Top Thrill Dragster is a roller coaster opening May 2003 at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. This "strata-coaster" is already causing world records to tremble with the immense statistics associated with it. Cedar Point press releases discuss this ride as using a hydraulic launch system designed to blast riders from 0 to 120 mph in approximately four seconds. Riders will leave the station and race straight up at that max speed reaching an astounding height of 420 feet. After cresting the top the riders not only get to the plunge down a 400-foot drop back to Earth but they get to do it while experiencing a 90-degree drop with a simultaneous 270-degree spiral.

Top Thrill Dragster (some are calling TTD already but we shall see…) was designed by Intamin and cost $25 million to construct. Crews faced many new challenges and face many more to meet the planned opening day of May 4th, 2003. The designs for Top Thrill Dragster were developed for over three years and involved over 1,300 blueprints. 149 footers using over 9,000 cubic yards of concrete anchor the structure itself. Each of the six trains weighs five tons but that still seems minute when compared to the total weight of Top Thrill Dragster tipping the scales at 1,150 tons. Five cranes were used in construction, two of which breached 480 feet (a rarity in the United States since there are only four available). The construction required 90 truckloads of steel from Europe, 5,400 bolts, 94 pieces of acceleration track, and 151 support columns. The 200-worker crew had opposition from the weather as well facing hurricane force winds, snowfall breaching 60 inches, and -30-degree temperatures.

Top Thrill Dragster
Open May 4th, 2003

  • Length: 2800 feet
  • Height: 420 feet
  • Drop: 400 feet
  • Max Speed: 120 mph
  • Angle of Ascent/Descent: 90-degrees

Resources include, but are not limited to: rec.roller-coasters, Cedar Point press releases, and the roller coaster database.

As a native to the Cleveland area, I have been lucky enough to grow up near Cedar Point, and grow up riding the newest, fastest, and tallest roller coasters in the world. This spring, Cedar Point unveiled a new coaster, the Top Thrill Dragster (which everyone in the park refers to as the tall one accompanied by pointing since you can see it from the entire park, and for a few miles before you get into the park.). The Top Thrill Dragster when it opened was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world.

Listening to statistics about the coaster is fine and dandy, but, what is it like to really be near it? Well, first off is the fact that contrary to popular belief this coaster is not open everyday. Or at least it wasn’t opening year; not only was it not open everyday, but on the days it was open it was closed for hours on end while they were trying to repair the ever present "Mechanical Error". After battling the ever present "Mechanical Error" it is time to battle the ever present "daunting line" to get near it. On normal "operational" days, the line to even ride this monster is at least good four hours.

Personally, the roller coaster doesn't look 420 ft. tall to me, but I think the reason is because it's sitting by itself with nothing to really compare it to, so it just looks like a real tall thing sitting there. The best view of the ride would have to be from the very back of the park standing at it's base and looking up at the peak, only then do you realize that it's 42-stories tall! Another thing that they don't make overly public is the fact that sometimes the trains don't make it all the way up the hill, for whatever reason. The cars are designed to just barely make it over the steep peak, and occasionally a train will not clear it, and so, they roll back (very quickly) down the hill until they reach a strip of brakes installed for that very reason. Most of the people I have talked to about it agree that rolling back down the hill would ROCK because then they just shoot you off again, and you get two rides for the wait of one.

So, is a two to six hour line really worth it for a 15 second ride? The short answer, yes yes a thousand times yes. The long answer would be, "well do you really want to ride anything else?" After actually riding the Top Thrill Dragster, yes, everything else seems lame, and I personally find myself saying "310 ft? that's it?"

Yes, but what is it REALLY like? So ok, you have over come the odds… you beat "Mechanical Error" and "Daunting Line", now it's time to actually board the train. First thing they tell you is "Anything that isn't attached to your body should be removed and either a) put with a non-rider b) put in a pocket that has zippers or Velcro or c) put in a locker which you can buy for a $1". And yes this includes glasses, both prescription and sun, those need to be put in none hip pockets, or secured tightly with a strap behind the head." Now that anything that could come off is secure, it's time to get into the seats, which are one of the smallest in the park. They are not "the" smallest, but they are very, very small. Surprisingly, the coaster does not have over the shoulder restraints, leaving you feeling very open, they have seat belts, and a lap bar. The workers move very quickly, and they load two cars at a time, with up to four cars in queue waiting to be launched. After being loaded, you have a few minutes to reflect on what you have just done before they launch there; this is where you get to look at the crowd and scream "THIS IS GOING TO ROCK!!" or the occasional "MOMMY NO!". Once your train is the front of the line they tell you to "Sit back and hold on", and then a short count down is played (with really cool "Dragster" style lights), and AWAY YOU GO!! Screams while barreling down the track are mandatory, and it is guaranteed you will not be able to read the speedometer that clocks how fast each individual train is going. In fact, you will most likely not even notice you are going up hill until you reach the top of it and have a few moments to look around before barreling to the ground. It really is incredible, since Cedar Point sits right on the lake, and you can see a lot of the lake from the top of the ride. Now that you are safe on the ground, it is mandatory that you again scream on the top of your lungs to let everyone know that your "World Record Breaking Ride" was indeed hardcore!

Mandatory Statistics: After having read what the ride is like, there are a few more things you should know.

Height: Yes, it really is 420 ft. tall (128.016 meters)

Speed: Officially, the ride goes "approximately" 120 mph (193.12 kph) though whenever I am around it, it seems to be running about 122-124 mph.

Maker: Intamin AG of Wollerau, Switzerland

Capacity: Approximately 1,500 riders per hour

Trains: Six 16-passenger trains Five cars on each train; three four-passenger and two two-passenger cars

Infromation gleaned from the official Cedar Point website, and from real life experience. For a picture of the Top Thrill Dragster, see

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