Specific Type: Steel, out & back, mega-coaster
In the darkness, he lurked. A menacing, mechanical maniac; the embodiment of sheer power; a fathomless force commanded by the strength and might of steel. Legend has it that he had haunted Solomon Dorney in his later years so that even the lush countryside of his haunt named Dorney Park could provide no comfort for his fears. Friends began worrying about Dorney as his incomprehensible fears grew. One night, he went out for a walk to clear his mind, taking a stroll around Lake Dorney to help put his mind at ease. That would be the last night that he was never seen or heard from. An investigation into his death uncovered nightmarish sketches beside his bed of a caped, machinelike phantom with fingers ready to put a steel grip of fear on any who crossed his path. Years later, Dorney's fears were realized. Residents neighboring the amusement park had feared that some ride, someday would disturb them from their precious sleep like never before, but they never imagined anything quite this disturbing.
A new day dawned over Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, and the absence of night revealed a new force to be reckoned with. When the sun rose at the end of the 1996-7 off-season, a mechanical beast towered over the entire city of Allentown, and the fearful quivered. That winter, Steel Force had taken the form of a giant mechanical construction towering twenty stories over the rolling hills with its own arching hills of steel redefining the skyline once and for all. Two-thousand tons of steel and well over twelve-million pounds of concrete had brought to life this new terror on the horizon. It was the most gargantuan thing like it that anyone had ever seen in Eastern North America, and on May 6, 1997, it arrogated its first mortals of this curious new "thrill-seeking" generation. It dwarfed the wooden roller coaster ThunderHawk that Dorney Park had put up seventy-four years before, defeating such greats as the late Hercules with its 157-foot wooden coaster drop, turning rides like the reputable Laser with its twisted steel track into miniature roller coaster play sets.
Cedar Fair, the parent company of Dorney Park since 1992, had decided to introduce a new family of mega-sized steel roller coasters to reign over their chain of amusement parks. Several years after the far-flung success experienced by Magnum XL-200, the father of the new "hyper-coaster" breed, Cedar Fair brought the domination of Magnum to sister park Valleyfair in Minnesota with a twist by unveiling the mean green machine from Morgan Manufacturing known as Wild Thing in 1996. The Midwest was suited for coaster giants for now, and it was time for the reign of a new Eastern brother for Magnum to begin. Spanning nearly the entire amusement park, over a mile of red Morgan track was mounted to silver towers and columns forming an out-and-back layout, and its location at the lowest elevation of Dorney Park appeased neighbors concerned over having one of the world's largest roller coasters in their backyard.
Steel Force became an attractive force for coaster fans up and down the East Coast and commenced a new era of thrills entirely for the 200-acre amusement park featuring such ride creations as Dominator in 1999, 2001's Talon, and Hydra: the Revenge of 2005. Just several years after its debut, Steel Force's regional records were lost, and today the ride is overshadowed by East Coast rides like Kingda Ka standing at well over twice its height, but the question comes to mind: where would Dorney Park be today without the aid of its dominant attraction Steel Force? Not where it is today, that's for sure. And where would the coaster world as a whole be? Not where it is today. Steel Force is still a force to be reckoned with, and that isn't likely to change any time soon.
Anyone wishing to experience Steel Force must first make it past the menacing madman himself. The mysterious, mechanical, maniacal phantom himself guards the entrance, and none can escape his watchful glance as they cross under the red track's spine and slip into line. Ascending a flight of steps into the station building, future victims choose their places on the train. Then, they load into the madman's contraption after leaving loose articles behind, sitting six to a car in two-abreast fashion. Lap bars secured as protection from the potentially fatal forces ready to be unleashed, the train leaves the concrete floor of the loading platform behind and rounds a slight left-hand bend to the lift hill. The chain catches the train and begins carrying it up the first hill slowly until riders are well over the miniscule eighty-foot ThunderHawk directly below to the right and cars in employee parking to the left appear as toys. Then, the train inches over the peak, slowly leaning over the top of the first plunge.
Finally, the train submits to the forces of gravity and reaches the maximum sixty-five-degree angle of the initial drop. The red track pulls out at the bottom to send the train directly into a tunnel at a maximum seventy-five miles per hour. With positive g-forces pushing riders into their seats, the train pulls up and out of the tunnel 120 feet later to ascend the first camelback hill. At 156 feet, the second hill tops off above most of the park's other rides, with a wide arc sending passengers over the crest for a slight moment of airtime. When the rails lead back down again, they carry riders over the stream feeding into Lake Dorney that popularized Dorney Park back in the 1880's, leveling out well above the water before pulling up into the third hill. At the peak of hill number three, riders are given another dose of negative g's and then the track dips into a level section of track gearing up for the mid-ride treat: a diving double helix turnaround.
A panoramic view of Lake Dorney ahead presents itself as the train dives into the helix, banking to the right and beginning a swoop over the Thunder Creek Speedway go-cart course. Speeding past the lime and teal of Hydra: the Revenge at the left, one-point-five g's of lateral force push riders to the left of their seats as Steel Force's red track threads under a silver support at the end of the dive for a "headchopper" effect. Hastening along over the go-carts as the ride continues on the rightward path, the it completes the first 360 degrees of the double helix and continues around another 225, gradually ascending slightly now. Banking beneath the top layer of the helix, riders are taken out of the helix by climbing over the fourth descent and head back towards the third hill in a diagonal approach. A slight descent and bank to the left, a climb, and then it's time for the mid-course block brakes to hinder the train slightly as it prepares to take on the second half of the layout.
Diving off the brakes en route back to the station, riders are sent to the ground with the structure for the second hill on the left. A rabbit hop sends passengers off their seats to make contact with lap bars, and then the track enters a second tunnel running parallel to the first. After smiling for the camera, riders exit back out of the tunnel and are flown over the top of another hop designed to fulfill airtime desires. With the lift hill support towers moving past on the left, the red track completes a third hop ending at the ground again, and then gets geared up for a small fourth hop. Another slight climb to make it over the first turn out of the station, then it's time for banking to the left and right comprising an S-curve into the brake run. After a final U-turn to the right, the train pulls back into the station, and the ride on Steel Force is complete.
If you've ever had nightmares about mysterious, caped, mechanical phantoms, face your fears at Dorney Park.
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