Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Passing of A Legend

Ron Toomer

Tonight, just a few minutes after arriving back from a trip from Branson... I heard the sad news of the passing of a legend. Ron Toomer.

Some of you reading this may not know who Ron Toomer was. There is the unfortunate fact that many coasters are know by their names, occasionally their manufacturers, and rarely their designers. Only are the greatest designers remembered. Ron Toomer was one of those.

Ron Toomer was designer at Arrow Dynamics from the 60's until his retirement in 2000. During that time he quite literally designed the modern steel roller coaster. Starting with Six Flags over Texas Runaway Mine Train, to the birth of the modern hyper coaster Magnum XL 200. Of course his primary contribution to Worlds of Fun's history itself was his design of the famed Orient Express.

In the days before computers, when coasters where designed by pencil and paper instead, Ron Toomer looked no further then a wire coat hanger as his means for designing the steel monsters of the 1980's and 90's. One has to remember that before Orient Express there were really only 2 ways to go upside down on a coaster. The Loop and the Corkscrew. With Orient Express, Ron Toomer introduced the first inversion to the modern patheon of inversions, on Orient Express it was known as the Kamikaze Kurve, today it is known as the Boomerang element. This tight, twisted pretzel roll inversion shocked riders from its inception, all the way to its final end in 2003. Orient Express, and its designer Ron Toomer lead the way into the modern world of coasters with inversions and twists with the names of zero-g rolls, cobra rolls, immelmanns, and batwings.

The Boomerang (Kamikaze Kurve) on Orient Express

Coasters with the names of Shockwave, Great American Scream Machine, Big Bad Wolf, and the still operating Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain are all a testament to Ron Toomer's genius.

Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point. A similar appearance to Mamba is not inconsequential.

Ron Toomer's legacy at Worlds of Fun wouldn't begin and end with Orient Express either. In 1989, one his biggest contributions to the roller coaster world opened. Magnum XL-200. At a towering 200 feet tall it became the worlds first hypercoaster. Nine years later, Mamba, a coaster derived from the roots of Magnum began towering over Kansas City's own Worlds of Fun. Mamba, may have not been designed by Ron Toomer, however the technology found in Mamba, could not have been achieved had not 10 years earlier, a man had not came up with the idea of a coaster that towered to the sky. That man was Ron Toomer, and though he may have passed from this world, his visions have not. One more good reason to go out and ride a coaster this weekend.

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