It was a sad day in " Crackaxle Canyon " Sunday. The Rattler, which was once the only rollercoaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, as well as a world record holder in four categories for a wooden coaster (tallest, steepest slope, longest drop and speed), shut down operations shortly after 10 p.m. It is survived by an as-yet-unknown replacement ride.
As Scott Huddleston of the San Antonio Express-News reported:
An eerie hush had fallen over the park after closing time Sunday night as the last group of riders boarded the Rattler for the last time. Roller coaster devotees, police, firefighters and park employees were among those who took the final ride.
“One last time,” said Tim Baldwin, editor of RollerCoaster! Magazine, who was seated in the front row of the first car. At 10:05 p.m., the train pulled into the station for the last time. A loud pop was followed by a cloud of colorful confetti that fell upon the riders.
The wooden coaster opened when the park, which was then just called Fiesta Texas, did in 1992. As the Express-News' William Pack recounted, it was famously toned down in 1994, as its huge drop—3.5 Gs of gravitational force and top speed of 73 mile per hour—allegedly caused some riders to suffer neck, back, and shoulder injuries. (The park settled a lawsuit with 27 plaintiffs in 1998.)
It is rumored that the Rattler will now undergo the same wooden/steel "hybrid" renovation that was done on its older brother, the Texas Giant, at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
On July 4, a week before the park's official announcement of the Rattler's closing, Lance Hart of the blog Screamscape wrote:
The Rattler may very well be given the more expensive and dramatic full Iron Horse treatment, just like the Texas Giant at Six Flags over Texas. From what I’m told, and as predicted, the Rattler’s awesome original first drop will return, along with a major makeover to the second drop… and from there, we’re looking at something all new, as the triple helix on top of the cliff will be removed and a new ending for the ride created.
Park officials have not commented on all the speculation, but the fact that the Rattler got shut down prior to the end of the peak summer season suggests that work might be beginning right away.
The Express-News' Robert Johnson recalled the original ride's intensity in his own encomium:
I still haven’t forgotten my first ride; mainly, that legendary first drop. Our car rose almost straight upward (it felt like we were forming a right angle with the ground) until it reached vertigo-inducing heights. On the long, long way up, all I could see was blue sky.
As it slowly hit the top and we got our first peek at the first drop, my brain screamed at me, “We’re all gonna die!” I knew that couldn’t be true; I had watched people safely get off the ride all day, and it didn’t look that scary from the ground. But rational thought exited stage left as the car quickly gained speed and headed toward what looked to be certain impact with the quarry floor. So this is what a plane crash feels like, I thought.
Of course we rocketed into a left turn just before impact. The rest of the ride was a two-minute blur of being jerked back and forth. I got off feeling like I’d survived a rollover crash but was glad to have had the experience. I was less glad days later, when my neck began to hurt.
Below, ride the Rattler one last time thanks to the magic of YouTube: