Bolliger and Mabillard the Cadillac of Roller Coasters
There are many different coaster manufacturers, some build small rides, others build massive ones. But none have the mystique and prestige of Bolliger & Mabillard. Their factory in Ohio is shrouded in secrecy – it’s practically the “Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory” of the coaster world:
So, why are their rides always so much more expensive than others? And why all the prestige? Three words: quality, reliability and safety.
1.) Quality –
A B&M coaster is unmistakable, even from a distance. Their trademark “roar” grabs your attention – and their boxy track looks beefier than other manufacturers – because quite simply, it is!
It is said that the tolerance, or distance between the rails and the wheels is never more than the thickness of a sheet of paper. Most other manufacturers have noticeable gaps in their wheels, or which spin after the ride stops. Not a B&M. That’s why they’re so much smoother than other steel coasters – they’re simply built better…now that’s Swiss precision!
2.) Reliability –
When a B&M coaster stops operating – never get out of line. 99% of the time, it’s a simple computer error that needs to be cleared. Even if it’s a minor mechanical issue – it doesn’t take long to fix. That’s because unlike other manufacturers who are overly reliant on electrical and hydraulic restraint systems – B&M continues to use the tried and true ratchet system – a system that is highly reliable and easy to repair. That’s why these stations are traditionally louder than others – it’s metal on metal contact.
3.) Safety –
B&M has always prided itself on efficiency – the four across seating model moved twice as many people as comparable coasters – but they did it with without sacrificing safety, in fact – they increased it.
This commitment to “getting it right the first time” has earned it’s most important asset: a flawless safety record.
You read right. B&M has never had a catastrophic failure or death on any of their coasters…EVER. (There have been three incidents involving people being hit by trains, but these were a result of guests trespassing on the infield, not a result of the ride or it’s manufacture.
B&M’s were one of the first to feature a redundant seat belt to backup their restraints – all without sacrificing the efficiency of the dispatches.
It is that sterling record that makes parks who choose B&M some of the safest in the world – and which commands such a higher price. Quite simply, you get what you pay for. This rings true not only in real life, but in the amusement world as well. A B&M coaster is like a new appliance – you can get the cheap-o model and save on the front end – or get the high-end model, and have it save you throughout it’s life.
A B&M is one of the best investments a park can make – so the next time track appears outside the factory in Ohio, cross your fingers it’s being delivered to your favorite park.
The Top Five Most Insane Carnival Rides
They’ll spin until you puke – flash lights and blast music. It’s the carnival thrill ride – and they’ve become quite the art form in an dof themselves. But which one’s are the most intense…the most INSANE? Read on, thrill seekers!
You’ll notice some of these rides reside beyond the United States – since most rides here are in “automatic mode” they can’t change their length or intensity, unlike their European (awesome) counterparts.
5. Funtime “Giant Star Flyer”
What looks like an innocuous swing ride takes on a whole new meaning when you’re 400 feet in the air. Because the wind patters are so much different at that height, expect to be twisted (and terrified!).
4. “Hard Rock”
Pretty rare in the U.S., this ride has a great start and finish, with the floor literally right in your face as the ride starts up and then again when it slows down – NOT for the faint of heart!
3. KMG “Tango”
You’ll find a few of these on the U.S. fair and carnival circuit – be sure to wear an athletic supporter if your model doesn’t come with the foot holds!
2. Chance Rides “Zipper”
It’s a ride so steeped in lore – it has a SOUND all it’s own. The constant banging of metal on mesh – the screams of the uninitiated – it makes for a pretty terrifying experience.
The ride has been around since the 1960’s (when it used to be TWICE as fast as it runs today) – and outside of the Ferris Wheel, can you name another specific model of ride that’s kept that sort of tenure? I didn’t think so…
Bonus fun fact: It’s one of the only rides in the U.S. that runs exclusively on manual mode, so if you happen to get an experienced operator – have that dramamine ready.
1. Flying Circus
There are no words – just watch the video!
What do you think – which rides did we miss? Leave us a comment with your most intense flat ride!
Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications
After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.
According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.
Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.
“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”
He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”
Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.
Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.
Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.
“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”
Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.
The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.
Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.
Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions
With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.
Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America
Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!
Gold Striker *ACTUAL REVIEW* at California’s Great America
That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.
Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).
The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.
After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.
From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.
I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.
Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.
To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”
We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.
So, in conclusion…
This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.
Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.
In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.
The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!
To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com
Our Next Lost Park
It’s official – our next lost park has finally been chosen!
“Do you know the way to San Jose…”
and the way to Luna Park?
As I continue to upgrade the brand and it’s overall presence, I’ve made a major move in terms of my photography.
In addition to now working with www.BorrowLenses.com as my sole provider of camera equipment (I also work FOR them, hence the partnership) I’ve moved most of my photo collection over to 500px.
You can view my latest photos, download and even purchase them at: www.500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills
Featured Post on BorrowLenses Blog
I was just featured on the BorrowLenses.com blog, giving away some of my Top Ten Amusement Park Photo Tips. (Hint – use a nice camera and have tons of patience!)
You can find the link to the blog post by clicking here:
Or using this hyperlink:
KGO 810 AM here in the Bay Area interviewed me this past Friday on the “Lost Parks” series. Hopefully, it’s the start of people discovering my little series!
For those who missed it – check it out!
Lost Parks, Episode 1 – San Mateo’s “Pacific City”
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, episode one of, “The Lost Parks of Northern California,” featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City.”
Be sure to like our video, comment on it, subscribe to our channel and share with your friends! We’re on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter!
You can also follow the American Coaster Enthusiasts (my partner on this journey) at www.ACEonline.org or www.ACEnorcal.org
Why Buy New – When You Can Buy USED?
Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”
Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)
When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.
There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.
So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…
…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”
Now, the thrill of the chase is on!
The art of the on-ride photo
In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…
The on-ride photo – a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…
The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.
Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.
Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…
So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:
Why not get the whole family involved?
Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?
Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!
The eyes tell the story!
Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!
I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)
Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?
No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!
Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?
(I certainly don’t think so!)
Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!
“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”
“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”
And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!
If you’ve gone around the site lately, you’ve noticed our new, spruced up banners.
Which one is your favorite? Be sure to comment below!
Special thanks to my employer, BorrowLenses for allowing us to take awesome camera equipment out on the weekends! All the photos you see below (except for the second to last one) were shot using BL equipment!
The Vatican Amusement Park?
Wow – who would have thought there was a full-fledged amusement park behind the Vatican!
Well, no actually. But I couldn’t help but look at this photo and think it looked just like some of the park maps I’ve seen over the years.
What do you think? What would be the marquee attraction at Vatican-Land?
Disney Bans Unaccompanied Kids
After over 55 years in business, “the Happiest Place on Earth” is no longer a playground for unsupervised tweens.
Disney yesterday, announced that they would no longer allow children under the age of 14 to roam the park without parental accompaniment.
At first, it SOUNDS terrible, borderline insane. I mean, how could a Disney Park ban KIDS? Wasn’t that the point they were built, so we could all be children at heart? But then, after reading into it a bit more, not only can I understand the move – I APPLAUD IT.
Consider for a moment, the last time you went to, say a Six Flags. Their marketing is heavily focused on the under 18 market, especially for season pass sales. Remember all those annoying tweens in the park – blasting their cell phones on speaker so that EVERYONE in line could hear their favorite song? Cutting in line, being generally “rebellious” (or at least what that generation thinks is rebellious?).
After you’ve just paid $119 per PERSON to experience the Disneyland Resort for JUST ONE DAY – do you really want to have that same experience?
I didn’t think so. And neither should you.
Let’s face it, some parents use amusement parks as a de-facto babysitter. It’s apparently a $600 investment (Annual Pass approximate cost) in sanity it’s much easier for the Mom and Dad to dump you off at an amusement park for the day, than deal with your pre-pubescent problems. This is exactly what Disney wants to stop, even if it means sacrificing a few Annual Passholders to Knott’s Berry Farm, a few miles up. “the 5.”
It’s rare that a park will turn down easy money (Holiday World in Indiana does it all the time by offering free parking, free soda and free sunscreen) but considering how much The Walt Disney Company made in the time it took you to read the word “DISNEY” in this sentence – they can afford to purge themselves of such a small (but noisy and noticeable) market group.
And hey, since you can’t dump your kids off at the park anymore, you’ll just have to buy a ticket for yourself and – GASP – try to enjoy a little together-time as a family. Ahhh!
