Specific Type: Wooden, Terrain
Ever since the coal-transport railroad of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania's Summit Hill was opened to human passengers in 1828 as what can be traced back to be the first stage of the rollercoaster to hit America, terrain-based rides have always been a hit. In the early 1900s, 'scenic railways' were constructed in the heart of major US cities with artificial rock work hiding supports and scenes of nature surrounding the track. Later on in the 20th century, the more modern coaster found homes deep in natural scenic settings, with rails following the natural topography - coaster track even being laid flat on the ground for plunges paralleling natural land slopes. But 1999 was the year that the limits of terrain coasters were taken up a notch when a park located in Bristol, Connecticut by the name of Lake Compounce contracted Custom Coasters Inc. to create the first-ever modern wooden coaster to be built right up the side of a mountain. It was a daunting task, but Custom Coasters came though, piers being driven into rock, footers anchored to boulders and no tree removed that didn't have to be. The new 'mountain coaster' opened in the year 2000 as Boulder Dash with a first drop plunging down a mountainside descent and the natural greenery whizzing past riders, inches to spare, at speeds reaching 60 miles per hour.
The ride on Boulder Dash starts out at the base of the mountain with a 90-degree bend out of the station. The train load of 24 passengers hits the chain lift and begins the initial ascent up the mountain slope. The coaster travels upwards until reaching an elevation 12 stories above the point where the journey began. Upon reaching the peak of the lift, the train meets up with a U-turn and heads for the first mountainside drop. Trees fly by at an ever-increasing clip as riders descend 115 feet to the bottom of the plunge. The course veers to the right in a banked curve sending the train hurtling around and back up through the dense foliage for a second hill. Next, the wooden rails twist around to the left for a second downward swoop built into the natural land features. The Boulder-Dashing mayhem moves along nonstop with another hill dashing through the woods at the ride's unforgiving pace. Hitting the turning point of the out & back layout, thrill seekers are swept around a diving 180-degree turnaround maneuver which brings the coaster to the final leg of the journey. The ride heads out into the open for the final run back to the station and completes a double-hopping hill before the braking puts an end to the speed once and for all, and passengers dip back into the loading station.
The ride was enthusiastically received by coaster enthusiasts and the public alike. The park, having just gone through one of the shakiest parts of its 150+ year history, had just been purchased by Kennywood. Before the purchase, the park was deeply in debt and under a barrage of controversy from the local community. Boulder Dash seemed to signify a turning point, where the park was rescued from closing its doors and journeyed on into a successful future, as well as making the park a destination for thrillseekers.
Boulder Dash, however, still had problems ahead. In 2001, a groundskeeper was struck and killed by a train on Boulder Dash. He was trimming weeds underneath the ride when the park began cycling trains through to prepare for the day ahead. The man was wearing earplugs to drown out the weed trimmer’s noise and therefore did not hear the train coming when it struck him. The family of the killed worker sued Lake Compounce for workplace safety violations, but the Connecticut Supreme court ruled against the family in court.
The ride also had some roughness problems. This led to Great Coasters International, a company that was formed by former Custom Coasters Inc. employees, doing retracking and adding addition structural support in 2008. The coaster was just a bit too extreme for its track, it seems. So if you want to take on the one and only 'mountain coaster,' head to Lake Compounce and experience for yourself the 20th century's ultimate terrain coaster!
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