haunted by classic Cyclone coaster
December 7, 1998
By JERRY HIRSCH
Jerry Hirsch covers
entertainment and tourism for The Orange County Register. His Tourist Trappings column on
the theme-park industry and Orange County tourism appears in The Orange County Register
every four weeks.
Even as Knott's Berry Farm puts the final touches on its massive GhostRider wooden
roller coaster that opens Tuesday, one amusement park enthusiast is trying to interest
theme parks in the ghost of a different wooden coaster.
Larry Osterhoudt says he has "reverse-engineered" the plans for the once
popular Cyclone Racer of the Long Beach Pike.
Although the landmark coaster and its blueprints were destroyed 30 years ago,
Osterhoudt, a self-employed electronics troubleshooter, has completed a new set of
blueprints based on photographs and film clips.
"I checked and checked and the plans were gone," Osterhoudt says. "If
anybody wants the ride rebuilt, they will have to do the same or use my plans. You are
working with no measurements on anything."
Osterhoudt said the blueprints, which reside on a computer disk, would allow a builder
to come within a quarter-foot of accuracy. He has also mapped a three-dimensional model on
One key breakthrough for Osterhoudt was finding the last remaining car from the coaster
in the collection of a local hobbyist. Apparently, it was rescued from the dump when the
rest of the cars were crushed.
Examination of the car let Osterhoudt see just how it rode on the rails. That's
important because different wheel systems create varying levels of friction, a key factor
in a gravity-driven coaster. Too much friction, and the ride loses its zip. Too little and
it flies off the track.
Osterhoudt once had a chance to ride the Cyclone as a child. But he turned down his
father's offer on a visit to the Pike and had regretted it ever since.
The only way Osterhoudt will get his ride is to interest someone in rebuilding the
coaster, probably a $10 million project at a minimum.
Osterhoudt started the two-year process of recreating the plans after learning of
Disney's plans to build Disney's California Adventure next to Disneyland.
He figured a classic coaster like The Cyclone would make the perfect addition to the
theme park's Paradise Pier beach-themed amusement park section. After all, parks like the
Pike were the inspiration for that portion of California Adventure.
Now he's linked up with Customer Coaster International, the company that built
"It was a very good ride in its time," Denise Dinn Larrick, president of
Customer Coasters. "But even with his plans it would have to be engineered to today's
"There's the potential that someone out there might be interested," Larrick
said. She didn't offer the coaster as an idea for clients at the annual amusement industry
trade show held in Dallas last month, but thought about it and intends to shop it.
"It is going to have to be the right client," Larrick said.
Still, it's hard to see who the buyer might be.
The Cyclone concept works best in Southern California, where the coaster has the lure
of nostalgia. Otherwise, it is just one of a number of good coaster designs.
The Cyclone was a racing coaster where trains ran side by side across parallel courses
of nearly 3,800 feet. It's top drop was 75 feet, 33 feet less than GhostRider, but the
Cyclone reportedly had a great ride because of its location on a pier and clever design.
But Knott's now has its big wooden coaster and Disney looks like a pass. Six Flags
Magic Mountain already has two large wooden coasters. The best bet might be Pacific Park,
the little amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier. But its hard to see where they would
get the space or the money for such a project.
Parks outside the region are more likely to opt for a generic design from an existing
coaster company and avoid paying Osterhoudt for his plans.
Perhaps his best bet is for some coaster fanatic developer to offer to make The Cyclone
the center of a retail establishment close to its original site near the Long Beach
Aquarium of the Pacific or the Queen Mary complex. Others have floated similar ideas
previously, but unlike Osterhoudt, they don't have the plans.