After a long, hard Pennsylvania winter of construction, spring finally arrived and on May 13th 2000 Lightning Racer made its debut! With a combined length of nearly 6800 feet, there was a heck of a storm brewing in the Midway America section of the park Lightning Racer's dual station is a beautiful structure with a massive amount of twisted wooden track just beyond. As riders walk through the entrance and up the ramp they have a several difficult decisions to make. Lightning or Thunder? Front or back? Good thing you can't go wrong either way.
Once the decisions are made you take a your seat in a new style train, that resembles a train from the "Golden Age" of roller coasters, with a lot of technology packed inside. When everyone is loaded and the safety checks complete it's time to race! Thunder and Lightning roll out of the station. Soon the trains are cresting the tops of their lifts and from there you enter the eye of the storm.
Thunder and Lightning battle it out over the rails, twisting back and forth, over and under each other and even meet head on near misses several times during this thrilling 2 minute and 20 second adventure!
While fans of the Lightning Racers may have a favorite side, both travel through the same elements, but at different times during the ride. However, rumor has it one side wins more than the other. On our visits in the past that might have had a slight ring of truth to it. But this season Thunder and Lightning seemed pretty evenly matched. We have heard that during a test run with no passengers on board either train there was once a tie.
There are 15 drops on each side of Lightning Racer, with the highest point approaching 100 feet. The ride pulls over 3.6 G forces in spots and the trains come within 6 feet of each, while traveling in excess of 40mph.There is also a spot referred to as "sideswipe alley" where the racing trains careen through two turns, passing by each other with a combined speed in excess of 70 mph.
More than a 1 million board feet of Southern Yellow Pine was used and due to the rides twisted nature, more than 20 miles of lumber had to be rip cut. Approximately 185,000 bolts and 1000 boxes of nails were used to construct Lightning Racers.
More than 3800 yards of concrete were used for the foundation and there are 3300 footers. More than 187,000 feet of rebar was used to help reinforce all that concrete. In all, over 60 tons of hardware was used to build this coaster. The cost of all this fine engineering and construction added up to over $12.5 million, and that was a decade ago!
Over the past decade bigger, faster woodies have been built, but none any more impressive to look at than Lightning Racer. And, just like a good wine, the ride as aged very well. It's just as fast, smooth and fun today as it was in 2000.
Our thanks to Hersheypark, Great Coasters International, Dave B and Linda W for their contributions to our brief look back at this wonderful ride.