Remember when that was the point of going to Disneyland?
Official Trailer – “The Lost Parks of Northern California”
The wait is over – no more screen captures – this is the OFFICIAL trailer to the “Lost Parks” series! Look for the debut episode, featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City Resort” to debut right here on March 29th, 2013!
“Won’t You Come and Play With Us?”
Longtime residents of the South Bay remember this park by a much different theme.
Howdy, partner! Can you name this ‘dem here lost amusement park of San Jose, CA?
We’re hoping to have the video completed for this park by July (fingers crossed!)
Rough Cut is Complete!
It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy to announce that our first episode has made it to the “rough cut” stage!
Folks, it almost looks like a proper television program!
Stay tuned for announcements on when the episode will debut…for now, here’s a behind-the-scenes screenshot of me describing why this lost park disappeared. (Hint – guests eventually POO-POOED the idea of ever coming back…)
Dissecting the Ride – Lift Hill
Ever wonder why rides make certain sounds? Wonder why it takes a mechanic to “clear” a ride and restart it? In the next few posts, I’ll be highlighting questions people always ask me at parks – so you’ll be an educated park guest!
In it’s essence, the lift hill is the engine of the roller coaster. It give the cars the potential energy they need in order to complete the circuit. The greater the height of the lift, the more potential energy the ride has (I.E. the longer the ride can go)
Traditionally, the lift hill is at the start to the ride, angled at about a 20-25 degree pitch, and has a chain that runs along a trough built into the track.
Once you’re on the lift, you’ll hear the familiar click-click sound – that’s actually a brilliant safety device called an anti-rollback strip. Simply put, if the ride stops suddenly, or heaven forbid) the chain breaks – the car will simply rest in the position it was last in. It’s a similar principle to those common “zip ties” you might have laying around your home. They, just like a coaster – only roll on one direction.
These devices may also be placed at other key areas of the ride, where the chance of a rollback is higher (usually in a slower section of the ride – at the top of a hill)
There are some rides that either do no or cannot have these devices, usually because the action of the ride requires forwards and backwards motion.
So, the next time you’re on a ride – know that a century-old safety device is right under (or above you), making sure your train safely makes it up the lift and subsequent hills time and time again.
A Little Extra Excitement in Your Life
There’s something about danger that makes our stories better, don’t you agree?
Case in point – Producer Nick and I were heading out to the SF Zoo this past Sunday to film a segment about the 1922 Dentzel Carousel. (It happens to be the only operating piece of the short-lived Pacific City Amusement Park at Coyote Point.)
Unfortunately, the park was beyond capacity, both in parking and general space, as they were celebrating Chinese New Year. With the weather as spectacular as it was, we should have known the park would be crowded.
We parked on Herbst Way, which turned out to be smack dab in the back of the park. Sadly, we were unaware of this, so…like sheep in a herd, we followed the pack of people who purported to know where the entrance to the zoo was.
Turns out, it was the entrance to the Great Highway and Skyline Blvd. (CA-35).
This is the result…
Braving the Great Highway to get to the S.F. Zoo!
Now Producer Nick and I are all for excitement – when it’s in the controlled and safe confines of an amusement park. But when you have cars whizzing by at 55 mph and you’re carrying upwards of $6,000 worth of camera and video equipment – it makes for a hairy situation.
But it got me to thinking – even if this was a lame day to shoot video, it would still be memorable – almost legendary. And while we DID end up making it into the zoo without any problems, and filming went along smoothly – the one thing we’re probably going to take away from today was that crazy walk.
Funny how things work out in the end, huh?
Stay tuned for the ACTUAL video we were shooting for – the Lost Amusement Parks of Northern California…coming soon!
Celebrating George Ferris’ 154th Birthday
For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.
For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!
One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.
Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.
The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.
Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of wheels have eclipsed this number.
Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.
It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.
Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)
Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.
His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of
tuberculosis at age 37.
So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.
And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*
*Except the person sitting behind you…
A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:
The BEST Great America site on the planet, featuring the Sky Whirl triple Ferris wheel:
Test Footage from our new Opening!
Anyone up to see some test footage from our latest shoot? Look forward to the final product to debut soon on our YouTube channel as well as here!