The common denominator – apart from the fact that Magnum XL-200 and Steel Force are steel hypercoasters – is that both were record breakers when they opened. Magnum, located at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH and manufactured by Arrow Dynamics, was the first hypercoaster to be erected. Steel Force, located at Dorney Park in Allentown, PA and manufactured by D.H. Morgan, was the first coaster on the East Coast to break the 200-foot barrier. Magnum opened in 1989 and Steel Force opened in 1997.
Layout, Elements and Theming
Steel Force, with an out and back layout, boasts 5,600 feet of track with two 120-foot tunnels. Magnum likewise features an out and back layout with 5,106 feet of track and three tunnels. So in terms of layout and length, the two are roughly equivalent. Neither coaster displays any discernible theme. Steel Force operates with three trains consisting of six cars comprised of three rows seating two across for a total capacity of 36 riders. Magnum has exactly the same configuration. Restraints on both consist of a lap bar and seat belt; another common feature is that they have tracks of similar color – Magnum’s is a reddish orange and Steel Force’s is red bordering on orange – with blue tunnels. It’s worth mentioning that the cars on Steel Force are boxy and spacious, so much so that I swear one could fit a suitcase into them. They look outdated in comparison with later hypercoasters. Note that the photos of Magnum were taken after dark so that the actual colors did not come out exactly right.
A ride on Steel Force begins with a straight course out of the loading station, very slight left turn and slow ascent up a 200-foot chain lift hill. Upon reaching the apex the train plummets 205 feet at a 61-degree angle into a tunnel, reaching a maximum speed of 75 mph. It then ascends, dropping a second time, before making a right turn and negotiating a 510-degree downward helix. This is followed by an upward swoop and the mid course brake run. After the brake run the train negotiates a series of bunny hills, one of which drops into the second tunnel, and makes a right turn which leads back to the station. While the initial drop didn’t strike me as particularly intense, the helix certainly did. As long as I braced myself hard with my feet to avoid being jolted, the helix was wonderful. Highlights of the ride would have to be the helix and the bunny hills during the latter part of the course. These offer some good airtime, especially from the back of the train. One thing that struck me as unusual about Steel Force is that it’s the only coaster I’ve ridden – and I’ve ridden this one dozens of times – on which I never came into physical contact with the lap bar. Despite this the lap bar serves as an effective restraint.
A ride on Magnum begins with the train travelling over the walkway to Cedar Point Shores, making a small dip, turning right and ascending a 205-foot chain lift hill. It’s a very slow climb. In fact both Magnum and Steel Force trains seem to take an eternity to reach the top of the lift hill. Upon reaching the top the train drops 197.4 feet – reaching a maximum speed of 72 mph – rising back up over a camelback before turning left and dropping into the first tunnel. As is the case with Steel Force, the initial drop is nothing to write home about. The train then traverses another hill, after which it negotiates a turnaround and veers left before entering another tunnel. This is followed by a series of airtime hills which lead into the final tunnel and mid course brake run. The train drops unexpectedly – a highlight of the ride – in the darkness of the third tunnel. From that point it winds its way back to the station, turning right and then left.
And the winner is…Steel Force. I give this coaster the win both because of the helix and because of the fact that it offers a much smoother ride than Magnum. Although Magnum offers more airtime than Steel Force, the ride is a somewhat choppy and very, very bumpy one. The restraint system seems to have improved since I first rode it eight years ago, when I was conscious of the lap bar repeatedly whacking me on the legs, and while this did not happen when I rerode it recently, the change did not make the ride any less bumpy.
What’s your take? Have you ridden Steel Force and Magnum and if so, how do you think they match up?