Wild Mice and Modern Trains: Part 4 of our Wooden Coaster Trains Serie

Wild Mice and Modern Trains: Part 4 of our Wooden Coaster Trains Serie


In the late 1970s, 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 four 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 contracted for a wooden coaster for an emergency project. This time, it was the Pegasus at Efteling (Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands), an odd project with a minimal time frame, as the park wanted a new roller coaster to counter the opening of Euro Disney (Chessy, France) 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, to release the bars. If for some reasons, riders need to be let out of the ride on the lift hill or braking area, the operators have battery powered packs 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.

ELF Intamin Train (1)

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

ELF Intamin Train (3)

Foam seat bottoms, tall headrests, and a seat divider form the seating in the train. The lap bar mechanism takes 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 rollercoaster. It began with three seven-car trains and over the years, was cut down to two. The third one is in storage except for the front car which was used for photo opportunities in front of the ride. It 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 initially 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.

Jupiter saw the Intamin trains retired after the author visit in 2016 and 2017 saw the ride gain new PTC articulated rolling stock.

Intamin used mostly its 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. It was 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 runs three trains, and each had 7 four passengers cars from PTC.  The ride was retired in February 2018 and replaced with a new ride profile and hardware from Rocky Mountain Construction.

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 primary broker for the ride.

The trains are very closely related to the 1966 Arrow Runaway Mine Train cars. They have four sets of wheels, and each can independently turn, roll and pitch. That allows 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 individual hydraulic restraint.

Balder Liseberg Intamin

One of the car running on Balder at Liseberg.

El Toro roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure

Coaster Gallery provided us with this shot of the El Toro seats.  The train was wrapped up at the time in a temporary advertisement.  Coaster Gallery

The oddball 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 runs the same trains as Colossos, but the result is not very conclusive. The inferior 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 competent carpenters fix up the track work. The work was good enough for the TUV, who recertified the ride. However, even with the best trains, the ride would need a full reconstruction from the footers up to be a comfortable ride.

Wooden Wild Mouse rides:

The modern Wild Mouse rides, from manufacturers such as Mack Rides, Maurer AG, and Zamperla all have their roots in the old rides from the 1930s to 1960s, when various manufacturers like Mack Rides, Miler, Carl Schiff, and others created the Wild Mouse style of ride.  Short two passenger cars where both sets of wheels were placed far from the nose of the car, so when the train navigated a tight curve, the area where the passenger’s feet rested felt like it was above thin air before the car started turning.  Another odd design feature was how the train was connected to the track. No upstop or guide wheels in many cases; instead, there was a pair of guide rail in the middle of the track and the car feature a reverse mushroom shaped peg that slides in the middle of those rails.  As it is not tightly adjusted, the car will lean out a little in a curve, adding an extraordinary thrill that makes them a lot more intense than their small size indicates.

Most of those rides were fabricated with flat iron steel track, supported on either wooden or steel structure. The subject of this article though is the wooden track variant.  The first one of those appeared in the early 1950s and Conklin Rides along with other brokers started importing those into North America from Europe. Some parks, such as Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk fabricated the ride using plans from Conklin and then, imported cars from a German company called the Buchwald Gebruder company.  Patty Conklin purchased a wooden wild mouse at the famed Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, and worked at improving the design. Patty Conklin purchased ride cars from Buchwald Gebruder and then sold it along with the plans to parks all around North America.  The famed Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was one of the first to build a Conklin Wild Mouse in 1958.

The Valere Brothers from Canada had perfected a great design based on the German model and created the Wild Maus at the Nu Pike, the name back in 1961 of the legendary Long Beach Pike pier in Long Beach, CA.  The additional layer on top of the ride extended the ride experience and provided extra thrills to the trip.  The Pleasure Beach, Blackpool in the United Kingdom constructed a wild mouse in-house in 1958 where the ride featured a long series of 180° hairpin turns before going into the structure for drops.  Based on plans from the Valere Brothers, the Pleasure Beach removed half the hairpin turns, which was replaced by a significant drop and a rising fan curve.  The train then goes back up for the remaining hairpin turns.

Wild Mouse Pleasure Beach (1)

The cars at the Pleasure Beach were beautiful little mice, leading to the ride affectionate model name: Wild Mice.  It is a term the author use to differentiate the familiar steel track Wild Mouse rides from the rare wooden track Wild Mouse.  The Pleasure Beach Wild Mouse was retired at the end of the 2017 season and removed during the off-season as the ride had reached the end of its service life.

Luna Park in Sydney, New Wales (Australia) wanted to install a Wild Mouse ride at the park.  A website mentions that they sent Ted Hopkins (manager of the park) along with Dick Pearce to Seattle where they visited the 1962 World’s Fair.  At the fair, there was a wooden Wild Mouse ride viewed as a highlight of the fair.  According to what the site says, they purchased plans from the fair along with a car.  This does not match with known dates as the fair happened in 1962 and the Luna Park Sydney Wild Mouse opened in 1959.

What is fascinating about this ride was that while the top layer, station, and lift hill were quite different from the one running in Blackpool, the second layer was nearly identical from what we can determine from riding experience, videos, and photos.  Based on a picture though, the car is a copy of the ones from the Buchwald Gebruder company as it is the same as the one at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  As for the design, we suspect that Ted Hopkins and Dick Pearce purchased the upgraded Patty Conklin design along with a ride car.

They returned to Australia and constructed their version of the Conklin Wild Mouse and brought along the original ride vehicle.  The car was given to a local shop who started manufacturing faithful copies of that design and eventually, two showmen bought copies of the Luna Park Wild Mouse to reduce overall costs.

All three rides were portable and appeared at various fairs around the country.  The original Luna Park unit returned to its original home where it has been operating at numerous times since 1995.  The two other Wild Mouse units?  After retiring from traveling in Australia, they were both purchased by a company called the Jawa Timur Group.  Jawa Timur means East Java in Indonesian and they are a leisure operator based in Batu, Indonesia.  They operate many facilities such as amusement parks, a zoo, museums as well as hotels in that city and around Surabaya and Lamongan.  They have been quite active on the used rides market looking for quality rides and eventually purchased the two others traveling wooden Wild Mouse in Australia.

The first one to make the trip overseas appeared at the Batu Night Spectacular in Batu, Indonesia.  It was reconstructed there with its original lighted-up sign, which was perfect since the Batu Night Spectacular is a night market with rides, shops open at night only.  After four seasons, it moved in 2011 to a sister facility, Jawa Timur Park 2, a large zoo in Batu as well.  As the park is only open during daytime, the large Wild Mouse sign was removed and the ride given a unique blue paint job on the structure.  The cars were all repainted, and the ride renamed the Animal Coaster.  The amusement ride section of the zoo is well placed: in the middle of the one-way zoo path, providing a great distraction and break.  It also sets-up things for the exciting carnivore exhibits after.

The other Wild Mouse kept its original car look and renamed the Crazy Car Coaster.  It was installed in 2009 at the Wisata Bahari Lamongan amusement park near the ocean in Lamongan, Indonesian. The ride here does have a single ride per wristband rule though, so this has to be taken into account in case you visit the park and enjoy the experience.

Crazy Car Coaster Wisata Wooden Wild Mouse

A repainted Crazy Car Coaster car.

There was a fourth wooden Wild Mouse in Australia, another traveling model purchased as a full model in the United States.  The cars were different as well as the station area when compared to the three Australian units.  This unit went to its final home, Aussie World, located in Sunshine Coast, Australia, where it ran from 2000 to 2016.