The Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure

Throughout Six Flags Great Adventure's history, the park has often led the theme park industry with the biggest and best attractions in the world, setting records in the process.   The Great American Scream Machine took its place in that history, taking the records (although very short lived) as the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world.   The partnership of Six Flags theme parks and Arrow Dynamics dated back to the beginning of Six Flags in the early 1960's and often resulted in innovations which shaped the theme park industry, and in many ways the Scream Machine was the culmination of that relationship and marked the beginning of the end for Arrow Dynamics as an industry leader.



During the 1987 season, Six Flags began planning to add the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster, with a then unheard of seven inversions.  After a spring and summer of bad publicity for the park and declining attendance, a last minute change in plans shifted the construction of the Arrow Dynamics designed Shockwave roller coaster to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois for the 1988 season instead. 

Great Adventure instead would introduce the Condor and Bugs Bunny Land for the 1988 season in an effort to rebuild the park's family image, but towards the end of the season, the Sarajevo Bobsled roller coaster was closed and removal began in preparation for the Great American Scream Machine's construction.

The Great American Scream Machine would take the record from Shockwave as the world's tallest and fastest coaster, featuring the same design as the Shockwave, but built a few feet taller.   In addition, the coaster improved on the Shockwave design with the configuration of the track in and out of the third vertical loop changed.  On Shockwave the trains entered the loop on the right and exited on the left - this made the climb up to the mid- course brake run tight and uncomfortable for riders.  Scream Machine's third loop was updated to enter from the left and exit from the right so the transition could be made a little smoother.

Originally, the plan was to name the Scream Machine the "Ninja" as part of a company wide wave of similar multi-element coasters with the same name, using the same logos, merchandise, and even advertising with their similar looking profiles.   After problems with the crowds drawn to the Ninja coasters in other parks, a decision was made to go with a more generic name, and then park president Ray Williams who had come to Great Adventure by way of Six Flags Over Georgia, which has the original Great American Scream Machine, and Six Flags Great America drew on the patriotic themes for the new coaster.  

As the removal of the Sarajevo Bobsled continued, a section of the parking lot became the staging area for the sections of track, supports and trains.   The parking lot would become home to the coaster.   Original plans had the Sarajevo Bobsled's station being re-used as part of the main queue house, and is depicted that way in the renderings.  However, so much of the structure had to be disassembled to remove the Bobsled's computers the idea was dropped. 

As the fall and winter went on, the Scream Machine rose up above the park skyline, offering a tantalizing view above the trees and down the park's exit road.

As the spring arrived, work continued trying to get the ride ready for opening day.   With delays caused by a very cold and snowy winter, the Great American Scream Machine wasn't quite ready in time for the park's opening day.   The structure was completed, but final installation of supports and welding continued, as well as work on the station and coverings for the walkway.

Finally, everything was ready for the media preview day on April 14th, and ready for the general public on Saturday, April 15th. 
News release announcing the Great American Scream Machine from September 29, 1988 
News releases prior to the rides opening from early 1989 
News releases from the Great American Scream Machine media day press kit 
News releases from the Great American Scream Machine media day press kit  
News releases from the Great American Scream Machine media day press kit  
  Season Pass mailer 
Construction photos from the park's PR Department 
Construction photos from the parks PR Department 
Construction photos from the parks PR Department  
Park brochure from the 1989 season 
Publicity photo  The Scream Machine on the 1989 map

An invitation to the Great American Scream Machine Media Day along with the ribbon from the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the ride.

The Great American Scream Machine button was issued to all park employees as part of their uniforms, and the "Red Badge of Courage" button was given to some of the first riders.

Preparations for the media day continued literally to the last minute, with the landscaping and queue elements going in the night before the media would arrive.   The final element added to the ride was a layer of decorative stone to cover the pavement of the former parking lot.   Bands of red and white stone were placed in ribbons to look like a waving flag from above.

The weather was nearly perfect for the media day, with bright sunshine though the temperatures were low.   The new coaster gleamed in the sunshine and wowed the media, making newscasts in New York and Philadelphia that night, and national newscasts for weeks to come.

The neighboring Parachuter's Perch was a great vantage point for the media and the chutes were manually positioned with camera crews aboard to capture the ride from above.

The Scream Machine was the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster from April 15, 1989 until May 6, 1989, when Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio opened Magnum XL-200, the first coaster in the world to break the 200 foot height mark and breaking the record held by Great American Scream Machine by 32 feet. 

Despite losing the height and speed records, the opening of Magnum at Cedar Point may have actually helped the Great American Scream Machine with many new shows doing features on the new "roller coaster renaissance" with both coasters getting airtime together as the world's tallest and fastest coaster and tallest and fastest LOOPING roller coaster.   Side by side, the footage made Scream Machine look better, since the media day footage was bright and sunny, compared to a cold, dark and gloomy wintery-looking media day for Magnum.

For the opening ceremony, park president Ray Williams cut the ribbon and members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts rode over and over throughout the day for the cameras as the media rode and toured the ride.    Camera crews were given hard hats and setup all around the ride area, catching multiple angles of the dramatic first drop and loops of what at the time was a very unique looking coaster.   In the coming weeks more camera crews would visit the park and film segments for many news shows and a former astronaut was one of the guest correspondents who rode the Scream Machine and described the ride comparing the maneuvers to those used by fighter pilots.

One of the more unique features of the ride when it first opened was the red, white, and blue running lights imbedded in the floor of the ride station between the air gates and track that displayed random lighting sequences as the air gates opened and closed and as the trains arrived and departed.  Foot traffic over these lights by guests boarding the trains quickly covered them with dirt and these became impossible to maintain.  Within weeks the lights were removed and silver metal filler panels were installed to replace the lighting fixtures

The Great American Scream Machine proved to be hugely popular, filling the enormous queue line and building and spilling out into the walkway beyond.   The queue building for the Scream Machine was the first in the park to feature vending machines. 

Some of the queue line's theme elements included examples of the various American flags with plaques describing them and giving information on the dates they were adopted.

Further along the queue, two lightboxes featured pictures of roller coasters at other Six Flags parks including the original Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags Over Georgia, and the Shockwave at Six Flags Great America.

For the 1989 season, a photo booth was added to the ride, offering the parks first onride coaster pictures using new technology that photographed the entire train.   Until that point, the only onride photos offered in the park were on the Log Flume, and required a photographer to manually take the picture of the families that had paid for them, using orange flags to mark the boats which were to be photographed.

Some of the most highly touted features of the Scream Machine were its safety features.   In addition to its "dual redundant" computerized braking systems, and (along with its 2 sister Six Flags coasters Shockwave and Viper), the Scream Machine featured dual stairs on the lift hill.   Most coasters feature stairs only on one side of the lift, but Six Flags opted to have the additional stairs as a safety measure.

The Scream Machine held the title of world's tallest, fastest looping roller coaster until April of 1990, when Viper, the third and final Arrow designed custom multi-looping coasters opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

The Great American Scream Machine delighted and amazed thousands of riders with its smooth and fast ride.   Though by today's standards the ride is rough, at the time most coasters were designed with a trial and error process, with designers not having the powerful computers to do the complex calculations required for determining forces before the track was fabricated and the ride actually running.   Scream Machine used state of the art design, and the track was fabricated to more exacting tolerances than could have been achieved before.

Despite the careful design, modifications were required including the addition of a trim brake coming out of the first loop to help control the speed and forces, and the slowing of the trains in the mid-course brake run to a near stop to help make the direction changes less forceful for riders in the boomerang and entering the corkscrews.




  The three trains on the Scream Machine are red, white and blue, and each have names along with having the distinctive color and assigned numbers.   The red train is "Freedom", the white train is "Liberty" and the blue train is "Spirit".   One of the more unique ride features when it opened was the trains' onboard lighting, with each car having lights in matching colors, which made a unique look as it ran through the night skies as a trail of glowing spots.

