About Kennywood

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About Kennywood Amusement Park

Kennywood is one of the oldest and most beloved amusement parks in America. Founded in 1898, Kennywood has thrilled and delighted both young and young-at-heart visitors for more than 110 years. From the early days of the carousel, through the development of the first roller coasters, to the technological advancements in today's steel looping coasters, Kennywood has always been the park that puts a smile on everyone's face. Designated a National Historic Landmark since 1987, you'll find "Lost Kennywood," a replica of turn-of-the-century architecture that houses some of the park's most popular rides, as well as attractions that go from mild to wild throughout the park. Refuel at more than a dozen dining options offering tasty treats that can't be found at any other amusement park anywhere. Kennywood is a unique experience and remains one of "America's Finest Traditional Amusement Parks." In fact, it's what memories are made of!

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Kennywood History

Founded in 1898 as a small trolley park near Pittsburgh, Kennywood was begun by the Monongahela Street Railway Company, which was controlled by Andrew Mellon. Today's Kennywood still contains two major buildings dating from 1898 -- a carousel pavilion and a restaurant (originally the Casino).

At the turn of the century, Kennywood was engaged in a fierce battle for survival with about a dozen other trolley parks and amusement resorts in Western Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Street Railway Company wanted to get out of the amusement park business in 1902 so it subleased the park to first a Boston Company and later to a group from Aspinwall. In 1906, Pittsburgh Railway Company assigned its lease to A.S. McSwigan and Frederick W. Henninger.

Many changes occurred between 1900 and 1930. In the early 1910's, Kennywood built two large roller coasters: The Racer and the Speed-O-Plane. Important rides added in the 1920's were three coasters: Jack Rabbit (Designed by Miller and Baker in 1920), Pippin (designed by John Miller in 1924), and Racer in 1927 replacing the old Racer built in 1910. The park added a huge swimming pool in 1925.

The Great Depression from 1930 to 1935 was especially hard on the park. Dancing helped keep the park in business during this period as great dance bands played in the park from 1930 to 1950. Kennywood prospered in the second half of the 1930's as new rides including Noah's Ark (1936) were added. During the Second World War period, the park couldn't add new rides, but it did buy a used ferris wheel and a miniature train. It still operates the latter.

In the 1950's school picnics grew by leaps and bounds. The park added many new rides to Kiddieland. Some popular rides in this period included the Hurricane, the Looper, the Rotor (the first ride imported from Europe), the Wild Mouse and the Octopus. With the 1960's and 1970's came competition from "Disneyland" and other theme parks. Kennywood decided to spend the money necessary to remain competitive. The Turnpike was built in 1966 followed in 1968 by the Thunderbolt, which was redesigned from the Pippin by resident coaster whiz, Andy Vettel. With the Thunderbolt came the designation "The Roller Coaster Capital of the World." The Dance Pavilion, a dark ride since the 1950's, burned in 1975.

In the 1980's and 1990's Kennywood had to keep up with changes in the amusement industry. They added the Raging Rapids in 1985. The park was designated a national historic landmark in 1987. One of the most popular additions to the park was a new steel-looping coaster the Steel Phantom in 1991. The Steel Phantom's top speed was 80 MPH, its longest drop was 225 feet and it featured 4 loops. The park continued to grow with it's largest expansion ever in 1995 Lost Kennywood. This replica of the Luna Parks from the turn of the century houses some of the parks most popular rides today. Some rides you can find in this section include the Exterminator, the Black Widow, the Pittsburgh Plunge and the Whip.

As Kennywood moves through the 21st century it continues to keep a balance of change and preservation of tradition which has always been important to its success. Kennywood remains one of "America's Finest Traditional Amusement Parks.

Coaster History

FIGURE EIGHT - 1902 to 1921
Built by Fred Ingersoll / Remodeled Several Times / Side Friction Coaster
Fred Ingersoll, a native Pittsburgher, designed, built, and operated Kennywood's first roller coaster, the Figure Eight. This 1902 coaster was the forerunner of today's Jack Rabbit, Racer, and Thunderbolt. Pittsburgh Railways Company's promotional brochure for 1902 calls the Figure Eight toboggan coaster "the strongest attraction ever offered to park patrons." It featured ten little cars that held two passengers each.

