THUNDERBOLT ROLLERCOASTER R.I.P.
(1925 - November 17, 2000)
On November 17, 2000, the city of New York send bulldozers at 6 am to demolish the Thunderbolt before community supporters of the structure were able to get proposals for the structure's landmark status to be procesed. Though the Mayor saw the Thunderbolt as an eyesore, some saw it as a beautiful reminder of Coney Island's heritage. All covered with vines, to see the Thunderbolt blooming in the spring was something magic only to be found in Coney Island.
The Thunderbolt was designed and built by John Miller the great innovator of the modern high speed rollercoaster. Miller started his career in rollercoasters at age 19, working for La Marcus A. Thompson as chief engineer. (Thompson is credited as being the "father" of the American rollercoaster) Miller held over 100 patents for inventions which enabled the speed and steep inclines of today's rollercoasters, most notably for the extra pair of wheels which go under the tracks and keep the cars from flying off the rails.
This rollercoater was perhaps most famous for the scenes in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" that take place in the house beneath it. The building was originally part of the Kensington Hotel which was built in the 1800's. Support beams for the Thunderbolt were actually driven through the building. The house belonged to owner George Moran and later his son Fred. May Timpano was the last person to live there until a fire in the mid 1980's.
According to Jeff Stanton's Coney Island History Articles:
"The Thunderbolt had two serious accidents during the first two years it was opened. A women was killed on August 21, 1925 when she was thrown forward and her head hit the metal handle bar in front of her. A more serious accident occurred on July 26, 1926 when a three car train stalled part way up a hill. As it rolled back down to the bottom, it was struck by the following train. Twelve people were injured, one seriously."