For several seasons, the amount of track maintenance required on Scream Machine was considerable, with many of the track welds requiring reinforcement and frequent inspections.   As a result the supports for the loops were fitted with ladders for easier access.

In the 1992-1993 off season, the tops of the 3 vertical loops were replaced, with the regular track being removed and replaced with top sections that featured extra structural bracing.   These new track sections seem to have done the trick, with the Scream Machine running very consistently since their installation.  

  Over time the Scream Machine has had several sponsors several of which are pictured here.

The plaza and surrounding area in front of the queue house have changed as the area was themed to Andrew's Air Force Base with the arrival of The Right Stuff and later with the additions of the Space Shuttle and Superman Ultimate Flight.    The ride was intentionally placed at the far end of the games area to draw guests past the counters full of tempting prizes and unique games.
Watch video of the
Great American Scream Machine
in action: 

  More recent additions to the Great American Scream Machine have included the addition of Fast Lane (now Flashpass), several updates to the onride photo systems, and in 2006 a fresh paint job.

With the demise of the Shockwave at Six Flags Great America, one of the coaster's trains was brought to Great Adventure for replacement parts.   This was actually one of four trains which belonged to Shockwave.   Originally the Shockwave had 2 red trains and 2 yellow trains, with the idea that the four trains would add capacity.   It quickly became apparent that only 3 trains were necessary to the most efficient operations, since the trains would stack on the brakes waiting for passengers to load and unload in the station, so when Scream Machine was built, it was only given 3 trains.

Over time, the neighboring rides and sections have undergone many changes, probably the most dramatic being the construction of Kingda Ka and the Golden Kingdom.    Suddenly the ride which once towered over the Bugs Bunny Land section was dwarfed by its new neighbor which also took the Scream Machine's previous records as the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster.

With the new areas of the Golden Kingdom came newly opened views of Scream Machine that were previously not available to park guests.

The track that formed the top of one of the ride's 3 vertical loops found new life in the Wild Safari after being replaced with a reinforced track section, and now offers a great climbing structure for the resident baboons.

Since  Scream Machine's construction, Arrow continued to build their mega looping coasters for many parks, each using the same design elements strung together in different sequences.  Arrow's decline as a coaster building company came from their lack of innovation.  They used their pre-designed elements over and over with bad transitions connecting them.   Meanwhile other coaster companies like INTAMIN and Bolliger & Mabillard continued to innovate with fresh elements and custom designs.


Click the links below to watch
Great American Scream Machine
television commercials:

  Technical Information  
  Manufacturer: Arrow Dynamics, Inc.  
    Clearfield, Utah  
  Type: Looping Steel Coaster  
  Ride Model: Six Flags Custom Design  
  Opening Date: April 15, 1989  
  Height: 173 Feet  
  Track Length: 3800 Feet  
  Number of Lifts: 1  
  Tallest Drop: 155 Feet  
  Number of Inversions: 7  
   - Vertical Loops 3 - 136 Feet, 107 Feet, 97 Feet  
   - Boomerang Loops 2  
   - Corkscrew 2  
  Maximum Speed: 68+ mph  
  Approximate Cycle Time: 2 minutes 20 seconds  
  Capacity: Approx.1900 guests per hour  
  Number of Trains: 3 - Red (Freedom), White (Liberty), & Blue (Spirit)  
  Riders Per Train: 28 people per train  
  Cars Per Train: 7  
  Riders Per Car: 4  
  Restraints: Shoulder harness  
  Cost: $6.8 million  
Media Coverage of the
Great American Scream Machine:


Closing Weekend- July 17-18, 2010
With the announcement of the closing of the Great American Scream Machine on July 18th, the coaster started drawing lines for the first time in years as guests lined up for one last ride on the 21 year old ride.

