by Danny Miller
As we learned on Thursday, Silver Dollar City has caught everyone’s attention with the announcement of Outlaw Run, the 2013 Rocky Mountain Construction product. The new wooden coaster will feature numerous never-before-seen elements for wooden roller coasters, including an 81-degree first drop and three inversions, including a double barrel roll and an outside overbanked turn.
After the announcement, it seemed that just about everyone was in agreement that this ride would be spectacular, and if nothing else, revolutionary. It will become the world’s steepest wooden coaster in terms of a first drop. It will become the only wooden coaster with inversions, as well as the first to feature an inversion other than a vertical loop. It will also be the first time a wooden coaster will feature inversions that actually uses wood in the structure. The loop on Son Of Beast was made from steel, as most of us know.
I too believe this ride will be incredible, as long as a few simple things go right. First, the trains have to be designed to navigate such extreme twists and turns both safely and comfortably. As an engineering student, I am pretty confident that RMC has taken all of this to consideration. With the success that is the New Texas Giant, I expect nothing but great performance from their own vehicles on their own ride.
The second major thing is the rides overall smoothness. With the use of RMC’s “topper” track, this ride is likely to be very smooth and not age as poorly as other wood coasters of this size have done over the years. This should also lower maintenance costs for the park and allow them to use that money elsewhere.
Now I will get to my major point. Now that we have finally seen something completely new and groundbreaking from a wooden coaster, I wonder if we will start to see other parks and ride companies try similar things. The Gravity Group has been on the record stating that they have designed coasters with inversions, but no one has asked them to build one for a park yet. Does this open that door for them?
Although I am fairly young, I still like the classic feel of most wooden roller coasters. I think one of the best examples of a wood coaster is Ghostrider at Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s not insanely tall, but not small by any means, it has some good speed, great airtime, great lateral forces, it dives through its own structure, and it throws you around a little bit without being unbearable.
When Intamin began building the “plug and play” woodies, they highlighted the comfort and airtime of wooden coasters, but in a way sacrificed the classic feel of wooden coasters by taking away some of the roughness and out-of-control feeling you might get. In defense of Intamin however, these giants new woodies would never be able to survive if constructed the traditional way without major track work and refurbishing just about every year.
Companies like Great Coasters International and The Gravity Group have built some of the best coasters in the world while still using traditional methods and focusing on everything wooden coasters should be, and everything they have been for decades now. Less than twenty years ago, inversions on wooden coasters were considered something only possible on sketching paper or in people’s minds.
Outlaw Run now opens the door to a whole new age and a whole new breed of wooden coaster. Now that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to go out and start building these new, crazy wooden coasters, but we will see a fair share of them in the coming years I think.
I’m not saying I don’t like El Toro, because I love it, and I’m not saying I don’t like Outlaw Run, because it looks incredible. I just hope that this ride doesn’t make us lose focus of what a wooden coaster can and should be while still being “traditional” so to speak. With all of the new things steel coasters can do, it is certainly nice to see something new with the wooden coasters. My hope is that not everyone wants one if this ride is successful, because not only would it seem to end an era of exceptional traditional wooden coasters, it would then understate the sheer genius that this ride is mixing the old WITH the new.