Viper was designed by
Togo company of Japan, as was the Ultra Twister coaster that had
occupied the same site previously.
Togo coasters can be found
throughout Japan, but were relatively rare in the United States.
Most of the rides were
removed within a few years of installation due to maintenance issues and
the roughness of the ride.
The combination of the
unconventional track elements and restraint systems made the coasters
uncomfortable, and repeat ridership was low.
The lack of sales of Togo
coasters and lawsuits brought against the company led to the demise of
the company in the early 2000’s.
Viper was added to the park for the 1995 season,
utilizing a site that had been sitting vacant for several seasons after
the removal of the Ultra Twister in 1989.
The footers for Ultra Twister and a small shed were left on site
serving as a reminder that a coaster used to sit there.
point the site was going to be the new home to one of the Lightnin’ Loops
tracks, and run parallel to Rolling Thunder, but the coaster was instead
sold to Premier Parks who would go on to purchase Six Flags in the
The site sat vacant with the only attraction in the
isolated area between Rolling Thunder and the Great Arena being a remote
control boat pond for awhile.
The site was also at one point slated to become the new home to
the Swiss Bob ride when it was relocated to make way for the Batman
Stunt Arena, but continued to remain vacant when those plans fell through.
With the purchase of Six Flags by Time Warner in
1992, efforts were made throughout the park to bring themed elements to
areas that had no discernible look to them.
The vacant Ultra Twister area was a prime example, with sterile
concrete and very generic fences and fixtures.
The Best of the West and the Hernando’s Hideaway sections
which been separate theme areas were combined into the Frontier
Adventures section. The
vacant coaster site was the perfect spot for the addition of a western
themed ride, and the presentation of the ride was as important to the
park management as the ride itself.
Prep work began at the end of the 1994 season, clearing the
remnants of the Ultra Twister.
The Viper coaster itself was a prototype which had
been built by Togo at their headquarters in Ohio as a demonstration
of the company’s new innovations.
The ride introduced a new element called a “dive loop”, which
added an inline twist at the top of a vertical loop.
This was combined with the true heartline roll element found on the
Ultra Twister style coasters, but in a full circuit design with full
sized trains, improving on the capacity of the shuttle style Ultra
The prototype featured the spiral heartline roll
track encircled with steel rings, giving the ride a snake like
appearance. The small footprint of the coaster made it a good fit for
just about any park. When the Six Flags executives saw the ride, they
decided to purchase it, but to enhance the snake theme additional rings
were added to the lift hill and drop.
A snake like coaster was a good fit for a western themed section
of a park, and the empty Ultra Twister site was the right size to fit
the compact structure.
construction of Viper was delayed in the off-season and wasn’t completed
until June of 1995. Construction of the coaster structure continued
through April and May, and the construction of the elaborate station building and queue line
theme elements running right up to the opening of the ride in early June.
The emphasis on theme was clear with the meticulous attention to
the southwestern style details.
It served as the perfect transition between the Western themed
side of Frontier Adventures and the Spanish style side.
One small structure which had been part of the
Ultra Twister’s infrastructure was left in place near the ride entrance,
and the steel building was clad in rustic wood siding to fit the theme.
The queue was designed to follow along the sidewalks of a ghost
town. The ghost town
buildings were elaborate set pieces with no real structure behind them.
The area between the queue and the sidewalk became a southwestern
desert, complete with cacti (both real and faux) and aged western props
of all kinds.
The real focal point of Viper’s theme elements was
the station building and matching train shed, which were designed to
look like a crumbling Spanish Mission, with buttressed walls arched
windows and a bell tower complete with a huge bell.
The brand new building was aged to look like it was hundreds of
years old along with the weathered ghost town in front of it.
While the building looked old, it actually featured state of the
art technology with a special elevator adjacent to the entrance stairs,
making the ride handicapped accessible. The placement of the elevator
meant guests with disabilities could then wait on the regular queue
Viper was a ride with several unique elements, but
one that was often overlooked was the station configuration.
The station had two blocks, creating separate load and unload
positions which meant guests got on and off the train on the same side.
This often caused confusion with disembarking guests stepping out
of the wrong side of the train.
In theory the configuration could increase capacity with one
train loading while another cycled and then unloaded. However, with the
confusion of guests trying to find their stowed articles when their
train arrived in a different position than it had left, it often slowed
Another challenge to the crew of Viper was the ride’s unique restraint system that was unlike anything most guests had seen before. The restraint was a two part system, with a lap bar and independent shoulder harness which had to be lowered. Often the train would have to be locked and unlocked several times when guests would either set their shoulder harness too high or too low.
Like the Ultra Twister before it, Viper suffered a great deal of downtime as prototypical problems were worked out. Track sections were re-welded on a somewhat regular basis as the stress of the trains on the rails took its toll on the rides joints. At least twice in the 10 years the ride was at the park sections of track or individual rails were removed and replaced completely as the maintenance crews fought to stay ahead of the ride’s problems.
One modification made to the coaster was a series
of maintenance access steps.
A ladder was added to access the top of the dive loop, and along
the spine of the track additional safety holds were added for easier
access to the track for inspections and if necessary to free the trains
if they should get stuck in the twist.
area for Viper became home to a western themed comedy show, which served
to entertain the guests in line as well as those passing by.
The show utilized the set pieces of the ghost town as backdrop
and props for the show, with a set of steps from the building’s “second
floor” where actors could enter and exit the stage area.
Click the placard below for video of
In 1999 when the park declared a “War on Lines” the
new Medusa floorless coaster was added just across the bridge, and a
part of the Viper’s queue was taken over by the addition of the Rodeo
Stampede ride. Since Viper’s
popularity declined the additional queue area was no longer needed to
handle the crowds.
Over the ten short years Viper was at the park, the ride experience got progressively rougher, with ridership diminishing each season. The ride aged badly, and even with the increase in foot traffic with the addition of the Rodeo Stampede and Medusa in the area, nothing could improve the public opinion of the coaster. The ride’s photo booth was boarded up since it was no longer used, and its secluded location at the back of the ride made it a target for graffiti and vandalism. The ghost town sets began to fall apart beyond their intended weathered look, exposing the modern construction materials. Since the ride was no longer a marquis attraction, its appearance was considered unimportant and it became faded and neglected looking.
As the 2005 season started Viper never reopened and
it quickly became apparent it would not be re-opening as the area was
closed off and removal of the ride began.
At first rumors were circulating that it was being moved to
another Six Flags park, but it quickly became apparent that the ride was
being scrapped as the jagged pieces of crushed steel became visible.
As the ride was removed over April and May
rumors of a replacement swirled. But, with the opening of Kingda Ka and
the Golden Kingdom area of the park that spring, most people dismissed the
rumors of another huge new coaster being added in its place until the park presented plans for a new coaster to the
Jackson Township Planning Board, and even then many dismissed the
replacement for Viper as being something small.
Clearing of Viper’s structure along with the removal of the ghost town queue.
The removal of the track
from the station was done carefully to preserve the building for the new
coaster, though the matching train shed was razed. Everything including the concrete footers were removed and
hauled away to create a clean slate for construction to begin.
Towards the end of summer, the announcement was
made that the former Viper location was going to become home to a new
record breaking wooden roller coaster called El Toro, which was to
become the anchor of another entirely new themed area of the park, Plaza
del Carnavale. The mission style station building would be re-used as
the station for El Toro, but with major reconfiguration of the exit to
the opposite side of the building.
Viper, which many coaster enthusiasts considered
one of the worst coasters ever built is long gone, but its replacement
El Toro has proven to be a more than worthy replacement, with most
riders ranking it as one of the world’s best roller coasters.