Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Dorney's Hercules

Get ready…because here it comes…Reaching new heights in fun-filled family entertainment Dorney Park continues its climb to the top with Hercules , the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world!

Ready to roll in the spring of 1989, this massive woodie was touted as “the ride of a lifetime” Standing a whopping 157 feet tall, it dwarfed its closest completion, the 131 foot Le Monstre at La Ronde in Montreal.'

Hercules was full of thrills, immediately dropping 55 feet and navigating a high speed turn. Up next was an amazing climb to the top, followed by that record breaking 157 foot drop, while reaching speeds approaching 65 MPH.

Descending this drop was amazing for more than its height. The train seemed to make an impossible turn, skimming over the edge of Dorney Lake. And, just when you thought you had “done it all” there’s that high speed, white knuckle journey under the stationm where those waiting in line get a “sneak peek” of what’s in store for them.

Even way back in the late 80s and early 90s there were battles over the tallest, fastest, etc. When the 143 foot tall Texas Giant opened in 1990, the Weinstein’s (who owned Dorney at the time) and Six Flags took the battle to court. Each firmly believing their wooden coaster was “the worlds tallest” While the Giant’s lift hill was actually taller, due to the terrain Herc had a longer drop.

It was only a matter of contention for a short period of time; in 1991 Cedar Point snagged the record with the 191 foot Mean Streak.

Like most Mega-Woodies of that era, Hercules suffered from many problems. Due to the aggressive design of the coaster, PTC was asked to design trains that would negotiate the coasters course with less wear and tear on the track. These experimental trains did not solve the problem. This lead to over braking in an attempt to compensate for the short-coming design.

When that didn’t solve the problem, a plethora of modifications followed. Hills were lower and banking was changed. The ride was sometimes good and many times nearly un-ride able. Many referred to it, unlovely, as Hurts-your-knees.
Hercules last ran Labor Day 2003. It was replaced by the 3,200 foot Beemer, Hydra. We had the opportunity to experience Herc, for the first time, when it was a fun ride (after the original trains were replaced and before the Dinn shuffle was at full force.)

Our last ride was toward the end of Hercules run, over that span of time I grew to appreciate the aesthetics of the ride more than the ride it’s self. But, still I was saddened by the lost of another wooden coaster.