River King Mine Train
Specific Type: Steel, Sit Down
Ten years after Six Flags Over Texas opened and four years after Six Flags Over Georgia followed, owner Angus Wynne opened his final original Six Flags park on the fifth of June in 1971. The new park was located in Eureka, Missouri near St. Louis, and thus was given the name Six Flags over Mid-America. It premiered with six main themed areas which were similar to those of the Georgia and Texas parks, such as Illinois, USA, England, Spain, France and Missouri. In those areas were many individual attractions, including the park's first and only coaster at the time.
That coaster was none other than River King Mine Train, a project from Arrow Development which originally opened in what was once the southern half of the park's Illinois section. The ride itself was actually made up of two separate tracks, which ran side by side for nearly two decades and offered riders an exciting mining experience ending with a surprise finale. Their layouts were similar and nearly mirrored, and many throwbacks to the later relocated right side remain intact today.
In fact both sides operated with little changes for the first thirteen seasons until 1984, when the side which operates today was altered for a brief time. The novelty of the stand-up coaster was sweeping through the industry at the time, and Arrow was summoned to replace the sit down trains with stand-up trains. This was the second such occurrence in the industry as Arrow had done the same a year before with the late Screamroller at Worlds of Fun, which was renamedExtremeroller (EXT) as a result. Likewise, the left side of River King Mine Train also went through a name change, and it was rechristened as Rail Blazer. The right side remained as it was. An incident shortly after contributed to the proof that the modifications to the left side were not practical, and the sit down trains were restored soon after.
Both sides operated in tandem once more for four seasons until the right side ultimately left the park in 1988. The separate track was relocated to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, where it was known as Thunder Express for nine seasons. Afterward, it was relocated once more to Magic Springs & Crystal Falls, where it was renamed Big Bad John. This proved to be the ride's permanent home and it continues to operate today. Meanwhile the remaining side was joined by Ninja, an exciting looping coaster designed by Arrow and Vekoma, not long after its sister side had left. Ninja had indirectly replaced the right side, and the coaster itself had been relocated from its original location as the coaster of Expo '86 in Vancouver. Many glimpses of the ride can be made while riding River King Mine Train, which is what riders will soon be doing once they have pulled down their restraint.
The ride begins with a quick jaunt through the transfer area, and the authentic train soon ends up on the first of three lift hills. After passing by trees, riders briefly catch a glimpse of Ninja as they are whisked down an exciting first drop which curves to the right. Another short turn leads into a fast helix, and before they know it riders find themselves on the second lift hill. Much like on the lift before it, riders pass by more trees which soon zoom past them after the train disengages the lift and speeds into another helix. A quick hop leads into a swooping right turn as the train soon ends up on the third and final lift hill. The anticipation sets in as riders see before them a tunnel slowly approaching them. The train slowly enters it, and before they know it they are suddenly hurling down a large drop, speeding along at nearly forty miles per hour before rising out of the tunnel and ending up on the final brake run. The ride is concluded as the train makes the final stop in the station. Visitors exit having experienced an exciting adventure, which has had quite a history.
River King Mine Train has seen modifications, relocations, and numerous upgrades over the past four decades, but through it all it retains its charm and unique experience. And it is those attributes that the ride will continue to retain for many more years to come.
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