Specific Type: Wooden
As they approach Coney Island, they see it. The classic Cyclone becomes visible in all of its red, white, and brown glory. Every year, the sight of this wooden roller coaster greets Brooklyn visitors just as it has for the better part of a century. This may just seem like a roller coaster and nothing more in a superficial sense, but this is also an American landmark. This is a symbol of American freedom in itself that some immigrants saw as they came to New York City much like they saw the Statue of Liberty. This ride was constructed for one purpose, and one purpose only: to help put the "happiness" in the famous words "the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness." The Cyclone has been standing as an American icon since 1927 when it became the new resident of America's beacon for fun, a place called Coney Island. It was a bright spot in America's history when the new coaster opened, a safe margin between World War I and the Great Depression, and the Roaring Twenties were in full swing as Americans celebrated the good times. Coney Island had become home to the first form of a roller coaster constructed purely for pleasure in the United States, theL.A. Thompson Switchback Railway, in 1886, and both the country and the roller coaster had come a long way since then. People were ready for something new, something exciting, something like they had never experienced before; and Coney Island was going to give it to them.
At a cost of 175-thousand dollars, the equivalent of just under two-million dollars by today's standards, the new roller coaster was faster, steeper, and more twisted than anything that most would experience for years to come. It put the nearby Thunderboltand Tornado wooden coasters to shame, and the track layout that Vernon Keenan had designed to fit in the corner of West 10 Street and Surf Avenue formerly occupied by the defunct Giant Coaster would lend itself to being copied for years to come. Many would want to capitalize on the success of this wooden-tracked scream machine, but there could be only one Coney Island Cyclone. After Harry Baker put the finishing touches on the new masterpiece, it opened on June 26th, 1927 and, some might say, became an instant classic. The Cyclone's 2,640 feet of track twisted, turned, and catapulted it into stardom, and soon enough the new coaster was the newest attraction in New York City that visitors just had to see - and ride - for themselves. Coney Island, which entertained some 500,000 guests a day in those days, had a hit on their hands that became a true piece of Americana. For years to come, visitors to New York City would have to check out the Empire State Building when in Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty when at Staton Island, and the Coney Island Cyclone when in Brooklyn.
Four decades after its grand opening, the City of New York purchased the Cyclone at the low point in Coney Island's popularity and closed it, then considered selling to the neighboring New York Aquarium in 1972 which was eying the land as future expansion space. But an American monument would not be subdued so easily. Concerned Americans put up a fight for the once king of coasters, and ultimately the Cyclone's other adjacent business, the Astroland amusement park across the street, gave it a new lease on life, literally. Just one day prior to Independence Day 1975, the stars and stripes again flew over the coaster's eighty-five-foot lift hill and gleeful riders were granted the pursuit of happiness again courtesy of a legendary traditional American pastime. The restored coaster would thrill new riders for years to come. Sixty-four years after that summer day when the Cyclone opened for the first time, it was given the status of National Historic Landmark - a fitting honor for one of the single most influential roller coasters in American history.
For five dollars, Brooklyn visitors and residents can have their chance to experience the world-renown Coney Island Cyclone. A train pulls into the station in front of future riders and is slowed abruptly by manual friction brakes rising up below the train. There, in front of the next group of two-dozen sits the classic, simplistic train with its individual lap bars and lack of head rests. After lap bars are checked, the train leaves the station building to begin a right-hand curve to the lift of 200 degrees. Curving around the U-turn, the track makes its way under two overhead layers of turnaround curves to come and then engages on the chain to begin the trip to the top. On the way up the eighty-five-foot lift, riders may reflect on the generations that passed before, those fellow thrill-seekers of years past who took the same trip skyward; they might also take the time to think about the importance of this single thrill ride, this American monument of a roller coaster, and the fate that may have befallen it; but for some riders, that all-important question may be in mind as they near the peak of the lift: "Are we there yet?" When the train is there, the Atlantic Ocean presents itself directly ahead, the rest of Astroland stretching out to the right, and the sight of a fifty-eight-point-six-degree plunge straight ahead.
Cyclone stands as an American icon, known by name and location even to those who aren't considered to be roller coaster "enthusiasts," the coaster is synonymous with New York and nearly as iconic as the Statue of Liberty. But it's history hasn't always been bright, as the coaster has fought for survival much of its life, from deterioration to destruction. By the late 1960s, the coaster had deteriorated heavily, likely due to reduced maintenance funds from the declining popularity of Coney Island, and the coaster was shut down in 1969. In 1971, the city of New York bought the Cyclone for $1 million only to condemn the "eye sore." When the New York Aquarium next door wanted to expand, Cyclone was put on the destruction block, but the old girl had built up a rapport with enthusiasts and locals alike, who would "take up arms" for the coaster. The "Save the Cyclone" campaign was immediately started, gathering supporters in droves. As a result, the coaster was leased to Astroland for $57,000, refurbished, and reopened in mid-1975. Flash-forward 30 years to the closing of Astroland in 2008. Despite the closure of the park, the Cyclone continued to operate long and strong due to its landmark status, gained by the supporters during the "Save the Cyclone" days in 1988, and even without the adjoining park, the coaster rode on. Support for the coaster and its heritage during the Astroland days was so strong, that with some help from ride company Zamperla, an all-new Coney Island was opened up in 2010, boosting the rides popularity, and bringing the Coney Island area back to the popularity it experienced in its "glory days."
The first drop nudges the train to the right and down eight and a half stories to pull out below the final turnaround and climb towards the first high-speed U-turn on the Cyclone. If riders are unprepared, they're whipped to the right as the turnaround begins sharply, still climbing slightly until the midpoint where the train is fed into the descent back to the ground. At breakneck speed again, the weighty three-car train shoves passengers into their seats as it reaches the second pull-out and then heads up into the third ascent heading into the structure of the lift hill and topping out at seventy feet, with speed to spare still. Parallel to the station, the coaster pulls out again, then starts up a diagonal climb into the next U-turn. The curve whips passengers around to the right 200 degrees and then dives beside the lift hill. Over a small airtime hop, the Cyclone begins the second 'out' run, and climbs a larger camelback hill next ending next to the first drop pullout.
Into the structure of the second turnaround, Cyclone riders are sent around to the right as white steel beams fly past on each side of the track. Track still curving to the right slightly, the track dives out of the U-turn and starts into a hill gradually curving left as it ascends over the final tunnel. Back to ground level, the brown track hops over a gradual hill and enters the second-to-last turnaround at a good clip. The yellow train flies along in the midst of white supports as it hops again and again to deliver a final section of airtime before the ride wraps up. Cyclone climbs parallel to the second drop and makes a fan-like curve around rightwards, ending at ground level and hopping to enter the final tunnel. Making a left-hand curve in darkness, the train slows, and then comes to a complete stop via manual brakes once it emerges back into the station. After the Cyclone's nearly two minutes of action, riders exit the coaster with the option of stepping back in line to reride for a discount ticket price of four dollars.
Charles Lindbergh once said that "A ride on the Cyclone is greater than flying an airplane at top speed." Since his time, millions have experienced the world-famous thrills of the Coney Island Cyclone's classic experience.
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