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ShockWave (Six Flags Great America)

ShockWave (Six Flags Great America)

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roller coaster
ShockWave layout.jpg
Six Flags Great America
Location Gurnee, Illinois, USA
Status Defunct
Operated June 3, 1988 to 2002
Height restriction 54 inches (137 cm)
Manufacturer Arrow Dynamics
Type Steel
Model / product Custom Looping Coaster
Riders per train 28
Hourly capacity 2000
Propulsion Chain lift hill
Height170 feet
Drop155 feet
Top speed65 mph
Length3900 feet

ShockWave was a steel roller coaster located at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, USA. At 170 feet tall and reaching speeds of 65 mph, it was the tallest and fastest inverting roller coaster in the world, and surpassed Vortex at Kings Island (which opened the year before) with the most inversions in the world, at seven.

History[edit | edit source]

Early history[edit | edit source]

The ShockWave opened in 1988. When it opened it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster with inversions, and had the most inversions on a roller coaster. It was manufactured by Arrow Dynamics and built by McHenry Construction. The foundations were built by Camosy Inc.

Operational Issues[edit | edit source]

ShockWave had many problems with maintenance and operation. In 1991, a fracture in the track of the first loop developed. It was caused by the speed and stress from the train negotiating this part of the ride and needed attention on a regular basis in order to remain safe for operation. The wheels for the ride were quite expensive and, according to some ride operators, wore out quickly, which required a vigilant crew and frequent closures for a period of ten to fifteen minutes for maintenance staff to be dispatched to fit new ones.[1]

Closure[edit | edit source]

The ride dismantled, and sitting in the parking lot.

The ShockWave had gained a reputation as being an overly intense ride, as evidenced by postings in roller coaster forums and enthusiast newsgroups. Finally, a rumoured accident involving a wheel separation in August 2002, coupled with these issues, most likely led to the ride being taken down in the fall 2002 to make way for Superman Ultimate Flight.

Superman was originally planned to replace the smaller Whizzer roller coaster. Since Whizzer was far more popular than Shockwave (at least to the general public), the decision was made to keep Whizzer and dismantle Shockwave instead. The ride was put in storage, as at the time the park planned to relocate the roller coaster.[2] It was dismantled by the same company who put it together, McHenry Construction.

Fate[edit | edit source]

After attempts to sell the coaster or relocate it to another Six Flags park failed, it was scrapped at the end of the 2004 season. To this day, coaster fans lament the decision to replace the intense and classic ShockWave with the arguably tame and uneventful Superman: Ultimate Flight, although the occasional complaints of roughness and demise of Arrow Dynamics all but assured its removal from Great America.

The yellow and blue trains were sent to Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the red train was sent to Six Flags Great Adventure, as part donors for Viper and Great American Scream Machine respectively.

Remains of ShockWave[edit | edit source]

  • The ride's entrance sign was donated to the American Coaster Enthusiasts' Museum.
  • Several bolts were auctioned off at a coaster convention.
  • A few support poles remain in the park's employee parking lot.
  • The lift motor was installed on the park's Demon roller coaster, also manufactured by Arrow.
  • The large metal gates that were once part of ShockWave's entrance were painted black and can be found during Fright Fest as part of the entrance to the Seven Sins Cemetery.
  • A portion of the spiral staircase once used to gain access to the maintenance platform between the 3rd loop and block brake is now used at the base of Whizzer’s lift hill.
  • An air compressor and a scrap of track are being used as props for Fright Fest.
  • The station was moved into the junk/bone yard near the employee parking lot and was boarded up. It is now used for storage.
  • The main queue house for ShockWave was retained and is used now as the queue house for Superman: Ultimate Flight.
  • A small segment of track was re-fabricated for use on Demon to replace a corroding segment of track.
  • A small scrap of the ride consisting of a rail and rail tie was taken from the junkyard by a roller coaster enthusiast.[3]

Design[edit | edit source]


Trains[edit | edit source]

3 trains with 7 cars per train. In each car, riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows for a total of 28 riders per train. The trains were built by Arrow Dynamics and were coloured red, yellow and blue. Riders were held in by over-the-shoulder restraints.

Ride experience[edit | edit source]

The batwing element

ShockWave started by rolling over the transfer track, and entered a short drop before making a tight un-banked U-turn toward the lift hill. Once at the top of the lift, the riders entered the 150° approximately left twisting drop, speeding down to the ground. Riders then climbed up to the first vertical loop, high above the queue line. A 90° left turn followed, and then the two consecutive vertical loops. Next, the train rose up and negotiated a very tight left turn into the mid-course block brake run. After slowing down to almost a complete stop, riders went through a zig-zag turn and drop and entered the batwing element, getting their pictures taken between the two inversions. Upon exiting the element, the train made an approximately 180° turn to the right and entered the clockwise-turning double corkscrew. Finally, riders went over a small bunny hill and made a roughly 210° turn to the left, entering the long brake run leading to the station.

Similar rides[edit | edit source]

A year after ShockWave opened, Great American Scream Machine debuted at Six Flags Great Adventure; this coaster had almost exactly the same layout as ShockWave, but was three feet taller and had a top speed of 68 mph, and had its camera at the double corkscrew element, instead of the batwing. Both records, like those of ShockWave before it, lasted only one year: Viper opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain in 1990 and set the records for tallest (188 feet tall) and fastest (70 mph) inverting roller coaster. All three roller coasters were designed and manufactured by Arrow Dynamics, and all three had the same inversions in the same order: three vertical loops, a batwing, and a double corkscrew. Viper is nearly identical to the former Shockwave and Great American Scream Machine but has a slightly different ending, different transition between the first two vertical loops, and differently angled corners, creating a more compact ride footprint to fit the park. Currently, Viper is the only one of these three coasters still operating, as Great American Scream Machine closed on July 18, 2010, and has since been demolished.

References[edit | edit source]

Tallest complete-circuit roller coaster
June 1988 - April 1989
Preceded by
Tallest complete-circuit roller coaster
June 1988 - April 1989
Succeeded by
Great American Scream Machine
Most inversions on a roller coaster (7)
tied with
Great American Scream Machine

June 1988 - May 1995
Preceded by
Most inversions on a roller coaster (7)
tied with
Great American Scream Machine

June 1988 - May 1995
Succeeded by
Dragon Khan