Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mythical Australian Roller Coaster Still Draws Visitors

In 2012, an infamous Australian landmark will turn 28. The Orphan Rocker was the only roller coaster ever designed and built entirely in Australia but has never opened to the public. And like every late-twenties birthday, this one brings up a lot of questions. The most important question may be why roller coaster enthusiasts and travel junkies still make the trip to Blue Mountains outside Sydney to see this little engine that couldn't.

Begun in 1984 as a monorail for tourists to the region, the Orphan Rocker was named for Orphan Rock, a nearby rock formation that many trips to the Blue Mountains include on their journey. The monorail soon became a roller coaster, with minecar-like seats that would rock when the cars came around turns. But the company producing the ride had trouble getting it insured and was therefore not able to open. To this day, the tracks have been repainted and covered over with brush but never removed, giving hope to many that it may someday rumble and rock once again.

The simple answer to this question is that there is more to see at the Blue Mountains than an unfinished roller coaster. As a World Heritage Site, the Blue Mountains have been sited as a location of unique cultural and biological importance in the world. With thousands of endangered species, rare plant life and ancient rock formations know as "orphans" dotting the horizon, Blue Mountain tours have become a unique part of the Sydney vacationer's itinerary.

Not only is there more to do than check out the Orphan Rocker, there are more thrilling attractions. Scenic World—the Blue Mountains tourist center—offers the Scenic Skyway, a cable car that drops visitors down over the steep cliffs of the Blue Mountains for a view unlike any in the world. And the Scenic Railway is the world's steepest scenic railway incline, allowing passengers to travel four meters per second down the side of the Blue Mountains. And while thrill ride veterans visit the Orphan Rocker for the story it has to tell, their true joy comes from riding the historic Scenic Railway.

But the main reason people come to see the Orphan Rocker is the legend it holds. Some say test runs declared the ride too dangerous. Others say it was too scary for the average rider, banking turns over a massive cliff side. And while the tracks and infrastructure remain in tact, the ride has never made a single run that was open to the public.

For some, the mystery is more thrilling than any ride.

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