Skip to Main Content

This Date in 1979: The first time Don Helbig Road The Beast Roller Coaster at Kings Island

Skip to Next Section

This Date in 1979: The first time I came face-to-face with The Beast 

Don Helbig

Area Manager Digital Marketing - Kings Island

Twitter: @DonHelbig 

  

August 2 is a day I will always remember. It’s a special day – the anniversary of my first-ever ride on The Beast roller coaster in 1979.

Although I had been anticipating riding The Beast since the previous summer when Kings Island announced it was building the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, it wasn’t the first ride I headed to when I arrived at the park in the morning. I started the day by riding some of my favorites from previous visits to Kings Island since the park had opened in 1972, like The Racer, Enchanted Voyage, Grand Carousel, Flying Eagles, Antique Cars and K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad. And there was a ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see if I could get a look at The Beast before riding. Only the two lift hills were visible.

A little after 2 p.m., the time had come to head to the southeast corner of Kings Island in Rivertown, get in line with a couple thousand others and come face-to-face with The Beast. There were drink stations in the queue and I still remember the songs from the playlist as I made my way toward the station: Ring My Bell by Anita Ward; Hot Stuff by Donna Summer; Knock on Wood by Amy Stewart; My Sharona by The Knack. (All of these songs remind me of my first Beast ride whenever I hear them on the radio or my Spotify Playlist.)

Finally, after a wait of approximately 80 minutes it was my turn to ride. Train 3, Car 3, Row 3. (The Beast had four-bench cars back then.)

As the train left the station, I admit I was a little nervous as it went out over a small lake and then up the lift where I heard that familiar clack, clack, clack of the motor beneath as I began to rise above the park and above the trees. I had no idea what to expect as the train reached the top of the lift hill and then I was off, plummeting down a first drop of 135 feet at a 45-degree angle into a menacing dark hole. This was not like anything I had experienced before as the train roared through the 125-foot-long underground tunnel.

As the train was coming out of the tunnel and I saw the light of day, there was a turn to the left and then down a steep ravine at a 32-degree angle and up a hill. Then a right turn. Finally, a chance to catch my breath. 

After going through a 350-foot stretch flanked by rotating tires on each side of the train and braking slowly, there was a sudden whip into a hard right turn and down into another ravine.

From there, it was into a tunnel for 83 feet where the course made a complete 180-degree turn, quickly outdoors for just a couple of seconds and then dropping down to the right into another tunnel. This one was below the surface and a little longer than the other, just over 100 feet, and starting a wide right turn.

After exiting the tunnel I was amidst the trees again as I continued the wide right turn, looking every step of the way as if the train was going to zoom off the edge to the bottom of the ravine to my left. Then it was down to the bottom of a hill and time for my second breather and the start of the third phase of the ride.

I was on a second lift hill with its familiar clack, clack, clack, through the trees, from the bottom of the ravine more than 540 feet of track, and 107 feet above the ground at the top of the hill. All I could think about at that moment was what have I gotten myself into? 

As the train crested the top of the lift, I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower before the train made a sharp turn to the left and without warning, I was speeding down a 141 drop at an 18-degree angle, through the tree line and down the hill like a runaway train.

It looked and felt like I was going to crash into the trees, but the track entered a big roundhouse and the train went through a complete 360-degree circle, then another 180-degree circle – more than 600 feet altogether – the length of two football fields if straightened out. The helix wasn’t enclosed at that time, so it looked like all this wood was flying at me.

After completing that exhilarating part of the ride, I was riding back through the trees, along the lake and headed back home to the station. 

As I exited the ride, I couldn't believe I had just conquered The Beast! I immediately knew what I had to do: Get back in line and ride it again! 

Simply put, that visit to Kings Island was one of the Beast days of my life! 