A writer for the Pittsburgh Bulletin described a trip on the Figure Eight: "We went to a gravity railroad or whatever its name is - where you were hauled up an incline in a gaudy little car and then let loose, down, under, over, through, up around and back to the starting place at such speed and by so many turns that you lost all sense of direction and all coherence of ideas." In 1903, a park brochure described the coaster: "This is a whirlwind of fun with its long ascents and steep descents, which offer one of the most spirited forms of enjoyment. With all their lightning speed the cars are perfectly safe. Not one accident occurred last season." In 1905 this coaster was renamed the "Gee Whizz Dip the Dips." The small two-seat cars were painted yellow for their final season in 1921.

SCENIC RAILWAY - Built before 1906
"Side Friction Coaster"
A side friction coaster with small hills and dips. Its most unusual feature was that its track passed through a building several times.

THE RACER - 1910 to 1926
Designed by John A. Miller / Side Friction Coaster / Built by Ingersoll Brothers
The Racer, a twin track-racing coaster, was built by the Ingersoll Brothers in 1910. Costing nearly $50,000, it was the largest racing coaster in the world when built. The Racer had two trains racing side by side on two separate tracks, but it still didn't have wheels under the track so dips and curves were gentle. The trains consisted of three-seat cars with a seating capacity of 18. The Racer was torn down in 1926 and replaced by Kiddieland.

SPEED-O-PLANE - 1911 to 1923
Side Friction Coaster
Kennywood's old scenic railway was replaced by a new coaster, the Speed-O-Plane. This new coaster, which cost $30,000, was built near the highway. The trains had three-seat cars and could hold up to eighteen people. This was the last side-friction coaster built by Kennywood. The Figure Eight and Speed-O-Plane had been built near the trolley line and road. The next coaster to be built by the road was the Laser Loop, followed by the Steel Phantom.

JACK RABBIT - 1921 to Present
Designed by John A. Miller / Built by Charlie Mack/Kennywood / 70-foot high vertical spread / 2,132 feet long
In 1921, Kennywood Park hired one of America's top coaster firms, Miller and Baker, to design a new high-speed coaster. John A. Miller designed the new $50,000 coaster. Taking advantage of a ravine on the edge of the park, Miller designed the Jack Rabbit. Using a small amount of lumber, he designed a beautiful coaster with the new system of wheels under the track to create a 70-foot double dip. The train is made up of three seat cars with a capacity of 18. The first cars were built by Dayton Fun House and Riding Device Manufacturing Company. Originally the ride had a tunnel after the first drop, but the tunnel was removed in the 1940's. It was restored in 1991. New trains were built in 1947 by Andy Vettel's uncle, Ed Vettel, Sr. of West View Park.

THE PIPPIN - 1924 to 1967
Designed by John A. Miller / Built by Charlie Mack/Kennywood
In 1924, John A. Miller, who had formed his own firm in Homewood, Illinois, was hired again to design another coaster. This time he used the ravine at the opposite end of the park in back of the Band-shell. The Pippin, which cost $60,000, also had a double dip. The original cars were purchased from Dayton Fun House and Riding Device Manufacturing Company at a cost of $6,300 for nine cars. Charlie Mack, Kennywood's mechanical superintendent, supervised the construction. The loading platform was similar to a loading platform used in Cleveland, Ohio.

Designed and built by the Mangels Co. Was located in Kiddieland.

THE RACER - 1927 to Present
Designed by John A. Miller / Built by Charlie Mack - Andrew Brown/Kennywood / 72'6" Height / Twin Track Racing Coaster 2,250 feet
The Racer, which was originally built in 1910, was showing its age by 1926. Plans were made to rebuild it, but at the last minute it was decided to demolish it and completely rebuild a new coaster. Because they liked John Miller's previous work, Kennywood hired him to build a new twin or racing coaster. Brady McSwigan wanted a "snappy ride that wasn't too much for mothers and children to ride." The new Racer was one of the most beautiful racing coasters ever built. It cost more than $75,000, because Miller didn't use the topography as effectively as he had with the Jack Rabbit and Pippin. The highest hill of the Racer was actually built in a ravine and much more lumber was required. Miller designed a reverse curve so that the train that started on the right side of the loading platform would finish on the left side. The new racer, which had wheels under the tracks, permitted bank curves as well as curves on the dips. Andy Vettel took the final hill out of the coaster in 1949.
The loading platform's facade was redesigned in 1946 by Hindenach and in 1960 by Architect Bernard Liff of Liff, Justh and Chetlin. The original front was restored in 1990.

