Thunderhawk (Dorney Park)

Last updated
Previously known as "The Coaster"
Thunderhawk's lift hill and station
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Coordinates 40°34′47″N75°32′08″W / 40.5798°N 75.5355°W / 40.5798; -75.5355 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
Pictures of 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 well-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.

2016 Renovations

For 2016, 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 white coat of paint, reminiscent of the coaster's original color [2] and a new white lighting package to outline the entire ride. [2]


Related Research Articles

Roller coaster Ride developed for amusement parks

A roller coaster is a type of amusement ride that employs a form of elevated railroad track designed with tight turns, steep slopes, and sometimes inversions. People ride along the track in open cars, and the rides are often found in amusement parks and theme parks around the world. LaMarcus Adna Thompson obtained one of the first known patents for a roller coaster design in 1885, related to the Switchback Railway that opened a year earlier at Coney Island. The track in a coaster design does not necessarily have to be a complete circuit, as shuttle roller coasters demonstrate. Most roller coasters have multiple cars in which passengers sit and are restrained. Two or more cars hooked together are called a train. Some roller coasters, notably Wild Mouse roller coasters, run with single cars.

Wooden roller coaster type of roller coaster

A wooden roller coaster is most often classified as a roller coaster with running rails made of flattened steel strips mounted on laminated wooden track. Occasionally, the support structure may be made out of a steel lattice or truss, but the ride remains classified as a wooden roller coaster due to the track design. The type of wood typically used in the construction of wooden coasters is Southern Yellow Pine, usually grown in the US and the rest of North America.

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Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, commonly referred to as PTC, is one of the oldest existing roller coaster manufacturing companies in the world. Based in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, it was established in 1904 by Henry Auchey and Chester Albright under the name Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The company manufactured carousels, wooden roller coasters, toboggans and later, roller coaster trains.

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  1. "Michael Fehnel on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  2. 1 2 3 "New Roller Coasters & New Attractions! Find What's New | Dorney Park". Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  3. Stanley, Liz (July 24, 1990). "17 Checked At Hospitals In Dorney Coaster Crash". The Morning Call. Retrieved October 6, 2013.