If someone were to ask you when you really became a coaster enthusiast, would you have an answer prepared? I certainly do.
For me, I can tell you that it all started on Wonderland’s opening day 2003. It was the first year my extended family stopped renewing their season passes so I was left to go with just my parents, a friend or two, and then eventually by myself. With visits to the park becoming less of a social thing, I was interested in learning more about the rides and the park by researching and joining online enthusiast communities.
Sledgehammer: Great Ride. Great Timing.
2003 happened to be the year when Wonderland added Sledgehammer. If you follow me on social media, you’d know it’s my favourite ride. Being the new shiny thing at a time when I was deepening my interest with the park made it one of those things I focused a lot on. I think I’d still become obsessed with it if it were a new attraction today, though.
The “Data Sheet” provided by the park in 2002-2003:
SLEDGE HAMMER DATA SHEET
Sledge Hammer is a menacing, mechanical giant, cutting the skyline at an awesome 80-feet in the air. Its massive power will hurl riders through accelerated jumps and freefalls. Sledge Hammer – A monstrous thrill that will leave white-knuckled riders screaming for more!
Pound for pound, Sledge Hammer is one of the most powerful rides in the world. It is equipped with four 250-horse power hydraulic engines equivalent to 10 top of the line sports cars. Sledge Hammer’s rotation and potent elevation sensations are motorized by sophisticated dual sets of pressure accumulators that expand rapidly to provide smooth, yet surprising jumps.
Sledge Hammer is also equipped with the most sophisticated computer system in the entire Park. This system is responsible for choreographing the complex hydraulic and electrical systems that produce the calculated sensations of this unique thrill experience.
Sledge Hammer has a capacity of approximately 1,000 riders per hour.
48 (8 riders per 6 gondolas)
One of my earliest memories of Sledgehammer was queuing up for the first time. The park had posted a few construction photos on its website (when it still had a hyphen in the URL) but I didn’t quite gauge the scale of the project quite right. I remember looking up at it in awe, trying to take it all in. It’s such an fun ride experience with the added bonus of having all of these technical aspects of it that are so interesting to watch and listen to.
Problems? What problems?
Sledgehammer has a bad reputation among the public for being that ride that’s “always broken”. I, obviously, don’t like it.
There have been seasons where it’s seen some extended downtime but it has improved a lot over the years. With all of the experience the park has had running this ride, they’ve gotten efficient with resetting after a cycle goes bad. Of the 40+ visits I had last season, there was only one where I wasn’t able to ride due to downtime. There are other rides that had their bouts of downtime so I don’t think this ride deserves to be singled out as much.
This year, the ride wasn’t ready for opening day and I think it has to do with both the recent ice storm delaying things as well as some extra work that’s being done that isn’t typically performed every year. That’s just speculation but it’s rare to see the ride in the state that it’s in with the park open, with the slew ring sitting on the platform (pictured below) and wires dangling from the gondolas.
The ride did end off last season on a low note (a cycle went bad mid-day and it never reopened for the day or the Haunt nights following) so that may have encouraged some extra looks at the ride this off-season.
… So this downtime already in the season isn’t really helping my case for the ride… But at the same time, what happens to it when it’s down is fascinating to watch.
I love Sledgehammer because of its unpredictability and being able to see some of the ways they go about servicing the ride. It comes up with some new sound seemingly every year that sometimes become the norm. Then there’s the odd ride stop or e-stop that I enjoy seeing while simultaneously getting frightened by because of the unexpected loud noises. There’s also been times when I’ve been around to see them running unique test sequences.
This sequence is actually not uncommon to see throughout the season. I don’t really know what it does for the ride but I still like watching it.
My point is, the next time you want to bash Sledgehammer for being broken, at least take a moment to consider what a grand piece of engineering it is. It’s got a lot going on.
The Obsession is Real.
Social media has made it easy to let the world know how much I love this ride but I didn’t have social media back when I was a kid. (THANKFULLY.) Instead, I just let everyone around me know.
I drew this piece of… “art” back in elementary school sometime in the off-season before Sledgehammer actually opened. I was hooked before I’d even ridden it.
A couple years ago, I did something again. This model was made completely out of dollar store foam-core board, some wooden dowels, and paint. I originally wanted to be able to move it up and down by hand to pose it in different ways but that didn’t work out. Still, even with its flaws, I’m proud of it. I haven’t been able to make other rides that I thought would have been easier. I spend an unhealthy amount of time staring at this ride, I guess.
Happy Birthday Sledgehammer!
Sledgehammer opened to the public on May 4, 2003, which makes it 15 years old tomorrow.
It’s encouraging to see the park continually putting so much effort into keeping this ride alive, and I couldn’t thank them enough! Here’s to another 15 years!