Specific Type: Iron Horse
When someone says that everything is bigger in Texas, they're not kidding. Built in 1990, Six Flags over Texas' Texas Gianthas managed to stay a top wooden coaster in both personal opinions and wooden coaster records over the past decade. Packing a punch with over 4,920 feet of lumber, the Giant remains one of the longest of its kind and is twisted into what is still one of the world's most outrageous-looking courses of any woodie. Built by Dinn & Summers, the ride layout actually served as inspiration for an equally monstrous and similarly styled coaster the company built the next year at Cedar Point, Mean Streak. Texas Giant is also composed of nearly $5,500,000 worth of materials including 81,370 screws and bolts, 10 tons of nails and most of all, 900,000 feet of boards to construct the coaster's beautiful structure and track, purchased from Dean Lumber Company in Gilmer, Texas.
When it opened in 1990, the Texas Giant set a record as the tallest wooden coasters, with an initial lift height of 153 feet. Upon opening, the coaster featured three two-bench trains from Philadelphia Toboggan Company, which held 28-passengers each (seven cars). The cars were each painted to look like the Texas state flag, featuring red, white, and blue, with a giant white star on the side. After its first year of operation, the seven car trains were shortened into six car trains, and the double-up turnaround feature was modified and softened into a single swooping turn, and trim brakes were added to certain areas of the ride to reduce stress and roughness. In 1999, the coaster even won the Golden Ticket Award from Amusement Today magazine for the Best Wooden Roller Coaster in the world. Over the years since however, the ride became increasingly rough, with maintenance being so heavy at times that the coaster was unable to operate during the Holiday in the Park event.
Though the ride experienced a number of small modifications, nothing would come close to the renovation it recently received for the 2011 season. At the end of the 2009 season, the wooden behemoth was closed for a complete overhaul, a $10 million restoration, the biggest ride renovation in Six Flags history. The renovation was far more than just a simple re-tracking or re-profiling, the entire track was built and modified utilizing Rocky Mountain Construction’s new I-Box track system—steel track that replaces the layers of wood which form the track. While most of the footprint remains the same or very similar, the ride itself is entirely different. Among those changes would be raising the lift hill to 153 feet, steepening the drop to 79 degrees, adding in several ninety-degree banked turns, and one 95-degree banked turn. While the part marketed it as being the “steepest wooden coaster in the world” containing the only “overbanked” turn on a wooden coaster, most agreed that since the track is now all-steel, that the coaster is a steel hybrid (steel rails, wooden structure, similar to Gemini). Along with the new track, the coaster received brand new trains from Gerstlauer, designed with cars to look like an old Cadillac, with bull horns on front to complete the look.
The ride starts off with a slight dip from the station platform and 180-degree turn before hitting the lift hill. Now rising 153 feet above the Texas surroundings, the name Giant becomes more and more appropriate by the second. Upon cresting the top of the towering lift structure, the lift suddenly slows, leaving the first few cars teetering slowly over the edge, with a track below that appears to curl under and disappear. Finally released, the cars plunge bull-horns first down 15-stories to the ground, hitting a top speed of 65 mph. Charging full-boar, the ride attempts to throw riders out of their seats with a unique double-up element, which instead of ending as a traditional “second hill,” instead rises, twists, torques, and banks to the left at nearly a 90-degree angle. Falling out of the 90-degree banking, the cars begin to return to the horizontal position as they drop back down, but before they can reach terra-firma, the track rises sharply, banks, and turns through another 90-degree angle “fan-curve.” Again riders are thrust back towards the ground as the bull-horns level out, but this is not to last for long. Rocketing upwards, the train executes a high, 95-degree, overbanked turnaround, which appears as if the track has simply fallen over at the top. Taking place in a tunnel, the head-chopper effect during this overbank is quite scary and disorienting.
Now back on the inside of the first circuit and parallel to the lift hill and first drop, the train races downward and over a low bunny hill that is sure to provide some ejector air for all. Continuing is turning trend, the train once more twists up and to the left in a highly banked turn that levels out and flattens out into the rides mid-course brake run (MCBR). After the briefest of slow-downs, the track torques and disappears as it simultaneously snaps riders to the left and pulls the trains downward into its superstructure. Done with the majority of its big turns, the coaster is now ready to deliver airtime with its hills. From this point, the train is sent over a medium-sized hill, turns slightly to the left and rockets over another airtime hill before then snaking to the right and over another hill as the train heads straight towards the station. Just before crashing into the building ahead, the train circles down and to the right through a fan-curve turnaround. Another low airtime hill follows before the coaster executes the RCM equivalent of a “Stengel Dive,” twisting the track up and to the left, then snapping down and to the right. After this, the train traverses yet another low hill, then enters a series of three tunnels back-to-back as the it negotiates an extended, undulating, ever-changing, disorienting, and unpredictable “turnaround,” which surrounds the outermost circuit of the main superstructure. Exiting the third tunnel as it heads towards the ground, the ride turns to the left and negotiates a final bunny hill before hoping up and into the final brake run, thus ending the NEW 4,900-foot long Texas Giant.
While most of the layout is similar to the original and follows the same footpath, though those elements are much steeper and more heavily banked, one element is noticeable absent—the infamous double-helix. That aside, the NEW Texas Giant is sure to be a hit with all, and will likely save the park significant amounts in maintenance costs, save riders from otherwise potentially sore backs, and breathe new life into what was likely an otherwise doomed wooden coaster. Steel or wood, however you want to classify it, it doesn’t matter, the Lone Star State has a new Giant at Six Flags Over Texas.
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