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Thunderbolt

Kennywood

Dive into a deep ravine on the iconic Thunderbolt...

Theme ParkKennywood
TypeWooden Rollercoaster
AudienceThrillseekers
Opened1924 (as "The Pippin")
1968 ("Thunderbolt" modifications)
Height70 ft
Length2887 ft
Inversions0
Max Speed55 mph
Highest Drop 95 ft
Duration2¼ minutes
Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt

The former "King of Coasters" according to the New York Times in 1974, Thunderbolt is a superb wooden rollercoaster still giving thrills today at Kennywood.

Back in 1924, Kennywood opened The Pippin as the park's seventh rollercoaster and the fifth designed for them by the renowned John A Miller. A massive project was undertaken in 1967 under the direction of Andrew Vettel, son of famous rollercoaster builder Erwin Vettel, to tear down parts of the original coaster and build an even more thrilling ride. The improved ride was renamed Thunderbolt and opened in 1968.

Rather than the common lift hill start to a rollercoaster ride, Thunderbolt begins with a 50 foot drop out of the station into a natural ravine, diving underneath the track of Phantom's Revenge. The train climbs back up the other side of the ravine, then turns and heads back through the ravine in the opposite direction, ending up engaging on Thunderbolt's rather unique mid-course 70 foot lift hill.

After the lift hill comes a series of hills and banked turns beside Kennywood's midway before the train heads into the ravine once more. On the return journey to the station comes a surprise and one of Thunderbolt's best moments - the final drop is the largest of the ride, careering down 95 feet towards the bottom of the ravine before rising back up to the final brakes.

Thunderbolt uses National Amusement Device (NAD) Century Flyer trains, which look smart with their slightly shiny silver coloured metalwork and detailing. They are surprisingly comfortable too - as is the ride itself, given its age and potential for roughness.

Kennywood is blessed with multiple classic woodies, and Thunderbolt sits well within that collection. Its unique layout, spectacular drops into the ravine and huge final drop make it a superb rollercoaster more than worthy of its ranking amongst the world's best wooden coasters.

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