Around 1995-1996, famed Switzerland roller coaster designers Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) started development an evolution of their sit-down roller coaster. Roaring into success in 1993 with Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa, quickly followed by Dragon Khan in 1995 at Port Aventura (Salou, Spain), the sit-down coaster was a smoother and modern take on the classic multi-looping roller coasters seen since 1975.
Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, FL)
Dragon Khan in red at Port Aventura (Salou, Spain)
They had already created the Inverted Coaster, where guests hang under the track attached to the chassis with a rigid set of seats. The Inverted Coaster immediately took over the industry, where every park was looking to add a coaster like that. Other companies started offering their version of the Inverted Coaster; the original B&M Inverted Coaster was still the most sought after roller coaster in the industry. Now, as said above in 1995-1996, at the request of Six Flags, B&M started working on a new model that would combine the award-winning Inverted Coaster with the crowd-pleasing sit-down coaster. What if you hung an Inverted Coaster seat to a chassis that rode above the track?
Inverted Coaster train. This is Diavlo at Himeji Central Park in Himeji, Japan.
The main issue to resolve was the loading process: how do you get passengers on and off the ride quickly when the seats sit above coaster track and ride hardware? Using their top of the industry control systems and drive tires, the train is parked in the same spot every time. Then, foldable floors come out from under the ride platform and place themselves quickly to fill out all the space between the platform and center train chassis column. A swinging split gate secures the front of the station to prevent guests and employees from going out that way.
Over at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, a site had been cleared years earlier for a new roller coaster. Located near the Lone Star Arena in the Frontier Adventures, this site had previously housed the park’s greenhouses. In the late 1980s when Six Flags was building new versions of the famed Coney Island Cyclone throughout the chain, this was the location earmarked for that ride at Six Flags Great Adventure. After the struggles with Psyclone (Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA) and Georgia Cyclone (Six Flags Over Georgia, Austell, GA) in 1990 and 1991, Six Flags paused new wooden coaster constructions. By 1995, they were comfortable enough to build a wooden coaster in-house using Dennis Starkey’s Stand Company as a consultant to make sure everything was fine. By then, the proposed Cyclone wooden coaster had moved from Frontier Adventure over to a site near the main entrance in the Movie Town area of the park. Plans changed again, and finally, Premier Rides supplied in 1997 a pair of steel launched coasters, Batman & Robin: The Chiller.
Viper at Six Flags Great America. The planned Cyclone Wooden Coaster would have been quite similar to this Dennis Starkey/Six Flags roller coaster.
In 1999, Six Flags planned a substantial modernization of the park under the tag line “War on Lines.” As part of this major expansion, older attractions would be retired, rides moved and spots around the park filled in. For the Frontier Adventures plot, it was still empty; Six Flags decided to make an impact by introducing a new type of roller coasters. Rumors abound in 1998 mentioning a new B&M “Heartline” roller coaster premiering in 1999. One name that was thrown around for this new ride was Iron Horse, tying into the Frontier Adventures location that is themed to the rowdy, wild west. Planning progressed, and eventually, the name announced as Medusa. How does a woman figure with snakes as hair figure from Greek mythology tie in with the Far West? Premier Parks (name of the owner of Six Flags at the time) came up with a story where she was banished to a cursed gold mine in the Old West. Her resting place, “Medusa’s Mine” was avoided by miners during the Gold Rush era and the station building is the building on top of the mine. The entrance path goes under the ride Cobra Roll element, and the queue started under the Zero-Gravity Roll. The long line was originally set-up with four large sets of queue that leads to the station stairs. Later a bypass leading to the last queuing area was set-up for days of lower attendance.
The original ride logo, taken from a sweatshirt purchased in 2002 at the park.
Coaster Gallery provided us with this great picture of the original path leading to the roller coaster.
A close-up of the Medusa logo on the station building.
Close-up of the original sign under the Cobra Roll.
Finally, the B&M “Heartline” rumor ended up being the Floorless Coaster, where Inverted style open-air seats hang above the track. Three eight-car trains were supplied with the ride, giving the ride remarkable capacity. The station is the most impressive technical feat of this model, whereas written above, the swinging floors quickly allowed guests in and out of the trains.
Coaster Gallery provided us with this great shot of the original colors of the Medusa trains.
For the layout of Medusa, B&M inspired themselves with the famed Kumba of Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, FL) with larger inversions to provide incredible hang time and a feeling of flying. Heading outside of the station, the train drops down to the left in a tight dropping-rising 130-140° curve that feeds the train into the 146 feet tall lift hill. The rich lime-green track on the purple supports gave the ride quite a distinctive look. At the top of the lift hill, the train drops down slightly, past a speed-adjusting brake and drops down to the left, roaring down a 132 feet drop. In comparison, Kumba features a 143 feet lift hill with a 135 feet drop that is curved more severely since the following loop 108 feet tall loop threads the lift hill; at which Medusa, the drop is straighter after the initial curve, and the loop stands on its own. Kumba reaches 63 mph while Medusa hit 61 mph.
Medusa vertical loop is an impressive 114 feet, and after crossing under the ride final brakes, the train then rises into a spectacular 96 feet Dive Loop, where the train twists to the right as it inverts before plunging guests toward the ground straight down. This is a signature B&M element and another one follows, as the train speed past the waiting line and up into the Zero-Gravity Roll. This element is quite different on the Floorless and Sitdown roller coasters as whereas the Inverted Coaster features a rise, a nearly flat roll and then drop, this one is more of an elongated Corkscrew where riders feel a moment of weightlessness.
The 96 feet tall Dive Loop, seen here on this photo from Coaster Gallery.
The 78 feet tall Cobra Roll follows. Composed of a half-loop, half-corkscrew, half-corkscrew, and half-loop, this is the signature element of the ride since riders need to walk under the middle portion to access the ride and the ride entrance sign located here as well. A sharp rising curve to the right brings the train to the mid-course lift hill. This brief moment of respite can stop the train in case of an issue and allows for easier three train operations.
The train then drops down to the left and into the sharply banked spiral. An S-shaped hill that produces a brief moment of airtime (negative G force) bring the train into the Interlocking Corkscrews. Wrapped around each other and separated by a curve, this unique set of figures is quite a feast visually. The ride then ends with a curve to the right that provides more airtime, and the journey ends with a small rising turn to the left. The ride transfer track is located after another left curve and the train storage area attached to the main building. The pre station holding area is parallel to the three storage track.
Both photos appears courtesy of Coaster Gallery.
In a later article, we will chronicle how later, the ride was taken over by a supervillain and the unique changes that happened then.