Coney Island Cyclone

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Coney Island Cyclone
Cyclone Roller Coaster (Coney Island, New York) 001.jpg
Seen from Surf Avenue in 2013
Coney Island
Coordinates40°34′27″N 73°58′40″W / 40.57417°N 73.97778°W / 40.57417; -73.97778Coordinates: 40°34′27″N 73°58′40″W / 40.57417°N 73.97778°W / 40.57417; -73.97778
Opening dateJune 26, 1927
ReplacedGiant Racer
DesignatedJune 25, 1991[1]
Reference no.91000907
DesignatedJune 12, 1988[2]
General statistics
DesignerVernon Keenan
Track layoutCompact Twister
Lift/launch systemChain-lift
Height85 ft (26 m)
Length2,640 ft (800 m)
Speed60 mph (97 km/h)
Max vertical angle58.1°
Capacity1440 riders per hour
Height restriction54 in (137 cm)
Coney Island Cyclone at RCDB
Pictures of Coney Island Cyclone at RCDB

The Coney Island Cyclone (better known as simply the Cyclone) is a wooden roller coaster at Luna Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City. Designed by Vernon Keenan, it opened to the public on June 26, 1927. It is located on a standalone plot of land at the intersection of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street. The Cyclone reaches a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and has a total track length of 2,640 feet (800 m) with a maximum height of 85 feet (26 m).

The Cyclone operated for more than four decades before it started to deteriorate. By the early 1970s, the city planned to scrap the ride. However, on June 18, 1975, Dewey and Jerome Albert, owners of the adjacent Astroland amusement park, entered into an agreement with New York City to operate the ride. The roller coaster was refurbished in the 1974 off-season and reopened on July 3, 1975. Astroland Park continued to invest millions over the years in the upkeep of the Cyclone. After Astroland closed in 2008, Carol Hill Albert, president of Cyclone Coasters, continued to operate it under a lease agreement with the city. In 2011, Luna Park took over operation of the Cyclone.

The coaster was declared a New York City designated landmark on July 12, 1988, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 26, 1991.


Early history[edit]

"1927 the cyclone takes its first ride" on New York Aquarium

Between about 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year. At its height, it contained three competing major amusement parks—Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park—as well as many independent amusements.[3]:147–150[4]:11[2]:3 Prior to the Cyclone's construction, the site was occupied by the Giant Racer from 1911 to 1926.[5][6]

The success of 1925's Thunderbolt coaster and 1926's Tornado led Irving and Jack Rosenthal to buy land at the intersection of Surf Avenue and West 10th Street for a coaster of their own. With a $100,000 investment, they hired leading coaster designer Vernon Keenan to design a new coaster. Harry C. Baker supervised the construction, which was done by area companies including National Bridge Company (which supplied the steel) and Cross, Austin, & Ireland (which supplied the lumber). Its final cost was reported to be around $146,000 to $175,000. When it opened on June 26, 1927, a ride cost 25 cents (equivalent to $3.61 in 2018[7]) as opposed to the present-day ticket price of $10.[8][2]:5

In 1935, the Rosenthals took over management of New Jersey's Palisades Park. The Cyclone was put under the supervision of Christopher Feucht, a Coney Island entrepreneur who had built a ride called Drop the Dip in 1907, and performed minor retracking work on it. The Cyclone continued to be extremely popular.[2]:6 Originally, a midget was hired to zap disembarking riders with an electric paddle, but this practice ceased in the 1950s.[9]

Area decline[edit]

By the 1960s, attendance at Coney Island had declined.[9] Crime increases, insufficient parking facilities, bad weather, and the post-World War II automotive boom were all cited as contributing factors in the visitor decrease.[10] In 1964, Coney Island's last remaining large theme park, Steeplechase Park, was closed and subsequently demolished.[11][12]:172[13] Afterward, the Cyclone was sold to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) in 1965.[9]

A new building for the New York Aquarium had been constructed to the west of the Cyclone in 1954.[14] In 1967, New York City decided that an extension to the New York Aquarium would be a better use of the Cyclone property. The city started procedures to claim the property by eminent domain. The then-owners, East Coaster Corporation, fought the city but lost. During this time, they did minimal long-term maintenance, and only enough to keep the ride operating safely.[15] The city bought the Cyclone for $1.2 million in 1969.[13]

