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This Day in History

There’s nothing quite like a rickety, old wooden roller coaster to tug at the heartstrings of the truly nostalgic and The world-famous Cyclone on Coney Island in New York is indeed one of those beloved and once hair-raising coasters. 

On this day in 1927, the Cyclone roller coaster opened to the public and was an immediate hit with thrill-seekers.  At an estimated cost of $175,000 (approx. 2.4 million in today’s money) the Cyclone was 2640 feet long with “6 fan turns and 12 drops.”

The angle of the initial drop is about 58 degrees, and the height at its apex was 85 feet. A maximum speed of 60 miles per hour is reached during this slightly “less than two minute” ride. 

Compare that with today’s  Kingda Ka coaster ride in Six Flags Adventure Park in Jackson, New Jersey, with its staggering 418 foot drop, jaw-dropping 465 foot height and break-neck speed of 128 miles per hour! 

Sadly, during the 1960’s, the city decided that it would make more sense to utilize the space upon which the coaster resided for a somewhat more educational endeavor. 

Subsequently, the East Coaster Corporation lost rights to the coaster and land via an eminent domain court case proposed by the city who wished to demolish the Cyclone and replace it with an expansion to the New York Aquarium. 

Modern-day Luna Park at Coney Island

The corporation, desperate to save this whimsical landmark, even measured and evaluated every single piece of the coaster’s structure in order to demonstrate that “just compensation” was not being offered them by the city. 

But alas, the city won their case and became the “not-so-proud owners” of a vintage amusement park ride.  Eager plans to level the Cyclone and begin construction proved futile as word spread about the aquarium, and a campaign quickly formed to “Save the Cyclone!” And save the Cyclone, they did! 

Bowing to public pressure, the city abandoned the aquarium expansion plan and leased the ride to the Astroland Amusement Park for $57,000 a year.  And even after Astroland Park closed on September 7, 2008, the seemingly eternal Cyclone lived on under the direction of the Parks Department.

Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster became a “city landmark” in 1988 and most impressively, was awarded National Historic Landmark status in 1991. 

Quite a bold achievement for this vintage charmer/engineering marvel that has weathered almost a century of storms, countless shrieking passengers and unrelenting innovation and competition from “bigger and better” coasters.

For those who long for the “good, old days,” there’s just nothing quite like a 1920’s Coney Island amusement park thrill ride. Long live the Cyclone! 

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