You unlock this door with six tickets. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sight and sound. A dimension of motion. A dimension of vomit. You're moving into a ride of both spinning and upchucking. You've just crossed over into the Zipper.
We have Joseph Brown of Chase Mfg. to thank for this twisted, twisting nightmare of a roller coaster. Since the first was built in 1968 in Kansas, Chase has gone on to build more than 200 of these frightening machines making it the most mass-produced ride ever. While mega parks like Six Flags and Paramount's King's Island seek to capitalize on franchises with Riddler's Revenge or The Beast, roller coaster enthusiasts still seek the small carnival or traveling fair for a few loops on the Zipper.
Imagine, if you will, a boom, a rotating boom. We'll make it more than 50 feet long and we'll spin it around at 11 RPM. Hmm, not very scary. Okay, let's run a cable around the boom and rotate the cable at 7 RPM. Not bad, not bad... It needs something though. How about we attach tiny little cages to the cable and let those spin freely! Yeah, now we're getting somewhere! Pad the cages and make them easy to clean, forget complex restraints and just put a lap bar and a few hand holds in... this ought to raise a few hackles!
As it turns out, they were on to more than they thought. The ride not only raised hackles, it raised insurance rates by 25% the first year, 50% the year after. Only fourteen rides were operated at these speeds before Harold Chance released the "slow" model we are familiar with today. Today's boom spins at 7.5 RPM with the chain being pulled around the boom at 4 RPM. Considering the first model is colloquially known as the "Wet Job" model for the hosing it received after each operation, we can thank Harold for this.
Number of cars: 12
Passengers: 2 Adults or 3 Children
Passengers size: Minimum 4 feet unaccompanied by adult, Maximum seat capacity 340 lbs.
Ride Duration: Recommended 2 minutes, Maximum 2.5 minutes
Main Boom Speed: 7.5 RPM
Cable Speed: 4 RPM
Maximum Ride Height: 56 feet
A true classic, standing tall over the Midway, the Zipper has frightened and delighted crowds for more than 30 years now. When it was first introduced it cost amusement park owners as much as three times as other rides, this did not hamper sales in the slightest. During the summer of 1968 two Zippers grossed over $40k in a mere 16 days of operation at $.60 a ride. Given it cost the buyer only $32k for the ride it was clearly a good investment. While new and better-applied technology is taking coasters to places unimaginable 30 years ago, this classic has survived unchanged and remains as popular as ever.
Thanks to David Burton and his website ride-extravaganza.com as well as wichitaphotos.org. Visit David's site for more information on the Zipper as well as many other classic and modern coasters.