Review of Riverside (now Six Flags New England), 1993

I had hoped to be posting a Whalom 100 review this morning, but Mother Nature decided that Saturday would be a good time to water her garden, so the event got rained out (to be held April 17, I believe). Fortunately, our host for the Whalom 100 was ready with Plan B, a trip to Riverside Park in Agawam, MA.

It rained on and off during the hour drive to the park, getting really heavy when we got into Agawam. Fortunately, it stopped as we pulled into the park ($3 parking fee). Looked like it was going to be an on-again off-again kind of rainy day. We were told by our host that Mass. residents aren't really rainy-weather people, and the park would probably not be too crowded (unlike SFAGd, where nothing short of nuclear holocaust keeps em away), and he turned out to be quite right. There were maybe a dozen or two cars in the parking lot. We paid our $18.99 and headed in.


Very nice station entrance, but the station itself was pretty run-down. They were only running one train (I'm told this is standard all season long), a PTC thankfully. No thanks for the lap bars, seat belts, and seat dividers. There is no seat selection allowed, and we were told to sit up front, even though the four of us were the only people on the ride!

This 1941 woodie got a new paint job this season, and I'm pretty sure it got some new wood. ACE'rs I was with said the Thunderbolt was running the best they could remember it running. Leaving the chain, you do a slow 180 turn before the first drop, which is nothing spectacular. The ascent onto the second turn gives the front seat a hint of airtime to come. The double down after the 2nd turn treats the back seat riders to some nice gentle air-time. If you're in the back, the drop after the 3rd turn is very nice, with some lateral as well as negative G's. The best air time is after the 4th turnaround, over the camelbacks. With a half-full train running pretty fast, these two hills really got you out of your seat. Fast final turn and into the brake run at a good speed.

Unfortunately, Theme Park Mentality abounds at Riverside. No re-rides, even with NO ONE waiting for the train. We had to get off, run around to the entrance again (fortunately a short walk for the Thunderbolt), and climb back in. Anti-Seat Selection was relaxed later on, but still no re-rides. Another complaint I have with the Thunderbolt is the station braking. The operator seems to inch the train into the station, stopping it completely perhaps 4 or 5 times before it's properly positioned. This happened time and time again, and I don't want to think about the horrendous throughput this thing must have when the park gets crowded.

Riverside Cyclone

Celebrating its 10th year in the park, this is said to be William Cobb's most vicious coaster. Not having ridden a lot of other Cobb coasters, I can't confirm that, but the Cyclone is a twisted ride. When we got to the station, we were told be one of the operators that he couldn't tell us how long we would have to wait before the train could be run. It seems Riverside has a full-train policy on the Cyclone, claiming that with anything less, it would get stuck going up the second hill. OK... So we got in the train (front seat for my first ride, I was pretty excited), and we waited. And waited. We got to admire the Morgan trains (ugh), the station that had not been touched up or improved in 10 years, the light rain falling outside, etc. It took maybe 10 or 15 minutes to get a full train, and finally, we were off.

The Cyclone has a very steep lift hill, followed by perhaps the best first drop in the country (other ACE'rs may disagree, but then again, they may not). You drop straight and steep for a bit, and then into a 45 degree banked 220 degree turn before continuing your drop. Lots of speed, lots of Gs, a really great first drop experience. I can't give you a detailed turn-by-turn, drop-by-drop review, because I only got to ride twice (more on that in a minute), and it's a pretty wild design. The upper-level turns don't seem to work that well (hoop-de-hoos and all), the S-turn is really brutal (and fun), and the ride has a slam-bang finale, especially in the front car. Negative Gs on the Cyclone are anything but subtle. When they occur, it is instant, full-force, get-the-hell-out-of-the-seat strong.

We managed to get only one more ride, this time in the back seat, and we had to wait close to 30 minutes to get a full train. We were told by one of the operators that when he came in at 2:00, there were less than 150 people in the park. This is the first time that an empty park has backfired on me, depriving me of rides on the Cyclone. The back seat is very rough (but nothing like the Coney Island Cyclone), and generally gives a more exciting ride, except for the finale, which is not as powerful as in the front, IMHO.

The Cyclone ran a total of 4 times that day, before the park closed at 4 due to rain and poor (read no) attendance. We went to Guest Relations and got a pass to come back later in the season due to the early closure of the park.

Black Widow

Located in front of the Cyclone, the Black Widow is an Arrow shuttle loop coaster. The traditional 5 story trudge up the stairs is rewarded with a head-slamming rough ride that lasts about 60 seconds. Skip it.

Something I should note: The park has the nickname 'Riverdump' from a couple of fellow ACE'rs. I would guess that this stems from a couple of things. One, the park does not seem to care either about their rides or their riders. No seat selections, no single riders (Cyclone only), no re-rides, poor throughput, etc. Also, I heard stories, both from ACE'rs and park employees, of the bad crowds that Riverside attracts. It is the only other park besides SFAGd that has metal detectors at the entrances. One of the ride operators said knives and brass knuckles were common. Occassionally, they need to have Agawam police at the park to keep things under control. Their was one story of a bloody fistfight *ON* the Cyclone train in the station. The park is located immediately next to Riverside Raceway, and the drunk crowds often head to the park after the races. Since we were there on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I did not experience any of this, but I think I would plan my next trip there carefully (weekday with no races scheduled).