(1988-1992 Blue Loop Standing But Not Operating)    

In the mid 1970’s roller coaster designers perfected the clothoid loop which allowed roller coasters to perform inversions with the limits of the human body, and the looping coaster rush began with parks around the world vying to add their own looping roller coasters as quickly and affordably as possible.   Arrow Dynamics introduced the launch loop roller coaster to meet the needs of parks who wanted the highly marketable looping roller coaster without spending phenomenal sums of money to build them and without needing the space taken by a full circuit roller coaster.  

The launch loop was a shuttle coaster, so it had the advantage of offering guests their first ever looping experience twice in one ride, once forward and once backward.   The design had advantages and drawbacks in comparison to the competing design offered by Schwarzkopf, with a lower power requirement and simpler mechanical configuration, but requiring riders to climb many flights of stairs to board and disembark from the ride.  

Launch loops were surpassed in design by better, full circuit coasters in the 1980’s as park guests expected more from a ride than a simple loop.   As their popularity declined, many have been removed and sold to smaller parks or simply scrapped.


Lightnin’ Loops was added to Great Adventure as part of a major investment made as part of the park’s acquisition by Six Flags.   Six Flags had hit upon a proven formula with parks that combined the best elements of theme parks with favorite thrilling rides found at more traditional amusement parks.   The new owners wanted to start things off in a memorable way, and a brand new looping coaster was just the ticket.

Launch Loop coasters were being added to amusement and theme parks all around the country, and in order to stand out Six Flags would add one with a new twist, the world’s first interlocking loops.   Only two other coasters built by Arrow Dynamics featured interlocking loops, the Orient Express at Worlds of Fun theme park which would not open until 1980, and the Loch Ness Monster which would open in 1978 at Busch Gardens The Old Country.   In contrast to Lightnin’ Loops, the two coasters that followed it were full circuit coasters and not just shuttle loops.   Lightnin’ Loops one advantage over the coasters that followed it was that trains could be launched simultaneously so they could traverse the loops at the same time, adding to the thrill.   Though simultaneous launches could be done, they seldom were since the stations were so far apart and operated as separate rides.  

At the time of construction, the steel coaster industry was still in its infancy, and rides were still mostly assembled component by component on site rather than shipping to the construction area in prefabricated sections, taking more time and labor to construct.   Also, the steel track and structure arrived and was assembled unpainted, meaning more time was required after the steel was in place to make the ride ready for the public.

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Photos from
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Watch video of
Lightnin' Loops
in action:


The ride was power by electric motors on the platforms at the ends of the track, using a high speed winch with a steel cable to pull a catch car behind the train, launching down the hill and into the loop at around 45 miles per hour, giving the train enough momentum to go through the loop and up the hill onto the opposite platform.    On the platform, the ride’s fin braking system would bring the train to a stop and the process would reverse, with a matching catch car pushing the coaster the opposite direction back towards the station platform.   The ride originally strove for simultaneous launches whenever possible, but from 1983 until 1987 operators were instructed to stagger the launches to minimize the power fluctuations for the neighboring Freefall ride.

Both ends of the ride featured platforms and stairs and operator booth, though the far platforms were bare bones and only used to evacuate the ride in case of an emergency.   Those far platforms were very isolated, sitting out beyond the edges of the park’s developed area.   Both ends also had built in winches at the end of the track, which could be used to pull the train back up the hill to the platform in the event it saddled.   The valleys of the track also were equipped with evacuation platforms in the event the ride got stuck. 


The station platforms for Lightnin’ Loops featured several flights of stairs for the exit and entrance to the ride.   The stairs were painted red for the higher of the two loops and blue for the lower loop.   The rails were painted in the matching red and blue colors as well, though the trains originally were the opposite colors, with the red train on the lower, blue track and the blue train on the upper red track.   Lightnin’ Loops was the first ride in the park to be outfitted with airgates, which are now standard on almost every coaster in the world.  

Lighting for the rides was a simple string of chasing lights with alternating clear and red or blue bulbs to match the rail colors.   The lights periodically chased, stopped and reversed mirroring the motion of the trains.   The lights hung loose below the track, swagged between the cross ties.

The ride featured a large queue area, with mirrored switchbacks leading to the two platforms.   The two lines split right at the entrance, requiring riders to decide which of the loops they wanted to ride before the wait began.   The wait for the ride in the early years was very long as people wanted to experience what was then the state of the art in thrill rides.   Many days the wait time would be more than an hour for each side.  

Over the seasons the trains were reconditioned and repainted with new colors.  The train on the lower track was painted a metallic gold color and the upper track’s train was painted black.   

