A ponderance regarding the CI Cylcone & Thunderbolt

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 3:46 PM
I been thinking about this for some time and was wondering if anyone else had thought about it - why is the Cyclone (and it's clones) not considered a Thunderbolt clone? The Thunderbolt did come a year before the Cyclone and with the exception of few variances they are essentially the same design. SFGam's Viper with it's double down is almost exactly the same as the Thunderbolt. The only major difference in the layout that I can think of is the crossover on the third hill.

I realize that the Thunderbolt didn't operate after 1984 and it was in bad shape in it's last years. Also, obviously the Cyclone is the only coaster of Coney's past that has surived. I only rode the Thunderbolt once as a child and don't remember much about it. My dad and others I have spoken to about it say that it was a solid ride.


Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell *** Edited 1/20/2004 8:51:33 PM UTC by jimvid***

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 4:22 PM
Well, the Cyclone is arguably more famous than the Thunderbolt so a park can probably get more marketing milage out of advertising a copy of the Cyclone rather then the Thunderbolt.

Was the Cyclone the more popular ride back when both were running?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 4:27 PM
Interesting question. My guess would be that Thunderbolt was a John Miller design where the Cyclone was credited to Vernan Keenan. I'm sure the Cyclone was built to out do the Thunderbolt, but I find it interesting that Harry Baker is credited with building the Cyclone and that Miller started building rides with Baker exclusively soon after.

I remember reading an interview with John Allen years ago about how he knew all the old time designers including John Miller, Aurel *Dutch* Vaszin. Shirley Watkins, Joe Mckee, Herb Schmeck, and Harry Baker. John said that they were all friends, and shared ideas with each other because they each had their own unique style, and were dedicated to building asthetically sound rides. (I just found the interview, and it is from a book called Funland USA)

I'll bet that what John said has a lot to do with the reason the two designs are so similar.

To answer your original question. Bill Cobb was hired by Astroworld to go to Coney Island to look into the feasability of moving the Cyclone to Texas. Apparently the city of New York stepped in and had the ride declared a landmark and said Six Flags could copy the design if Bill would advise them on how to refurbish the ride. Cyclone was in pretty bad shape at the time like the Thunderbolt was in its last years. So that is likely the reason for all the Cyclone copies at the Six flags properties.

Wood - anything else is an imitation *** Edited 1/20/2004 9:44:03 PM UTC by Thrillerman***

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:11 PM
My recollection is that the Cyclone was for sale at the time. The NYC Parks Dept., which owns the land it sits on, wanted to expand the Aquarium on the Cyclone site.That is why Bill was hired to determine the feasability of moving it. When the news got out that the Cyclone would be leaving Coney, it created such an uproar that the Parks Dept. gave in to the public pressure and assigned the lease to the operators of Astroland. Once again the master plan of the late Robert Moses of bulldozing Coney Island to the ground was thwarted.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:12 PM
Not to nitpick or anything (Thrillerman's comment holds a lot of truth and some interesting insight into a topic that I myself have though about in the past), but I believe the reason that Astroworld passed on the Cyclone was because Bill Cobb recommended against the idea, saying that building a new Cyclone in Texas would have been cheaper than moving and rebuilding the original. In exchange for the plans for the ride, Cobb agreed to serve as a consultant of sorts to the city of New York (or whoever wanted to restore the ride). Or so the story goes...

The only reason I can think of is because, since the very beginning it seems, the Cyclone was always considered the better of the two rides. I never rode the Thunderbolt, but I understand that the pacing wasn't as fluid as that of the Cyclone.

Then again (as I sit here, deep in thought), perhaps it also has to do with the fact, up until the 60's, the Thunderbolt was part of something larger and more spectacular (Steeplechase Park) and got "lost" amongst all the hype, while the Cyclone seems to have always stood as an attraction on its own? There's also the issue of the Tornado, which was always considered to be the best of the three? I remember a quote from someone, something along the lines of "when the Tornado caught fire, the wrong coaster at Coney Island burned down." *** Edited 1/20/2004 10:13:42 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:20 PM
Wow, you guys are a wealth of information. I always wondered why two such similar rides were put in such close proximity. Anyway, correct me if I'm wrong, but arent there only two *thunderbolt* clones? I can only think of Thunderbolt at SFNE and Wolverine Wildcat at MiA.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:23 PM
Thanks guys, I'm having difficulties today with things I should remember/or know. Must be my age, but I'll blame it on the weather. Brrrrrrrr

Wood - anything else is an imitation

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:32 PM
Antuan, Thunderbolt at SFNE is a completely different design from the one that was at Coney Island. It is either a copy or was moved from the 1940 Worlds Fair. I'll have to look it up to be sure. Wolverine Wildcat is also a completely different design from either Thunderbolt and more closely follows the profile and design of the Phoenix.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:44 PM
According to coaster enthusiasts I have spoken with that had the chance to ride all three - the Tornado was definitely the winner (unfortunately it burned down 3 years before I got there).

