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

Thursday, August 2, 2018 12:27 PM

Bobbie1951 said:

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/

People just overrate it for nostalgia and because its at Cedar Point. If it were at one of CF's smaller parks people would care about it about as much as they care about Mamba or Wild Thing (probably less because those coasters are actually ridable).

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Thursday, August 2, 2018 3:57 PM

It was the first of it's kind. It's rather special in that regard.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018 4:11 PM

Even without bringing the history into it, Magnum is a solid ride in a great location with the backdrop of Lake Erie. The spectacular view of the lake on the trip up the lift is a part of the ride experience. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was a defining coaster in the industry and is still a darn good ride if you know what seats to avoid.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018 4:30 PM

Nostalgia and location had nothing to do with me liking Magnum. It was my favorite ride in the park because it was fun.

Last edited by bigboy, Thursday, August 2, 2018 4:31 PM
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Thursday, August 2, 2018 8:53 PM

Roller coasters were only *bad* in the 80's because everybody was doing cocaine and listening to hair bands. By the way, I really miss the 80's! lol

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Thursday, August 2, 2018 11:36 PM

We went to Cedar Point on vacation the year Magnum opened. I remember we were all amazed that it was so tall that it went into the clouds. Hard to believe where coasters have gone since then.

Last edited by Carrie J., Thursday, August 2, 2018 11:36 PM
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Friday, August 3, 2018 12:08 AM

Oh, I remember. When we made the bend on the causeway and got out first glimpse of Magnum the entire carload of us erupted. And we could hear similar sounds coming from nearby vehicles. It was the tallest thing ever and visible from everywhere. Now it’s barely discernible amongst all the steel that’s risen since. Pretty darned funny.

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Friday, August 3, 2018 1:40 AM

Trackmaster said:
People just overrate it for nostalgia and because its at Cedar Point. If it were at one of CF's smaller parks people would care about it about as much as they care about Mamba or Wild Thing (probably less because those coasters are actually ridable).

Magnum was the third most popular ride in the park last year with 1,450,000 riders, Only Gatekeeper and Millennium Force gave more rides. Lots and lots of people love Magnum. Mamba and Wild Thing pale in comparison to Magnum, those rides are boring and tame compared to Magnum.

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Saturday, August 4, 2018 9:58 AM

I feel Magnums saving grace is it's mostly straight track with little turns. Overall Arrows train design and and track seem to handle straight sections ok, but any quick turn and transitions are seem just awful on most Arrows I've ridden. Quick turns Might work ok at low speeds on the original corkscrew or a runaway mine train, but not a mega looper and certainly not a 200 foot mine train.

On Magnum I feel the pretzel turn is intense and a bit jaring, but still fun. If it was any longer though or Magnum was designed as a Hyper Twister, the rideabilty would take a big hit.

Looking back I almost consider Magnum a happy accident. Thankfully it was pretty much designed as and old school wood out and back. The solid first half (with the 3rd hill ejector / float combo the best element on any arrow ever), quick turn, and low speedy pointy bunnies makes for an intense ride that is unique and still rideable to this day. Had it any other twisty design who knows if it would be still standing.

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Saturday, August 4, 2018 10:55 AM

Even quality companies can make bad rides, when pushing the envelope in design.

Take RMC - everyone thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread. But look at Lightning Rod and Steel Vengeance. From what I've been reading lately, LR is still a major headache for Dollywood. At least SV has been running more. I understand that new rides have their bugs to be worked out. But not to the extent that an accident occurs. Someone dropped the ball there! Now, I've only been on one RMC - Outlaw Run. Yes I loved it, but would never consider it a top 10 ride.

Intamin, I love their smaller rides. More fun and more dependable. My favorite of theirs is Expedition GeForce. But, even they managed to screw up a simple log flume!

B&M - for the most part, flawless. But that leads to the growing number of negative feedback because they don't like to push the envelope. Their worst coasters are standups. It seems like they could not perfect the design and the coasters did not age well.I rode Iron Wolf when it opened in 1990 and loved it. Everything was glass-smooth. But years later, it was brutal. Worse than any Vekoma.

Now, speaking of Vekoma, there was a saving grace when riding Gouderix in 2002. The trains had these small "wings" protruding from the headrest that kept your heading from hitting the restraint. They worked really well. So much that I rode it many times! I actually loved the ride! Many of the group hated it and thought I was crazy!

Someone mentioned that rides like Magnum, Desperado and The Big One were like 200 ft mine rides. That's exactly why Arrow did not put up-stop wheels on Magnum when it opened, and had the up-stop plates like Gemini. The wheels were added for the 2nd season. I had asked Ron Toomer during the 10th Anniversary event about it and he commented "we just thought it was a large mine ride and felt it didn't need them". Magnum has been my favorite since it opened. Very few rides for me get put up on a pedastool like Magnum does. When it comes to steel coasters, there are 3 that are #1 contenders: Behemoth, Apollo's Chariot, and La Ronde's Goliath.

