Why were so many bad roller coasters built in the 1980s?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 6:36 AM

That’s an interesting thought, one might naturally think it would be the opposite. But your point about specifications to the fabricator makes sense.
I’m of the opinion that Dollywood’s Tennessee Tornado remains the best of the large Arrow loopers. It’s the one that seems totally custom with inversions that strayed away from using Arrow’s standard pieces. The little sways at the tops of the loops took me by surprise and the wonderful first drop is smooth, even with the unexpected u-turn part way down. And never have I experienced head banging or discomfort from the restraints. It’s a good ride and one to look forward to rather than dread.
Another thing I’m forgetting to consider are the suspended coasters, and those might be a different Arrow animal. In spite of the initial track-related design failure, subsequent successful attempts seem to have (had) track fabricated to meet the needs of the ride and the trains, and don’t leave the impression of a stamped out product. I’m going to put some further thought to that.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018 10:29 AM

Adding to what RideMan wrote, the tools available to fabricators have surely made major leaps in the last 40+ years. I feel certain that the folks bending track can do so much more precisely and with much more complexity than they previously could. So where Vortex, say, has one point where there's a rather angular transition into the loop ...

... the modern designers and fabricators can lay out a nice smooth curve.

(There's an interview with John Allen where he talks about this as a disadvantage of steel - the guys building wood coasters back in the 70s could get exactly the curves they wanted; not so much Arrow Dynamics at that time.)

There's probably a constant tension between what the Marketing people want - taller, faster, bigger, badder - and what the technology at any given point can accomplish. In the 70s and early 80s you had a race to build the tallest wooden coaster, that went, roughly, Screamin' Eagle -> Colossus -> Beast -> American Eagle -> Hercules / Texas Giant, and by the last of those they were unrideable and maybe unmaintainable. (I'm going from memory here, sorry if I got details wrong.) It wasn't until engineered track and topper track and the like that wood coasters of that size became truly feasible. You could probably trace a similar history among steel rides - Cedar Point's corkscrew is not so bad; Shockwave at SF Great America? - ouch!

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Friday, July 27, 2018 12:13 PM

I think the Schwarzkopf rides(that I wrote) are holding up rather well. As mentioned before, it is all about maintenance. After SFMM gave Revolution some love, it runs rather good. Olympia Looping is to this day smooth as butter and that is a massive portable rideAs for Vekoma, I still like Viper, it rattles a little, but is still fun and Vekome catched up somewhat as there new ride concepts liik pretty good. It will be interesting how that new launched flyer concept of them will work/feel at Phantasialand next year


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Friday, July 27, 2018 12:17 PM
TheMillenniumRider's avatar

It may work out well, I am probably the odd one out here, but I enjoy a Vekoma flyer over a B&M flyer, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think the restraints have a large amount to do with it.

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Friday, July 27, 2018 1:04 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

And that vertical loop that's taken on your back. That is seriously the best part.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Friday, July 27, 2018 1:09 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

TheMillenniumRider said:

I am probably the odd one out here, but I enjoy a Vekoma flyer over a B&M flyer...

You might be surprised.

(Of course, general consensus may have changed in the past 15 years)

(Also, wish I knew what thread I was linking to two posts below that one. Link structure has changed since then.)


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Friday, July 27, 2018 1:42 PM

The Vekoma flyers aren’t aging as well as the B&M flyers (the two I have ridden at least) but in the earlier days I preferred the Vekoma flyers. The loop was great - but nothing beats the flip to flying position at the top of the lift. Much more dramatic than doing it in the station on a B&M flyer.

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Friday, July 27, 2018 1:51 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Not to mention, I’ve been stuck on the brake runs of both for extended time - and while neither is pleasant, and the Vekoma comes with a potential sunburn, I will still take 45 minutes laying on my back vs 45 minutes hanging from a B&M


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Friday, July 27, 2018 1:58 PM

hambone said:

Adding to what RideMan wrote, the tools available to fabricators have surely made major leaps in the last 40+ years. I feel certain that the folks bending track can do so much more precisely and with much more complexity than they previously could.

I buy this -- it certainly makes sense that with all the technological advancements we have today, we can make track much more accurately and in more sophisticated ways. But the Schwarzkopf's of the 70s wouldn't have had any of these advantages, and yet they are still mostly pleasant rides.

Is it just my perception or are those 70s Schwarzkopf's not way better than those 80s Arrows which came after them? Maybe they are just more rideable because of a combination of a. not being so tall and fast and b. not having OTSR's?