Based on accounts from my relatives who all grew up in Brooklyn, the Cyclone is the ride they remember from their youth (that and Steeplechase) - I think more than anything because it scared them (based on their descriptions). When they would goto Coney they would only ride it once.

Keep in mind the Cyclone is definitely a violent ride - especially with the 4 bench cars; whereas when I hear descriptions of the Thunderbolt it is compared more to the Miller classics such as the big dipper (SFWOA) or Jack Rabbit/Racer (KW) in ride quality.

It is my impression that the Thunderbolt when it had better days was definitely a fun ride just not super wild, and the airtime on the double down was supposedly amazing.

Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 5:57 PM
I think it also has to do with fame: The Cyclone has been in the American counciousness since Charles Lindbergh declared it "More thrilling than flying an airplane at top speed." After that happened, it just became part of classic Americanna, whether it was the best ride at Coney or no.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004 6:19 PM
Lindbergh said "The Cyclone is more thrilling than my solo flight across the Atlantic"...
Wednesday, January 21, 2004 2:51 AM
After a web search, I mostly found paraphrases that say he found the Cyclone scarier than flying. The one quote (From amusment-parks.com) has Lindbergh stating, "A ride on the Cyclone is greater than flying an airplane at top speed," which is pretty darn close to the quote I remembered.

On a side note, I hope he found the Cyclone more thrilling than his historic flight. 99%+ of that flight was pure blah. Not exactly the best pacing for a coaster. *** Edited 1/21/2004 7:52:16 AM UTC by (SF)Great American***

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 8:07 AM
There is a few major differences between the rides.

Thunderbolt 1925- First modern coaster, use of new lap bars and the 3 wheel system. Miller

Cyclone 1927- Thrilling first drop, BETTER LOCATION, larger. Vernon

The cyclone goes from Surf Ave. to the boardwalk while the thunderbolt only went from the Bowery to not even the boarldwalk MAJOR difference in size. Second the thunderbolt had 2 chains because of it being the first modern w/ no computors to help the hill right after the second turn with the double dip was angled too steep for the train to make it up the hill, so a small chain was added to make it over. Third $$$$$ they say that every year the Thunderbolt and Tornado makes $90,000 the Cyclone would make $2000,000, more money for repairs and upkeep another reason the cyclone still exists. Disreguard the 70's battle over the cyclone the real truth is that the Aquarium did not want a loud coaster next to its relaxing exibits, it was not a money struggle.

So you see that there are great difference between the two coasters.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 12:13 PM
OK... Here's some interesting details pertaining to the Coney Island Cyclone and Texas Cyclone. The following are excurpts from an interview with Bill Cobb done by Tom Smith in the Spring 1982 issue of Coaster World:

How did you get involved with the Cyclone?

A friend of mine called me and asked if I could build it. We went up to New York to look at the Coney Island Cyclone. We had a deal with them. We'd look at it and tell them whether or not they could open it. In return, we had permission to copy it. The original idea had been to move the Coney Island coaster down to Texas. Astroworld wanted something to attract attention: something wild. That's a famous coaster, and the manager got the idea to go up and get it. But, the moving of it would have been as expensive as building a new one.

Why did you reverse the layout of the Texas version?

We needed the entrance and exit and loading station where it would fit the park. The best thing to do was reverse it. It's also slightly larger. It follows very closely to the design of the original. We sent a crew up to New York. They did measurements and surveys of the entire ride. Then, they did a ground line layout and profile. I think they spent about three weeks up there. Next we plotted it up and did an analysis of what velocities it should have, what forces, and so on. We treated it like a brand new coaster. Then, we decided to reverse it. We followed their profile, but we made it do what we wanted it to do. I think the Houston ride is more like the original Cyclone than the one in New York. We found that it had been cut down in places, and you didn't get the smooth flow you originally had. You can pick those things out when your analyzing it and tell that someone had worked on it.

Is the Texas Cyclone as steep as the original?

Yes, they're both 53 degrees. I remember that it was an odd degree. most of them are 45, and 53 degrees is pretty steep. In fact, we debated for quite a long time on whether to use 53 degrees, but the original used 53 degrees, so we decided to use it.

Why were four-seat cars originally used?

They wanted to make it almost identical to the original, which also has four-seat cars.

Did that work well?

Yeah, they get around, let's say that. We had to make some adjustments in the design, getting and out of the super elevations. We had to design that ride around the cars. We had to make some adjustments when we went to three-seaters.

What changes have you made in the structure in the last few years?

We dropped the south turn two feet to fix a problem we had with the south wind. When they have a strong wind, the train would stop. When they didn't have a wind, everything was fine. I think we lowered the north turn, also, changed the super-elevations in a few places, and put some spirals in where we go in or come out of a curve with a short tangent, to smooth that out.

Is that a high maintenance ride?

I'd say yes, compared to an out-and-back. It has more forces. On the Screamin' Eagle, after you get past the first drop, it's real gentle, about like riding a trolley. It's up, down and around, but there's nothing violent about it at all. The Cyclone is so compact that you don't have room to get in or out of anything. You have to go directly from one direction to another.


Wood - anything else is in imitation

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 1:17 PM
I've heard a lot about the Cyclone (the Coney original, that is) being reprofiled at some point- I believe it was in the late thirties- but I've never been able to find out what those changes entailed, or why they were made in the first place. Does anyone know?
Wednesday, January 21, 2004 1:43 PM
I'll tell you what Rob,(I know...sounds like Hank Hill), I wish I new the answer to that one myself. Since that interview was written, Texas Cyclone has gone through tremendous modifications. I'd bet the Texas version has been more drastically altered than its predecessor.

If you look at the origanal photos of the Texas Cyclone, that ride looked savagely brutal in its original profile from 1976.

To answer your question, the publication Roller Coaster Fever (that helped to spawn ACE) says this about the Coney Island Cyclone. *The distance of the initial drop was increased to equal the overall height of the structure when the ride was remodeled in 1937 by Chris Feucht.* Although in conflict to what Biil Cobb said about the rides' initial drop angle, RCF also says the first drop is 60 degrees. So take that for what its worth. *** Edited 1/21/2004 6:53:32 PM UTC by Thrillerman***

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 4:35 PM
The Cyclone's first drop according to multiple sources (including the city's and Astrolands) is 59.5 degrees - I strongly support that. (I'll dispute it's height though!!!)

The only modifications that I know of on the ride are the tunnel into the station - this was added to cover the skid brakes during rain, etc; and the addition of the secondary bar (or under bar) on the restraints.

I can only imagine what the ride would be like without the secondary restraint bar - it must have been insane. I'm pretty sure that was added in the early 80's.

Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell

Thursday, January 22, 2004 10:32 AM
Actually there was another change other than SMALL reprofiling to the lift hill. After the fourth turnaround (Lower level facing Surf ave.) you go under the structure and do 1 shifting bunny hop, there used to be 3 little hops which hurt peoples necks because of no headrest. Mid 30's that was changed to make the ride a little less violent, didn't do to much.

For the record the Texas Cyclone has nothing on the C.I. Cyclone, the heavy trains on NY makes the ride great, the lightweight trains in TX makes a different ride. A 6 ton train with out people will have alot more forces than a 3.5 ton train with people.

Thursday, January 22, 2004 12:29 PM
Interesting Coasterfreak2. That liitle run you're talking about with the shifting speed hill is one of my favorite spots on the original. Funny that hill was omited in all the cloned versions.

While I don't doubt your opinion about the Texas version not measuring up to the original and the difference in train weights, I know people who would argue the Texas ride in its original form(1976, w/4-bench PTC's, three car train) was better.

I've ridden both coasters, but unfortunately the first time I rode the Texas version was in 1984 after the infamous morgan *coffins* were installed and numerous reprofilings. I must say that it was a decent ride that was ruined by HORRIBLE trains. To this day I can't stand those trains on ANY coaster because they feel like your riding in a shopping cart.

I must add I was lucky to get back to Houston two years ago and they have since removed the *coffins* from the trains(as many know) and the ride is now simply amazing. I was at the park for two consecutive evenings and did nothing but marathon that thing. I was blown away by the experience and couldn't walk away from the ride it was that much fun. Dare I say it is the best woodie in the state now?!!!

While nothing will ever compare to the shear power and viscious drops of the Coney Island Cyclone, Texans now have a version they can be proud of again.

Wood - anything else is an imitation

Thursday, January 22, 2004 12:35 PM
Great topic, Jim...and great discussion. I wish I had something meaningful to say on the topic ;)

mOOSH [loves Cyclone!]


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