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Saturday, August 4, 2018 9:00 PM

Joe E. said:

Thankfully it was pretty much designed as and old school wood out and back.

I have always joked that Magnum is “the best woodie in the park” - and exactly because of this.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 10:47 AM

Pete said:

Trackmaster said:
People just overrate it for nostalgia and because its at Cedar Point. If it were at one of CF's smaller parks people would care about it about as much as they care about Mamba or Wild Thing (probably less because those coasters are actually ridable).

Magnum was the third most popular ride in the park last year with 1,450,000 riders, Only Gatekeeper and Millennium Force gave more rides. Lots and lots of people love Magnum. Mamba and Wild Thing pale in comparison to Magnum, those rides are boring and tame compared to Magnum.

I think that's just because it has an ungodly capacity. With the mix of enthusiasts who to go to the park, and the GP who ride it when it has a 15 minute line when everything else is over an hour, that's probably what makes the ridership high. But whenever I ride it, the GP always complain about how awful it is. Just because you're pushing people through the gates doesn't mean that its helping your company and its brand. The GP may ride a ride like that and completely make a decision about your park. Its hard to recover from that when you're beating the crap out of people.

And as enthusiasts, we know to avoid the wheel seat on three row car coasters. I preach this to the GP I run into who sit on them, but most don't know about this. If they get thrown on a wheel seat, they might permanently judge coasters and think that they're all the same due to these negative experiences.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 11:26 AM

Trackmaster said:

I think that's just because it has an ungodly capacity. With the mix of enthusiasts who to go to the park, and the GP who ride it when it has a 15 minute line when everything else is over an hour, that's probably what makes the ridership high.

The number of enthusiasts in the park on any given day is statistically insignificant and has no impact on the length of the line whatsoever. We get it. You don't like it. It doesn't mean that other people don't like it in large numbers and it doesn't mean there's some sort of extenuating circumstance that causes people to think they like it when they really don't or shouldn't.

Last edited by bigboy, Tuesday, August 7, 2018 11:27 AM
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 11:27 AM

I am without a doubt #TeamMagnum in this discussion, and some of that may be nostalgia, etc., but I don't think "beating the crap out of people" is fair. It certainly wasn't the reaction of anyone in my party or anyone I saw riding a week or so ago. It has ejector air without question, and the turnaround will rattle you some, but to me in the same ballpark as several moments on the Blue Streak, Corkscrew, or the Mine Ride for pity's sake - although certainly Magnum has more of those moments. I expect to be tossed around a bit on a roller coaster.

After nearly 30 years, surely most people know what to expect on that ride, enthusiasts and general public alike. High capacity or not, they keep sending out full trains.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 11:43 AM

"The GP may ride a ride like that and completely make a decision about your park." Wow, so what is that decision, that CP installs good rides? Have people just gotten soft over the years that they don't expect or like any turbulent fun on a coaster? Magnum is smooth with ejector air that forcefully smashes you into the restraint and causes a wild, rough and tumble ride. THAT IS A GOOD THING! The ride caused CP to have a record year in 1989. That same year, a major boat company featured one of their speed boats anchored in front of Magnum in an ad captioned "the ride everyone is waiting for!" The ride is not exactly the failure that you make it out to be. Perhaps CP should hand out a box of Wheaties to everyone entering the queue.

Last edited by Pete, Tuesday, August 7, 2018 2:52 PM
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 8:05 PM

Trackmaster said:

And as enthusiasts, we know to avoid the wheel seat on three row car coasters. I preach this to the GP I run into who sit on them, but most don't know about this. If they get thrown on a wheel seat, they might permanently judge coasters and think that they're all the same due to these negative experiences.

I must be a lousy enthusiast then because I ride 1-3 religiously.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 10:48 PM

And I ride 6-1 religiously.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018 11:06 PM

Preaching to the “GP” about coaster riding habits only works when you establish credibility by flashing your ACE membership card.

Last edited by bigboy, Tuesday, August 7, 2018 11:07 PM
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018 2:31 AM

The real problem with this question is that it is based on a faulty premise.

Unless you are talking about truly awful rides, like...well, just about anything that came out of the Summers/Dinn partnership that wasn't a slightly disappointing copy, most of the rides you're thinking about as "bad roller coasters" aren't really bad at all. The bigger issue is that something else has come along that is, in some ways, better. But even that isn't necessarily true.

Which is better? Magnum XL-200 or Steel Force? Clearly there are people here who will say that Steel Force is the better coaster because it is more refined, more precise, and offers a more gentle ride. Then there are those of us (like me) who will claim that Magnum XL-200 is the better ride for precisely the same reason.

