Knoebel's Twister
A New Wooden Roller Coaster at Knoebel's in Elysburg, PA

by Joel Styer

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Since the announcement last fall, I have been watching Knoebel's new wooden coaster take shape. The prospect of Knoebel's building another ride on par with the Phoenix was major news. After all, how many parks can boast of having two excellent wooden coasters? Can Knoebel's? Read on....

Due to the complexity of the project, the Twister took a little longer to complete than anticipated. But the management at Knoebel's insisted on doing it right and not hurrying the job. They didn't cut corners just to get the ride open. They wanted it to last and they wanted it to be good. And as the saying goes, good things are worth waiting for....

My anticipation grew as I watched the construction in person during my eight visits to the park starting in January. Viewing the excellent website by Bob Hooley with pictures from Bob Rarick of the construction, it was easy to keep up with the latest on what was happening. Finally, Press Day came on Friday, July 23, 1999 and the grand opening was Saturday morning, July 24. The American Coaster Enthusiasts were to be there on the 24th and 25th for their Ultimate Preservation Conference. ACE members would ride the world's oldest and the world's newest coasters in the same day. The first two rides for the Twister were auctioned off on Saturday with the proceeds benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. What a cool way to introduce a new ride.

The first thing I noticed is how great the split lift hill is, easily one of the best on any coaster. You exit the station, go around a curve and then proceed up the first lift hill which takes you about half way up. Then another turn around and you engage the second lift hill to complete the journey to the top. Another turn around and then the first drop. That is when it becomes obvious of how excellent the track work is. No jarring or roughness, just a nice, smooth and fast drop - even in the back seat (thank you Knoebel's!). After the first drop, you rise up to the far turn-around and then enter the second drop which is similar to the first.

After the second drop however, the ride shows what Twister really means and it doesn't slow down to do it. There is precious little straight track from here until the end of the ride. Since the ride crosses it's own tracks 30+ times and crosses the tracks of the parks train ride, it is difficult to follow the track plan on the first few rides. After a small peak, the train blasts into the helix (picking up speed) and spins around the station twice. From there it heads out to the far end again and after a turn at the far end, the train heads back but quickly cuts to the right and dives into the tunnel. After exiting the tunnel, there is a curve then a dip and then you enter the curved brake run and finally back to the station.

The ride is so well paced that there are no dead (slow) spots. During the day, the ride is very good but in the evening, it gets even better. It can pick up enough speed to become an outstanding ride. A ride in the back seat at night after a rainstorm is nothing short of amazing. I have never felt a combination of that kind of speed while remaining perfectly smooth. There is even some air-time at a number of places in the evening but it is the speed and sequence of elements that makes the ride so great.

All in all, Knoebel's has done it again. They proved in 1985 that you can move a large wooden coaster and make it an excellent ride. Since then, they have proved they know how to care for that ride and keep it in excellent condition. So it comes as no surprise that they created another coaster destined for stardom.

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Article and pictures are 1999 by Joel Styer. All photos taken Press Day, Friday July, 23, 1999 and September 19, 1999.

1999-2004 Joel W Styer. All rights reserved. Updated Sunday, January 18, 2004
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