Kickin’ it @ Kennywood

Alexander: Another day, another coaster-laden layover! This time it’s Pittsburgh and beautiful Kennywood Park!

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Kennywood is celebrating 120 wonderful years! It’s been 5 years since my last visit; can’t wait to get reacquainted!

Kennywood teems with charm around every corner – a great example is their Schwarzkopf Bayern Kurve (one of only two left in the Western Hemisphere). The ride runs an excellent program and sports a freshly-restored mural.

Even with a roster full of excellently-maintained vintage woodies and oddball rides, my #1 reason for being here is the exquisite Phantom’s Revenge.

Let’s appreciate for a moment that, even this late in the game, Kennywood still lacks air gates for its coasters.

Phantom‘s Revenge, to me, is the perfect hyper coaster.

Not a lot of hyper coasters can claim also to be terrain coasters, and none can hold a candle to Phantom’s quirks and charm.

When Black Widow was first introduced at Kennywood, the park had a fairly unique attraction on their hands. Now, Zamperla Giant Discovery rides are popping up in several Six Flags properties!

When Steel Phantom was transformed into Phantom’s Revenge, everything between the ride’s 2nd drop (the iconic, record-breaking dive into the ravine) and the brake run was replaced. A later reprofiling of the first two drops has reduced the original Arrow Dynamics track to just the lift, station, brake run, and transfer track.

Morgan Manufacturing produced several successful mega coasters from the ground up, but most would agree that Phantom’s Revenge was ultimately their greatest work.

The Arrow Dynamics quirks of this ride still shine through Morgan’s excellent conversion of the ride from gargantuan mega looper into a mean, green ejector-air machine.

The trains are still Arrow looper vehicle chassis (retrofitted with unique side-mounted lap bars) and the lift still has that unmistakable acoustic growl.

The first drop is actually quite similar to Viper at Magic Mountain (although smoothed out considerably), and design of the ride as a whole feels very true to Arrow Dynamics as a brand. – organic, varied airtime hills, sweeping curves, excellent pacing, and so on.

If Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood was a hyper coaster, this would be it.

The small airtime hills that make up most of the ride’s elevation changes are now very on-trend. Intamin and Gravity Group have demonstrated excellent designs composed primarily of small airtime hills following the biggest drop (Mega Lite, SkyRush, CuChulainn, and Jungle Trailblazer just to name a few), but its a characteristic that I’ll always associate with Phantom.

It’s a shame Morgan didn’t produce more rides like this, instead of the conventional lots-of-big-hills style of most hypers.

Phantom demonstrated early on that numerous big hills throughout are not necessary for a potent ride (although everyone loves a big-hilled B&M mega coaster, I think we can all agree that Fury 325’s “just one big hill” execution is nothing if not ideal).

The Arrow fan I’ve become loves this ride to bits. I’ve always loved it (it was even my #1 at one point), but now I love it more than ever.

The airtime on this ride is perfect. Slightly less insane than a good RMC, but the minimalist restraint system on Phantom makes for a more satisfying overall experience.

Not to be outdone, Thunderbolt is also in excellent shape.

The wild airtime into the breakrun is particularly Tennessee Tornado-y

At the time, Steel Phantom wasn’t any more or less conventional than a hyper coaster in general (there was only 1 at the time, after all).

In retrospect, Steel Phantom was bonkers.

looping hyper coaster. A classic mega-looper first drop and a game-changing second drop. Viper at Magic Mountain with a 225ft plunge in the middle. Alas, rider discomfort and metal fatigue came hard and fast, ending the original phantom after only a 10 year run.

It took 15+ years, but  thanks to MACK and RMC, looping hyper coasters are once again a reality!

It’s easy to forget the ill-fated Steel Phantom when you consider the hyper coaster timeline, but its utter disregard for convention is what made it so special, even long after its world’s-tallest drop was eclipsed.

Thunderbolt time!

I just can’t get enough of this amazing ride and its amazing trains.

Look! the red train has headlamps again!

They can store a train underneath the operator podium and I think that’s PRETTY COOL, GUYS.

From here, you can’t even tell that there’s a hyper coaster diving between Thunderbolt‘s superstructure.

New for 2018 at Kennywood is Thomas Town! Here you can see the freshly reconfigured rapids ride queue and some of the Thomas rides.

I’m a huge Thomas fan, and I’m thrilled to see such a major recreation of The Island of Sodor underway!

Everyone say “hi!” to Joel and Ken!

Now for the park’s other 2 woodies! Racer and Jack Rabbit are running great as well! Had a great race on Racer, even though we lost.


Jack Rabbit’s trains still amaze me. It just you, a seatbelt, and the handle bar. Spectacular ride.

Also specatular was the Sky Coaster, which celebrates 25 years of operation this year! This was my first time ridding it (Thanks, Joel!) and, despite its age, this install is one of the best around.

Jack Rabbit’s double-dip-and-also-no-lapbar combo is just too good to be true.

And look how cute it is!

The shooting gallery is also quite popular here!

We took in a leisurely ride on the carousel (also a first-time ride here for me) while we waited out a sudden rain storm.

Yet another major classic at Kennywood is their 1-of-a-kind Kangaroo ride. It’s an amazing little airtime machine!

Kennywood is a wonderful park for just wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere.

There are some very cute gardens and fountains to discover!

Let’s all appreciate this painstakingly-mainainted facade for their Musik Express ride. Still dressed up for the German funfairs after all these years!

Time for another Phantom ride!

Thanks, Joel, for taking over photography duty while Ken and I ride!

It looks like I’m squinting, but actually I’m smiling so big that I can’t see over my cheeks.

Pittsburgh Plunge is nice to look at, but a little too wet for today.

We did, however, enjoy a ride on Whip and its next door neighbor, Exterminator.

The cleverly-themed, indoor Exterminator gives an impressive dark ride edge to an otherwise basic spinning mouse.

I cannot stop taking pictures of this ride.

I think I’m a little obsessed.

ALSO IMPORTANT: The AMAZING Noah’s Ark walk-thru funhouse! The blue whale out front is a new replica of the attraction’s original whale, which had disappeared years ago.

The tree coverage at Kennywood is wonderful. It would be nice if more parks had an abundance of 100+ year old oak trees.

Thunderbolt! The camera loves you, and so do I!

Thunderbolt is celebrating 50 years of operation this year. Prior to its 1968 remodel, the ride (formerly known as Pippin) was a much more basic design.

The ravine drops are original to Pippin, but the Thunderbolt we know and love today came with the ride’s glorious, circular jaunt that makes up about 1/2 the overall length.

My only other photo of Racer this visit is in the form of this AMAZING stained glass work. See their Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop on the upper right? After leaving the park to accommodate Steel Phantom, Laser Loop turned up at La Feria in Mexico City as Cascabel, which we rode on the ACE Mexico Tour last year! <3

A couple of classics we skipped were the Auto Ride (which is engulfed in Thomas construction right now) and Garfield’s Nightmare, which is in desperate need of a remodel.

Also no Sky Rocket todaybut no major loss. Next time!

Kennywood, you never cease to win me over! I can’t wait to return again with Sean for the BIG SECRET PROJECT!

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