Thunderbolt (Savin Rock)

Last updated
Thunderbolt Savin Rock Postcard.jpg
Postcard of Thunderbolt
Savin Rock
Location Savin Rock
Coordinates 41°15′25″N72°57′00″W / 41.257°N 72.950°W / 41.257; -72.950 Coordinates: 41°15′25″N72°57′00″W / 41.257°N 72.950°W / 41.257; -72.950
Opening dateMay 5, 1925 (1925-05-05)
Closing dateSeptember 21, 1938 (1938-09-21)
General statistics
Type Wood
Manufacturer Traver Engineering
Designer Frank Prior and Frederick Church
Height92 ft (28 m)
Length5,000 ft (1,500 m)
Thunderbolt at RCDB
Pictures of Thunderbolt at RCDB

Thunderbolt was a wooden roller coaster which operated at Savin Rock Amusement Park in West Haven, Connecticut, from 1925 until 1938 when it was destroyed by a hurricane. It was rebuilt in modified form in 1939 and it continued to operate until 1956. [1] When it was first built, it was purported to be the fastest roller coaster in the world. [2] [3]



Originally named "The Bobs", the coaster was best known by its later name of Thunderbolt. [1] It was designed by noted roller coaster engineers Frank Prior and Frederick Church and built by the Traver Engineering Company. [4] The coaster was built approximately 500 feet (150 m) out onto Liberty Pier in Long Island Sound and could be easily seen from up and down the beach and from several nearby piers. [1] [5] [6] It was quite popular, financially successful, and is thought to have driven at least one other nearby coaster out of business. [1]

In 1936, the Thunderbolt was struck by lightning which caused damage to its mechanical operation. [1] The coaster was closed the remainder of that year but reopened for the 1937 season. [1] In 1938, however, the coaster was destroyed by the Great New England Hurricane. [1] [3] [5] [6] The coaster was rebuilt in 1939 and renamed the Giant Flyer. [7] [1] The ride was somewhat modified in this rebuild, however, and is thought to have become a less exciting ride as a result; it was demolished in 1957. [1] The flagpole from the ride is preserved in the Savin Rock Museum. [8]

Layout and ride experience

Standing approximately 90 feet (27 m) tall and approximately 5,000 feet (1,500 m) long, [3] [8] Thunderbolt had a fearsome reputation and violent ride experience (as was common for Traver coasters). [1] Its layout was very similar to the Revere Beach Cyclone (another Traver-built coaster). [1] Although exact speeds are not given, several sources suggest that it was the fastest roller coaster in the world when it was built. [2] [3] The ride had several reported fatalities (before 1938), and it was said to shake riders so much that ride operators would collect valuables that fell loose to the pier floor. [1] The ride had a much milder reputation after its rebuild in 1939. [1]

See also

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  2. 1 2 Tedeschi, Bob (April 22, 2009). "The Complications of Reviving a Memory". The New York Times. West Haven, CT. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
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  7. Marden, Duane. "Giant Flyer  (Savin Rock)". Roller Coaster DataBase . Retrieved June 4, 2017.
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