Thunderhawk (Dorney Park)

Last updated
Previously known as "The Coaster"
Thunderhawk's lift hill and station at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Location Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Coordinates 40°34′47″N75°32′08″W / 40.5798°N 75.5355°W / 40.5798; -75.5355
Opening dateMarch 30, 1924 (1924-03-30)
General statistics
Type Wood
Manufacturer Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters
Designer Herbert Paul Schmeck
Track layout Out and Back / Twister
Lift/launch systemChain lift hill
Height80 ft (24 m)
Drop65 ft (20 m)
Length2,767 ft (843 m)
Speed45 mph (72 km/h)
Inversions 0
Max vertical angle45°
Height restriction48 in (122 cm)
Trains2 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Cedar Fair Fast Lane availability icon.svg Fast Lane available
Thunderhawk at RCDB

Thunderhawk is a wooden roller coaster with an out-and-back layout located at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Originally opening as The Coaster in 1924, Thunderhawk is the oldest operating roller coaster in the Cedar Fair chain and one of the oldest in the world still in operation. It was manufactured by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters and designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck, who studied under the legendary John A. Miller and went on to mentor another renowned designer, John C. Allen.



Thunderhawk was designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. When Thunderhawk opened on March 30,1924 and for many years after the ride was known simply as the Coaster. The Coaster was renamed Thunderhawk with the addition of the Hercules roller coaster to the park in 1989.

Originally, the Coaster was built as an out-and-back coaster, meaning it went straight out from the first drop, turned around and came straight back. The ride was reconfigured in 1930 to its present design with a figure-eight twister section in the middle of the ride. Over the years, the ride has seen many cosmetic changes. At one point the ride featured a bright yellow paint job, which has since been painted over with an off-white color.

The original station pavilion featured a separate bumper car ride, around which wrapped the line for the Coaster, providing some entertainment to those waiting in line. Originally, the ride began with a tunneled section and ended with another tunneled section, as the train went under the portion of the pavilion devoted to the bumper cars. However, the bumper cars were removed following Cedar Fair's purchase of the park in 1993, leaving the tunnel that began the ride as an open concrete trench. In addition, a set of brakes was placed in the middle of the return bunny hills causing the train to slow down and lose much of its trademark airtime.

The Thunderhawk structure was maintained by carpenter Paul Hottenstein, nicknamed "Shorty," from 1961 until his sudden death in the winter of 2001. A plaque in the ride's station honors him and his work on the ride.

Thunderhawk continues to be one of the park's most popular and beloved rides. To this day, it remains a classic example of an early American wooden roller coaster.

For the 2016 season, Dorney Park announced major renovations to Thunderhawk. Among the changes were new trains designed by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, [1] featuring an open-air design, with individual ratcheting lap bars (as opposed to the previous "buzz bars"). [2] The ride also received a new coat of white paint, reminiscent of the coaster's original color, [2] and a new white lighting package to outline the entire ride. [2]

In 2021, the American Coaster Enthusiasts gave Thunderhawk an ACE Coaster Landmark plaque. [3]


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  3. "Thunderhawk becomes 45th coaster to receive ACE roller coaster landmark plaque".
  4. Report, Morning Call | Staff (1990-07-24). "17 CHECKED AT HOSPITALS IN DORNEY COASTER CRASH". The Morning Call. Retrieved 2024-02-16.