Dorri Partain

Would you dare to ride 3,470 feet of twisted terror?

When completed in 1980, Worlds of Fun’s Orient Express roller coaster offered coaster enthusiasts a completely new experience. From the 55-degree first drop, riders experienced over 3.5 G forces at 65 miles per hour.

After boarding, riders entered a 100-foot-long tunnel before being lifted as high as a 12-story building (260 ft.), then barreled down to the first banked curve before they entered the first loop, 50 feet tall and 80 feet above the ground. A second loop followed, 60 feet above the ground, then another banked curved before riders experienced the Kamikaze Kurve – two barrel rolls in 13 seconds. The ride lasted two and a half minutes from the time the coaster left the station until its return.

According to “Good Times,” a magazine produced for distribution to park guests, “the Orient Express is sure to intrigue and mystify.” Designed by Arrow Development of Mountain View, Calif., the coaster was also designed to work with the natural topography of the park, and built to co-exist with standing trees and other natural features.

Building the Orient Express used 300 tons of steel, 2,174.5 square yards of concrete for the footings, 1,500 bolts, and 400 gallons of “Chinese Red” paint.

With three coaster trains holding 28 passengers each, the Orient Express could handle 1,800 riders per hour.

Unlike the other coasters already operating in the park at that time, namely the Zambezi Zinger, Schussboomer, and Screamroller, the Orient Express had its own unique logo, the fire-breathing Chinese dragon. As riders exited the ride, they were right next to a small gift shop dedicated to Orient Express merchandise named Orient Expressions.

Inside the shop, T-shirts, hats, glassware and other items featuring the dragon logo were available for purchase. This 2-inch pin-back button still has its price tag on the back side; though faded, the price appears to be 59 cents.

At the end of the 2003 park season, the Orient Express was retired and removed. A less tall, less fast coaster-type ride, Spinning Dragons, opened in its location in 2004.