The Cyclone was then operated under contract by East Coaster Corporation while the city worked with the New York Aquarium on plans to redevelop the site. There was a lack of long-term maintenance by the city, and the coaster soon received 101 safety violations.[15] In 1972, when the plans to expand the Aquarium were publicly announced, people launched a "Save the Cyclone" campaign to oppose the proposed demise of Coney Island's last wooden roller coaster.[16] This created a conflict between the Aquarium, who supported the Cyclone's demolition, and the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, who opposed it.[17] At the time, the owners of the AstroWorld theme park in Houston, Texas, were considering buying the Coney Island Cyclone and relocating it to Houston. However, this was rejected as being too expensive, and AstroWorld's owners instead built the Texas Cyclone, a replica of the Coney Island Cyclone.[18][19]

By 1974, city officials were doubting the decision to purchase the Cyclone and were instead considering leasing the coaster to a private operator.[20][21] The proposed demolition of the Cyclone was seen as potentially disastrous to the economy of Coney Island.[13] The city changed its plans to dismantle the coaster and, in April 1975, invited sealed bids to lease the operation of the ride.[15] The owners of the Astroland amusement park won the lease with a bid of $57,000 per year.[22] After Astroland spent $60,000 to refurbish the Cyclone, the coaster reopened on July 3, 1975.[15][2]:6–7


The Cyclone in 2010

During the 1986 season, insurance disagreements forced the Cyclone to stay closed until July.[23] The Cyclone was declared a city landmark in 1988[2] and a National Historic Landmark in 1991.[24] The Cyclone remained in operation despite the closure of Astroland in 2008[25][26] and the subsequent opening and closure of Dreamland in 2009.[27]

In 2011, the adjacent Luna Park took over management of the Cyclone.[28][29] Luna Park then started a major refurbishment of the Cyclone during the off-season.[30] The refurbishment was carried out by Great Coasters International[31] and completed in 2016.[32][33]

Current use[edit]

The ride is located on a plot of land measuring 75 feet (23 m) along 834 Surf Avenue and 500 feet (150 m) along West 10th Street.[2]:12 The land is owned by NYC Parks.[13] The former concession stands, built into the structure of the roller coaster, were home to the Coney Island History Project,[34] which was moved to a space near the Wonder Wheel.[35] A souvenir stand selling Cyclone-based shirts, hats, and on-ride photos remains in the concession stands.[34]

Each ride in Luna Park charges a specific amount of credits for admission, with each credit typically costing $1.[36] As of July 2019, each ride on the Cyclone costs 10 credits or $10, and free or reduced-price re-rides have been eliminated. Ride admission is also included in Luna Park's fixed-date and any-date passes.[37] Any free "bonus credits" accumulated via the purchase of ride credits cannot be used for admission to the Cyclone.[36]

The Cyclone is considered an "irreplaceable" structure since timber-supported coasters cannot be built under modern New York City building codes.[38]

Ride experience[edit]

Seen from the west


The train leaves the station heading northward, and immediately turns right at an almost 180-degree angle, which leads to a 85-foot (26 m) cable lift hill. It then moves over the first 58.1-degree drop, and as the train reaches the bottom of the drop it comes close to the track above, creating a headchopper-effect. The train then ascends into the first high-speed U-turn to the left, then descends again beneath the lift hill and rises onto the second 70-foot-tall U-turn to the right. The train descends parallel to the lift hill, enters a camelback hill, and rises onto a smaller banked U-turn to the right where it dives underneath the first high-speed curve. After that third U-turn, the train enters a second camelback hill with a fan turn, then a smaller airtime section, as it approaches a fourth U-turn to the right. Then the train hops several times more, paralleling the second drop, before entering a final rightward curve. The train drops slightly, ascends into a tunnel with a small leftward fan turn, and enters a brake run just before re-entering the station.[39][40]


The track is 2,640 feet (800 m) long (including six fan turns and twelve drops). The ride's top speed is 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and each ride takes about one minute and fifty seconds. The brown wooden track contains red wooden fencing alongside it, and is supported by a white structural framework, giving it a distinctive appearance.[39][40][41] The word "CYCLONE" is spelled in large red letters on the western side of the lift hill.[2]:6

Prior to 2000, the Cyclone's 58.1-degree initial drop was the third-steepest drop of any wooden coaster in the world. As of 2014, it is the ninth-steepest wooden coaster worldwide.[42]


