AstroWorld's closing weekend

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Tuesday, November 1, 2005 5:34 PM
Tim and I headed down to AstroWorld Saturday afternoon to visit for the final time. The park modified the schedule so they would close at 6:00 p.m., however at 7:00 p.m. the park was holding a private reunion party for former employees and they invited the local ACEers to join them. We got into the park at 5:15, and took a spin on Viper and a double ride on XLR-8. We had heard Cyclone valleyed the red train during startup and it had to be disassembled and removed from the track. It was doubtful the train would be put back together for one last day, which dashed our hopes of getting lots of Cyclone rides.

The party was a lot of fun. It was held in the large pavilion in the catering area. There were all kinds of drinks, lots of food, and live music. As we entered the pavilion we saw the General Manager, Chuck Hendrix. He was all smiles and he greeted Tim with a big hug (they’ve known each other for years) and the three of us posed for a picture. He also confirmed that the Cyclone would not be moved. Quite a few ACEers turned out, so it was great to mingle for a long time. It was also nice to see some of the employees we used to know that had left the park over the years. After a few hours, the party started to wind down and we left and looked forward to a night of sleep (an extra hour) and the final day.

Our hotel was only a couple of blocks away but we should have departed sooner that morning. We thought we had allowed ourselves enough time, but a home game between the Texans and the Browns, coupled with the last day, changed hours, and AstroWorld having to relocate their space to park due to the game made the entrance one big snarl. We got to the gate by opening, but there was a big crowd. They had employees standing on the rooftops throwing beads to the crowd below. As is tradition the employees do an opening dance each day to the Mr. Six jingle. ACEers who made it there early were whisked inside and taught the dance. We observed from outside the gate. They made a few announcements, a countdown, and then opened the gates for the last time. We headed straight to the Texas Cyclone. We rode the very last seat and I don't think it could have gotten any better. What a phenomenal ride. I was absolutely amazed at how much airtime we got so early in the morning before the train had even warmed up. On many coasters I generally avoid the last seat but this ride was been so well maintained there wasn’t any roughness, even over the wheels. As we rode we saw the red train on the ground in pieces next to a crane. By the time we exited the ride, the queue was pretty much filled, and we knew it was going to be a long wait.

We then headed over to Ultra-Twister and Batman for one last ride while those lines were at their shortest. We met up with other ACEers at Greezed Lightnin' around noon. An informal meeting time of 1:00 was also to take place there, so we decided to have lunch. Getting food was somewhat of an ordeal. Granted, they scrounged up "booster" employees and who knows how much actual food was left, but it took about 30 minutes to take care of the 7 or 8 people in front of us. We tried to be patient; after all, it was the last day. Once we finally got our food, it was pretty good, so that was a plus.

There were quite a few ACEers at the 1:00 meeting, and we all got in line for Greezed Lightnin’. Word was spread that all ACEers should stick around at park closing for one last spin on the Cyclone. This was the first time I had ever seen queuing for GL under the station, typically it is just at the end of the ramp. We waited through most of that lower queue but the line moved very well. This ride has always had a good crew and they were in good form today. They really put the crew on that California shuttle to shame where 6 to 7 minute dispatches are the norm.

We met up with some friends and took a spin on SWAT, Viper, Dungeon Drop and the Bamboo Chute, all of which had long lines, but they were moving okay. Dungeon Drop was running four of the six cars, but that isn’t unusual for these Intamin drop rides.

Throughout the day I was surprised at makeup of the crowd. Instead of the usual groups of unruly teenagers that had plagued AstroWorld for so many years, there were lots of families. Nearly everyone had a camera and they were taking pictures of everything. We later learned that a daughter brought her father from the nursing home and pushed him through the park in a wheelchair. Her fondest memories were of her dad taking her to AstroWorld and this time it was her turn to return the favor.

