Lost Legends: Cyclone Racer

  Harry Traver is one of the most renowned ride designers of all time. He is known for his work on such legends as the Crystal Beach Cyclone and the Revere Beach Lightning, and was involved in the construction of great rides like the Riverview Bobs. But Harry Traver's personal favorite coaster was his only dual track coaster, The Cyclone Racer.

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Harry Traver spent much of 1929 designing and planning the The Cyclone Racer. Construction began in early 1930. The pier the coaster was on was first built in 1914 to hold the Jack Rabbit roller coaster, and so the pier had no deck underneath the coaster - you could see the water right through the beams. Construction lasted five months and took over one million board feet of lumber, over one million bolts, and 50 kegs of nails. The coaster opened to the public on memorial day - May 30th -  in 1930. Rising high above the rest of the rides, the coaster was the centerpiece of The Pike, an amusement park that sat on a pier over the shores of Long Beach, California. Its gorgeous white structure and graceful curves occupied one whole side of the pier, and from anywhere in the park you could see the trains gliding along the ride's perfectly shaped trackwork. The ride had a certain perfection about it. The racing trains changed lead seven times during the circuit and still finished only seconds apart. The track was banked perfectly, except where it was underbanked on purpose. The track was designed and constructed so precisely that the passengers experienced less than 0.1Gs five times during a circuit, but very rarely pulled less than zero Gs. In other words, the airtime on this coaster was perfect. And the whole ride was designed in the twenties with no computers, or calculators.

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The coaster's loading station was forty feet wide and one hundred and twenty feet deep and was surrounded by track. The whole station would rumble whenever a pair of trains would race overhead. After riders boarded the trains, the twin tracks turned away from each other, and began climbing the lifts. The lift hills rose up to a point, and met again at the top. From there the tracks turned slightly to the left and dropped together at 49.5, ducking under and through its own structure at the bottom. After the thrilling first drop, the ride entered the "ocean turn", a high speed turn that was underbanked twenty degrees in order to give the sensation that you were going to fly over the edge. Next, the tracks dipped again and crossed over to the other side for another huge drop and a rise into another turnaround. Then the tracks raced through the overhead structure again, and back out to the far end of the pier for a fast, swooping turn during which the inside track crossed over to the outside. Then the coaster made a final run around the perimeter of its structure before returning to the station.

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The Cyclone Racer, in addition to being one of the greatest rides of all time, was also one of the most famous. In fact, it was featured in many movies movies of its time. Eddie Cantor got chased all over the pier, including the coaster, in "Strike Me Pink". Lou Costello was also chased over its structure in "Abbot and Costello in Hollywood". In "The Dancing Masters", laurel and Hardy took a double decker bus onboard the coaster.
There are countless interesting stories and facts about the Cyclone Racer. For example, one man was so terrified after his first ride, that he demanded to pay twice, claiming it was two rides - his first and his last. Another good story comes from "Mr. Pike" Al Brown, who worked at the pike for over seventy years until it closed in 1978. A drunken sailor who rode the coaster in the 1930s stood up and was tossed out by the violent lateral G forces during the ocean turn. He cleared the pier completely and landed in the water. He swam in to the shore, walked into the station, and asked for another ride because he fell out. The operators let him take another ride.
  A breakwater built in the early forties, changed the ocean currents under the pier, and sand began to accumulate under it. The sand eventually built up until the twenty feet of clearance under the pier was reduced to only three. The underside of the pier then had to be fenced off because of people taking advantage of the privacy afforded by the low pier.
  The Cyclone Racer's huge station was illuminated by five hundred and one 25 watt light bulbs, but during the war, the park had to unscrew all but one light bulb, to avoid being bombed. The coaster made it through the war without being damaged. In 1947, the coaster was to be torn down because its lease was to expire. Luckily, the lease was extended twenty years, and the coaster remained while the rest of the park and the pier were torn down in early 1949.
  The coaster survived the whole length of its lease with only minor modifications. The ride was given fixed lap bars in the late fifties (it had no restraints until then). The new 21 year lease expired May 1,1968 but a special permit allowed the right to continue  operation until after the Labor Day holiday. At eleven o'clock PM on September fifteenth, 1968, the last of the twenty five million people to ride the Cyclone Racer over it's 38 year reign boarded a train and had one last ride. Demolition of the ride began the following day.

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Will we ever see a ride like this again? Possibly. Although the Cyclone Racer's blueprints were destroyed many years ago, there is a group that has spent years reverse-engineering the blueprints from photos and video clips. Classic Coasters, headed by Larry Osterhoudt, have successfully recreated the Cyclone Racer's blueprints, and with luck, will soon find a park willing to rebuild this great classic ride. CoasterGlobe would like to thank Larry Osterhoudt for his help with this article.

You can visit Classic Coasters' web site at http://cycloneracer.com/.


Note: that the technical statistics provided are
Copyright Classic Coasters, and are used on
CoasterGlobe with permission. This is the first
time that this data has been published.


Height: 26.5m (87')
Length (each): 1143m (3750')
Max Speed: 80kph (50mph)
Ride Time: 2:00
Inversions: 0
Year: 1930-1968
Designer: Harry Traver
Type: Wood
Layout: Triple Out and Back
Restraints: Lap Bar
Power: Chain Lift
Max Vertical Gs: 3.64
Cost: $150 thousand

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Written by James Kay
All pages Coasterglobe.com
All Data 2001 Classic-Coasters
Layout diagram Coasterglobe.com
Photos: WKVL
Special Thanks to Larry Osterhoudt