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Architect Once Envisioned Massive Coasters On Golden Gate, Bay Bridges

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Gold Striker roller coaster at Great America theme park. (CBS)

Gold Striker roller coaster at Great America theme park. (CBS)

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(KPIX 5) – The decade of the depression was not without whimsy, and one of the most fantastic ideas of the 1930s was a scheme to dramatically alter the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. The state archive holds blue prints for turning both spans into wild rides.

Great America’s newest high-tech roller coaster – Gold Striker – has the classic look of wood with all the modern mechanics. Here is a look at what riders experience:

“It uses all the latest technology both in train design and track construction and design,” explained the park’s Maintenance Director Greg Sanders.

Sanders says the ride has been a hit since it opened in June, 2013.

“It’s a great, fast, quick, exciting roller coaster,” Sanders explained.

But more than 70 years ago, there were plans for bigger, longer, faster coasters – any you may not believe where the architect wanted to build them.

“In 1938, he proposed that for the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition to add roller coasters to both the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge as well as the to the Golden Gate Bridge,” said California State Archivist Nancy Lenoil.

The architect was Joseph Bazzeghin, a man from Connecticut who corresponded with bridge officials over several months, trying to convince them to build his dream. Lenoil has all his blueprints, drawings, and letters, along with the response from the engineers who knew the bridges best.

The Director of Public Works and Secretary of the California Toll Bridge Authority responded, “That while doubtless you are conscientious in your own conception of the feasibility of the proposed enterprise, yet, acquainted as we are with the physical, financial, and legal features of the bridge, we do not consider your project adaptable thereto.”

Bazzeghin persisted, saying any objections to the plan were “conservative and snobbish.”

He wrote, “There can be no opposition to this ride based on sound facts because no unfavorable factors exist to mitigate against it.”

“My initial reaction is he was crazy,” said Greg Sanders with a laugh.

Sanders explained the architect’s plan to have the coaster trains move as fast as 220 miles per hour would have made it faster than anything that exists today.

“I guess, in some cases, you could say he was a visionary maybe, but definitely a kind of way out-of-the-box idea for the 1930s,” Sanders said.

Out of the box maybe, but Bazzeghin meant every word. He called the marriage of road and ride: “…perfectly simple, ingenious, and natural, the resulting combination of coaster and bridge going together just as naturally as a pick and shovel or a nut and bolt.”

“He was very serious about the idea,” Lenoil said.

She points out records that show Bazzeghin continued to insist the rides would put no strain on the bridges and would cost nothing to build. Sanders suspects it would have cost hundreds of millions, and was probably impossible with 1930s technology.

Sanders added, “In today’s world, it was probably doable if somebody could build it, and could afford to build it, I think there would be a lot of people that would want to ride it. People are trying to design the latest and greatest, the newest thrill for the public and people are seeking that themselves.”

Thrill-seekers today would probably agree.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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