It was nearing closing and Tim wanted to buy some postcards. Lines in the shops were insane with 20-30 people waiting at each register. We thought the smaller shop back by Batman might fare better. There were indeed postcards back there, so Tim waited in that shorter line, but still for 10-15 minutes. I think postcards were the only things left with the park’s name on it. Even the generic Six Flags stuff was gone too. With a major spike in attendance and per caps through the roof, AstroWorld probably had an amazing October.

At 5:45 we walked past Cyclone to see what the line was like. After all, they had to clear the park before they could do anything with us. The line was out the mouth! That was at least an hour and a half line and the park was supposed to close in 15 minutes. We met other ACEers at the front gate; it was apparent that clearing the park was going to take a long time. We decided to head over to Dungeon Drop for one last ride. The line was almost to the entrance and as we looked up we realized another car had been taken out of service so now they were down to three (out of six). With three units and three ride ops, you'd think it could dispatch pretty quickly. But this ride crew was not very efficient. By the time we finally got on, ride supervisor and ACE member Ron Branch saw us. After we got off, he invited us to stick around for the last public rides. We talked a bit while the crew ran out the rest of the line. When the last of the GP boarded we filled in the empty seats. Then they had an employee ride and there were still empty seats so Ron invited us to join them again. We both love this ride and were very appreciative to be on the very last ride at this park. Ron said they expected disassembly to begin the next day. As we walked away they parked the vehicles at the top of the tower for the last time. By now most of the rides were shutting down. Viper was parked as we walked by.

We headed back up front, and the place was still packed. Employees were also up there enjoying cake and dancing to music. It was a festive atmosphere instead of dark and dreary. Tim discovered there were different postcards at the front shops so he got in another line for 15 minutes to buy more postcards. Finally at around 8:00, two hours after the park was scheduled to close, they called for us to go into the back area and circumvent the public areas to Cyclone. We waited for the last guests to get off, and then we were allowed up to the station. Employees lined the stairs and greeted us as we went past. Tim and I took the second to last seat letting Justin Garvanovic of the ECC and ACE’s events director Yvonne Janik take the very last seat. After all Justin did come all the way from London. Having run all day, the train was just flying that evening. As we rounded the second turn, it all hit me that this was indeed the last time I will ever ride this coaster. I thought I was going to break into tears before the third drop. I took a deep breath and regained my composure and tried to enjoy the rest of the ride. We all cheered as the train pulled into the station and then it was time to leave. Walking down the ramp for the very last time was a difficult and emotional experience. They were still running the freeze frame and although overpriced and grainy I just had to buy a photo. Yvonne and I each got a print of all four of us in the last car. I think there were two more trains of ACEers after us, and you could tell each group was fighting back the tears as they walked down the ramp. Many lined up to buy a freeze frame photo. They wanted to walk us out together so we all gathered in front of the Cyclone waiting for the last person to get their photo. We talked and mingled and took photographs and watched the employees take a ride. In the very last train General Manager Chuck Hendrix was seated in the front, the head of Maintenance Kent Maulsby was in the last seat, and the full time staff filled in the rest of the seats. After the train came into the station, a maintenance person cut away a section of the track to make certain that was indeed the last ride ever taken.

Once we were all gathered together we were escorted out of the front of the park, the last guests to ever walk through those gates.

The next morning we stopped by the office briefly to say goodbye to Chuck. Over the years we got to know most of the staff, and they knew us. We made it clear that we didn’t want to impose or take a lot of his time, but he invited us into his office and we talked for a good half hour.

It never was the perfect park and it was in a place that was consistently hot and humid. Sometimes it was an effort to have a good time. The demographics of the area changed over the years, and corporate was never willing to give the park the capital it needed. But it did have a unique collection of good rides and it held a lot of good memories for a lot people. We got on the highway and as I drove away I kept glancing in the rearview mirror as the park faded from view.

I’m really going to miss this place.

