It’s winter now, and Coney Island’s amusement parks are in winter hibernation, some wrapped in plastic tarps to protect their intricate machinery from the cold salty elements while they sleep.
In less than three months, (opening day this year is April 1) the massive crowds of thrill-seekers will return to the People’s Playground, and with them will return the many sounds of laughter and happy screaming, the game barkers and sideshow talkers, the smells of sausages and fried foods in the air, and music and dancing in the streets. But right now, this particular winter morning, there is not a soul in sight — it is so quiet you can hear a pin drop.
But not at the Cyclone! There, the sounds of hammers and saws fill the salty air. This is a big moment for the famed roller coaster — a full restoration of the Cyclone’s signature first drop (85 feet, 58 degrees), and the valley and fan turn that follow it.
Wooden roller coasters require tremendous amounts of maintenance, even more so when the coaster is in a salt air climate that sees four distinct seasons. Lumber wears out, and occasionally warps; minor re-tracking is a never ending maintenance standard. Every day during the operating season, workers must inspect the entire track, tools in hand, to make sure all is right before sending the day’s first train up the lift hill.
But even this is not enough, and Zamperla, the ride’s current operator, has brought in the best and most experienced experts in wooden roller coasters to undertake the huge job.
The old track was completely removed, each support was meticulously inspected and, where necessary, repaired or replaced. Now, the new track is ready to be constructed from the bottom up, with the same materials, in the same fashion, as it was in 1927.
For the faithful throngs that come to ride on a regular basis, the differences in speed and smoothness should be quite astounding. The “air time” traveling down the first drop, and the tremendous G-force at the bottom, will remain, but the uncomfortable vibrations that hindered this pleasure will be gone. With smoothness, comes speed — and finally, the Cyclone can reclaim its 1940s herald, “Faster Than Ever”!
Jason Sferlazza is a Coney Island native and founder of the blog, gottaloveconeyisland.com.