That was the headline back in 1978 when The Loch Ness Monster first opened. At the time, John B. Roberts, General Manager of The Old Country, stated, “There has never been anything like it. For openers, it’s the tallest and fastest coaster-style ride with the steepest drop in the world … and the only one with interlocking loops. On top of that, part of it’s in total darkness.”
It is truly amazing how The Loch Ness Monster, dwarfed by its coaster counterparts today, was once the epitome of technology, speed and thrill. Don’t get me wrong, she is still an awesome ride that has thrilled guests for years. It just helps show some of the remarkable changes and improvements in technology over the years.
Riders love the unique feeling they get when riding the legendary coaster. This is due, in large part, to the design and technology used back in the 1970s. The Loch Ness Monster was the first and is the only remaining coaster with interlocking loops. Also, the train runs on the inside of the rails, compared to modern coasters, which run on the outside. This gives the sensation of a ‘looser’ ride and adds to the thrill.
The construction took months, as engineers welded sections of track together, totaling 3,240 feet. As the team worked their way around the track, following the direction of travel, they noticed a big problem. The last section of track, leading from the second loop to the station, was curved the wrong way (toward what is today, Alpengeist). Engineers had to heat up the track and bend it back in the right direction. If you ride the coaster today, you may feel a very slight jolt to the right. This is where the track was corrected.
In the 1970’s engineers used slide rules, mapped the layout of the ride by walking the proposed ride area, and cut/welded the track by hand. Today’s modern thrill machines are designed and constructed using the most sophisticated technology. Roller coasters are now designed by computer, the track is cut by laser and shipped in sections, and the track is bolted together instead of welded. This technology offers better accuracy and a smoother ride for the guests.
The Loch Ness Monster opened to rave reviews, but has undergone numerous changes throughout the years. The manufacturer planned to operate the ride with 4 trains, each with 6 coaches, but realized there would not be enough time to dispatch the trains. Instead, the ride was modified to 3 trains with 7 coaches each. There is still the body of a 4th train underneath the ride, that can be switched with another train if necessary.
In my opinion, one of the most interesting history points of The Loch Ness Monster was that the operators used to manually stop the train in the station. If for some reason an employee did not stop the train in time, the train would have to go all the way around again. That gave some lucky guests two rides in a row on the famous Nessie.
Feel free to share your memories about The Loch Ness Monster. She is one fantastic ride that is still a favorite today. Stay tuned for more park history.
Park Operations Manager for Busch Gardens