The Cyclone has three trains with three cars per train; one train can run at a time. Riders are arranged two across in four rows for a total of 24 riders per train. The trains contain single position lap bars, which drop across the entire row; however, the trains do not contain headrests.[39][41][2]:6


As seen from West 10th Street


At least three people have died after riding the Cyclone:

  • On May 26, 1985, a 29-year-old man was killed while riding the Cyclone. He stood up and struck his head on a crossbeam.[43]
  • On August 23, 1988, a 26-year-old man was killed after falling from the Cyclone. The man was a maintenance worker and was the only passenger at the time, riding in the back seat of the train during his lunch break. Apparently, he eluded the safety bar and was seen standing up as the train began its descent down the first hill. He fell 30 feet and landed on a crossbeam of a lower section of track. He died instantly. The ride was closed following the incident, but was reopened a day later after safety inspectors concluded that the ride was safe.[44]
  • On July 31, 2007, a 53-year-old man suffered several crushed vertebrae in his neck while riding the Cyclone. He died four days later due to complications during surgery.[45][46]

Other incidents[edit]

On June 12, 2008, a woman rode the Cyclone, and later claimed that she had been seriously injured due to the ride. In 2015, the woman was awarded $1.5 million in damages despite being found partly at fault.[47] In a similar incident, a man claimed to have been struck by a metal bolt while waiting in the ride queue in March 2018.[48]

Several evacuations have taken place on the Cyclone due to mechanical problems. On March 28, 2015, a mechanical failure caused a train to be stuck at the top of the lift hill. No one was injured.[49][50] A similar incident happened on June 13 of the same year, when a mechanical issue caused the ride to stop completely.[51] The Cyclone stalled again on July 28, 2018, after losing power.[52]

Notable riders and rider records[edit]

The aviator Charles Lindbergh was said to have ridden the Cyclone two years after it opened,[53] and reportedly called the experience "greater than flying an airplane at top speed".[54][38]

In 1948, a mute coal miner with aphonia named Emilio Franco visited Coney Island and reportedly screamed while going down the Cyclone's first drop. He also reportedly said "I feel sick" as his train returned to the station. According to multiple accounts, he fainted after realizing he had just spoken.[2]:6[9][55] One version has it that Franco had been mute since birth,[54] but according to a contemporary New York Times account, he had only been mute for five years.[55]

In 1975, Michael Boodley set a record for most consecutive trips on the Cyclone, riding it 1,001 times over a period of 45 hours.[56] Between August 18–22, 1977, nineteen-year-old Richard Rodriguez broke this record, riding the Cyclone for 104 hours. He took short bathroom breaks in between rides, but ate hot dogs, M&Ms, and shakes during the ride itself. In 2007, Rodriguez broke his own record for the longest marathon on a roller coaster, with 405 hours 40 minutes at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the United Kingdom.[56]

In 2009, Howie Lipstein was recognized by the Coney Island History Project as having ridden the Cyclone for fifty consecutive years.[57][58]


ACE plaque

The popularity of the Cyclone has inspired seven replica coasters that share a similar layout, or a mirror version of it.[9][59] Four replicas of the Cyclone were erected at Six Flags parks: Viper at Six Flags Great America;[60][59] Psyclone at Six Flags Magic Mountain;[61][62][59] the Texas Cyclone at Six Flags AstroWorld;[63][64][59] and the Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia.[65][59] Of these, only Viper is still operational in its original status.[59] Replicas internationally include the Bandit at Movie Park Germany, the defunct White Canyon at Yomiuriland in Japan, and the defunct Aska at Japan's Nara Dreamland.[66][59]


The Cyclone is an ACE Coaster Classic and Coaster Landmark.[67][68] It is also the inspiration for the name of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team, which plays at nearby MCU Park.[69]

Golden Ticket Awards: Top wood Roller Coasters
Year 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Ranking 7[70] 8[71] 11[72] 11[73] 13[74] 16[75] 16[76] 14[77] 16[78] 14[79] 16[80] 14[81] 13[82] 15[83] 14[84] 19[85] 22[86] 16[87] 27[88] 22[89] 29[90] 28[91]


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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Giant Dipper
World's Fastest Roller Coaster
June 1927 – April 1976
Succeeded by
Screamin' Eagle

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