Are you ready to put the pedal to the medal? Knott's Berry Farm is ready to unleash a whole new type of roller coaster for the year 2002. The first hydraulic launched coaster ever, Xcelerator will catapult riders from zero to a whopping 82 miles per hour in only 2.3 seconds! With a twisting camel back hill (nicknamed an "un-inverted top hat" because it is similar to a top hat, only the train doesn't go upside-down) and two overbanked turns, this short but sweet thrill ride is sure to excite riders for many years to come!
A little history on Knott's... Many many years ago, on a plot of land located on the northwest corner of Knott's Berry Farm property, there stood a delightful four track racing roller coaster called the Wacky Soap Box Racers. This hit attraction featured small cars shaped to look like soap box derby cars, and the cars would race alongside each other over four parallel tracks. With a slight Old Southwest or Wild West tinge to the theming, this attraction thrilled children and adults alike with its fun spirit of racing competition. Though there were usually only two tracks operating, occasionally, lucky guests would be able to ride with all four tracks running, and then, the race was on! Even when there were only two tracks, the ride was still extraordinarily fun.
Then, one day, Knott's decided to break the hearts of thousands of fans by closing down and demolishing the ride. The Soap Box Racers were no more. Thrill seekers were anxious to see what the park had in mind for a suitable replacement for this classic ride. Only a superior roller coaster could comfort the many aching hearts of fans. And so, the successor was revealed: Windjammer, a Togo-made duel-track racing coaster featuring one vertical loop on each track, was to replace the Soap Box Racers. In the spirit of the old ride, it seemed, the new ride would race as well. However, would it EVER be as popular as the old single rail coaster?
Well, when Windjammer opened, it was a hit all right... or rather, that is what guests felt had happened to them after riding it. In notorious, traditional fashion, the crafty engineers over at Togo International had designed an incredibly painful and rough roller coaster full of head banging and other methods of torture. Furthermore, the roller coaster itself was plagued with problems. While it featured two tracks, guests were more apt to find only one track running two or three trains. The ride would be closed down if even light winds were blowing. Ride capacity plummeted, and if it weren't for the fact that practically nobody rode Windjammer anyway, the wait times would have been horrendously long. The general public rejected this pathetic replacement for the Soap Box Racers, and thrill seekers demanded justice for this crime. How could such a painful, pitiful coaster be allowed to stand? Weren't there international laws against torture that barred such torturous rides? Why did Amnesty International do nothing?
Then, in 2001, Knott's Berry Farm made an announcement years in the making: Windjammer would be closed down and torn down. The park was also suing the ride's manufacturer for poor craftsmanship and design. The cry of joy heard around Southern California was that of thousands of roller coaster enthusiasts shouting in ecstasy after hearing of the proclamation.
The actual demolition of Windjammer was a sight to behold. In a process about as ceremonious as the excretions of a hippopotamus, Windjammer was literally mangled and torn to pieces. Scrap metal formerly known as roller coaster track came tumbling down. Supports were twisted and gnarled apart. Onlookers observed the irony of the rather painful way this coaster, which had hurt so many riders in the past, was being executed. Ripped apart from limb to limb, this infamous roller coaster finally went down, never to run again (not that it ran that often when it was up).
Rumors ran rampant over what Windjammer's successor would be. Meanwhile, coaster track began coming in. At first, there were light turquoise supports. Then came red box track, which could only signify one thing--Intamin was coming in to build this roller coaster. The hearts of thrill seekers everywhere leaped. The rumors intensified like never before. It would be an Impulse coaster. It was to be an Intamin inverted roller coaster. It would be an Intamin hypercoaster, or maybe even a gigacoaster! However, the most consistent rumors held that the new ride at Knott's Berry Farm would be a launched coaster, possibly from underground, using some sort of hydraulics to propel riders at a high rate of speed. Resultantly, that rumor turned out to be true.
