4800 Kennywood Boulevard

West Mifflin, Pennsylvania 15122

This park opened in 1898 (as a trolley park) and, in 1987, was designated a National Historic Landmark. The park features lush gardens, beautiful fountains and shade trees and is an amazing site after nightfall. A hometown atmosphere, this is one of America's oldest existing parks, including a classic collection of rollercoasters in to a well-preserved, "turn-of-the-century amusement park." This park is truly a large part of not only coaster history, but American History as well. This park is attributed to perhaps the world's first "dark ride" with the old mill, opened in 1902. Even though this park has some sound footing in the past, it certainly does not "dwell" on it.

(This park is the subject of multiple books by Charles J. Jacques Jr.)

Rides and Pastimes...

Jack Rabbit (1922)

Back in 1921, one of America's top coaster firms (Miller and Baker) designed this new "high speed coaster." John Miller designed this $50k coaster in one of the ravines at the side of the park and, by doing so, used less lumber. The coaster used a new system of wheels over and under the track in order to allow for the use of a 70-foot double dip drop (which is still quite a thrill, speaking from personal experience). In 1947 they removed the tunnel after the first drop and replaced the original trains with ones built by Ed Vettel (Andy Vettel's uncle) of West View Park. The entire coaster is 2132 feet long with a 70 foot high lift. The trains feature three-seat cars with a capacity of eighteen people.

The Racer (1927)

At the time of building (1910), this wooden twin-track racer was the world's largest. It did not, however, feature trains with wheels both over and under the track and, as such, required gentle curves. The new design (by John A. Miller of Miller and Baker) featured these new wheels and, as such, allowed for banked curves as well as curves on dips and similiar. The figure eight track is actually a single 2250 foot circuit (so that the trains switch sides every run -- which is great for those that love racing trains). The lift hill is 72 feet high and is actually over a ravine (using more lumber) and helped the cost of this new coaster exceed $75k. The loading platform was also redesigned in 1946 and the original entrance was restored in 1990.

Thunderbolt (1968)

This woodie was designed by Andy Vettel with a 95 foot lift and a 2887 foot circuit. The ride was built around and incorporated the first and last drops (and a tunnel) from the old Pippin (1924-1967) designed by John A. Miller. The ride starts with a drop into a ravine (the same ravine through-which the Stell Phanton dives on its second drop) and the coaster actually doesn't reach the lift until halfway through the ride. For those that would think a coaster is measured by its first drop -- the final drop on this is something to look forward to at an astonishing 90 feet.

Laser Loop (1980)

This is an Intamin shuttle loop coaster using a flywheel catapult. The train accelerates out of the station to 55 miles per hour (in just four seconds). The ride is 850 feet long and 140 feet high.

Steel Phantom (1991)

This 3000 foot steel coaster from Arrow Dynamics is unlike any other. The ride features a 160 foot high lift and a second drop of a hair-raising 225 feet, right over the side of a ravine and through the middle of Thunderbolt (bringing the train to a world record speed of 80 miles per hour). The second drop is followed by a heart-pounding (some say head-pounding) four inversions (a vertical loop, a boomerang and a corkscrew). All of this is just a minute and forty five seconds long. (Although some accuse this ride of being rather rough, I think that one needs to "learn" how to ride it before completely enjoying the pure arenaline rush from this beast -- and, yes, after a half dozen or more rides I did end up with a bruise on my shoulder)

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