A Wildcat appears in the backwoods :the second part of the story of how Frontier City adopted a roller coaster from Missouri

New plans for the ride at Frontier City were drawn up, integrating suggestions from Gary Story, enthusiasts, and John Pierce ideas.  There were some communication errors and adjustments along the way, leading to profile changes.  One of those concerns the second rise: a regular uphill segment in Missouri became a shallow rise into a steeper incline double-up element in Oklahoma.  A surprise was also added just before the finale double-down drop, but that made two train operations a challenge.

The ride steel structure was disassembled and moved to its new home.  The brakes, chain trough, and trains also made the move.  It was rebuilt according to John Pierce’s plans, and the ride was unique in its construction and style.

The steel structure was repainted white after assembly. The new wooden track/running boards stained red, giving the ride a dramatic and unique appearance.  An unusual feature was that instead of wooden boards serving as guard rails next to the track, red pipes were used.  Steel cables treading under the tubes were for maintenance to attach their safety lines for track walks, repairs, and lift walks. 

A beautiful new station was constructed, housing the queue and leading to the loading platform.  Pictures and descriptions of other wooden roller coasters are featured, highlighting the rides’ history and explaining that the ride had originated at Fairyland Park previously. 

Tierco initially used the original trains, restored.  As the National Amusement Device (NAD) cars only have one opening to enter and exit, guests had to exit the train and board the train on the same side.

A sliding transfer track was constructed with the maintenance track behind the operator panel and a wall on the opposite side of the station.  The original lap bars were retained, a single pivoting lap bar per row, with no seat divider in the train.  In Missouri, the ride used separate loading and unloading positions in the station, with the transfer track on the opposite side of the guest area.  This was the traditional way to build stations. Still, that method fell out of favor due to the extra staff it required and the very physical form of transferring trains.  Staff had to push the station track under the station running board to get the transfer track aligned with the rest of the path. 

Once the train leaves the station, it rolls over the transfer track and curves to the right, engaging the lift hill.  Standing 70 feet tall, it made a signature noise due to the original NAD anti-rollbacks, and soon, the train crested it.  Curving to the right, it dove to the ground, above the red soil, a signature of the park’s area. Next, a regular hill was traversed, followed by the aforementioned double-up rise that was modified.  At the top, the train turns slightly to the right, aligning with the unusual site the park had to work with.  A drop with a hidden angle change at the bottom followed, leading to a small hill, and the ride started to turn around. 

The curve banks steeply and then rise to the right, creating a fan turn with more of a 200-210° shape, a signature William Cobb element, under whom John Pierce worked until 1989.  The fan curve ends with a rise, with a slight dip in the rise’s upper section.  At the bottom of the second dip, a short left-hand turn starts aligning with the station for the return run. Another small turn completes the turnaround with a drop ending near a retaining pool.  The trains then rise for the finale.

The ride goes down a double-dip, arriving below the water line in the middle of a small lake with a fountain to the right.  As the track dove in the trough, large water cannons shot up water in the air, simulating the train splashing in the water.  The first strip of retarding brakes was mounted here, slowing down the train before it rose into the next brake section, also the pre-station braking spot.  One last brake station at the end of the station stops the train in its parking spot.  The braking system was automated and air-operated when the ride relocated here versus the mechanical lever and pulley system used in Kansas City. 

Ricky Sommersett provided us with this rare photo of the NAD train going through the splashdown finale in 1991.

This splashdown finale was Gary Story’s surprise. Still, the challenge with operating two trains was this: NAD brakes use metal fins mounted under the cars, rubbing against calipers mounted on the track.  When the ride was at Fairyland, the long station and pre-station track could quickly stop trains. However, at Frontier City, the splashdown used most of the station area. Hence, fewer calipers were available to stop a train before it entered the station.   Soon, the ride operated with only one train with guests due to that.

Howard Gillooly posted this video on youtube, showing the ride when it opened in 1991. The signature finale can be seen at the end.

The ride was spectacular at first and opened to excellent reviews.  After its first season, the signature William Cobb “hoop-de-doo” placed toward the end of the ride was flattened to reduce the negative G-forces.  The “hoop-de-doo” was a trick William Cobb used, hidden kinks in the track that generated negative forces that surprised riders.  In 1994, the park restored in a tamer way the “hoop-de-doo.”

 Unfortunately, the heavy trains along with the track profile quickly lead to an uncomfortable experience.  In 1995, we found another video showing the ride, and there were already slight changes to the ride profile and the water cannons deactivated.  The trees had grown nicely next to the first section of the ride, leading to a great night experience.  A tunnel initially planned for the turnaround was constructed for the area after the fan turn. 

Psyclonesteve posted this 1995 video showing the modified train, tunnel at the far end and modified ride profile.

One significant change happened to the ride in 1994 or 1995:  the trains were combined and modified into one.  From 3 rows per car, the cars were cut up and shorted to two rows.  They made one train from the six cars they had, which now had four cars for 16 riders.  Cars with a shorter wheelbase tend to navigate sharp curves and inclination changes easier, so this was an attempt to minimize track wear. 

ellocoaster.com

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