When you think of Santa Cruz, odds are it’s image is one of the first you’ll conjure. And this weekend, the Grand Old Lady of Santa Cruz will celebrate a milestone birthday.
This Saturday, the Giant Dipper join only a small pantheon of rides in the world by turning 90 years old.
An icon of coaster-dom, the Giant Dipper harks back to a different era – the so-called, “Golden Age” of wooden coasters and parks, where everyone had to build a bigger, faster, more intense ride than their neighbors. And to think it was built for only $50,000 back in 1924…
Now, most people will inevitably say, “Well, if its 90 years old – that wood is all 90, too!” But, that’s simply not the case. The reason wooden coasters seem to last forever, is because they’re constantly being replaced, piece by piece. Odds are, none of the wood on the ride is original to 1924 – but it certainly adds to the mystique.
Around half a mile long, and only 70 feet high – the ride is dwarfed by others these days. In fact, a “lost park” in San Mateo bested the height of this coaster by ten feet, three years earlier. And yet – something about this ride makes it special. What is that “X” factor? Well, isn’t it obvious? Unlike the modern thrills of today (and nothing against them) but this ride has a soul…old in age, but perennially young at heart.
Countless celebrities have ridden the coaster, all with their own unique take on the thrill. Just walking up to the station provides riders with a glimpse back into what made this ride not only a local legend – but an international destination.
Featured in many films and countless advertisements, the Giant Dipper is one of only two roller coasters given the honor of National Historic Landmark (The other being the Coney Island Cyclone).
Those who have never ridden are always shocked by the kick thei old girl can dish out – and *SPOILER ALERT* that kick starts well before the lift hill! In turning 90, the ride is not only a survivor, it is also a legend. A defiant vestige of times gone by and never to return.
So how did this ride survive the Great Depression, two World Wars and thousands of minor (and one major) earthquake? It’s the ownership – the Canfield Family, specifically. They’ve owed the Boardwalk since there was a Boardwalk – and nostalgia has been their best souvenir. I’m glad to be among the ranks that get to enjoy this ride each and every year.
There’s not many things that different generations have enjoyed together. Thankfully, the venerable Giant Dipper is one that will continue to thrill millions, for generations to come.
Fans of classic roller coaster designs rejoice – one of the original looping coasters has received a new lease on life.
If you’re a hardcore roller coaster fan – you should instantly recognize the the motion being mimicked in this commercial – for the uninitiated, it’s the famous profile and movements of the Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop.
Sadly, only half of the installations of this compact, but thrilling ride remain in the world today. The one we’ll be focusing on resides at Walibi World in Belgium.
The ride, originally called “Turbine,” had been closed since 2008, when parts simply ran out to repair the ride. (Schwarzkopf went under well over a decade ago). But the park had an idea – they contacted current coaster manufacturer Gerstlauer and asked, “Could you modernize the launch system on ‘Turbine’ to make it faster, more reliable and cheaper to operate?”
Turns out they could!
With a newer, more reliable launching system, utilizing all of the original track, mind you – Walibi went a step further, by giving the attraction an entirely new theme and completely enclosing the ride’s track. “Turbine” would enter the new millennium with a modern, linear induction launch system and be re-born as “Psyké Underground,” a dance club themed coaster.
Now at first thought, the theme might be a bit too much – a bit “over hip,” if you will. But after seeing the effects and how they work in tandem with the storyline of the ride – well, it WORKS!
For fans of this type of ride (and you know who you are), you’ll also be happy to know the ride still goes “all the way” up the back spike as well.
With the success of this transformation, my attention turns to another classic shuttle loop that has cheated the wrecking ball several times: “Montezooma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Because Schwarzkopf went out of business in the mid-1990’s, many of the parts for the ride have become scarce or must be manufactured in-house at enormous expense. When the clutch for the flywheel system burned out in the mid-2000s, many fans wondered if the ride would simply be removed, because of the lack of available parts.
With the recent closure of “Greezed Lightning” at Kentucky Kingdom, many of the parts and indeed the train from that ride (which itself was a combination of the original “Tidal Wave” weight drop shuttle loops from the two Marriott’s Great America parks) were purchased and shipped to Knott’s earlier this year to assist in keeping “Monte,” as it’s affectionately known, up and running.
Built in 1978, it’s the last flywheel shuttle loop of it’s kind in the United States, and one of only TWO left operating in North America).
A modification and modernization such as the one done to “Psyké Underground” in Belgium not only could keep the ride around for many more years, but could also significantly lower overall operating costs. No need to enclose the ride – though it would certainly make for a different riding experience with those strobe lights in a tube!
Now, I know, it’s not the “classic” launch system…but to me – it’s still the same ride if the track layout and design isn’t modified. The renovation done at Walibi World just goes to show, that a brilliant design, no matter the age, will ALWAYS stand the test of time!
And for those who are fans of the bouncy, modern dance soundtrack for the ride, you can find it here and on iTunes: