Larry Osterhoudt of Downey says he saw the ride up close as a child but didn't ride it...and became an expert on the Cyclone Racer as an engineering challenge after it was torn down. In the process, he says he learned the physics and engineering secrets that made the ride (as locals can attest) different and more thrilling than others of its day...and probably most today.
The Cyclone Racer had something unnoticed by most riders: the front of the train consisted of a two-wheeled pilot dolly: two wheels attached to the first car. The Cyclone's passenger cars didn't have four wheels; they had only two wheels and the cars were connected using ball and socket-type pivoting hitches (instead of fixed straight connections), making all the cars effectively trailers.
The ball and socket connection was the engineering secret that let the trains negotiate the Cyclone's wildly swooped and banked course, something four wheeled cars on most coasters couldn't do then and can't do now. Mr. Osterhoudt said the two wheeled design was used on some coasters of the day but wasn't revived by modern builders until recently. It can handle quick turns and banks that four wheeled cars can't (because their front wheels would be at an angle beyond their rear wheels).
The Cyclone Racer also incorporated other elements to amplify its thrills [recalled from memory by this writer]: a steep first drop (if you rode in back you were off your seat) made more intense by dropping into a blur of wood created by cutting through the beams of another hill before shooting upward into a fast, tight, banked turnaround. And that was just in the first few seconds.
Mr. Osterhoudt explained that engineers created the high speed turnaround, and others, by making them significantly lower (not just a little lower) than the drops that preceded them, another element missing from many rides today. "Some modern coasters boast big drops but then slow the trains to a near stall at the top of subsequent ascents. The Cyclone didn't do that. It kept the pacing going from start to finish." he said.
So while the ride might look like just another wooden coaster, it isn't. "It's different. It's unique. It's one of a kind," Mr. Osterhoudt said, speaking in the present tense about the ride documented on his web site -- www.cycloneracer.com -- with facts and photos.
In his research, Mr. Osterhoudt also stumbled onto another secret: the explanation City Hall offered the public and the press for why the Cyclone Racer had to go -- that it was supposedly in the way of a planned roadway -- was (big surprise) almost certainly untrue. LBReport.com will report that part of the story, and more, separately.
A plan floated in the late 1990s to rebuild the Cyclone didn't impress Mr. Osterhoudt. "I have the Cyclone Racer's plans because I reverse-engineered them. You can't just rebuild something that looks like the original ride. You can't recreate what the Cyclone Racer did unless you recreate how it did it," Mr. Osterhoudt said.
Will it really fit between the Pike and the Bay? "Absolutely. I've measured it. It will fit, just as I've shown in the composite," Mr. Osterhoudt says.
Why build it on a pier? "That way it doesn't consume ground space now. Plus, it was on a pier originally...and the added elevation makes the ride look even more imposing."
What about seismic issues? "The ride and pier rode out the 1933 earthquake without a scratch...and that was over the then-ocean."
What about pedestrians getting across Shoreline Drive? "Just like the original Cyclone pier, the new pier would have pedestrian access on both sides of the ride. The original pier even had a patio at its southern end."
What about running a road under the coaster? "Roads can go under piers. And Knotts built its large wooden coaster directly over Grand Ave., although that's admittedly a smaller street and that ride is at ground level."
What about the cost? "Yes, it would require a sizable investment, but compared to what? To the cost of what LB has down there now? Or does it want something that can bring visitors to the shore and downtown not just for special events one or two days a year but continuing day after day the year round?"
Would it pencil out? "I'm not a marketing expert but my guess is it could be priced in the range of about $5.00 a ride now; plus, all day passes or season tickets could be sold and there are merchandising opportunities now, including digital photos, souvenirs and T-shirts, that weren't available forty years ago."
What about its proximity to the Aquarium? "It wouldn't touch the Aquarium," Mr. Osterhoudt said.
And we volunteer a factoid likely known to LB Mayor, Brooklyn-native Bob Foster. The New York Aquarium is in Brooklyn almost immediately adjacent to the tourist attracting Coney Island Cyclone coaster.
Further to follow...on LBReport.com.