Wooden Coasters - Where Do We Go From Here?


The way roller coasters have developed is fascinating to me. From the humble ice slides of Russia to full blown 400ft+ iron beast, we've come a long way in actually quite a short amount of time. There's often a debate of where can we go next in terms of taller, faster, more intense. But where things really get interesting for me is when we look at the wooden coaster.

Realistically, your bare basic wooden coaster design hasn't changed all that much from the early 1900s. Look at the likes of the Cyclone at Coney Island. That thing has been operating for almost 100 years and although in more recent times it has undergone work to keep it alive, the design isn't all that different from your modern GCI or Gravity Group woodie.

And is that because the design is perfect, so why change it? Or is it because, realistically, there's not actually a whole lot you can do with a wooden coaster without it becoming...not a wooden coaster anymore. For me, there's a fine line.

Look at RMC. Their coasters look like wooden coasters and for many enthusiasts are counted as wooden coasters, but personally I find the way they ride and even the elements they incorporate stray too far from a conventional woodie to even be considered in the same ball park. I guess what I'm trying to say is, why even build something 'wooden' if it just ends up riding like a steel coaster? Surely it can't all purely be for aesthetics alone?

Let's take a look at some of the more 'unusual' wooden creations of recent times that may be an indication of what we can expect in the future from wooden coasters!

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Switchback at ZDT's Amusement Park in Texas opened in 2015 and was the world's first and currently only wooden shuttle coaster. Why this hadn't been done before I don't know, and as cool as it is I can't help but look at it and wonder why you wouldn't just get a Vekoma Family Boomerang? I guess it's got a nice PR hook though in being different!

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Gravity Group have recently descended upon China to spread the joy of their wooden coasters for thousands to enjoy, and amongst the Jungle Trailblazer coasters across the Fantawild chain you'll find a handful of woodies featuring an inversion. I'm yet to ride one of these so can't honestly comment, but if Cu Chulainn's overbank is anything to go by these inversions are not pleasant! That said, they do offer something unique in the realms of what a wooden coaster can do and I love Gravity Group for pushing the limits of the material.

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Ah, the launched wooden coaster. Yes, yes, I'm well aware that Lightning Rod is well...fucked, at the moment. But let's not ignore what a wonderful feat of engineering this is! Once again RMC leading the way when it comes to what a wooden coaster can do. Not only is this the world's first launched wooden coaster, but for those who've ridden it it's one of the, if not the best coasters in the world! So they must be doing something right!

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OK, another coaster that's royally borked at the moment, but I'm using this one as an example of height. We're yet to see a wooden coaster smash the 200ft mark, but with Colossos we're pretty much close enough to assume that it can absolutely be done. That said, there hasn't been a huge 'classic' style woodie (and by that I mean not RMC) since T-Express at Everland in 2008, or if you're feeling generous Wodan at Europa Park in 2012. So it doesn't seem like something people really care about at this moment in time.

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Outside of RMC, you have to look to the noughties for real speed in a wooden coaster. Again, the traditional woodies just don't seem interested in record breaking. Whether that's to do with the strain on the design or whether it's just not in demand I can't tell you (maybe somebody else knows?), but I have a hunch it's not something we're going to see much of in the future.

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One of the most unique elements on a wooden coaster in recent times is the 'High Five' element on the racing coaster Dauling Dragon. It's a fab playful addition to the already fun racing wooden coaster design and whilst not revolutionary it does represent everything that wooden coasters, to me, are all about! 

So, what does the future hold? Will we see more wooden coasters try to emulate steel coaster designs? An inverted wooden coaster? A flying wooden coaster? Why not? (Well, I can think of a million reasons why not but that's for another day...) Or maybe we'll see more companies go down the RMC route and try to emulate some of their success with similar designs. Whatever the future holds for the humble wooden coaster, all I hope is that we continue to see more of them popping up all over the world and that modern designs continue to stay true to where the designs came from in the first place.

Talk later xoxo,

CONVERSATION

4 comments:

  1. There has been a wooden coaster above 200ft - Son Of Beast. The disastrous story of that ride may be why nobody has ever attempted another.

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    1. Ah, of course! It was such a disaster I'd clearly tried to block it out of my mind!

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  2. I hate that Son of Beast was such a disaster. Were it still around it would be my #1 coaster hands down. I absolutely loved it. It was fast from start to finish. It definitely was nowhere near as rough as people made it out to be. Tragic that Son of Beast was destroyed and then removed. With the newer track styles and technologies, I think it will not be long before someone presses the 200 button again.......

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    1. RMC will smash 200ft in the future I reckon!

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