In a way, the “Blue Flash” homemade roller coaster validates the ethos of another surprising backyard Midwestern construction project: “If you build it, they will come.”
John Ivers, an unassuming grandfather living in Bruceville, Indiana, started the project with 10 feet of straight track in his shed, which he plopped a retrofitted car seat on top of. Simply through trial and error — without formal engineering training — he kept on building until the ride outgrew the small shed. Then he brought it outside and kept building, adding a full loop, an engine-powered conveyor chain, support towers, and flag mounts.
When it was finished, he, of course, christened the roller coaster with a name: the Blue Flash.
Originally built for Ivers’ five grandchildren in 2001, the ride’s unique combination of remote location, imaginative creativity, resourceful engineering, and unmatched adrenaline attracted thrill-seekers and news outlets. Blue Flash acolytes started to descend upon Bruceville from across the globe.
A quick YouTube search reveals dozens of these pilgrimages. The local PBS station exalted the ride, Roadside America featured its absurdity, and the famously cynical comedian Daniel Tosh roasted it on his namesake show. The homebrew roller coaster’s reputation quickly eclipsed the small-town boundaries of 500-person Bruceville.
The Blue Flash roller coaster is “push to start.” But just to clarify, that’s “push” as in an exhausting series of physical shoves from the roller coaster’s creator, not “push” as in the simple tap of a post-2012 automobile ignition button. Up close, the paint is peeling and the tall grasses poke through the coaster slats like miniature periscopes. Ivers flips an innocent-looking light switch to ignite the roaring engine.
The Blue Flash won’t be winning any superlatives from the Grand Panel of Roller Coaster Connoisseurs anytime soon. In reality, it’s a quick ride — only 24 seconds per lap — and a simple one. If maximizing G-forces is your goal, you’d be better served heading 70 miles away from Bruceville to the amusement parks dotting Santa Claus, Indiana.
But the Blue Flash isn’t just a ride — and it isn’t just a strange oddity interrupting the endless Indiana horizon either. Rather, the contraption is an impressive testament to creativity and the impact even the goofiest ideas can have. Its successful completion and safety record is a stand against defeatism; its lack of formal engineering a badge of can-do spirit; and its inspiration a testament of grandfatherly love.