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Lightning Racer at Redondo Beach, CA | 1913 – 1923

Redondo Beach, California, operated a twin racing roller coaster called Lightning Racer, from May 1913 until October 1923. It was a twin, racing, out and back roller coaster, constructed at a cost of $100,000 ($2,472,586 in 2017 US dollars). The station included a $4000 organ ($98,903 in 2017 US dollars), and hundreds of lights and a number of flashing signs to represent lighting – based off the name of the coaster.

1913-05-29 The Los Angeles [CA] Times (p4)
Published in The Los Angeles Times, on May 29, 1913, page 4.
The coaster was built under the Redondo Beach Racing Coaster Company. The designer was John A. Miller and the builder was Charles Paige, Miller’s West Coast representative. Both tracks were 3,000 feet long, and were located on a pier over the Pacific Ocean. Lightning Racer successfully operated in the 1913 season, opening on Memorial Day, May 30.

A storm in February 1914 caused some damage to the ride, but that was quickly fixed.

On April 30, 1915, a bad storm system moved into the Redondo Beach area. The storm caused substantial damage up and down the beach, including the pier Lightning Racer was on. Despite the bad weather, thousands of people gathered to watch the pier, and the roller coaster, slowly break and collapse. By 9:30 pm, more than half of the Lightning Racer collapsed into the Pacific Ocean.

By 6 [pm] o’clock thousands of persons had gathered along the waterfront and watched the Lightning Racer, valued at $150,000, slowly crumble. Falling from a height of 100 feet the superstructure of the racer fell with a terrific crashing of timbers. The huge structure fell in four sections, and by 9:30 o’clock but two sections of the structure was left standing. This includes the front and a portion of the trackage. Awe-inspired and curious persons crowded close to the big framework until specially deputized policemen drove the people back and established a danger zone.

— The Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1915, Section II, page 7

The ride was rebuilt and was back in operation by the summer of 1915.

Lightning Racer postcard
This is a postcard of Lightning Racer at Redondo Beach, California, circa 1915-1923.
1914-06-13 The Los Angeles Times (p4)
Celebrate Flag Day at Redondo Beach and take a ride on the Lightning Racer! Published in The Los Angeles Times on June 13, 1914, on page 4.

In August 1915, an incident was reported that someone riding Lightning Racer decided to stand up during the ride to make it more exciting, and they fell off. The person ended up with a broken arm and a big cut on their head. In October 1923, a person was killed while attempting to transfer from one car to another during the course of the ride.

Lightning Racer did not reopen after the incident. Though it was clearly not the roller coaster’s fault, it appears that Redondo Beach was ready for a new roller coaster. Lightning Racer was torn down shortly thereafter and replaced by  The Giant Dipper, which was built by famous roller coaster manufacturers Prior & Church.

1924-06-29 The Los Angeles [CA] Times (pS2-11)
Published in The Los Angeles Times on June 29, 1924, in Section II on page 11.

There is also a roller coaster called Lighting Racer at Hersheypark, installed in 2000. You can learn more about that roller coaster in this article about Midway America

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Harry Michelson View All

I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks. Right now I am focused on Hersheypark.

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