Specific Type: Wooden
The Phoenix is a classic wooden roller coaster that has operated at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania since 1985. Designed and built by the legendary Herbert Schmeck and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC), the coaster originally opened in 1948 at Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas, where it operated as “The Rocket” until the park closed in 1980. After Playland Park closed, the ride sat dormant for several years, until Knoebels purchased the ride in 1984, relocating it between January and June of 1985 on 34 trucks. With no blueprints available, every board on every part of the coaster had to be numbered and cataloged, so an accurate reconstruction of the ride could occur. With the help of Charlie Dinn, the ride would open at its new location on June 15, 1985 at a total cost of only $1.5 million. Its namesake comes from the mythical Phoenix bird, which rose, reborn, from its own ashes, much like the defunct wooden coaster rose once again from its own.
The layout can be described as a Figure-Eight style Double-Out-and-Back, with numerous airtime-filled hills and high flat turns. The trains consist of four cars of 3-bench trains from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and are equipped with old-fashioned buzz bars, rather than standard individual ratcheting lap bars. Buzz bars, like those found on most junior wooden coasters, are attached in front of each bench of seating (behind the back of the row in front) near the top edge of the trains, and are pulled down into a horizontal position. With this restraint style, every bench has its individual buzz bar locked in the same single position, a position high enough that even its largest occupants can experience intense ejector air.
The ride itself starts off in a unique fashion, as the train dips down slightly into a long tunnel which curves around to the right, straightens out, and curves back to the right again. Upon exiting the tunnel, the train begins ascending the lift hill directly next to the station. After ascending up the 78 foot lift hill, the train then plummets down 72 feet, hitting a top speed of 45 mph before rising high back up into the air, leveling out into the coasters first left-hand turnaround. Dropping out of the turnaround, the train then traverses two low bunny hills filled with ejector air as it crosses back under the lift hill structure. The track then pulls up into its second high turnaround, this time turning the train back to the right, lining it up just to the right of the lift hill and it’s first “out” run.
At this point, the train drops down to the ground again and heads into what can only be described as a double-up-double-down combination element, providing a combination of both ejector and floater-style airtime. Rising and leveling out after this element, the train hugs the outside of its first turnaround before heading into its second “back” leg. Dropping back down to the ground again, the train hops over not one, not two, not three, but four low-to the ground bunny hops, providing a plethora of ejector airtime in every seat on every hill. Following this fourth bunny hill, the train rises and crosses back under itself into a long turnaround, which lines itself back up with the station as the train is slowed using old-fashioned skid brakes at the end of its 3200-foot long course.
Since the beginning of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards in 1999, the coaster has never been ranked any lower than the top 6 wooden roller coasters, and remains a top 5 coaster for almost everyone who has the privilege of riding this reborn classic. The effort to rebuild The Phoenix was the first large-scale relocation of a wooden roller coaster ever. The success of the projected helped renew interest not only in building new wooden coasters, but started a movement of successful relocation efforts for many other roller coasters, both wooden and steel.
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