American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) recognizes Kennywood's Thunderbolt as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark, a designation reserved for rides of historic significance.
Originally built as The Pippin in 1924 by renowned coaster designer John A. Miller (1872-1941) and constructed by Kennywood's Charles J. Mach, it was the park's second under-friction coaster designed by Miller and his fifth overall for Kennywood. The Pippin was famous for a large double-dip into a natural ravine as well as saving its largest drop of 95 feet for last.
In 1967, Kennywood Entertainment president Carl E. Henninger (1906-1985) and park manager Carl O. Hughes (1921-2012) took a considerable gamble when they decided to tear down portions of The Pippin to enlarge it and create a different roller coaster experience. The ride's loading platform, upper turn and double-dip were removed. Kennywood's head of maintenance, Andrew Vettel (1914-1988), designed and supervised construction of the thrilling new layout. The lift hill was lengthened to a new height of 70 feet, while the overall track length was extended to 2,887 feet that included a series of tightly banked turns and drops along the midway. A new loading station built within the redesigned structure was constructed to allow for a large 50-foot drop to occur as soon as the train left the platform. The ride's unique mid-course lift hill and its thrilling final drop were retained along with three National Amusement Device (NAD) Century Flyer trains that were acquired for The Pippin in 1958. The ride was then renamed Thunderbolt via a naming contest with the opening on April 14, 1968.
ACE commends Kennywood for continuing to operate and preserve Thunderbolt, a unique wooden roller coaster.
Presented by American Coaster Enthusiasts
July 27, 2014