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Friday, July 27, 2018 2:44 PM

Great topic! This is a conversation that I've been having with enthusiasts since I got back into coasters recently.

I think that the main reason that most late 70's, 80's, and early 90's coasters are garbage is that designers were trying to do more and more with their coasters, but they were basically using the same technology to design their rides that the Egyptians were using to design their pyramids. The usage of better and better CAD design was a game changer for the industry. Arrow used to literally draw up a blueprint using geometry and calculus, have the park build it, and then put trains through to see if it could complete the course. If it couldn't, or they deemed that certain parts were un-ridable they'd make adjustments. We see cases like that now with Maverick's defunct zero-G roll, but its a little less acceptable when you should be using expensive software to figure this stuff out.

I find it interesting that if you go down most park's line-ups, the ones worth riding that I'll get excited about generally tend to be the ones built in the 2000's. Maybe some late 90's one. The ones from the early 90s or before I'm pretty much just doing for the credits and to say I did them.

But what about before the 70's and 80's? The way that I see it: coasters had a true Golden Age from the turn of the century to the Great Depression. There were more coasters operating in the 20's than there are right now, the average person loved coasters and would ride them, and designers were pushing the envelope. We even had classic designers who could make very innovative, custom designers, with custom elements without needing computers.

Then the Great Depression happened, and Coney Island was pushed out by the city government, and parks went into a dark age. Disney is basically what brought them back, but they shifted from coasters and thrill rides to theming and family friendliness. This basically brings us up to the late 60's/early 70's. Schwarzkopf had some nice designs, but Arrow was really pushing the envelope. Steel track was all the rage, so they tried their hand at putting out cutting edge, fast loopers without the CAD that we have now. People just thought that the roughness was part of the thrill.

I imagine that parks weren't taken that seriously. They were something that you did to bring your family for a day, buy overpriced food, play the midway games, stand in line for an hour, and ride an awful ride. And was just what it is. You could brag to your friends that you have the ability to sit through an awful headbanger.

And the late 90's and 2000's came in, and with new technology they could actually make rides that were fun, thrilling, and smooth. It became much more customer oriented. Personally, I believe that the explosion of coaster enthusiasts, and people who sub-enthusiast but love rides and are knowledge, is attributable to a better product being put out there in the late 90's, 2000's and now (I think that coasters were headed towards a dark age with the Financial Meltdown, but it recovered due to the innovations and the great new rides). Old school enthusiasts complain about how snobby we are now, but in my opinion, I reserve the right to be snobby. I want all coasters to be great, smooth, thrilling, and accessible. I don't want a GP or a kid to get on a Steel Phantom, GASM, or Ultra Twister, and have the worst experience of their lives and assume all coasters are like that. I want them stepping onto an RMC, modern GCI Woodie, or B&M hyper, and getting a thrilling, but smooth as glass ride.

One last takeaway:

Parks are a capitalist business model in America. Certain recreational endeavors are run by the government (National Parks Services) or non-profits (most festivals and races) so they can run it as they need to in order to serve the guests or members or raise money for something. But parks don't receive those kinds of funds. They get paid when guests buy tickets and spend in the park. And its not really seen as "artistic" so you don't see studios and investors willing to fund it for the artistic purposes. Parks will give guests what they want or they'll go broke. Adapt or die.

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Saturday, July 28, 2018 3:46 AM
Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

ACE still has "The Legacy of Arrow Development" documentary on YouTube. It mentions several of the topics discussed in this thread. Arrow inversions were all exact copies with only the entrance and exit of the inversion being different on each ride. This was true until Tennessee Tornado in 1999, and by then it was much too late, as B&M had taken a huge share of the market.

Vekoma was originally intended to be a European partner for Arrow, but instead ended up stealing much of the Arrow designs and going into business for themselves.

I think a good related question for this thread would be, "During the 1980s, what lasting innovations were made to roller coaster design?" Answer: not many.


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Monday, July 30, 2018 12:36 AM

ApolloAndy said:
Did Schwartzkoph ever design an inversion that wasn't a vertical loop? Weird Mindbender thing doesn't count.

Doesn’t Thriller have a loop screw-ish element?