For many people in the metropolitan area, Lightnin’ Loops was a memorable ride because it was the first coaster they ever rode with an inversion.
   The anticipation of riding for the first time was enhanced by the long climb up the stairs to the platform.  

Each time the train would launch the structure would shake making many guests who were already nervous about riding even more nervous.  Many times guests would chicken out on the stairs and head back out of line.   Still other guests would lose their nerve once they reached the platform, with the combination of the shaking platform, the height of the structure, and seeing the (what was at the time) high speed launch of the train.   The combination of all these elements was sometimes just too much for an unsure rider, and some guests would wait in line but end up losing their nerve when it came their turn to ride, and head right for the exit stairs without riding.   

  Technical Information  
  Manufacturer: Arrow Development Co,- Mountain View, CA  
  Ride Model: Launched Loop Shuttle Coaster  
  Type: Dual Interlocking Shuttles  
  Description: "Two 360 degree vertical loop roller coasters with  
    interlocking loops.  Riders enter the loop from station  
    forward and then return through the loop BACKWARDS!"  
  Blue Loop Opening Date: June 24, 1978  
  Blue Closing Date: Spring 1987 (Removed in Fall 1992)  
  Red Loop Opening Date: July 18, 1978  
  Red Closing Date: Fall 1992  
  Maximum Structural Height:   85 feet  
  Blue Loop Height: 58 feet  
  Red Loop Height: 75 feet  
  Loop Diameter: 58 feet  
  Track Construction: Two 5: diameter pipe rails on 48" centers  
  Ride Length: 1270 feet (287 meters) per coaster, round trip.  
  Ride Width: 35 feet at the widest point (per shuttle loop)  
  Vehicles: One 6-car train, 4 people per car, per loop.  
  Maximum Speed: 45 mph  
  Capacity per Loop: 1140 people per hour per ride  
  Total Capacity: 2280 people per hour for both rides.  
  Area Covered: 4 acres of land  
  Amount of Steel: 450 tons  
  Restraints: Double locking, fully padded, over the shoulder bar.  
  Costs: $2.7 million  


In June of 1987, a passenger tried to board the train after the operator had started the dispatch, which could not be stopped once the motor was in motion.   The rider was thrown from the train and killed in the fall from the upper loop.   The ride was closed for months after the accident as safety modifications were made to the ride’s control systems and the restraint system.   As a result, throughout the park rides were modified adding additional safety features to many attractions including new “enable dispatch” buttons which required both the ride’s attendants and the ride’s operator to hold down a button confirming the ride was ready to start.  The shoulder harnesses of Lightnin’ Loops were modified with large handles being added, preventing guests from sitting in front of the harness.   This would become a standard feature on all Arrow Dynamics coasters built for Six Flags ever since.  

After the modifications, only the upper loop reopened, with the lower loop not receiving the modifications and its entrance being permanently blocked.  The second track wasn’t needed with the decreased popularity of the ride, as well as the diminished park attendance.






In the fall of 1992 disassembly of the ride began as Time Warner, then owners of Six Flags made the decision to add Batman: The Ride after the huge success of the ride at Six Flags Great America.   What had been a state of the art ride in 1978, was replaced by the new state of the art for 1992.

The ride was removed, with the original intention to relocate one of the two loops to the vacant site which had been home to the Ultra Twister.   The long, straight site adjacent to Rolling Thunder would have fit the ride well with minimal work required.   Plans called for the ride to be called “Lightnin’ Loop” which would have been a good companion to Rolling Thunder.

The plan to move the ride never materialized, and instead the two tracks were sold off to other parks.   The lower loop was purchased by Frontier City in Oklahoma City where it was reassembled and opened in 1993 as Diamond Back.  Frontier City’s owners had just purchased the Wild Adventures park in Largo, Maryland and bought the upper loop there where it was reassembled and opened in 1993.   The owners of those parks went on to become Premier Parks, and would eventually end up purchasing Six Flags from Time Warner, and Wild World would eventually take on the name Six Flags America. 







Today, Diamond Back still operates at Frontier City.   The Python ran at Wild World (later known as Adventure World) until 1998, when it was removed as part of the park’s makeover into Six Flags America.   The coaster sat in storage from 1999 through 2005, when the steel structure was scrapped.

Red (upper) Loop At Wild World
 as Python (now Six Flags America):
Blue (lower) Loop Now at
Frontier City as Diamondback:

Python was removed at the end of the 1998 season, and sat in storage until 2005 when it was scrapped.
Photo courtesy of Michael S. Horwood.  
Please visit his great site for more pictures and his original music!
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review
Lightnin' Loops Postcards and Souvenirs
Paper weight from
the dedication of
the ride in 1978.
T-Shirt Button Patch