Sidewinder Rollercoaster

Submitted on Sun, 08/15/2010 – 10:55

Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1964
Section: Mexico
Manufacturer: Herschell Company
Other Names and Nicknames: La Cucaracha

One Rollercoaster – Two Names

The Sidewinder has the distinction of being the first roller coaster at Six Flags. It was also the only roller coaster in the park for the first four years of operations.

Sidewinder – 1961 – Modern Section

The ride, a “Cat and Mouse”, style metal roller coaster consisted of individual units, each of which could hold one or two riders. As with most coasters, the cars were pulled up a lift hill. Instead of traveling down a straight fast and steep drop, however, they descended down a winding track with sharp turns. The wheels were set back to the rear of the unit, so that as the car approaches a curve, the front end sticks out over the edge of the track before the car started turning. This design creates the illusion that the cars are constantly about to run off of the track.

The ride only operated as the “Sidewinder” for first season. For the 1962 season, it became the first ride in the park to be moved to a second location as it was relocated to the Mexican Section a and renamed the “La Cucaracha”.

The “Sidewinder” in the Modern Section – 1961
Future Site of Happy Motoring Track II

The ride was manufactured by Herschell Company under the name of the Mad Mouse.

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La Cucaracha in the Mexican Section

The Indian Village

Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1967
Section: Mexico
Manufacturer: None
Other Names and Nicknames:

The Indian Village

Although the Native Americans did not have a flag to be recognized in the park’s theme, they did play an important role in the development of Texas. As such, an area representing their contribution was appropriate.

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The Indian Trading Post and Village is not contained within a single section, but rather sets on the border between the Mexican and Texas sections. The front of the Indian village is the trading post. The Trading Post is a large souvenir shop selling Western and Indian related items.

Behind the trading post was the Indian village. A set of four tee-pees sat in the corners of a small square blacktop performance area. Here Native Americas performed authentic hoop dances during the day.  Typically, two Native American’s perform the Hoop dance with wooden hoops, not unlike a hula hoop. A third slowly marks time on an Indian tom-tom.

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The Indian trading post still sits at is original location. The Indian village, however, has been removed.


Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1977
Section: Modern USA
Other Names and Nicknames:

The Missilechaser was a scrambler type ride. It opened with the park in 1961 and was removed from the park at the end of the 1977 season. The area where it was located was later used for the Sensational Sense Machine attraction. This area is no longer open to the public.

The ride was the first of three scrambler rides installed in the park. The second scrambler, also named the Missilechaser was added in 2000 at the current site for the Superman Ride. It was removed at the end of the 2002 season.

The park’s current scrambler is known as the “Sidewinder” and is located in the Texas Section. It was added as part of the 10 new rides of 2006. 

Submitted by parktimes on Sat, 08/14/2010 – 23:09

Happy Motoring Freeway

Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1986
Section: Modern USA
Manufacturer: Arrow Development
Other Names and Nicknames:

The Humble Happy Motoring Freeway (known as the “Modern Cars”) opened with the Park in 1961.  The track ran along the South edge of the Modern Section from near the Zoo to the area that would become Boomtown.

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The ride consisted of small go-cart sized vehicles with sport car bodies. Each of the twenty-two cars were powered with a 7½ horsepower rear gas engine. The gas pedal on the driver’s side actually moved the car forward, while the steering wheel controlled the direction of the cars travel.

The cars traveled around the track at six miles per hour, passing billboards and waiving by-passers. Just to make sure that there was no rush hour grid lock, the roadway contained a metal guide-strip directly in the middle. The guide-strip prevented the cars from leaving the track while still allowing the driver to steer the cars on the track.

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The ride was favored by the younger crowd, because it allowed them to actually “drive” the car, controlling both the speed, and within limits, the direction of the car.

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Eventually the body style of the cars changed in order to keep the appearance of the cars up to date with actual car styles and designs.

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Due to the popularity of the ride, in 1962 a second Happy Motoring Freeway was added next to the first track. The queue house used by the Sidewinder Rollercoaster was converted into the queue house for the second happy ride.This increased the number of cares on the two tracks to 38. In order to make room for this second track, the Sidewinder roller coaster in turn was moved to the Mexican section.

Six Flags would operate with two Happy Motoring tracks until the end of the 1980 season. At that time, the original track was removed. The track added in 1962 continued to operate as the lone track until 1986, when it also was removed.


Petting Zoo

Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1983
Section: Modern USA
Other Names and Nicknames:

The Petting Zoo was located in the Modern Section in what is now Looney Tunes Land. It was an original attraction when the Park opened in 1961,

The zoo, initially, sponsored by Southwestern Life Insurance was a place guests could visit and pet friendly farm animals, such as cows and goats, as well as birds, and a giant tortoise.

There was also a small seal pool. For a nominal fee, guests could purchase dead fish to feed the seals.

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The highlight of attraction of the Zoo was “Sis” Flagg, the Baby Asian Elephant. Although a baby elephant, Baby elephants grow so fast that Sis had to be replaced nearly every season with a younger elephant. The original “Sis” was purchased from Thailand for $2,000.

Petting Zoo

By 1968, the season of the last “Sis”, eight elephant will have lived in the park under the same name. Representing the other political party was Sis’s companion, Tulip, the white burro. The Zoo was a significant attraction in the park until the early 70s. It dwindled down over the years until only the Seal Pond remained in the mid 70s. Over a period of a few years, it was gradually downsized until nothing remains of it today. Looney Tunes Land now occupies the space which held the Zoo.

