This Article is from the Long Beach Report



(April 4, 2009) -- With painstaking research that utilized GPS satellite imagery, an expert on LB's downtown beachfront area says LB City Hall's destruction of the record-setting Cyclone Racer roller coaster (considered a historic classic unduplicated elsewhere) was likely unnecessary and avoidable.

Photo source: Osterhoudt acquired collection (circa 1959)

The city management recommended, City Council-approved action involving what was then the city's major tourist and downtown draw (a 1968 city management letter said approximately 610,000 persons rode it in 1967) laid the groundwork for nearly all of what followed in LB's downtown shoreline area.

Larry Osterhoudt, who has spent years documenting the ride's design, size and precise location -- applied historical materials with an engineer's precision and a detective's persistence in examining the issue.

The Downey resident says GPS-technology reveals that while then-city management claimed the southern (seaward) end of the ride was in the way of a proposed new roadway [Shoreline Dr.], the orientation of the roadway and one of its then-proposed elements -- which was later removed showing it was never really necessary -- effectively steered the road into a needless collision course with what was then LB's biggest tourist attraction.

As indicated in's report below, Mr. Osterhoudt cites a swooping connector bridge -- built but later demolished -- from Shoreline Drive to Magnolia Ave. that helped push the northern lanes of Shoreline Drive into the southern footprint of the Cyclone. The swooping connector bridge was removed to make way for the Aquarium parking lot and a simple ground level connector was used in its place.

As shown in GPS overlay photos below, Mr. Osterhoudt adds that even with inclusion of the swooping connector, simply moving Shoreline Drive about 100 feet south would have bypassed the coaster and preserved it. He adds that if the roadway weren't oriented at an angle, the distance might have been only about 10 feet...and notes that there was plenty of then-vacant area to the south.

He also notes that although Shoreline Drive weaves elsewhere and doesn't adhere to a straight line, it didn't do so when it could have avoided the southern tip of the coaster...which the roadway sliced into on a diagonal.

Mr. Osterhoudt notes that City Hall's actions ended up costing taxpayers money that included demolishing the swooping connector to make way for the Aquarium parking lot.

That cost is in addition to the loss of LB tourism dollars in giving up LB's then-biggest tourist draw. In contrast, two other CA beachfront cities, San Diego and Santa Cruz, both preserved their shoreline coasters, now historical landmarks (although they're much smaller than LB's was) and created tidy tourist revenue streams.

Mr. Osterhoudt says the record convinces him that in effect, LB City Hall used a pretext for dooming the coaster to demolition. (Stripped of its major attraction, the remainder of the Pike died a decade-long death ending in 1979).

The actions begat a cleared area for City Hall and those it chose to develop...and that process gave LB what it has now.

In 1968, then city management said in a letter to an L.A. TV reporter that about 610,000 people rode the Cyclone Racer in 1967. That was at a time when the area's population, especially OC, was a fraction of what it is today.

Like the Jergens tunnel -- entombed at roughly the same time and unearthed to amazement decades later -- what LB City Hall had and did with it are now visible.

"This was a little like CSI," Mr. Osterhoudt says. "The folks who did this probably never thought we'd discover it, but we did."

Mr. Osterhoudt has also re-engineered/re-created plans for the Cyclone Racer that he says would enable rebuilding it to its exact specifications...and has described this on his website

Archival Photos and Satellite Mapping

In 1967, newspaper accounts said the Cyclone Racer had to be torn down to make way for a new planned roadway. Mr. Osterhoudt decided to test this. After managing to find an Auto Club map dating from that period (the roads have since been changed), he plotted and overlaid the footprint of the Cyclone Racer.

His conclusion: the map overlay showed the planned roadway would barely touch the southern end of the ride. In other words, moving the roadway slightly south would have missed the ride and preserved it.


Mr. Osterhoudt subsequently combined photos from that period with Google's satellite mapping function and again plotted where the Cyclone Racer was compared it to where the roadway was. This shows the results in considerable detail...but to understand the overlay requires a bit of orientation.

The Cyclone Racer stood on a pier that originally included an observation deck or "patio" at its southern end.

Photo source: Osterhoudt acquired collection

In 1968, the deck/patio was chopped off while construction crews did roadwork...and a dirt berm was piled next to the southern end of the ride.

Photo source: Osterhoudt acquired collection

The coaster continued to operate during this period (its last day was Sept. 15, 1968) and the dirt berm effectively marked the ride's southern end.

In the Google images below (which can be enlarged by clicking on them), the four corners of the original Cyclone Racer pier (with the original patio deck) are marked with green pins. [Connect the green pins in your mind to envision the rectangular outline of the original pier.]

The dirt berm (marking the southern end of the ride) is marked with a purple pin.

The photo below is from May 31, 1994. Click the photo for a detailed, high definition photo:


Due in part to accommodate a swooping Magnolia Ave. bridge connector -- placed in the middle of Shoreline Drive but later removed so it no longer exists today -- the northern lanes of Shoreline Drive were shoved into the area occupied by the southern tip of the Cyclone. Shifting Shoreline Dr. just slightly southward would have preserved the Cyclone.

The photo below shows the curving Magnolia Ave. connector alongside the bulldozed former Cyclone Racer site.

The curving Magnolia Ave. connector was eventually removed to accommodate the Aquarium parking garage...meaning it didn't have to be where it was in the first place. The Magnolia entrance/exit was simply relocated 454 feet west of the Cyclone Racer site to accommodate the Aquarium garage.

Photo source: Osterhoudt acquired collection

Below, a present day photo, showing Shoreline Drive without the Magnolia Ave. swooping connector. Click image for detailed, high definition photo.


Below is a wider view, showing how Shoreline Drive weaves elsewhere in its route.


Mr. Osterhoudt writes: "Take note to where the Aquarium garage and the entrance/exit point to the Magnolia bridge are. Notice how they routed it to accommodate for that Aquarium parking lot? Compare this to the first image above, taken May 31, 1994. Look at how those ramps were routed to take out the Racer. It is shocking, appalling, saddening and uncalled for!" was this done by LB City Hall at the time? Watch for that part of this story coming separately...only on