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Monday, July 30, 2018 1:06 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Sure, but what is that, really? It's a vertical loop, but the entrance and exit path have been moved further apart. There's no banking in to it or out. It's still not very different.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Monday, July 30, 2018 2:32 PM

Pagoda Gift Shop said:

ACE still has "The Legacy of Arrow Development" documentary on YouTube. It mentions several of the topics discussed in this thread. Arrow inversions were all exact copies with only the entrance and exit of the inversion being different on each ride. This was true until Tennessee Tornado in 1999, and by then it was much too late, as B&M had taken a huge share of the market.

Vekoma was originally intended to be a European partner for Arrow, but instead ended up stealing much of the Arrow designs and going into business for themselves.

I think a good related question for this thread would be, "During the 1980s, what lasting innovations were made to roller coaster design?" Answer: not many.

Well, Magnum XL-200 was built in May of 1989. Obviously not a very good ride at all by 21st century standards, but it at least planted the seeds. The hypercoaster revolution is what changed the preference from inversion after inversion to speed, lapbars, and airtime. I guess you could say that Mangum was the post credit scene of the 1980's style of coasters.

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Monday, July 30, 2018 3:54 PM

Trackmaster said:

Well, Magnum XL-200 was built in May of 1989. Obviously not a very good ride at all by 21st century standards

I totally disagree. I still think that Magnum, in the right seat, is still one of the best rides in the park.

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Monday, July 30, 2018 8:26 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Having ridden all but three of the B&M flyer layouts at this point I now much prefer them
To Vekoma.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2018 10:54 AM

One thing I thought about too:

I kind of think that what's going on in the coaster world is kind of housing in cities and gentrification. It seems like the apartments that are being built now, and have been built in the last several years have been the luxury apartments with the various amenities: the club room, the gym, the pool, the front desk, etc. As opposed to the triple decks, walk-ups, and the brownstones that had been up for years. These days, luxury apartments are even getting popular in the suburbs. You really just don't see much low cost, ugly housing going up.

That's kind of how I see the new coasters that are going up. Usually in most parks, if you're being honest with yourself, the best coasters will be the newer ones. And that's kind of the way technology should be. If something works, you keep it or improve on it. If it doesn't work, you bury it and vow to never touch it again. If the best coasters were still built in the 70's and never improved, then the designers and parks haven't been doing their job for the last 40 years.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018 7:39 PM
Pete's avatar

Trackmaster said:

Well, Magnum XL-200 was built in May of 1989. Obviously not a very good ride at all by 21st century standards, but it at least planted the seeds. The hypercoaster revolution is what changed the preference from inversion after inversion to speed, lapbars, and airtime. I guess you could say that Mangum was the post credit scene of the 1980's style of coasters.

Disagree, Magnum is still one of the best rides anywhere. It is exactly the fact that it has the triangular hills and offers a more turbulent ride that makes it so good. It is a more exciting ride for me than the more modern smooth transition coasters.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2018 1:36 PM

Pete said:

Trackmaster said:

Well, Magnum XL-200 was built in May of 1989. Obviously not a very good ride at all by 21st century standards, but it at least planted the seeds. The hypercoaster revolution is what changed the preference from inversion after inversion to speed, lapbars, and airtime. I guess you could say that Mangum was the post credit scene of the 1980's style of coasters.

Disagree, Magnum is still one of the best rides anywhere. It is exactly the fact that it has the triangular hills and offers a more turbulent ride that makes it so good. It is a more exciting ride for me than the more modern smooth transition coasters.

Well, everyone is entitled to their preferences, and that's what makes parks great. I've never liked Magnum personally, but I know that many enthusiasts do, and that's awesome. I just know that I've overheard a lot of complaints from the GP about it, and the line never gets that long. I'm just not sure how much its helping get paying guests in the park. Unfortunately, enthusiasts only represent a small microdrop in the bucket of a park's revenue stream.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018 2:40 PM
Bobbie1951's avatar

Coincidental that Magnum came into this - coincidental b/c I've been doing a monthly feature of coaster showdowns and decided a couple of months ago that this month's post would feature Magnum but couldn't finish the post until I got back to Cedar Point to ride this coaster. While I appreciate the fact that many enthusiasts like Magnum, I fall into the category of those who don't. I would have preferred to spend my last hour at CP doing a 6th lap on Steel Vengeance and a 3rd on Millennium Force but instead rode Magnum as if it were an assignment, as I didn't feel that I could otherwise comment fairly on a coaster I'd last ridden 7 or 8 years ago. Not saying that it's awful, just that this is a coaster I wouldn't go out of my way to ride unless there was a compelling reason to do so. http://www.coastercritic.com/2018/08/showdown-magnum-xl-200-vs-steel-force/


Bobbie

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