*** Edited 11/2/2005 10:36:20 PM UTC by Jeffrey Seifert***

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Tuesday, November 1, 2005 6:16 PM
It's still hard for me to realize that the place is gone. For my graduation trip in 2004, I'd originally planned to go to SoCal, but opted for the 3 Six Flags parks in Texas instead. Best decision I ever made. I still remember vividly the excitement of seeing the park off to the left on I-610, and how it was on the first ride of the day, a lap aboard the venerable Texas Cyclone, that it finally hit me that I was there. SFAW provided one heck of a great day. I remember saying how I absolutely had to come back. Sadly, I won't get that chance, but at least I got to go that once, and I got a ride on everything I wanted a ride on.

And some extra stuff, too.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2005 7:42 PM
Jeffrey,

Thanks for sharing! It was great seeing you and Tim last month as well. I don't know if I could've watched them cutting the track at the end of it - I only went once and I miss it.

Best,

Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell

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Tuesday, November 1, 2005 8:33 PM
Thanks for the great TR. I made my one and only trip there 2 weeks ago, and due to the psychotic crowds only was able to do 7 of the 9 coasters, and nothing else :( (Batman was down when we got to it, and Ultra Twister with a close to 2 hour wait!....thankfully I rode a UT in Japan.)

It's sad that the cyclone will never be moved. To your knowlegde, are there any other major rides which will not be moved? *** Edited 11/2/2005 1:34:01 AM UTC by Peabody***

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005 10:10 AM
Other rides I know for sure will not be moved are the Bamboo Chute log flume and Thunder River, the first Intamin rapids ride, although they will save the vehicles and hardware from both rides.

Rides I have doubts about are the Astroway (Von Roll tram) and Tidal Wave (Arrow Shoot the Chutes). I think the vehicles will probably be saved but not the whole ride.

I also doubt we will see the train completely relocated, I'm guessing the engines and cars will just get redistributed to parks that already have trains of that gauge.

I'm not sure about the antique taxis either. The vehicles may be sent to parks that already have those types of rides.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005 3:38 PM
Iwould suspect Serpent might not be moved...it seemed to very much be specific to that terrain. Might not be too cost effective. Just a guess, though!
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Wednesday, November 2, 2005 5:08 PM
I wish they hadn't sold it. If they hadn't, this whole argument with Red Zone would not be raging today. Does anyone know about the status of Greezed Lightnin?
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Thursday, November 3, 2005 10:17 AM
As far as I know Greezed Lightnin' is in fine shape, but with SFI, we just don't know what will happen. They have a very spotty record with relocations. We've seen many coasters taken apart with the intention of relocation but sometimes they sit for years before they are put back together, and sometimes they are just scrapped. Excalibur is still neatly stacked in the bone yard at Frontier City. Opryland's Mine Train sat for five years before being resurrected at The Great Escape. SFGAm's Shockwave was supposed to go to Houston but ended up being scrapped. On the other hand they have moved SFGAm's Schwarzkopf shuttle loop twice--so maybe there's hope.

*** Edited 11/4/2005 2:43:37 PM UTC by Jeffrey Seifert***

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Thursday, November 3, 2005 2:19 PM
Excellent trip report, was a truly emotional scene at the park this last weekend.

Haven't heard anything definite about Greezed Lightnin or any of the coasters. We are pretty sure Serial Thriller's going to Fiesta and Mayan Mindbender to Frontier City. Still, I'd be surprised if any coasters that survive being torn down get re-erected before 2007.

Reliable reports indicate that Dungeon Drop has a date in St Louis and Diablo Falls + Swat are destined for Six Flags New England. These are the first rides to begin dismantling and prep for shipment. They'll all be back up in 2006. The steam train's heading to Georgia as well.

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Thursday, November 3, 2005 3:11 PM
I believe you mean the Diesel train. I would hope they wouldn't ship a steam engine to us just for the park to dieselize it like they did to the Texas (grrr...)
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Thursday, November 3, 2005 5:17 PM
Yes, it's a diesal engine Elizabeth mocked up to look like a steam engine.


