Shuttle Loops around the world: part 4 of our look at the world’s tallest roller coasters

Shuttle Loops around the world: part 4 of our look at the world’s tallest roller coasters

The first roller coasters to beat the record of Lake Placid Bobsled were the Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop Coaster.  Designed by Werner Stengel, built by Schwarzkopf of Germany, and sold and supported by Intamin from Switzerland, this unique attraction consisted of a station, a launch system, a vertical loop, and angled ramps on each side.  The ride started with a launch from a standstill, followed by an intense 72 feet tall vertical loop and then up at 138 feet tall 70° ramp.  The train then rolled backward off the ramp, through the loop again, and flew through the station.  The train then went back up a 111 feet 70° ramp and is then slowed and stopped in the station.

The first four installations in 1977 and 1978 used a Weight-Drop catapult launch system.  On the far 138 feet ramp, a 40 tons weight is installed in a large cylinder.  A cable connects it to a different set of wires connected to a metal sled.  The metal sled pushes against the back of the seven-car train; when it is time to launch, the brakes open, and the cable from the weight is engaged to the sled cables using a clutch that connects it to a pulley system that triples the energy from the gravity drop.  The weight drops, accelerating the train to 53-60 mph and pushing it forward a fair way down the initial launch track portion.  At the end of the launch, the sled goes under the track, tucking itself out of the way of the returning train.  A separate drive system brings the launch sled back to the end of the station, and it is only when the train stops that it pops out and engages contact with the train. 

Here is a list of the four Weight-Drop installations and where they operate today:

  • White Lightnin’, Carowinds (Charlotte, NC). Ride ran from 1977 to 1988 at Carowinds and was sold to Gold Reef City in South Africa, where it has been operating since 1989. Ride used the lattice variant of Vertical Loop.
  • King Kobra, Kings Dominion (Doswell, VA). Ride ran from 1977 to 1986 at Kings Dominion, before getting sold to Jolly Roger, a park in Ocean City, MD. The ride ran there from 1987 to 1989 before it got sold to Alton Towers. The ride received temporary planning permission to operate due to high noise and visibility from outside the park. Thunderlooper as it was known went in a new park area where it ran from 1990 to 1996. The ride then recrossed the Atlantic Ocean, where it was one of the opening day atttraction at Hopi Hari in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1999. The ride is now known as Katapul with a Superman theme. Like the Carowinds Shuttle Loop, this one features the lattice variant of Vertical Loop.
  • Tidal Wave/Greased Lightnin’, California’s Great America. The ride ran from 1977 to 2002 at its original park. The parts were then sold to Six Flags who combined it with its sister ride at Kentucky Kingdom.
  • Tidal Wave, Six Flags Great America. The ride ran from 1978 to 1991 at its original park, before Six Flags transfered it to Six Flags Over Georgia (Austell, GA) for a 1996 installation. Renamed the Viper with a swamp theme, the ride closed after the 2001 season and was sent up to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (Louisville, KY) and installed in 2003. After the 2005 season, Six Flags had purchased the California’s Tidal Wave and changed some track section and the train, reuniting the sister rides.

Both Tidal Wave were purchased from Intamin (Schwarzkopf US representative and ride broker at the time) by Marriott’s for installations at their two parks. While it uses the Weight Drop launch system, it introduced the box track Schwarzkopf loop variant.

The weight-drop system was unpredictable and quite heavy.  As a result, the train always slowed down a lot when it returned through the station, leading to harsh braking and motions.  In 1978 and after, the remaining 8 Shuttle Loop switched the weight-drop system for a Flywheel.  A six-ton flywheel is installed under the launch track, and it consistently spins to build up energy.  Once it is time to launch, the flywheel spins to 1044 rpm (rotation per minute) and engages a 4:1 speed reducer.  The resulting energy transfers to a drive pulley, and this is what propels the metal sled.  The metal sled going under the track is similar to the earlier version. Here is the list of the 8 Flywheel Shuttle Loop that Schwarzkopf manufactured.

  • Montezooma’s Revenge, Knott’s Berry Farm (Buena Park, CA). The ride opened in 1978 and still operates in its original location with only minor modifications, the most important one consisting of individual seatbelts in addition to the lap bar. The ride has at least two trains, allowing the park to switch the train when it is time for its annual maintenance while keeping the ride open with minimal closing time.
  • Greezed Lightnin’, Six Flags AstroWorld (Houston, TX). The ride ran from 1978 to the park closure in 2005. The ride had a tunnel on its launch track and was quite popular at the park. The ride was sold at auction to Joyland Amusement Park (Lubbock, TX), but the ride was never put up. Its train was sold in 2017 to Frontier City in Oklahoma City, OK for future use on the Silver Bullet roller coaster, which as of 2021 has not yet happened.
  • Shuttle Loop, Yokohama Dreamland (Yokohama, Japan). The ride ran from 1979 to 2002, when the park closed and the ride was scrapped.
  • Shuttle Loop, Toshimaen (Tokyo, Japan). The ride ran from 1980 to 2008 at Toshimaen. The ride was then purchased by Van der Most Beheer B.V., a dutch ride broker and ride rehabilitation specialist who wanted to install it at a new park park in Rotterdam. The park opened in 2018 without the ride and the ride has been on the market since.
  • Shuttle Loop, Nagashima Spaland (Kuwana, Mie, Japan). Ride has been operating since 1980 in its original location.
  • Laser Loop, Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA). Ride ran from 1980 to 1991 when it was sold to La Feria de Chapultepec (Mexico City, MX). Laser Loop was replaced by a record breaking roller coaster and it reopened in 1994 in Mexico as Cascabel. It ran until 2019 and the ride was listed for sale on a ride broker website, but the listing was removed.
  • Sirocco/Turbine/Psyke Underground, Walibi Belgium (Wavre, Belgium). The ride opened in 1982 when Schwarzkopf had an asian contract fall through. Eddy Meeus, owner of Walibi, picked up the ride and installed it at his park under the name of Sirocco. In 1997, after a ride breakdown caused riders to be stranded upside down, the ride was partly enclosed in 1999 and renamed Turbine to also address noise concerns from residents who lived right behind the attraction. The ride operated as Turbine from 1999 to 2008, where it closed due to age and a deteriorating launch system. The ride reopened in 2013 as Pyske Underground with its two spikes covered in tubes, a new storyline and a new train and launch system from Gerstlauer. The new launch system use tire drives to move the train from the station into a section of side mounted Linear Induction Motors, in an attempt to make the launch as close as possible to the original Flywheel system.
  • Shuttle Loop, Oyama Yuenchi (Oyama, Japan). The 8th Flywheel Shuttle Loop was recently discovered on a photo and it opened sometimes between 1980 and 1990 and closed down in 2005. Given the timeline, it could have been built by Sansei-Yusoki after Schwarzkopf 1983-1983 bankrupcy or delivered before.

One interesting aspect of the Shuttle Loop is that until 1980, they were all sold by other companies on behalf of Schwarzkopf. The north american ones were sold by Intamin and the japanese ones sold by Sansei-Yusoki. When Schwarzkopf broke out on his own for ride sales, he struck a deal with Eddy Meeus where Walibi would only pay him the full purchase price if the park broke a certain attendance and revenue threshold. Walibi Wavre (as the park was known then) didn’t reach that threshold, which meant that Walibi got the ride at a large discount, adding to Schwarzkopf financial challenges.