Steel Curtain: Review
Located at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, PA, Steel Curtain is one of two record-breaking steel roller coasters from S&S – Sansei Technologies to open in the USA during 2019. (The other is Maxx Force at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL.) It sets a record for tallest inversion (197 feet), tallest looping coaster, tallest coaster in Pennsylvania (220 feet) and most inversions of any coaster in North America. There is some controversy about how many inversions it actually contains but more about that later.
Layout, Elements and Theming
The Steel Curtain is named and themed after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1970’s Super Bowl winning defensive line. It’s the first coaster to be named for a pro sports franchise. To add to the fanfare, Kennywood even created a section of the park called Steelers Country. This coaster sports the Steelers’ colors of black and gold and has trains whose seats were designed to resemble footballs. It operates with two trains consisting of six cars seating two across in two rows for a total capacity of 24 riders. The restraint is a lap bar with a seat belt as a secondary restraint.
The layout may be best described as out and back although it’s highly unconventional. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. With 4000 feet of track, Steel Curtain is advertised as having 9 inversions: a “drachen fire dive drop” (a/k/a fake-out inverting drop), banana roll, sea serpent, dive loop, zero-g stall, corkscrew and cutback. This would normally add up to 8, as a sea serpent counts as two and the others count as one. rcdb (Roller Coaster Database) describes the coaster as having 8 inversions because of the banana roll, which is a single inversion on the other two coasters which feature this element (Takabisha at Fuji-Q Highland and TMNT Shellraiser at Nickelodeon Universe). An argument was made to the effect that the banana roll on Steel Curtain is configured differently from the others and constitutes a double inversion. I’m not convinced that the so-called banana roll is double-inverting although this is difficult to assess while riding or even when watching a video because there’s so much going on.
A ride on Steel Curtain begins with an ascent of the towering lift hill. At 55 degrees, it’s pretty steep and affords a spectacular view of the Monongahela River on the right. Once at the top, the train enters the first inversion, the Drachen Fire dive drop. (Where do they come up with these names? One of the inversions on Maxx Force is called a “dog tongue.” Say what?) This is basically a downward-spiralling loop. Coming off this awesome inversion, the train navigates a short section of mostly flat track and goes up into the banana roll. This is followed by an airtime hill – yes, there is airtime! – and the sea serpent. Upon exiting the sea serpent, the train goes over the main airtime hill, which leads up to the dive loop. The remainder of the course includes a zero-g stall under the aforesaid airtime hill – how cool is that? – followed by a corkscrew and cutback. There is no mid-course brake run to slow the momentum.
Steel Curtain is exquisitely smooth and easily re-rideable, as well as exhilarating. I met up with a longtime reader of CoasterCritic, the delightful Judy P in Pgh, during a Coasting For Kids event, and we rode this coaster 7 times in the space of about 50 minutes. We started out in the back of the train but for a different experience moved to the 4th row, then decided that the G forces were better near the front so remained there. Six of our rides were consecutive; no-one in our group was waiting for our row so we just stayed where we were and continued to ride. By the second ride I had already picked out my favorite inversion, the dive loop, and watched with gleeful anticipation as the train approached it. In fact all the inversions were good, as was everything else about the ride.
Final Thoughts and Rating
The most complimentary thing I can say about Steel Curtain is that it absolutely lives up to the hype surrounding its opening. Any skepticism I felt was dispelled during the first ride. This coaster is both exceptionally well paced and truly unique. Final rating: 10 out of 10. Video courtesy of Kennywood.
What’s your take? Have you ridden Steel Curtain and if so, how would you rate it?