Whizzer (roller coaster)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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
Coordinates 42°22′06″N 87°56′08″W / 42.368199°N 87.935659°W / 42.368199; -87.935659Coordinates: 42°22′06″N 87°56′08″W / 42.368199°N 87.935659°W / 42.368199; -87.935659
Status Operating
Opening date 1976 (1976)
California's Great America
Coordinates 37°23′46″N 121°58′29″W / 37.396057°N 121.974689°W / 37.396057; -121.974689
Status Removed
Opening date 1976 (1976)
Closing date 1988 (1988)
General statistics
Type Steel
Manufacturer Anton Schwarzkopf
Designer Werner Stengel
Model Speed Racer / Extended Jumbo Jet
Track layout Terrain
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)
Inversions 0
Duration 2:00
Max vertical angle 35°
Capacity 810 riders per hour
G-force 3.0
Height restriction 36 in (91 cm)
Trains 3 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 1 across in 6 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Flash Pass Available
Whizzer at RCDB
Pictures of Whizzer at RCDB

Whizzer is an Anton Schwarzkopf Speedracer roller coaster located at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. It was one of two identical roller coasters built for the Marriott Corporation for each of their “Great America” parks at their debut in 1976, with an identical version of the Whizzer at 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 California Whizzer was dismantled in 1988 while the Illinois Whizzer remains in operation, as one of only two Speedracers still in existence worldwide (the other operating as Broca (formerly known as Zambezi Zinger) 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 tandem-style seats that were originally designed without any form of restraint device but currently utilize seatbelts.

Troubled beginnings[edit]

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 version, resulting in an unknown number of injuries. There were also two 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 13-year-old boy was killed and eight others injured when two trains collided at the station on the Santa Clara Whizzer.[1][2] 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.[3]

Gurnee Whizzer[edit]

Six Flags Great America's Whizzer celebrated 30 years on May 29, 2006. It continues to thrill riders of all ages, and Park President Hank Salemi has assured guests and coaster enthusiasts alike that the ride will continue to thrill guests at the park for years to come. 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.[4] 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 opened in 2003 on the plot of land formerly occupied by Shockwave.

Santa Clara Whizzer[edit]

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.[5] 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, part of the Whizzer's former spot is occupied by Gold Striker.

Ride experience[edit]

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 today[edit]

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.


The Whizzer has been recognized as an ACE Coaster Landmark and received a plaque on August 10, 2012.[6]

Golden Ticket Awards: Top steel Roller Coasters
Year 2008 2009 2013 2014 2015
Ranking 45[7] 47[8] 40[9] 44[10] 46[11]


  1. ^ Kaplan, Tracy (June 13, 2015). "Previous accidents at Great America". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved March 15, 2016. 
  2. ^ Commission Files Complaints Following Fatal Accidents On Amusement Park Rides
  3. ^ Commission Announces Settlement Of Civil Penalty Action Involving Amusement Rides
  4. ^ CoasterGallery.com - Six Flags Great America
  5. ^ GREATAMERICAparks.com - Information
  6. ^ http://www.aceonline.org/CoasterAwards/details.aspx?id=83
  7. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 12 (6.2): 36–37. September 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 13 (6.2): 32–33. September 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ "2013 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 17 (6.2): 34–35. September 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ "2014 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 18 (6.2): 46–47. September 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  11. ^ "2015 Top 50 steel Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 19 (6.2): 49–50. September 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 

External links[edit]