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Retro PTR: Six Flags Great America 1991

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Like I said... boredom + scanner + three-day weekend = retro photo TR


These pictures are from a trip to SFGAm in July or August of 1991. The color/lighting are pretty off in some of the pictures, but I tried to pretty them up as much as possible in Photoshop.


Parking lot. Coaster. (Again, check out the cars.)


This was the first of what would be many pre-drop and twisting drops on B&M coasters.



Iron Wolf with the classic trains. Ear-boxing goodness.


The Eagle, as seen from Iron Wolf's station.


POV! POV! Nice watch, dude. I wore a Timex Ironman, myself.


The then one-year-old Iron Wolf, taken from Eagle's lift hill. (It was a smooth-ish ride then too.)


Taken from the station on the red side.


Look at how much the trees grew in 13 years.


The Eagle was always a gorgeous ride.


Shockwave's first loop... through the trees! (I'm telling you, I was a "through the trees" pioneer.)


Shockwave loomed over the park entrance. You could always hear the clack-clack-clack of the lift hill followed by a whoosh and then screaming. Screams of pain, no doubt.


Parking lot. Coaster. (Check out the cars... ugh)


Shockwave as seen from the park entrance. Back when this ride was new, it was intimidating as hell seeing that mass of tangled track and supports. And it was actually a smooth-ish ride back then!


The American Eagle, as seen from I-94. It was always awesome to see that massive helix as you approached the park.

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Back to the retro...


Thirteen years later, no more water. Proof of global warming? I'm super serial.


One of my favorite pictures. Notice all the water.


Makin' it better.


Tissues? Check. Lotion? Check.


That's a fine first drop right there on Demon.


Taken from Whitewater Rampage's line (which later became Roaring Rapids... lame).


Ah, blackout goodness. Maybe if Ron Toomer had actually ridden one of his rides, he would've realized how much they hurt to ride.


Through the damn trees. And efficient three-train operation.


I remember being seriously irritated that Shockwave's drop didn't go all the way to the ground. This is what concerned me at age 13. By age 18, I was more interested in Shockwave being melted down.


Sorry for the angle... I was trying to fit in the whole drop. Just tilt your head.


If only it felt as good as it looked...



Shockwave's towering first loop and the new-for-1991 Condor.


Le boomerang. Notice the bike rack.


Those of you who lived in the Chicagoland area will remember this ubiquitous shot of Shockwave's corkscrews... in commercials, in brochures, on Dominick's paper bags...

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I loved those lights on the waves alongside the track. Such a good ride. And I just got the chance to ride it again at Kentucky Kingdom last month. That was a long 15 years between rides.


Tidal Wave, in its first incarnation! (And its last year at SFGAm)


Painfully good hangtime on Power Dive, the thinly-veiled ripoff of Top Gun. (Cue Top Gun guitar theme music...)


A little Eagle, a little Demon, a little Splashwater Falls...

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Great Shots, I actually miss Shockwave! I have been going out to SFGAM every year for about 12 years now, so I missed the "Tidal Wave" where exactly in the park was that at? was it where Batman the ride is?



and here is a shot of The Whizzer...


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WOW, that brings back some serious memories. I made my only trip to SFGam in June of 1991. Shockwave didn't open until later in the day and then it was a 1 1/2 wait. Tidal Wave was an awesome ride. I really need to get back to that park.

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Awesome, there's the abomination known as Rolling Thunder.


I miss Shockwave in it's early years, although that MCBR was always bad. I've got pictures of the Demon as Turn of the Century somewhere....

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I'm sure I've told this story before, but it's always worth telling.


In it's last year in the park, I got my first (and only) ride on Shockwave. And I loved it. It was as smooth as glass, and I was sitting in the very last row. It was incredibly intense, and the only place of roughness I had was the turn into the MCBR. Definately one of my most memorable coaster moments. If the Arrows ran like that all the time, they would be amazing rides, as the design of them is good. It's just the roughness that kills their rides sometimes.


But really, that was one amazing ride.


And, I got a really good ride on Iron Wolf last year. It was in the very front row, and it showed what Iron Wolf could really do. The second half of that ride is incredibly intense and is just really insane.


I love the American Eagle! Great America has been running it really well the past couple years, especially this year. The brakes are on very light throughout the course, and the helix was really forceful this year. Airtime city on Red's out and return run. Blue is okay, but it's just not as good. Front seat = awesomness on the American Eagle. Smooth, intense, fun ride.

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I remember the first few years Shockwave was open, the line would stretch all the way out to the train bridge near Power Dive. To give you an idea of how long that was, look at this picture from Joyrides and then put your finger about four inches to the right of the screen. That's how long the line was regularly. Shockwave was the shiz-nit.


The first time I rode it, my friend and I happened to catch it right after it had been down for a few hours. We walked right on and got two more walk-ons afterward. On the third ride, I think I was pushing back on the headrest so hard that I must have pulled a muscle in my neck or my back during the double loop (or maybe I just got whiplash). It hurt just to inhale after that, and I honestly thought I had broken my neck. Luckily, I recovered and was able to ride Shockwave for another, oh, six years before I couldn't tolerate the beatings anymore.

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the first time I rode Shockwave, I really enjoyed the ride, but it seems like each year after that, it got worse and worse--still I was sad to see it go, I liked the way the first drop looked in the skyline of the park.


but alas bigger and better things come along!

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^ Six Flags Great America isn't bad by any means. In fact, it's probably one of the best (and most underrated) parks in this country. Quite a few of the original rides are still in the park, it is run well, quite a bit of the original scenery is there, and it has expanded well.


It's actually a great park.

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^ Six Flags Great America isn't bad by any means. In fact, it's probably one of the best (and most underrated) parks in this country. Quite a few of the original rides are still in the park, it is run well, quite a bit of the original scenery is there, and it has expanded well.


It's actually a great park.


I didn't say it is bad. As a coaster destination, I agree, it is a great park. What I am saying is this. When Marriott built Great America, it was a spotless park with great theming. It was as if they were emulating Disney, and doing a great job at it IMO. If Marriott hadn't built the park in the first place SFGAm would be a Six Flags on par with Kentucky Kingdom, or Six Flags America in terms of character.

All in all, every time I have been there I have had a great time, though the $.05 root beers at JW's root beer stand is sorely missed.

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^ Good point about the theming. I still remember when the park employees had different uniforms based on which themed section of the park they worked in. Ride ops for the Eagle wore old-timey clothes (not unlike this) to match the County Fair theme. And imagine my surprise when I went to the French Quarter in New Orleans for the first time and thought to myself, "These buildings look just like the ones outside Shockwave." There was definitely an attention to detail.


Speaking of the Marriott days, here's an excellent website devoted to both the Gurnee and Santa Clara Great Americas: http://www.greatamericaparks.com/index.html

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