Part two of the wooden coaster train history

Part two of the wooden coaster train history



In the late 1970’s, Intamin AG from Switzerland started marketing wooden roller coasters to park. The first one was the American Eagle at Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL) and Intamin was the broker. It opened in 1981 and Curtis D Summer designed the record breaking ride and the Figley-Wright company built it. PTC provided 4 trains for the ride. The main records at the time were the largest drop (147 feet) and the fastest roller coaster in the world (66 mph).

In 1991, Intamin was again contracted for a wooden coaster. This time, it was the Pegasus at Efteling (Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands). This was an odd project with a very limited time frame, as the park wanted a new roller coaster in order to counter the opening of Euro Disney (Chessy, France) that was opening the next year in 1992. So, Curtis D Summers designed the family ride, the Dinn Corporation built it and then, Intamin designed new cars and installed the ride components such as the brakes and lift hill on it. The cars were very similar to the PTC two bench trains, but use a custom hydraulic infinetally adjustable T bar to secure riders. So, for that reason, an electric release was installed in the station, in order to release the bars. If for some reasons, riders need to be let out of the ride on the lift hill or brake area, the operators have battery powered packs in order to release the restraints. Those T bars eventually became the standard and were used on Intamin other rides such as the LSM launch Reverse Freefall, Mega Coaster and Giga Coaster lines.

ELF Intamin Train (2)

ELF (Episode of Little Fairies) opened in 2001 at Hirakata Park (Osaka, Japan).  This small wooden roller coaster opened with two 5 car Intamin trains and one is in use currently.

ELF Intamin Train (1)

The electrical wire is used to transmit the electric signal that unlock the hydraulic lap bars in the station.

ELF Intamin Train (3)

Foam seat bottoms, tall headrests and a seat divider are used for seating in the train. The lap bar mechanism does take a lot of floor space and this can be challenging for tall riders.

ELF Intamin Train (4)

The lap bars are very comfortable and once you pull them in place, they will remain there and not getting tighter as the ride goes.

Jupiter Intamin Train (1)

Jupiter at Kijima Kogen opened in 1992 and was the last Curtis Summers designed roller coaster. It opened with three 7 car trains and over the years, was cut down to two. The third one is in storage except for the front car which is used for photo opportunities in front of the ride.  This allows us a great look at what the train looks like when all the mechanical parts are removed. In this photo, you can see the original foam pieces, except for the removed seat divider.

Jupiter Intamin Train (2)

The Intamin train used an articulating configuration with the front wheels fixed to the chassis and the back wheels capable of moving up and down a little, as you can see with the expanded wheel well.

Jupiter Intamin Train (6)

A look at the car chassis.

Jupiter Intamin Train (4)

The ride originally opened with huge round foam pads for the lap bars, but it was recently changed to the standard Intamin lap bar padding.  The one concession to comfort is additional padding held in place by the leather covers you see in the picture.

Jupiter Intamin Train (5)

The soft foam pads were added to compensate for the ride very aggressive profile.  Padding was also added to the lap bar mechanism and car surfaces where the rider legs would come into contact with the vehicle.

Intamin used mostly its own trains on most of its next projects, except for two: the Dennis Starkey designed Coney Island Cyclone mirror that went to Japan in 1998. Installed as Aska at the now closed Nara Dreamland (Nara, JP), this spectacular ride used two PTC 7 two bench cars  trains. The other was the Dennis Starkey White Cyclone. Opening in 1994 at Nagashima Spaland (Nagashima, JP) this huge twister roller coaster feature a 5577 feet long layout with deep drops and spectacular helixes. It run 3 trains and each have 7 four passengers cars from PTC.

In 2001, Intamin designed a new set of trains for a new project, the Colossos at Heide Park (Soltau, DE). Designed by Werner Stengel engineering office and built by Cordes, this ride would use prefabricated wooden rails that would be laser guided cut to the exact specifications, then glued and treated at the mill. An innovative link system would join the track sections together and those would be mounted on a traditional wooden roller coaster structure. Intamin provided the brakes, pusher tires, lifts and control systems. They acted as the main broker for the ride.

The trains are very closely related to the 1966 Arrow Runaway Mine Train cars. They have 4 sets of wheels and each can independently turn, roll and pitch. That allow those long 3 row cars to navigate what were at the time the tightest and most abrupt coaster layouts. Restraint wise, Colossos and Balder at Liseberg (Goteborg, Sweden) use bucket seats, seat belts and the Intamin T bars. El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ) and T Express at Samsung Everland (Yongin-Si, South Korea) use the same bucket seats and seat belts. They replace the lap bars with a new U shaped hydraulic individual restraint.

The odd ball ride is the Coaster Express at Parque Warner Madrid (San Martin de la Vega, Spain). Originally opened as the Wild Wild West at the then named Warner Brothers Movie World Madrid, it run the same trains as Colossos, but the result is not very conclusive. The very poor quality of the track work and the terrible workmanship by the Roller Coaster Corporation of America (RCCA) gave a very uncomfortable ride on opening day in 2002. The same issue happened earlier in 1999 when RCCA again delivered a terrible ride to Warner Brothers Movie World Germany (Bottrop, Germany). Also named the Wild Wild West, this was a mirror image of the original Coney Island Cyclone that was designed to be taller and to have a structure 30% more dense to fit in with local regulations. After only two seasons, the park called Premier Rides in. The mandate was simple: TUV (German quality control regional government office) had closed the ride down and Premier had to reopen it for Six Flags or else, the ride was to be closed for good. Premier replaced the trains and had decent carpenters fix up the track work. The work was good enough for the TUV, who recertified the ride. But, even with the best trains, the ride would need a full reconstruction from the footers up in order to be a comfortable ride.