TEDDY BEAR - 1935 to 1947
Designed by Herb Schmeck /PTC / Built by Charlie Mack/Kennywood
This small Kiddie Coaster was identical to a coaster designed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company for Coney Island, Cincinnati, in the early 1930's. Charlie Mack again supervised the construction. Over 21,133 board feet of lumber were used. PTC built the trains, which consisted of three two-seat cars.

DIPPER (DIPPER) - 1948 to 1984
Remodeled in 1951 / Designed by Andy Vettel / Built by Andy Vettel/Kennywood / 40-feet high / 1,650 feet long
Originally built by Andy Vettel in 1948, it was redesigned in 1951 when additional hills and track were added. New trains were purchased from Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The coaster was removed after the 1984 season to make way for the Raging Rapids.

THUNDERBOLT - 1968 to Present
Originally built as the Pippin in 1923 / Designed by Andy Vettel / Built by Andy Vettel/Kennywood / 95-feet high / 2,887 feet long
The ravine portion of this coaster was retained from the Pippin, while a new super structure was added. The original Thunderbolt had a small hill on the second curve around the loading station. The hill was removed in 1969. The Thunderbolt is well known for the 90-foot "final drop." The tunnel used in the Pippin was retained. So were the first and last drops. It was the first time a coaster ever was completely redesigned in the middle of the ride.

THE LASER LOOP - 1980 to 1990
Designed by Intamin/Schwarzkopf / Built by Andy Vettel/Kennywood / 140-feet high / 850-feet long Kennywood's first steel loop coaster. It used a flywheel method for the catapulting force.

STEEL PHANTOM - 1991 to 2000
Designed by Arrow Dynamics / Conception by Harry W. Henninger, Jr. / Built by Kennywood, (Rich Henry/Fred Weber/Dave Moll) / 3000 feet long
When built it had the longest drop (225 feet) and the fastest speed (80+ MPH) of any coaster in the world. Henninger's solution to lack of space for another major coaster at Kennywood was to take advantage of the same hillside property navigated by the Thunderbolt. To achieve this, he placed his biggest drop (the second drop of the Steel Phantom) at right angles to the Thunderbolt, and literally went off the cliff. It was necessary to go over and then under the Thunderbolt's tracks in the ravine. Solving that dilemma made the Steel Phantom a reality.

LIL PHANTOM - 1996 to Present
Designed & Built by Molina & Sons.
This Kiddie Coaster swooped on the scene for the 1996 season. It is the first steel kiddie coaster in Kennywood’s history. While nowhere near as intense as its grown-up namesake, it’s so fun, kids constantly clamor for a second spin around the track!

EXTERMINATOR - 1999 to Present
Builder: Reverchon/50 feet high/1,400 feet long.
This variant on a standard Wild Mouse coaster is certainly wild! This speeding, spinning coaster is located entirely indoors, where riders play the role of rats (in themed coaster cars) evading exterminators. To enhance the excitement, nearly the entire ride takes place in complete darkness!

PHANTOM'S REVENGE - 2001 to Present
Builder: Morgan Manufacturing/163 feet high/3,325 feet long.
After 10 years of terror, the Phantom once again descended on Kennywood, remaking his namesake ride. Removing the four fierce inversions to be replaced by hard turns and bouncy bunny hops, the Phantom’s Revenge retained the same track as the original Steel Phantom through the first two hills. The second, unique drop through the Thunderbolt was extended slightly, making it a 232-foot fall with top speeds up to 85 miles per hour. Though, since the addition of new trains in 2014, rumors are the Phantom flies even faster than that.

SKY ROCKET - 2010 to Present.
Premier Rides/ 95 feet high/2,100 feet long.
This launch coaster from Premier Rides marked the return of inversions to Kennywood’s roller coaster lineup, but the thrills went beyond going upside down: Sky Rocket also goes from 0 to 50 miles per hour in a mere 1.8 seconds!

There is plenty of fun stuff to do near Pittsburgh, but nothing can compare to a day at Kennywood! Save time and buy your tickets online.

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