Cyclonic Fame

Coney Island’s Cyclone would never be the most dynamic roller-coaster in the world but it was destined to be one of the most beloved, most esteemed… in short, the most legendary roller-coaster in the world. Indeed, on July 12, 1988, as most of Coney Island was crumbling into oblivion, the 61-year-old coaster was declared a landmark. Of course, most of this was due to the fame that Coney Island itself had acquired by the time the Cyclone opened there in 1927; the countless crowds of visitors to the island, growing larger every day, lending each new ride and attraction an exponential form of publicity.

Two very successful rides (also roller-coasters) in particular, the Thunderbolt (1925) and the Tornado (1926) caught the attention of Jack and Irving Rosenthal; they desired to build a roller-coaster of their own that would not only be successful but unrivaled. The brothers purchased a small parcel of land at Surf Avenue and West 10th Street; a very historic patch of ground at that: the world’s first roller-coaster (Thompson’s Switchback Railway) as well as the world’s first looping roller-coaster (appropriately named the Loop-The-Loop) once stood there. They commissioned engineer Vernan Keenan to design, Harry C. Baker to construct, their new ride. Due to the limited ground space the coaster would occupy, the tracks had to be exceptionally tight and steep…this set-back would give the ride its added zest.

With power supplied by the Eisenberg Brothers of Brooklyn, signs from Menheimer and Weiss of New York City, steel from the National Bridge Company, also of New York City, and lumber from Cross, Austin & Ireland, located in Long Island City, the Cyclone quickly became Coney Island’s number one attraction, a status it maintains to this day. Cyclone

The wood-framed Cyclone debuted on June 26, 1927; its initial cost was $175,000, but this was paid off during its first year of operation. Visitors had never seen nor experienced anything like it before; they gladly paid the 25-cent admission price (today the price is $8.00!) for the 100-second ride up and down its nine hills.

In 1935, the Rosenthals began an amusement park of their own, Palisades Park in New Jersey, and placed Chris Feucht in charge of the Cyclone. Feucht was no stranger to Coney Island and was certainly well-experienced when it came to rides: in 1907, he constructed a ride called the Drop-the-Dips. After performing some minor re-tracking work on the Cyclone, he diligently maintained and ran the Cyclone for the next thirty years.

As Coney Island declined so did its rides. In 1969 the Cyclone was shut down and stood that way until 1971 when New York City acquired the ride for one million dollars. However, its deteriorating condition dissuaded many from taking a ride on the legendary yet unreliable-looking coaster.

By 1972, the nearby New York Aquarium wanted to expand and the Cyclone was a mere inch from the wrecking ball before the “Save the Cyclone” campaign came to the rescue. Dewey and Jerome Albert, owners of Astroland amusement park assumed the Cyclone’s $57,000 per year lease, refurbished the coaster, and reopened it on July 3, 1975. “Since that time, Astroland Park has invested millions of dollars in the upkeep of the Cyclone — today, it probably runs better than it did on the day it opened, and has the highest safety standards in the outdoor amusement industry.”

OPERATION BEGAN: June 26, 1927 (Operated by Astroland Park since July 3, 1975) DESIGNED BY: Vernan Keenan
BUILT BY: Harry C. Baker
FIRST OWNERS/OPERATORS: Jack & Irving Rosenthal
TYPE OF RIDE: Compact wood twister
GROUND DIMENSIONS: 75 feet by 500 feet
HEIGHT: 85 feet
LENGTH OF FIRST DROP: 85 feet at a 60 degree angle
TRACK LENGTH: 2,640 feet
SPEED: 60 Miles Per Hour
RIDE TIME: One Minute, Fifty Seconds
TRAINS: 3 Trains, 3 Cars per train
CAPACITY: 24 Passengers per Cycle

Cyclone Roller Coaster History