Premier Rides:

In 2000, as part of a settlement after Paramount had issues with the Phoenix Rides (the high tech ride division of Premier Rides at the time) 1996 Flight of Fear, Premier had to design trains for a unique wooden roller coaster. Known as the Son of Beast and installed at Kings Island (Mason, OH), this giant roller coaster was the tallest and fastest ever built out of wood. It would also include a giant 118 feet loop. So, Premier had a huge challenge in front of them.

The solution? A heavy 6 cars train that would have 3 rows per car. In order to navigate the loop and the tight turn, the front axle was moved back, so the cars have a neat almost Wild Mouse configuration. The shorter wheel base allowed the train to navigate the “Rose Bowl” helix and the loop. Standing 218 feet tall, the ride featured a record breaking 214 feet drop and the train reached 78 mph at the bottom. Those speeds necessitated a custom wheel configuration in order to take the extreme heat generated. The solution was massive 12 inches wide steel running wheels.

Riders were restrained using the combination of a bucket seat and a mechanical U bar with a large upper section. The upper section kept riders in an optimal position during the loop and that along with the chin bar made the restraint class 5 compatible. This means that even if the train got stuck upside down in the loop, the restraint would secure the rider in place. In 2001 and 2002, this restraint was retrofitted to the Phoenix Rides LIM roller coasters. It improved those riders greatly and made them instant crowd favorites.


The original trains used on the Son of Beast. Picture appears courtesy of


The restraint used on the wooden coaster train, Dark Coaster and LIM Coasters at Premier Rides.


In 2001, Warner Bros Movie World retrofitted the “Wild Wild West” roller coaster with the Premier Rides Wooden Coaster train.  The ride was renamed to the Bandit in 2005 when the park became Movie Park Germany and changed the licensing in the park.  In this picture provided by Movie Park Germany, you can see the unique headrests present on the trains.


The car high sides helped make this train Class 5 compatible, capable of going upside down.  This picture appears courtesy of


You can see the comfortable lap bar in this picture.  This picture appears courtesy of

Bolliger & Mabillard:

In 1991, at the request of Six Flags, Bolliger & Mabillard designed 3 new trains for a Dinn-Summers wooden roller coaster. The Psyclone opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, CA) and was a mirror image of the classic Coney Island Cyclone. It could run two trains at once, but in order to keep maximum capacity during the off season, the park bought three trains. The cars mechanically are near clone of the PTC Articulating two bench trains. Restraint wise, it is a simple hydraulic individual L bar.

The ride was demolished in 2008, but the trains ran on the Colossus at the same park annually until 2013. Due to the headrests on the cars, they were perfectly capable of safely running backward and so, the park took them out of storage every October and in the summer of 2013 for the Backward Colossus. The trains will probably be scrapped now as the Colossus closed permanently.


This picture shows the bucket seat and restraint.

The Gravity Group

In 2008, The Gravity Group (TGG) announced they had designed their own wooden coaster car and would manufacture them through a sister company called Gravitykraft. Featuring a trailered single bench design, it was designed to go through the tightest turns and curves while minimizing impact to the track. They were designed to reduce maintenance and for that purpose, the ergonomic seats can be lifted by the maintenance workers in order to access the chassis. The restraints are hydraulic Class 5 compliant lap bar that swing over from the side and secure riders without requiring a seat belt. Shock absorption was also designed in for the wheels. The ride capable of taking riders upside down, as demonstrated on the Hades 360 roller coaster at the Wisconsin Dells, WI theme park, Mt. Olympus.

Wooden Warrior Timberliner train (1)

A close-up of the Timberliner train on Wooden Warrior.

Wooden Warrior Timberliner train (2)

The train here has six cars.




The Timberliner train in action on the Wooden Warrior at Quassy Park (Middlebury, CT).



The design that eventually became the Roar-O-Saurus train at Storyland (Glen, NH).

Rocky Mountain Construction:

After building the wooden roller coasters at Coeur D’Alene, ID Silverwood amusement park, Jeff Grubb and his wife launched in 2001 Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC). Their specialty is high quality construction of amusement ride. They are the de facto builders at Silverwood and have worked around the world on various projects, such as the Intamin award winning El Toro and T Express roller coasters in New Jersey and South Korea respectively.

In 2011, they hired Alan Schilke (previously from Arrow Dynamics) to design both rides and new ride cars for them. The first collaboration was the New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas (Arlington, TX), but that ride featured 3 Gerstlauer Hybrid trains. In 2012, they introduced the Gen One wooden coaster cars, which feature class 5 restraints, a light weight steel chassis and ergonomic seats. The wheels feature a suspension and are spring loaded to follow the track. That in combination with their Topper Track and I Box track solutions provides the smoothest and most comfortable rides ever.




The first Gen One installation was on the Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO). The cars were well received, but the shin bars designed to secure riders legs were uncomfortable for taller riders. They were redesigned for the two new 2014 installations and Outlaw Run retrofitted as well.


Backside of the car. Notice the suspension and spring loaded axles.


The seats. Notice the original straight shin bars.


The front of the car.


Goliath at Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL) front car. Notice the redesigned shin bars.