Shockwave at Six Flags Great Adventure

As innovations came to the roller coaster industry, Six Flags has always stayed on the cutting edge, introducing the latest and greatest types of rides in their parks. In the 1980's the standup roller coaster was the new trend in the industry, offering a new riding experience. Shockwave was one of the first standup roller coasters produced when it was built at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and still a novelty when it was relocated to Six Flags Great Adventure in 1990. As the novelty of riding standing up wore off quickly, the coaster was relocated after only 3 years so it could become a "new" attraction for Six Flags Astroworld.  

Shockwave was built on the site of the park's Garden of Marvels area, which had been turned into a miniature golf course and then just an area for remote control boats and cars over the years.

During the summer of 1989, the area which had been closed off began a transformation, filling in the man made waterways and removing the earthen hill and man made mountain tops in preparation for the arrival of a new ride.

With the hill removed and the site leveled, the concrete "bunker" which served as the control room for the miniature boats and trains was exposed and left in place where it still remains today as a storage building.

The ride parts began arriving from the West Coast towards the end of summer, still with their original black paint from their stint at Six Flags Magic Mountain.   Some of the parts even arrived in their original shipping crates leftover from their original installation in 1986.

Some of the pieces pictured are the base and top of the lift hill, along with the counterweight that keeps proper tension on the lift chain (next to the shipping crate in the top center picture).    The straight pieces of track with the center channel and protruding brackets are the lift hill sections.   The center channel is where the lift chain runs, and the two side channels are the ratchets which engage the anti-rollbacks beneath the train as it climbs the lift.   The large gray container is the coaster's computer room.

An interesting note in the sixth picture down on the left in the farthest area towards the parking lot where the support columns are laid out was the Balloon Field where the park's hot air balloons were inflated and tethered.   The small building on the far edge of the field is the Balloon Shed where the balloons and their equipment was stored.  

The lower three photos on the left show the original colors of the Games Square, and Mustard's Last Stand, the hotdog restaurant that use to occupy the corner now occupied by Nathans.  

The lower two photos on the right are the view from Dream Street into what was the Miniature Marvels area as the site was being cleared.   The stack stone walls and white posts were part of the Miniature Marvels entry way.

As part of the promotion for the ride at the end of the 1989 season, the park held a naming contest for Shockwave.   The name Shockwave was actually one of the first names submitted and ended up being used by the park.

Press Release Announcing Shockwave Construction:   Press Release with Ride Facts and Figures:

Major milestones like installation of the first steel, topping of the lift, completing the loop and placing the final bolt were all chronicled in press photos and accompanying press releases.

Anyone who has followed construction of Kingda Ka and El Toro in recent years may recognize Al Rubano who headed up the park's Construction Department then and again in recent years.

Press Release about the winner of the Stand Up And Name It contest Press Release for the opening of Shockwave Media Day Alert

Before today's computer animations and renderings, ride announcements often featured artists renderings
During the winter of 1990, the park hosted the American Coaster Enthusiasts annual EastCoaster event.   This was the first time an off season ACE event had been held inside a park.   The event was held inside of the Showcase Theatre, and featured presentations and a full question and answer session with the park's president, Ray Williams (above).

As part of the EastCoaster event, the members were taken through the park on a tour of the Shockwave construction site, led by Ray Williams.

At the time of the event in February the majority of the ride had been assembled along with the ride station and queue house.   Few sections of track still sat on the ground awaiting placement.

A couple of the facts about the ride mentioned by Ray Williams during the event was that the ride was built in sequence, from the station forward.   This was unlike the method used at Magic Mountain which resulted in the last track sections not matching up.   The difficulties at Magic Mountain resulted in delays and additional costs, so when it was reassembled at Great Adventure special care was taken to make everything match up in the event there was any adjustment to be made, it was close to ground level.  

The track was bolted together and not welded at the joints, making it easier and faster to assemble and disassemble the ride as it moved from park to park.   Williams said Six Flags would be requiring manufacturers to use a bolt together assembly for all future rides so they could all be moved.

The freshly painted blue white and yellow track and structure shined in the winter afternoon sunshine.

The ride's station building and accompanying queue house and covered walkway were very generic steel structures painted with the rides blue yellow and white paint scheme.

The look of Shockwave's buildings was very generic, featuring basic fluorescent lighting and aluminum hand rails.   The structures shared a lot of the same traits of the Great American Scream Machine station built just a year before.


As spring came and opening day of the 1990 season rolled around, Shockwave was not ready to open with the park.  The ride circuit was complete, but testing and landscaping along with other finishing touches still needed to be completed.

During the first few weekends of park operations those final elements came into place and the ride began testing, with park employees becoming some of the first riders.

Park guests looked onto the Shockwave site with anticipation as most people had never seen a roller coaster that you rode standing up.

Finally everything was in place and the park held a media day to celebrate the ride's opening to the general public.