    The Story of Sis, the Six Flags Elephant is now online at: Sissy’s (The Six Flags Elephant) Story.

Astrolift Ride

Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1980
Section: Texas
Manufacturer: Von Roll
Other Names and Nicknames:

The Astrolift was one of the original rides at the park’s opening in 1961. The ride was a suspended cable car ride similar to rides at the Texas State fair, the San Antonio Zoo, and other amusement parks. The 25 cars provided guests a panoramic view of the park as they traveled up to 55 feet high.

Astrolift ride over Confederate section, looking east towards the Modern section. Southern Palace is large white building in Middle. Sky Hook is in left upper corner.

The 2,100 feet ride traveled across the park from the Modern section to the Texas section. The Modern station sat near where the ‘Escape From Dino Island’ theater is now.  The Texas Station was located near what is now the picture center for the Texas Giant. At various times the ride was two-way, allowing guests to return to their starting terminal, and one-way, requiring they exit and the opposite terminal.

While the ride originally traveled across the park, by the time it was removed, expansion placed the Modern station more towards the middle of the park.

Built by the Von Roll Co. of Berne, Switzerland, the ride cost $300,000.

Ferrocarril Fiesta Train

Year Installed: 1961
Last Year Operated: 1978
Section: Mexico
Other Names and Nicknames: Hat Train

Ferrocarril Fiesta Train

1961 – 1978

The Ferrocarril Fiesta Train was the type of ride that defined the early years of Six Flags. Located in the Mexican Section, the well themed and colorful ride was enjoyed by everyone, from the very young, to the very old. It opened with the park in 1961, and entertained guests until it was removed after the 1978 season.

  Artist Concept of Ride

The ride consisted of two diesel-powered narrow gauge trains which carried guest through a series of light-hearted animations themed to a colorful Mexico. One of the trains was named “El Cho Cho”, the other “El Cha Cha.” The original passenger cars had large sombreros for tops, earning the ride the nickname, “The Hat Train.”

Like the larger Six Flags Railroad, the Fiesta Train was a narrow gauge railroad.

The two railroad trains consisted of nine little square cars, each of which seat four adults. All were painted in bright pastel colors. For a roof, each of the cars had a giant colorfully painted sombrero, leading to the ride eventually being called the “Hat Train” and the “sombrero train”.

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The engines slightly resembled street cars, with a rectangular structure. The ride was an outdoor “pretzel” style ride; that is a ride whose track curves in and out several times, like a giant pretzel. This allows different isolated scenes to be observed by the riders, without being distracted by the next or last scene.

The trains pull away from the small station to loudly playing Mexican music. Around the first bend riders viewed an animated band of Mexican musicians, dressed in white with large sombreros, constantly playing their pleasant tunes. The train turned another bend and riders spotted a troop of dancing tamales, as tall as people, each also wearing a large sombrero. The tamales constantly spinned as they dance to another gleeful song.

Around the next bend was a more comical scene, a group of oversized travelers, sitting on much too small burros, rocking back and forth as they head to some unknown destination. They too wore large colorfully sombreros.

When the ride was redecorated in 1968, the dancing Tamales and oversized burro riders were moved to the railroad ride, where they are now seen from the train ride.

Dancing Tamelas

The next bend revealed a sleepy little village, where characters in large sombreros took their siesta in the afternoon sun. Another scene was the “Gardens of Xochimilcho”, with its picturesque scenery, a small pond, with a fountain and small boat. Another mariachi band performed at the gardens.

The final scene was a bull fighting arena, the Plaza De Los Toros, where a matador challenges a large black bull, while a crowd wearing large sombreros cheers him on. As the bull moves through its paces, it appears for a moment that it is charging the train, leaving the riders with a little fright. The trains then pulled back into the station to end the ride.

“Bull Fighter”

For the 1968 season, the trains and animations were completely redesigned by Sid & Monty Krofft. The engines were redesigned as dragons and the trademark sombreros were replaced with more traditional cars. The central component of the remodeled ride was a Volcano which dominated the section’s landscape. A small stream of “lava” flowed down the volcano, which “erupted” every few minutes with a loud “boom”.

While still a family ride, the graceful scenes were replaced with more exciting ones. Mexican children, singing the ride’s trademark “Fiesta” song, danced at the station. A “run-away bus” served as the remodeled rides first animation.

The train entered into the volcano and exited in the middle of a Mexican town. A gun battle was taking place in the town, and the train passed through the middle of it. Peaking from one window was Batman and Robin, foreshadowing their later more major role in the park. The shoot-out scene in Bugs Bunny’s Gold River adventure is very reminiscent of this scene.

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The ride ended with a trip through a circus, in which numerous animated characters performed various feats to loud music.

The La Vibora Ride, (originally, the Avalanche Bobsled), is now located in the general area in which the trains ran.

1961 Aerial Photographs

Section: Parkwide

1961 Aerial Pictures

Aerial Photographs from the Opening Year of Six Flags
Click on each Thumbnail Images to View the Larger Graphic

Front Gate

View of Park looking West

Modern – USA Section

Modern – USA Section

Indian Village

Photos from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Photograph Collection
Special Collections Division
The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries

Last Update: March 8, 2008