The American Eagle located at Marriott's Great America in Gurnee Illinois, opened to the public on May 23rd, 1981, breaking world records and offering white-knuckled rides to thrillseekers of all ages.
The Eagle was like nothing anyone had ever been on before, riders entered the queue through a large tent which had been used for a circus between 1976 and 1980. In 2006, the entrance changed, the tent area became home to the new Wiggle's World (now KIDZOPOLIS) The Eagle now shares an entrance with the Skycoaster.
It's quite a trek back to the station, but the bridge over the train tracks offered an impressive view of the ride.The queue splits as one nears the station and riders must choose between riding the Red train or the Blue train. The ride layout is essentially the same. Upon boarding the train, riders fasten their seat belts and lower their individual lap bar into place.
The trains are dispatched simultaneously and make a 200-degree turn opposite each other. Red & Blue meet up at the bottom and climb the 127 foot lift hill side by side. The trains slowly make their way toward the edge before flying down the first drop at speeds nearing 66 mph.
The trains race over two powerful, little bunny hills before climbing the hill at the far end of the out-and-back layout. The trains travel around a massive 560-degree helix, which circles downward over a small marsh, gradually picking up speed along the way.
The helix circles to the left with the red train, being on the inside of the track, taking the lead. The track separates at the end of the helix, with the blue train dropping low to the ground and diving under the red trains track, which was designed as a "catch-up" for the blue train. Making right 20 degree turns, Red and Blue are again running parallel, but separated by the outbound track. The trains cross again, with Red going under and Blue going over. Red flies over two more bunny hills, while Blue only has one bunny hill.
The trains climb through the massive structure of the lift hill. After being slowed by a set of trim brakes, the trains head in opposite directions, diving into a final 360-degree helix. The blue train helix is a significantly smaller radius, in a final attempt at making up the ground it lost in the big helix. The two trains then emerge and rise into the brake run to determine the winner.
For Thirty years the wooden fortress has dominated the corner of Washington Street and the Tri-State Tollway in Gurnee. Six Flags Great America honored the Eagle's 30th by selling opening weekend tickets on-line for $19.81 to mark the year the coaster was built.
The park also decided to run the Blue train facing backwards.The backward ride is not a first for the Eagle, it ran in reverse in 1991, 1996 and from 2002-2005. This time, the blue cars will run backward until Sept. 17. During Fright Fest the American Eagle has a tenant, "Tiny" the famous 200lb spider can be seen from the Tollway, climbing the turnaround.
Delivering over 45 million thrilling rides during the past thirty years, the American Eagle is still the fastest, longest & tallest racing wooden roller coaster. And, still has the largest drop on a racing wooden roller coaster. Happy Silver Anniversary American Eagle! Thanks again to the Six Flags Great America Public Relations staff for their assistance.