The Comet Rollercoaster Lives on after Crystal Beach

This classic coaster has found a new home in New York state.

When Crystal Beach amusement park in Ontario opened its newest roller coaster on Memorial Day, 1948, it was touted as having speeds of up to 100 mph, with a 96-foot drop around 50 degrees, giving riders a feeling of weightlessness.

This new roller coaster, the Comet, was gentler than its predecessor, the Cyclone, which has taken on a mythic sheen for roller coaster enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. The Cyclone opened in 1927. It was one of legendary roller coaster designer Harry Traver’s terrible trio of roller coasters — the other two being another Cyclone at Palisades Park in New Jersey and the Lightning at Revere Beach in Massachusetts. Crystal Beach’s Cyclone even had a first-aid station with a nurse on duty.

Of the trio, the Crystal Beach Cyclone lasted the longest, closing after the 1946 season because of declining revenue and increasing expenses (a ride as nasty as it was took its toll on the tracks, which needed constant maintenance).

In 1948, the 4,000-foot-long Comet, designed by Herb Schmeck of Philadelphia Toboggan Co., another giant in amusement park rides, opened at a cost of $125,000. Expenses were kept low by recycling much of the steel from the Cyclone into the Comet. 

In 1989, mounting financial losses forced the closure of the amusement park, but the Comet — like its predecessor — found new life. Sold at auction, it’s still in operation, at Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, New York — and still regarded as a fearsome ride.

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