At the time Shockwave was built, not many people had ever seen anything quite like it with its large box beam track and four abreast configuration.

The graceful sweep of the curves and oversized loops were a stark contrast to the cookie cutter look of the parks other coasters, and were a taste of things to come.

The ride was designed by INTAMIN and manufactured by Giovanola, but clearly showed the hallmarks of designer Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard who would leave INTAMIN to form their own engineering firm and utilize the fabrication  facilities of Giovanola.  

Shockwave was a direct relative of the park's current four B&M coasters, Batman the Ride, Medusa, Nitro, and Superman Ultimate Flight which share the same grace and solid design.   It was the shape of things to come for the park's coaster skyline.

The media day event for Shockwave featured a husband and wife wing walking team, who performed above the Great Lake.   The comparison to riding a roller coaster in the standing position and wing walking was demonstrated as the plane went through several acrobatic maneuvers as the husband flew the plane with his wife standing out on the wing.

For the occasion the park's wardrobe department made a special "space suit" for Bugs Bunny which was made to match the graphics from the media invitations.  The suit was created just for the media day event and was never used again.  

Bugs Bunny and Ray Williams cut the ribbon to "officially" open Shockwave (picture coming soon).
Media Day Pre-Invitation (above) and Invitation (below)
To the left, one of the parks PR people takes a camera crew out in hard hats to film Shockwave as it flies past at ground level.

To the right and below, some of the publicity shots from the Shockwave media day.   In the picture on the lower left, park president Ray Williams is riding in the front row left along with other dignitaries in suits.

To the left, postcard picture of Shockwave sold in the park

To the right, Shockwave as it appeared on the park map from 1991
Shockwave Technical Information   
Manufacturer:  INTAMIN AG, Switzerland 
Model:  Standup Coaster 
Lift Height:   90 feet 
Drop Length:  85 feet 
Loop Height:  66 feet   
Track Length:  2300 feet   
Speed:    Up to 55 MPH 
Ride Time:  2 minutes 
Number of Trains:      
Number of Cars per Train:   
Number of Guests per Car:  4 abreast 
Number of Guests per Train:   20   
Hourly Capacity:  1200 guests 
Ride Cycle Time:  2 minutes 
Total Ride Weight:   350 metric tons (771,618 lbs) 
Ride Cost:  $4,000,000 
For more information visit the Shockwave page
on Roller Coaster Database

In Action:

Shockwave was a very popular ride while it was at the park, and drew very large crowds.   Quite often the lines were very long due to the complications of adjusting the harnesses, so load times were often quite long as a result.

The daily maintenance work for the first season irritated many guests as they would come to the park specifically to ride Shockwave only to discover they would have to wait for the ride to open at noon.   Quite often huge lines would form at the entrance as guests waited for the ride to open, often extending down Dream Street past the Carousel.

One of the major complaints about Shockwave during its run at the park was the noise levels.   The coaster track amplified the noise and could be heard throughout the park, drowning out music at the Carousel and in the Games Square.  

Shockwave's queue was quite large in order to accommodate the crowds and was one of the first to feature vending machines in the queue house.   People were often heard complaining about soda prices which at the time were an unheard of $1.00 a can!

One unique aspect of Shockwave was the creation of a viewing area which was accessible through the rides exit.   The viewing area was created utilizing one of the existing paths left from the original Garden of Marvels.   Near the ride's station was a fairly large pond and fountain (also left over from the garden of Marvels) with stack stone surround which was quite beautiful.  
In the fall of 1992, Shockwave closed to the public, and its entrance was blocked off with fall decorations.   Disassembly of the ride began as it once again was being moved to another Six Flags park in the ride rotation program.

Piece by piece the track sections and supports were un-bolted and carefully removed, packed and sent off on flat bed trucks to their next destination in Houston Texas where Shockwave was reassembled to become Batman: The Escape for the 1993 season.

The coaster ran at Astroworld from 1993 until the park closed in October of 2005, when it was disassembled and moved for the third time, this time heading to what was then Six Flags Darien Lake, where it currently sits awaiting possible reassembly at some future time and location. 
The former Shockwave site sat vacant for several years as plans were made for the site and changed several times as the park changed ownership and management.

At various times the area was supposed to become home to the suspended XLR-8 coaster from Six Flags Astroworld as part of the ride rotation program, but new management under Time Warner opted to add Batman the Ride instead.

At another point the area was supposed to become home to several flat rides, but until the construction of the Dare Devil Dive Skycoaster and later Houdini's Escape, the site sat vacant and unused, its abandoned queues and walkways empty.
Before: During: After:
As Shockwave at Six Flags Magic Mountain from 1986-1988:  The former Shockwave site in the park today:  As Batman The Escape at Six Flags Astroworld from 1993-2005: 


Shockwave Car Sign: Shockwave currently sitting in pieces at Darien Lake Park: Piece of ribbon from the ribbon cutting ceremony: