History Revere Happenings

Lightning Roller Coaster at Revere Beach

Story by Lou Spagnola

All Steel Roller Coaster built on Revere Beach July 2, 1927

The Lightning Roller Coaster came to Revere Beach with the flash and impact its name suggests, and was gone after just six seasons. During this short duration, it would be known as possibly the fastest – and most terrifying – roller coaster in the world.

While the Cyclone would  almost certainly be the first roller coaster mentioned in regards to Revere Beach and terrifying amusements, the Lightning would prove to be faster, scarier, and far more dangerous!

The all-steel ride, designed and built by Harry G. Traver, would be known far more for the bumps, bruises, and black eyes riders would receive than the thrills it was supposed to give. With a track that spanned a length of 1,600 feet, sharp turns and steep banks making quick changes of direction, and the first drop from a height of 100 feet, cars could reach 65 MPH. With the only level section of the ride at the start, riders were routinely knocked around and into each other for the duration of each ride.

Previously, the Dragon Gorge occupied the site where the Lightning would stand; today, if you were to stand in front of Nick’s Place, just before Sammy’s Patio, the massive coaster stretched all the way to the Happy Garden, which is just after Bill Ash’s Lounge.

The grand opening took place on Saturday, July 2, 1927; this star-crossed ride would see a rider killed on just the second day of operations, and after multiple riders were injured over the next 48 hours, the power was turned off at 10PM of just the third day. Following a meeting with city officials, where it had been determined all the safety devices were in proper working order, the ride was reopened. However, as evidence of the differences in regards to 1927 and today, the ride was closed for just 20 minutes after the fatality, or for long enough to clear the scene and put the person into an ambulance.

Acting Chief William E. Tappan, who investigated any possible breaches in safety protocol, made the preposterous claim of strapping a bucket of water to the seat for a test trip around the tracks, and “not a single drop spilled.”

It has been said the phrase “Take her on the Lightning” was popular advice given to those looking to end an unwanted pregnancy.  One rider, after complaining of the many aches associated with a ride on the coaster, claimed, “The thrill of a Lightning ride could be equaled by a beating with a club in a dark room.”

“The Terrible Triplets” would gain Traver worldwide fame – the Cyclone at Crystal Beach, the Cyclone at Revere Beach, and the Lightning were different in layout, but beyond the accustomed level of terror associated with a roller coaster ride. As Traver stated, “Everybody’s equal on a roller coaster; they all shriek at the same time.”

The end would come due to economics, not safety or accidents; with both the 1931 and 1932 seasons unprofitable due to operational costs and a steady decline in thrill-seeking riders, the Lightning was dismantled prior to April 1, 1933 in order to avoid a tax assessment.
It was reported that the most notorious coaster at Revere Beach was sold and moved to somewhere in the southern United States, though its destination wasn’t made clear.