Related Topics:

Share This

Don Helbig

Area Manager Digital Marketing - Kings Island

Twitter: @DonHelbig 

  

Post a Comment

Skip to Next Section

New Kings Mills Antique Autos making adults nostalgic and kids wanting to ride again

You heard it hear first. The new Kings Mills Antique Autos are a hit! Rain or shine, opening weekend at Kings Island was a success. It is truly incredible to see guests come from all over and get to be some of the first to experience this blast from the past. Don’t believe us? Read for yourself!
Read More

A walk in the park at Kings Island: Beast edition

What’s been lurking in the woods at Kings Island this week? Plot twist, it was me. I got a chance to take some awesome pictures of The Beast behind the scenes during my walk in the park this week. Even though I had never been to Kings Island before this year, I had definitely heard of The Beast. I still have yet to ride the ferocious coaster, but rest assured, I’ll be in one of the cars towards the back tomorrow for Opening Day
Read More

One of the men behind the making of The Beast

The Beast is celebrating its 40th anniversary at Kings Island this year. This coaster, when it first opened April 14, 1979 was the longest and fastest roller coaster in the world. It still holds the title as the longest wooden roller coaster in the world at 7,359 feet. We’ve all heard about The Beast; now it’s time to meet one of its makers. Jeff Gramke started out as a surveyor before he embarked on the ride of his life.
Read More

International Street Stein Refurbished for 2019 Season

If you’ve been to Kings Island before, you’ve likely passed underneath one of the biggest beer steins you’ve ever seen. It’s fitting that it’s located above the pretzel shop near the entrance to the Oktoberfest area of the park. And, at 4 feet tall, 42 inches across, it would satisfy any beer fan, holding more than 150 gallons of beer.
Read More

The Beast: 40 Years of Terror

Forty years ago, the phenomenon known as The Beast debuted. The ride’s opening in 1979 shook the roller coaster world to its very foundations, breaking all existing records as the longest, the fastest and, well, just plain baddest ride in the world. In roller coasters, there had been nothing else like it anywhere and it took riders to a place they’d never been before, delivering the next level of big thrill, adrenaline-pumping excitement.
Read More

State of Ohio recognizes The Beast’s 40th birthday

The Beast, which officially opened to the public on this date 40 years ago on April 14, 1979, was recognized by The State of Ohio with a resolution by Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor John Husted which read, in part, “Whereas, The Beast since its opening in 1979 has had more than 53 million riders take its twists and turns, and still holds the record for world’s longest wooden roller coaster in both length and time."
Read More

On this date 40 years ago The Beast was unchained 

After three years of design and construction work, The Beast was officially, and quite appropriately, “unchained” in a steady downpour 40 years ago on Friday, April 13, 1979, for hundreds of newspaper, television and radio reporters from around the U.S. and Great Britain.
Read More

Top storylines as Kings Island begins 2019 season

Another year of amazing fun at Kings Island is here! If you’re ranking sentences, that one is probably pretty high up there on your list, right? With the countdown to Gold and Platinum Passholder Preview Night on April 19 and Opening Day on April 20 down to single digits, here are some storylines that have made the 2019 season one of the most highly-anticipated in Kings Island’s 47-year history.
Read More

A walk in the  park at Kings Island: Week of tours and discovery

I’m no stranger to theme parks but in the case of Kings Island, I am a total newcomer. Confession: The first time I’d ever been to Kings Island was my interview for the Social Media Coordinator position. I’ve decided that this blog, A Walk in the Park at Kings Island will be one of my contributions to the park as a recurring weekly segment filled with pictures that I take of some of my favorite findings and my thoughts.
Read More

Following in The Beast's footsteps

A few gallons of paint can go a long way. In the days leading up to the start of the 2019 season, Kings Island revealed that the once-revered Beast paw prints would return to the park. After more than a decade’s absence, these tracks would once again lead guests to what is arguably one of Kings Island’s most popular attractions, The Beast. If you’ve been coming to the park for a while, you understood the significance of the announcement.
Read More