In 1980, following the last year's success with The Beast, Kings Island began construction on its newest roller coaster.
This coaster would be named... THE BAT.
The Bat would be a brand-new ride concept, designed and constructed by Arrow Dynamics (Now S&S-Arrow) of Utah, with assistance by Park engineers. The Bat would be the first-ever Suspended roller coaster, featuring cars suspended from an overhead track, and that could swing left and right through the ride's many turns.
The Bat comes to life
During the winter of 1980, Construction crews and Arrow engineers began bringing The Bat to life. The ride would consist of more than 3000 feet of track, two 80-foot-tall lift hills, and over 1000 concrete footers. It would be built on land between the park's Coney Island and Rivertown sections, along a connecting path that was built in 1975. The Bat was designed by Ron Toomer, Lead Designer for Arrow Dynamics.
The Bat was completed in early 1981, and, being a prototype, began intense testing of the systems, track, and vehicles. The new suspended track configuration featured a thick, round spine, with short ties connecting the spine to two running rails.
The Bat's Trains
The Bat's three trains each sported a large bat face, complete with ears, on the front of the lead car. The main body of the cars were black, with the sides also decorated to look like a bat. Each train had 7 cars that could swing independantly of each other, as the trains plied over 3,000 feet of bright red steel trackage.
Another important part on The Bat's trains were the steel struts, that connected the train's main body to the upper section. There were two struts per car, running between the upper and lower chassis. Shock absorbers flanked the struts. (See below.)
The upper chassis contained the wheel assemblies, which were basically the same as a normal steel coaster's wheels, with a running wheel, side-friction wheels, and upstop wheels. The lift chain connections, anti-rollback dogs, and several safety sensors were also located in the upper chassis.
The connecting struts featured shock absorbers to dampen the "snap" created by the swinging of the cars. Visible in photos, these yellow shocks connected to the black struts supporting the cars.
The Bat's structure was very large and complex. Because a Suspended coaster cannot have supports directly below the track, Arrow engineers as well as the Park worked very hard to ensure there were proper clearances for the swinging cars.
Not only did the track have to be high enough above the ground, there also had to be extra room around turns to allow for the swinging of the cars. The support structure featured completely new types of support beams and framework. The all-black support columns were appoximately six to seven feet away from the track, with a horizontal beam connecting the track to the top of the column. The supports resemble an upside-down "L" shape.
On turns, the supports were located on the inside of the track, in order to avoid a possible collision between the swinging cars and the structure. The lift hills featured scaffolding-like structure, with supports on both sides of the track. Horizontal beams spanning the supports were connected directly to the track spine.
A maintenance staircase was located on each lift hill, below the track on the left side. Safety netting was positioned directly below the train's path, to provide safety in the event a train had to be evacuated while stopped on a lift.
Above the lift track, special supports held the return feed for the lift chains in place. The anti-rollback system was similar to standard steel coasters, but the rollback dogs on the cars had to be counter-weighted to keep them in the proper positions.
The Bat's Grand Opening was held in May 1981, drawing large crowds of people wanting to experience this first-of-its-kind roller coaster. The Bat immediately became one of the park's most popular rides, and ranked as one of the best steel roller coasters.
Very soon after The Bat opened, problems began to arise.
The shock absorbers, located on the train's connecting struts, started to wear out and break well before their expected lifetime. Before long, park maintenance crews were having to replace a lot of the shocks daily.
To make matters worse, track inspectors doing a daily track inspection found an alignment problem in the coaster's structure at a steel joint. Stress tests were conducted, and cracks were found. Steel stress was also found in the track and in the trains. On the results of these tests and on the recommendation of structural engineers, Arrow crews were dipatched to the park, and The Bat was closed.
Arrow engineers started to make repairs and adjustments to the ride. Kings Island and Arrow began to suspect the track's design as a possible cause of the structural problems. During the design process, Arrow gave the entire responsibility of damping the lateral force of the turns to the swinging cars. They began to realize this was a bad idea. The excess forces on the struts was responsible for the frequent "blowing" of the shock absorbers.
Additional stress was placed on the trains because of the ride's brakes, which were located on the bottom of the swinging cars, which strained the struts during the force of braking.
Repairs were made, including new structural beams and patching cracks, and The Bat resumed operation.
The Bat is lost
Unfortunetely, The Bat continued to experience structural problems, and remained closed more often than not. Arrow engineers and Kings Island crews worked constantly, trying to keep The Bat operational, but to no avail. The cost of re-engineering the ride and replacing faulty sections would have been prohibitive. After four seasons of being mostly closed, The Bat was dismantled after the 1984 season.
The Bat continues
After The Bat was removed, Arrow Dynamics returned to design and construct Vortex, the world's first six-inversion roller coaster, on the same site previously occupied by The Bat. Exact terms of the deal are not available, but apparently Arrow installed Vortex at almost no cost to the park, due to the problems with The Bat.
When Vortex was built, the ride was designed around the existing station for The Bat. The station was repainted blue, and the overhead supports were removed. Sections of The Bat's lift hill stairs and brake run walkways were re-used on Vortex's lift hill and walkways. In fact, during Vortex's first season in 1987, they were still painted black. The sections were painted dark blue to match Vortex the next season.
The Bat was removed nearly 20 years ago. However, there are still many signs of the ride's existance within the park. Underneath Vortex, there are multiple footers from The Bat that were never removed. On the station, the overhead track mounts and the cutouts for the track spine on the train storage garage doors are still there. Photos are available in the Remnants photo album of the History Gallery.
Written by Donald Flint. Source of photos unknown.