The park commemorated the ride's years of faithful service with a closing weekend event and T-shirts celebrating the coaster's history.
Even before the final riders take their laps, the markings for new construction are beginning to appear all around the coaster site.

Watch for pictures of the removal of the Great American Scream Machine and construction of the new attractions for the 2011 season coming in the following weeks!
Closing Night and Final Ride
The Great American Scream Machine was given a sendoff on Sunday, July 18th with a small party for contest winners which featured a band, food and a raffle of poster sized pictures of the ride under construction and in its prime.

Proceeds from the auction of the seats for the final ride and poster raffle benefitted the National Roller Coaster Museum.

The Six Flags Great Adventure Public Relations Team did a great job on the sendoff event. Here they announce the winners of the posters before the final riders line up.

The final riders made their way towards the station through the long queue line.

The final train load of riders boards and gets ready for one final scream.

After the final lap, riders disembarked and the Scream Machine was officially retired.
Removal of the Coaster
July 23rd:

The day after the closure of the ride, construction fences went up in the parking lot and across the former entrance and queue area.

Crews got to work immediately removing the trains and then the transfer tracks and brake run.

The station building, car shed and the covered queue were all demolished quickly to clear the area for the larger cranes needed to remove the lift and loops.

The track closest to ground level was the first removed, with the turn from the boomerang into the corkscrews being demolished making vehicle access to the site much easier.

A small section of the final turn after the corkscrews and before the brake run was also removed for the cranes to be able to maneuver more easily around the lift structure.   
July 26th:

Work continued removing the low track sections. The corkscrews, the remaining approach to the brake run along with half of boomerang element. In another day the remainder of the boomerang along with the remaining supports for the low sections should be gone and then it will be time for the big cranes to start removing the lift and loop sections.

July 29th:

Progress in removing the coaster continued at a fast pace with the third loop being removed and the second following right behind. This left just the first loop and lift hill in place.

The small section of the brake run was the next section removed on Friday, the 30th.
Click the placard below for a short video
of demolition of the
Scream Machine's second loop:


August 2nd:

As of August 2nd, the only sections of Scream Machine that remained standing were the lift, drop and first loop.  Over the course of the day the run out track that lead from Loop #1 to Loop #2 was systematically removed and truck loads of scrap metal were trucked away clearing the site for the tallest loop to come down next.

The pieces of track and supports were each cut into small pieces and loaded into hopper trucks for hauling away to a steel recycler.

Site preparation for the new coaster also includes clearing the adjacent remnants of the Space Shuttle pad and operator's booth.


August 7th-10th:

With only the highest sections of the coaster still remaining, work slowed down as systematically the lift hill was removed with workers using cutting torches to carefully separate the track from the supporting structure.

With the cutting of each track segment, it was carefully lifted off the hill with a tall crane. Cutting the track during the day while the park was operating resulted in temporary closures of the surrounding rides and areas as sparks, soot and ash would rain down from the top of the lift.

While sections of the lift hill were being removed up above, work continued down below with the concrete footers being pulled up and jack hammered into small enough pieces to haul away. Site preparation for the new coaster will be commencing shortly as the final remnants of Scream Machine are cleared.

August 13th:

A large portion of the lift hill support structure has been removed and along with it a section of the drop is now gone.

The remainder of the lift structure and drop should be gone within the coming weeks.

August 16th-20th:

The highest portions of the lift and drop are now down, leaving 3 sections of track. The low section of the lift, the low section of the drop and the 1st loop are all that remain, with clearing of the rest of the site continuing.

Breaking up the massive concrete footers as well as cutting the steel into small pieces are very time consuming and happening at ground level out of site of the general public.

Souvenirs & Promotional Items
 Onride photo folder
Postcard from 1995  Postcard from 1999 
Christmas Ornament  Mug 
T-shirt from the opening season  Pennant 
Employee Button  Souvenir Patch
"Baby on Board" style window hanger   Physics Day Pin