Rolling Thunder (roller coaster)

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Rolling Thunder
Rolling Thunder's entrance
Six Flags Great Adventure
Park section Plaza del Carnaval
Coordinates 40°08′21.70″N 74°26′3.40″W / 40.1393611°N 74.4342778°W / 40.1393611; -74.4342778Coordinates: 40°08′21.70″N 74°26′3.40″W / 40.1393611°N 74.4342778°W / 40.1393611; -74.4342778
Status Removed
Opening date 1979 (1979)
Closing date September 8, 2013 (September 8, 2013)
Replaced by Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom
El Diablo
General Statistics
Type Wood – Racing
Manufacturer William Cobb & Associates
Designer Don Rosser & William Cobb
Model Racing roller coaster
Track layout Figure 8/Out and back
Lift/launch system Chain
Height 96 ft (29.3 m)
Drop 85 ft (25.9 m)
Length 3,200 ft (975.4 m)
Speed 56 mph (90.1 km/h)
Inversions 0 0
Duration 2:10
Max vertical angle 45°
Capacity 3840 riders per hour
Height restriction 44 in (112 cm)
Trains 4 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Flash Pass Available
Rolling Thunder at RCDB
Pictures of Rolling Thunder at RCDB

Rolling Thunder was a racing wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. Rolling Thunder was the park's first wooden coaster, and debuted in 1979 during the park's fifth anniversary season. The line for the ride began at an adjoining entrance and had separate queues for each track. The queue to the right of the entrance lead to the Coaster 1 track and Coaster 2 was reached by the queue on the left. Guests who were not tall enough for 54-inch (137 cm) height-requiring coasters would ride Rolling Thunder as it had a 44-inch (112 cm) height requirement.

Structure & track[edit]

2003 photo showing lift hill and portion of Rolling Thunder's tracks on left (Viper is on the right)

The structure and track was mostly built from 850,000 feet (259,080 m) of Douglas Fir. In the past, the Douglas Fir had been treated with pesticides which were not considered environmentally friendly and the track and supports were slowly being replaced with southern yellow pine.

The track was made by bolting seven layers of wood. In most places on the ride, there were two layers of southern yellow pine, which sat atop five layers of Douglas-Fir. Older sections of track still had seven layers of Douglas-Fir (mostly on the lift) and there were refurbished sections of track with seven layers of southern pine. A 7-inch-wide (180 mm) strip of steel was bolted onto the top layer of wood track and three-inch-wide pieces of steel were bolted onto the sides.

Unlike most racing coasters, Rolling Thunder's tracks were not always next to each other, they separated at several points in the ride. After the first drop, the left track traveled over a big hill, followed by a small hill, whereas the second track reversed that. On the turnaround at the back, the left track traveled up and made a level turn, while the right track traveled up and dropped while turning. The hills on the return segment were also staggered. The trains were not always raced.


There were four trains that were distinguishable by color: Red, Blue, Yellow and Green. Each train had four three-bench Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters cars held together by hitch bars. Each car contained six seats. Each train held a maximum of 24 riders.

The trains used buzz bars that locked in one position. Seat dividers and headrests were added in 1981 to prevent people from standing on the ride while it was in operation. Seat belts were added on the ride's 30th anniversary.

There were three types of wheels used on the trains. Sixteen road wheels rode on the steel layer on top of the track. Sixteen guide wheels guided the trains around the turned on a separate steel track located on the sides of the wooden track. Sixteen upstop wheels rode on the bottom of the track.


Rolling Thunder used skid brakes to stop the trains rather than modern fin brakes. The trains had brake pads underneath each car which slid against the brakes to lift the train's wheels off the track. The brakes were always in the up position unless the operator, in conjunction with the rear unloader attendant, advanced a train. The road wheels were heard spinning at the end of the ride and continued to spin until the operator, in conjunction with the unload attendant, advanced the train.

There were three sets of brakes. The trim and ready brakes were located in the tunnel at the end of the ride. The trim brake slowed and stopped the train and served as a holding place for one train until the second train left the station. The train was advanced off the trim and onto the ready brake. The ready brake held the train until the second train reached the top half of the lift hill. The Dispatch brake held the train in the station while it was being unloaded and loaded for the next ride. The trains were stopped manually and were not always aligned with the queue stalls in the station. Therefore, the attendants had to direct the guests to their rows from time to time before the airgates were opened.

When the brake pads and wheels got wet, there was little friction to stop the trains and they slid too far onto the brakes. For safety reasons, only one train ran per side in rainy weather.


To mark the 100th anniversary of roller coasters in the USA, Rolling Thunder's Coaster 2 side was renamed Rednuht Gnillor, the backwards spelling of "Rolling Thunder," in 1984. The trains were turned around so riders would view the ride while riding backwards. During this season, Rednuht Gnillor's warning signs were placed in the back of the station and on the back of the lift hill so riders could see them.

Rolling Thunder was standing but not operating in September and October 2005 and through most of the Spring of 2006 due to the construction of the Plaza del Carnival section and El Toro.

Rolling Thunder closed on September 8, 2013, to make room for Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom. Soon after Rolling Thunder closed, it was demolished, except for one part of the track which is still standing.[1]


On August 16, 1981, a 20-year-old park employee from Middletown, NJ fell from the coaster to his death during a routine test run. An investigation by the New Jersey Labor Department concluded that the man may not have secured himself with the safety bar. A park representative later confirmed this conclusion, saying that the employee "may have assumed an unauthorized riding position that did not make use of safety restraints." The ride was inspected, and the Labor Department concluded that the ride was "operationally and mechanically sound." [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Six Flags Great Adventure Announces World Record-Breaking Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, 2014". 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  2. ^ "Ride in Jersey Park Opens After Death". New York Times. 1981-08-18. Retrieved 2017-06-23.