It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

The coasters of Quabbin Lake Park

So I've been playing too much with NoLimits, everybody's favorite coaster simulator. Since the latest version has made wooden coasters a snap, I've been having fun designing twisters and making up histories and stories to go with them. One needs a name. Behind the cuts are capsule descriptions and lots of neat pictures. And some HTML too for fun. This is all going to be part of the new spatchCoaster! site which I'll be finishing up one of these days.

The first two coasters are part of Quabbin Lake Park, a trolley park in beautiful central Massachusetts. The amusement park, known as "the park" to locals and "QLP" to acronym-loving enthusiasts, is on the shores of beautiful Quabbin Lake in Greenwich and is one of the oldest amusement parks in America. Originally a picnic grove at the end of the Prescott-Greenwich trolley line, the park thrived on the trolley riders and steadily grew in size, rivalling White City in Worcester and Mountain Park in Holyoke and even weathering a disastrous flood in the 1930s only to succumb to fiscal depression in the late 1970s. Closing in 1978, the park lay dormant for four years until it was bought by a private trust and re-opened with a capital infusion and fresh new owners. "Western Town", the park's hand at Disney-style theming, opened in 1986 as a half-expansion, half-renovation, and showcased the two-year restoration project of the Gold Rush twister. The Greyhound, a sleek out-and-back coaster, opened in 1997 and is the centerpiece for the yearly Hound-O-Ween enthusiast event in October. The park is also known for its fearsome 1957 Hurricane coaster, which at the time broke the record for the tallest and fastest roller coaster in America.

Originally built 1963 by Hamlin Amusement Devices
Rebuilt 1986 by the Quabbin Lake Park Trust

Highest point: 80 ft
Tallest drop: 45 ft
Track length: 3457 ft

A close view of the Atomic Dipper's third drop.
The Gold Rush was originally the Atomic Dipper, built in 1963 as a smaller brother to Quabbin Lake Park's fearsome Hurricane. After the park closed in 1978, a series of suspicious fires destroyed much of the Dipper's structure. The Quabbin Lake Park Trust acquired the grounds in 1982 and reopened the park in 1983, restoring the mostly-undamaged Hurricane in the process.

The members of the Trust then faced a difficult decision regarding the burned ruins of the Dipper -- either they could demolish it and start anew, or rebuild from a partial set of original plans purchased when the Hamlin Amusement Devices company went to auction in 1974. The Trust opted to rebuild, maintaining most of the Dipper's layout in the process while altering key elements of the ride. The result was themed to the new Western Town section of the park, opened in 1986 as The Gold Rush, and has enjoyed steady ridership ever since.

A train pulls out of the double-down first drop, getting a quick view of some nice undulating hills to come.
(Click to enlarge)
The departure from the original Dipper layout include reprofiling of almost every hill on the ride, a tunnel on the back run and elimination of a speed hill, and a reprofiling of the last half of the ride to include a swoop curve after the tunnel, plus a fan curve and extra hop before the brake run. The ride's unique first drop, a double-down instead of a straight drop, was restored and provides excellent airtime in both front and back seats for those who enjoy it. Fans of the ride claim the best drop, however, is the dramatic third drop, which rises slightly by the double-down and then plunges deep into the supports. "When you're in the back seat you just can't see it coming," enthused one rider in an Internet review. "The other cars ahead you just suddenly drop off the face of the earth, and then you realize you're next."

The original Dipper plans also featured a tunnel over the lift hill approach. Omitted in 1963 due to budgetary reasons, the 1986 rebuild allowed for the tunnel to finally be part of the ride. Older local riders say they kind of liked the open-air lift approach better, but somehow that doesn't stop them from riding. Oddly enough, nobody has any unkind words for the tunnel and reprofiled swoop curve, so perhaps these stoic, stubborn Yankees can agree that sometimes a little change can be a good thing.

Built 1957 by Hamlin Amusement Devices

Highest point: 92 ft
Tallest drop: 72 ft
Track length: 3332 ft

The coaster's dynamic and graceful curves above the loading station act as the perfect introduction to a new rider.
(Click to enlarge)
Contrary to popular belief, this was not the park's first coaster, nor even the second: The Figure-8, a very simple side-friction coaster in both layout and name, operated from 1909 to 1920. It was replaced by The Mile High Coaster in 1923, an out-and-back ride which was no more than 40 feet ("If that," scoffed informal park historian Julian Welch.) This coaster unfortunately fell to the great Hurricane of 1938. Nearly 20 years later a new coaster was built on the spot of the Mile High and christened "Hurricane" in tribute. It was a fitting name, for the forces generated by the ride made some feel like they were being tossed about in a gale storm.

No one is sure why Hamlin Amusement Devices chose a sleepy little park in Central Massachusetts to design what at the time was the tallest roller coaster in the world, but the Hurricane topped out at 92 feet and held the record for almost twenty years. Its fearsome ride proved almost too much for the local population, becoming not only a thing of legend whispered in hushed tones among parkgoers but a rite of passage as well for many local teenagers. "The Hurricane separated the men from the boys," remarked Greenwich native Sam Paczowski, whose first ride on the terrifying machine was 1961. "If you rode it, it meant you didn't fear nothing. We had this club in Greenwich called the Caners. Nothing too fancy, I mean, we didn't have jackets or nothing, but you knew who was in and who was out. To be considered for admission, you had to ride the Hurricane. To get in, you had to ride it twice. And you had to ride it with your eyes closed for your initiation. The Enfield kids wouldn't even look at the thing, and we gave 'em grief about it every chance we got."

As part of the 1982 renovations, the Quabbin Lake Park trust did extensive restoration work on the Hurricane, working with the existing blueprints and hiring in a team of coaster consultants to help make the coaster more comfortable while sacrificing as few thrills as possible. The reprofiling worked and nowadays the Hurricane draws as many riders as the Gold Rush. Perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding the ride is the decision to place a tunnel between the final brakes and the station. "It really doesn't do anything for the ride," says Welch, "but it looks pretty. So perhaps it's okay."


Here's the layout and height plan of a new coaster I built. No history or story yet. Not even a name. I don't think it'll go to QLP, though.

It's a large twister in the style of the Hurricane, with several elements taken from both it and the Gold Rush. It's not so hard to think that the fictitious Hamlin Amusement Devices would build on previous designs for a new ride, so I'd say this bad boy would have been built in the mid-70s as the second Golden Age of Coasters began. It's currently an unstained wood color, but I've tried it painted white and it looks just as good. The ride's pretty nifty, too. It may just be the "Seaside Dipper" I've always enjoyed thinking about, but it could also be something else, no problem. What do you think?

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