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Friday, November 4, 2005 1:33 PM
Oh please don't send that SLC to Fiesta, that is so wrong for that park. I wonder if they intend to put Mayan Mindbender in the Nightmare Mine building. They haven't run the Galaxi that's in there for a couple of years.

Why would they send the train engine to Georgia? Didn't Georgia get one of Fiesta's engines just a few years ago?

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Friday, November 4, 2005 2:23 PM
Send the Greezed Lightnin to SFNO we would luv to have it!!! But I guess we also are on the chopping block like SFAW..It would be a good fit for us..
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Friday, November 4, 2005 3:02 PM

Jeffrey Seifert said:
Why would they send the train engine to Georgia? Didn't Georgia get one of Fiesta's engines just a few years ago?

Yes but I'm pretty sure it's gone. I think it was more of a temporary thing. We had two steam locomotives (Texas and General) but the park decided recently to abandon steam. Gretta (the train from Fiesta) was used last year and this year they brought back the Texas, after they had converted it to a diesel train (insert moan). I'd guess they are going to use the Astroworld engine as the second train instead of dieselizing the General, which is probably the fatal blow to the General :(

If I'm getting any of this wrong 'dukeis#1' will clear it up.

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Saturday, November 5, 2005 2:50 PM
Latest report is that neither Schwarzkopf coaster will remain in the Six Flags chain. Viper's already been sold and Greezed Lightnin' is on the market.

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Saturday, November 5, 2005 3:45 PM
Any rumors to where?
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Saturday, November 5, 2005 7:51 PM
Well then I'm pinning my hopes on getting B:TE....although I doubt they'll keep that either & it looks like we'll be stuck with ultratwister if they even keep that in the chain.

This is so stupid of SF to do as they've got parks that are in need of a coaster & now they have extra coasters to go around but instead choose to sell them to overseas parks or scrap them alltogether,yet another stupid move...in a long list of them made by yours truely Burke & CO.

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Saturday, November 5, 2005 10:20 PM

BATWING FAN SFA said:
Well then I'm pinning my hopes on getting B:TE....although I doubt they'll keep that either & it looks like we'll be stuck with ultratwister if they even keep that in the chain.

This is so stupid of SF to do as they've got parks that are in need of a coaster & now they have extra coasters to go around but instead choose to sell them to overseas parks or scrap them alltogether,yet another stupid move...in a long list of them made by yours truely Burke & CO.


WOW.

"Hello, I am Batwing Fan SFA and I am getting really desperate now, can't you tell? What do you mean you're used to it already? NO I DO NOT always post the same things over and over!"

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Sunday, November 6, 2005 2:37 AM
Well, I have no sympathy for those upset you may not be getting our coasters. Frankly, Six Flags apparently needs cash right now more than they need to be putting old rides in their parks. Still, it'd be a damn shame if Greezed Lightnin' hits the scrap heap. It's too good for that.

Batman the Escape is already 20 years old and frankly not in the best condition. It's also a nightmare capacity wise because it takes so long to load the trains. I believe it's for sale as well.

Ultra-Twister I don't believe will be going anywhere. Kind of a shame, it's a neat little ride. But also very low capacity and high maintenance.

As for where Viper is going, somewhere in Mexico but not Six Flags Mexico. Not sure if it's one of the 9 other parks down there or a private ranch or something. Still, if you've got a jonesing to ride one of these there's always the one at Frontier City in Oklahoma.

*** Edited 11/6/2005 7:51:04 AM UTC by Fierce Pancake***

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Monday, November 7, 2005 10:39 AM
Viper was sold to Rene Aziz for La Feria Park. Greezed Lightnin' is still for sale, but don't expect La Feria to buy it as they already have the flywheel shuttle from Kennywood.

My contacts tell me the SLC may go to TGE.

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