Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Blast From The Past - Magnum XL 200 Part Deux

Last week we started telling the tale of the world's 1st 200 foot plus roller coaster, built where else but America's Roller Coast....Cedar Point. In this week's blast we continue the Magnum XL200 saga.

Editor's Note: Don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 3!

The pieces of track began to arrive at Sandusky by rail, and the towers were built by the same company building Bolliger and Mabillard track today. 157 individual columns support the coaster. Each column is made of two posts of steel pipe and they range from two to two-hundred feet tall. In total, 568 tons of steel columns and stabilizers support the tubular steel track. An Arrow representative is usually on hand for the first bid meeting with all the subcontractors,because most of them have never built a roller coaster before.

All Arrow contracts provide for field support service to supervise the erection of the first towers and the first section of track. Several towers need to be erected before the first track section is set. The Arrow helps to make sure the project starts correctly in the right spot to prevent problems as the process continues. If a footing or column error should occur, the Arrow field representative can usually make a correction by modifying the saddle connection between the column and track. Several track sections would normally be tack-welded together prior to installation because that made it easier to make adjustments.

Back in the dim ages before the Internet, there was only one way to get current information about roller coaster projects. No Coaster Con was a thriving event but that meant only one update all winter. One enterprising ACE member, Howard Gillooly, took matters into his own hands. Beginning in November 1988, he began a monthly pilgrimage to Sandusky to charter an airplane to take construction photos, some of which can be seen in the Summer 2009 issue of RollerCoaster magazine. The lift hill was the first to rise, soon followed by the over 150 foot tall airtime hill. The last section to be erected was the eighty- foot high turnaround out near the point where Sandcastle Suites was built years later.

The more it came together, the more speculation arose about the ride. Is a bigger roller coaster a better roller coaster? Kinzel said in an interview in RollerCoaster Vol X, Issue 4, “We’ve never dropped off from that height. What’s thrilling to me is about a coaster is coming off that first lift, when your heart goes right into your throat, and then the speed. This should be the ultimate coaster, for $8 million, it really should. There’s a lot bet on this.” Well time has proven that it was a wonderful bet that still seems to be paying off twenty years later.

May 5, 1989 was the big day. That was the unveiling of what would be Cedar Points centerpiece for many years. About 150 local ACE members gathered to help preview the new ride that Friday. Mr. Kinzel remembers, “When the first train pulled in, everyone was clapping and cheering. We hadn’t ever seen that before and it made us feel pretty good.” Now the only question left to answer the next day was how would the general public like the coaster?

May 6, 1989 had plenty of rain, but that couldn’t washout the crowds that wanted to ride the first roller coaster in the world over 200 feet high. Lots of people in ties watched as train after train returned to the station with the same reactions they saw the day before with the more experienced coaster aficionados. If it was an election, the result was a landslide. As the day wore on the line didn’t let up, with many returning for several rides.

As darkness grew nigh, the line swelled again with people wanting to try Magnum in the dark. It felt even faster the darker it grew. Many guests left Cedar Point later than they planned that day, because they couldn’t get enough of the new coaster. They hit the restroom and got back in line for one more ride. Finally the line was closed and they had to leave the park.

Well... this is where we'll stop this week, but check back next week for the final segment of the story


Orion Anderson said...

I just read this in the newest issue of Roller Coaster! Awesome article!

Carol said...

We put a lot of time & effort into this story and wanted to also share it with those who do have access to R/C mag.

Thanks for the kind words,


P.S. Don't give away the ending! :)