fashion for 40 years, the Comet closed with the park in 1989, end the second and longest era of its life.
Once again, where the life of the coaster likely should have ended, Comet would not go down without a fight. Shortly after the closure of Crystal Beach, Charlie Woods, owner of the Great Escape in Queensbury, New York, made a successful bid for The Comet and won! The ride was kept in storage at Martin’s Fantasy Island for several years before making its debut at Great Escape in 1994. When the Comet made its debut, it was the first addition to the park in 8 years, since the 1986 opening of the Raging River attraction. It was also only the park’s second roller coaster, alongside Steamin’ Demon, a relocated 3-inversion roller coaster that originally operated as Ragin’ Cajun at Pontchartrain Beach.
The classic roller coaster is settled snuggly at the back of the park alongside a heavily wooded hill, which can sometimes give the illusion that the coaster is smaller than it actually is. Guests who venture to ride this coaster will find themselves waiting in a fairly short, maze-like queue before entering the classic art deco-style station. Loading up into one of the five, three-bench cars on either the red or blue train, a ride on Cometstarts off with a wide U-turn onto the lift hill, where the train climbs up 95 feet. Cresting the lift, the train plummets 87 feet toward the ground, hurtling itself over a long, low, airtime-filled hill before curving to the left and rising up into the first high U-turn. With little banking and at a decent rate of speed, the left handed turn gives some decent lateral forces.
Exiting the turnaround, the train drops back to the ground, traverses a long curving hill, then blasts over two progressively bigger airtime hills as it rolls to the right and into the second turnaround. Taken at an even higher rate-of-speed than the first, laterals can be quite heavy here. Now alongside the lift hill, the track rises more sharply into an uncharacteristically high hill, but that’s only to raise the track up enough for the double dip drop on the other side, providing all riders with a plethora of airtime. Back on the ground and back in their seats, guests on board are then launched over two small bunny hills before entering the third and final turnaround. Wrapping around the first turnaround but much lower to the ground, the train really tears through this one leaving the train with plenty of speed for its airtime-filled finale. The track drops sharply into a mini-double dip element, then rises and turns over a small hill and flying over two more hops and into the final brake run.
Despite the rides overall age and its multiple reincarnations, the ride is still considered fairly smooth with a bit of “chatter” experienced, mainly through the turnarounds. Because of the Comet’s classic double-out-and-back design, its mostly smooth ride, and the immense amount of airtime it provides, most enthusiasts who get a chance to ride still consider it to be one of the best and most underrated wooden coasters out there!
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