NEW YORK — The ride begins with two train cars, filled with as many as 24 passengers, trekking up a hill of wooden tracks. The rattle of the ascent slowly grows louder. As the cars reach the coaster’s 85-foot peak, there’s a short pause, followed by a swift 60 miles-per-hour plunge that has made stomachs churn and eyes water since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House.
Such a timeworn ride requires a great deal of attention to ensure the safety of passengers, say workers responsible for the Cyclone, the 85-year-old New York City landmark and international amusement icon that will be feted Saturday with a birthday party including 25-cent rides — the price they were on its debut on June 26, 1927. ‘‘It takes a lot of work to run a very old roller coaster,’’ said Valerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusement International, which operates the coaster.
Each morning beginning at 7, maintenance workers hike the coaster’s tracks along the walk boards in search of damaged wood and loose bolts. The cars, which are originals from 1927, are dismantled every winter before they undergo nondestructive testing and are reassembled.
The Cyclone may not be the oldest or tallest coaster in the nation. But it became a worldwide symbol of America’s emerging leisure class in the early 20th century.
Towering above Coney Island’s boisterous boardwalk, the Cyclone went up after brothers Jack and Irving Rosenthal invested $175,000 to build a dynamic new coaster that would satisfy the demand for more attractions in the area.
The result was a ride that included 2,640 feet of track, 12 drops, and 27 elevation changes. For a minute and 50 seconds, passengers aboard the Cyclone were jerked from one edge of their seat to the other, as the coaster would slow around the bends before heaving its riders down steep dips.
These days, the Cyclone’s paint has chipped, and the steel beams have rusted a bit. But patrons still enjoy the same rush.
‘‘You can describe it in just one word: intense,’’ said Laurie Rosen, of Burke, Va., who rode it Tuesday.