Whizzer (roller coaster)
The Whizzer as it appeared in 2005, showing its unique lift hill.
|Previously known as Willard's Whizzer|
|Six Flags Great America|
|Park section||Hometown Square|
|California's Great America|
|Lift/launch system||Trains are powered by a hotrail|
|Height||70 ft (21 m)|
|Drop||64 ft (20 m)|
|Length||3,100 ft (940 m)|
|Speed||42 mph (68 km/h)|
|Max vertical angle||35°|
|Capacity||810 riders per hour|
|Height restriction||36 in (91 cm)|
Flash Pass Available
|Whizzer at RCDB
Pictures of Whizzer at RCDB
Whizzer is the name of two identical roller coasters built for the Marriott Corporation for each of their “Great America” parks at their debut in 1976. One was built in Gurnee, Illinois, at Six Flags Great America and the other in Santa Clara, California, at what is now California's Great America. Marriott continued to operate both parks until selling them in 1984. Manufactured by Anton Schwarzkopf of Germany, the two rides were the last “Speedracer” models ever built. The Whizzer at California's Great America was dismantled in 1988 while the Whizzer in Illinois continues to operate at Six Flags Great America, one of only two Speedracers still in existence worldwide (the other operating as Broca at Parque Nacional Del Café in Montenegro, Colombia).
Originally named “Willard’s Whizzer” in honor of J. Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott Corporation, this family-friendly roller coaster navigates through a deeply wooded area behind the Hometown Square section of the park. An electric motor beneath each car powers the four-car trains to the top of a unique spiral lift hill, where gravity then takes control and delights riders with a series of swooping dives and ground-hugging turns. Guests sit in comfortable, tandem-style seats that were originally designed without any form of restraint device but currently utilize seatbelts.
From the start, both Whizzers suffered from problems with the braking system that would sometimes allow the trains to collide in the station. Unfortunately, no immediate solution was put forth to remedy this problem. In one four-year period, from 1976 to 1979, there were at least 11 recorded instances of station collisions on the California's Great America ride, resulting in an unknown number of injuries. There were also two instances of station collisions on the Six Flags Great America ride - both of which occurred less than a month apart in 1976. A total of 31 riders were injured in the Gurnee collisions. Then on March 29, 1980, a 14-year-old boy was killed and eight others injured when two trains collided at the station on the Santa Clara Whizzer. Following the accident, both rides underwent several changes. Seatbelts were added, the braking system was modified and the number of trains that could be run at once was reduced from five to three. Willard’s name was also dropped, leaving the ride’s name as simply "Whizzer." Marriott never reported the potential safety hazard to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which led to a 1981 civil penalty amounting to $70,000.
The Gurnee Whizzer, at what is now Six Flags Great America, celebrated 30 years on May 29, 2006. It continues to thrill riders of all ages, and with the push toward more family-friendly entertainment by Six Flags C.E.O. Mark Shapiro, its future looks bright. However, that hasn’t always been the case. In August 2002, fueled by increasing maintenance costs, it was made public that the Whizzer would be removed to make way for a new attraction to open in 2003. The park wanted to give guests the opportunity to ride one of its more popular and nostalgic attractions one last time. Then, the park abruptly reversed their decision to remove the Whizzer and closed Shockwave, a large, seven-inversion steel roller coaster, instead. The park cited overwhelming public outcry as reason for the last-minute change. Superman: Ultimate Flight took to the skies in 2003 over the spot where Shockwave once stood.
Santa Clara Whizzer
After Marriott sold California's Great America to the city of Santa Clara under management of the Kings Entertainment Company, the Whizzer continued to operate until it was subsequently demolished in 1988. A few cement footers still remain, outlining the spot where the ill-fated Whizzer once stood. After the Whizzer was initially demolished, the station remained standing for years until Xtreme Skyflyer (upcharge attraction) was built on the Whizzer's former site in the late 1990s.
As-of the 2013 season, this spot is now partially taken by a new wooden rollercoaster, Gold Striker.
Guests are seated two per seat (toboggan-style, with the taller person sitting in the rear and the shorter person sitting in front) and fasten their seatbelts. The train is dispatched from the station and quickly engages with an electrified center rail at that base of the lift that provides power to an electric motor beneath each of the train’s four cars. Riders make their way to the top of the 70-foot (21 m) spiral lift where the train disengages the electrified rail and allows gravity to take over. The lift propulsion system is identical to those found on Anton Schwarzkopf’s various "Jet Star" models. After leaving the lift, the train slowly picks up speed as it travels down the first drop at a shallow angle. At the bottom of the first drop, the track banks sharply to the right and turns around 200 degrees before beginning to ascend the second hill. There, riders have a chance to catch their breath as the train slowly makes a 220-degree turn to the left. Before long the train is accelerating rapidly down a swooping turn to the right where riders are treated to the most exhilarating portion of the ride – a 270-degree turn through the trees and within feet from the ground. After re-emerging from the foliage, the train ascends to the midcourse brake run, where the train could be stopped if the need arose. After passing through the brakes, the track banks to the right and the speeding train hugs the spiral lift with a 200-degree turn (during the late 1970s, when the Whizzer ran more than three trains, riders would pass right by the next train full of riders making their way up the spiral lift). Next, the train dips down over a small pond and up into a few more dips and turns before completing the ride with a large 585-degree helix. Riders finally exit the woods and head into the brake run before returning to the station.
Whizzer was designed in 1976 as a coaster for everyone, including both younger and older guests. Depending on crowd levels, the Whizzer often runs with two trains, but on busy days, it may run three. Trains are cycled and rehabbed each season to keep all necessary components running smoothly. Since 2004, Whizzer has been running with trains 3, 4 and 5. All three of the trains currently in use received new paint for the 2011 season.
|Golden Ticket Awards: Top steel Roller Coasters|
- Commission Files Complaints Following Fatal Accidents On Amusement Park Rides
- Commission Announces Settlement Of Civil Penalty Action Involving Amusement Rides
- CoasterGallery.com - Six Flags Great America
- GREATAMERICAparks.com - Information
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today 12 (6.2): 36–37. September 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today 13 (6.2): 32–33. September 2009. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today 14 (6.2): 34–35. September 2010. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today 15 (6.2): 38–39. September 2011. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today 16 (6.2): 36–37. September 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- "2013 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today 17 (6.2): 34–35. September 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- History of the Gurnee and Santa Clara Whizzer roller coasters
- Photos of Dismantled Whizzer in California.
- List of Anton Schwarzkopf Speedracer models
- Anton Schwarzkopf Speedracer catalogue overview
- Additional Gurnee Whizzer photos and information
- Additional Santa Clara Whizzer photos and information
- Video of the Whizzer in action