After a false start, thrill fans wondered of Xcelerator would be constructed at all, but their fears were quelled when track went up into vertical construction a second time. Within about a month, the entire circuit was complete, and all that was left was to do some landscaping, build the queue lines, construct the ride station and other buildings, and of course, test the ride. Finally, by late June, after the theming and testing had been finished, it was time... time to ride Xcelerator!!!
The queue line is located near the tower, on the other side of the circuit, away from the station. Walking underneath, riders can hear and feel the roar of the train as it blasts down the launch way and up the un-inverted top hat element. Through the switchbacks located in the middle of the circuit guests go, and after a little more walking, guests finally enter the station, sleek and stylish, themed to a nice, romantic 1950s diner.
At the signal, the gates give way, allowing riders to board the trains. There are two that run during peak times, one yellow and the other purple. Both have stylish red and orange flames (hot rod style) blazing down each side. The cars are two seats wide, in the Intamin style, and are heavily padded. To thrill seekers who desire freedom while riding coasters, the trains seem to say, "Don't worry. You'll NEED all of this padding." The ride attendants lock the lap bars in for riders, making sure they are snug and tightly wedged safely in the cars. Once again, the train seems to snicker, "Heh heh, you'll WANT to be strapped in tightly after I'm done with you..."
At the given signal, the train rolls back a bit to secure itself on to the pulley, which is part of the launch system. Intamin calls it a hydraulic launch system, but it is easier to imagine it as a huge pulley that yanks the train forward, accelerating it. The hydraulics come in to roll the cable attached to the pulley in, generating the thrust and launch.
The seconds that pass by are heart-stopping and suspenseful. Then, suddenly, the train launches. Their heads plastered firmly back into their comfy head rests, riders careen down the straightaway, rapidly gaining speed, hitting over eighty miles an hour in just over two seconds. All too quickly, the track inclines upwards, and the train rockets up a vertical hill, twisting to the right to crest over the un-inverted top hat element, which hangs gingerly over empty air. There are no supports to hold up the crest of the hill.
The train slows down just for a moment, as if deciding whether or not to follow through with the drop, allowing riders a brief view of Orange and Los Angeles counties. And then it drops. Plunging down and twisting to the right, the train takes riders vertical before leveling out, raging uncontrollably into the first overbanked turn.
Just as Intamin officials had promised, Xcelerator takes a nod from Intamin's legendary gigacoaster, Millennium Force, and throws in a couple of overbanked turns. Just what exactly are overbanked turns? Well, normal turns on a roller coaster going at a high rate of speed require the curve to be banked so that the riders don't suffer whiplash from navigating a flat turn. It is similar to how highway on and off ramps are banked to allow cars to go through while still maintaining a decent speed. However, on most roller coasters, the turns are only banked about thirty or forty degrees off the horizontal. Xcelerator and Millennium Force, however, are so fast that their curves must be overbanked, meaning that they are angled MORE than ninety degrees off the horizontal, bringing riders closer to upside-down than they are rightside-up!
Losing almost no speed, Xcelerator blazes through the first overbanked turn, passing by Supreme Scream, a nearby S & S Power vertical drop tower ride that blasts riders downward. Screaming like a speed demon, these hot rods gone wrong dip down a valley and head through the second overbanked turn, just missing the support structure that holds up the un-inverted top hat. Riders wince and try to duck their heads as they see steel bars rush toward them, providing a nice head hunter effect.
Then, all too soon, the train hits the brake run, slowing down very smoothly from about sixty miles per hour to near standstill, waiting for the other train to depart the station so that this train can enter it, bringing twenty smiling and relieved faces back to Earth.
Finally, Knott's Berry Farm has built a worthy replacement for the classic, old Wacky Soap Box Racers.
Knott's Berry Farm
June 22, 2002
Steel hydraulic launched
- 0-82 MPH launch in 2.3 sec.
- Non-inverting "top hat"
- Two overbanked turns
- Magnetic braking system
- PHOTOS -
Photos courtesy of Westcoaster.
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