I'll also argue that some of the manufacturers in the 1980's and 1990's were operating with certain constraints that more recent manufacturers have largely forgotten about. If Millennium Force had opened in 1989, barely able to push through 1,200 PPH by its fifth year of operation, it would have been a nightmare. How much of a nightmare? In 1976, Cedar Point's Corkscrew, running at a steady 1,440 PPH, generated lines in excess of 6 hours, lines that were not matched until Steel Vengeance opened with less than half the hourly capacity.
In the 1980's and 1990's, the parks, manufacturers, and engineers were literally inventing a new industry. Disney had reinvented the amusement park, and the theme park designers that came after followed his lead and built the new theme parks, parks with fewer, less thrilling rides, parks where sometimes it seemed they were embarrassed to admit that they even *had* rides. That gave us coasters like the Carolina Goldrusher: totally hidden from the midway in the middle of the park, and offering an utterly disappointing ride.
Gradually, the industry began to realize that there was nothing inherently wrong with thrill rides, and in fact their customers began to demand something better. They proceeded to re-invent an industry that was largely dormant by this time. Curt Summers and Charlie Dinn, who had built Kings Island and the wood coasters there under the tutelage of John Allen and Frank Hoover, tried to figure out how to build wood coasters. They started with direct copies (Rebel Yell, Thunder Road, Scooby Doo, Grizzly, Minebuster, Wilde Beast), then modified copies (Wolverine Wildcat, Grizzly), then copies made to be "bigger and badder" (Raging Wolf Bobs) and finally attempts to make originals, some better than others: Predator, Texas Giant, Hercules, Mean Streak. There was no road map for this, it was a matter of applying what they knew, what they learned, and what they thought might work into a design that would fit into that 'sweet spot' that the big theme parks wanted.
Over on the steel coaster side, it was a little simpler to start with: Karl Bacon and Anton Schwarzkopf figured out how to turn riders upside down, and that was enough of a novelty to last for a while. Screamin' Demon with one loop, Double Loop and Corkscrew with two each, Cedar Point Corkscrew with three, Demon with (ultimately) four, Viper with five, Vortex with six. And as the loop count went up, so did the height, so now the loopers are getting taller and faster. Great American Scream Machine was 173' tall and had 7 loops. Because that's what made for the greatest steel coaster: bigger, faster, and loopier. Viper topped out at 7 loops, but it was 188 feet tall. But by that time, something else happened.
That something else was Magnum XL-200, which stole GASM-II's height record (and denied one to Viper).
Thing is, these rides were all the best rides around. These rides were all the greatest thing in roller coasters, until something new came along. Magnum was really the first "innovation" in coasters in fifteen years since steel coasters started going upside-down...and ironically its innovation was that it DIDN'T go upside down!
The next real innovations came in 1992 (although arguably the most important one we wouldn't notice until 1995). The first was Batman: The Ride, which completely re-wrote the book on how to design a steel coaster. The other was a partnership of engineers that came out of the dissolution of Curtis D. Summers, Inc. I'll argue that Custom Coasters was an interesting curiosity carrying on the work of Summers/Dinn after Summers' death, until 1995. That was when the Raven opened, and we learned first-hand what happens when wooden coasters are designed by mechanical engineers instead of civil engineers. In the space of three years, the entire roller coaster industry got upended, and an awful lot of opinions started to change about what makes for a great coaster.
I suppose the short answer to the question, then, can be summed up thusly:

Because that's what we had back then. And we liked it!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Last edited by RideMan, Wednesday, August 8, 2018 2:33 AM
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Monday, August 13, 2018 11:48 AM

quote removed. -J

I appreciate your answer, and you had a lot of cool insight, but I think that the premise is pretty spot on. Roller coasters and amusement parks will go through cycles, golden ages, and dark ages. The industry will never be as big as it was pre WWII, as there were over 1,500 coasters, and they were a huge part of American culture. The Great Depression, World War II, misfortune, and NY's attack on Coney Island hurt the industry and its never really recovered. Disney is probably what brought the industry back to life, but it wasn't until the 2000's that we started to see quality rides that really rivaled the quality of the pre-Great Depression/pre-WWII era.

I think that a lot of what hurts the industry is the fact that its perceived as something that kids do, and parents just do to make their kids happy. I think that as the product quality objectively increases relative to the era, the more likely that we'll see adults and professionals going without having to bring kids with them. What made coasters so profitable years ago is that in addition to the families, you also see adults enjoying coasters just because they wanted to enjoy coasters.

In my mind, if you put a basic GP on an awful headbanger like GASM or Viper at SFMM after they'll mustered the courage to get on, it'll reaffirm their fears, and they'll only go back if and when they have kids and watch from the sideline. Put them on a great RMC, Intamin, or B&M they might appreciate the experience and want to travel to ride more.

Last edited by Jeff, Monday, August 13, 2018 12:21 PM
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