A Look Back at the Legendary Drachen Fire at Busch GardensDrachen Fire - Busch Gardens
Drachen Fire was an infamous roller coaster that lived in the Rhineland, Germany section of Busch Gardens Williamsburg from 1992 to 1998. While it had a short run, it’s easily one of the most well-known defunct coasters in past years. I will relay the background story I’ve seen several times on the coaster enthusiast circuit. I have no way of validating the B&M involvement part of the story. But here’s the folklore of Drachen Fire, the most famous defunct coaster of the past twenty years.

The story began when Busch planned to build two steel looping roller coasters. One was to be built at their African themed park in Tampa, Florida and one at their European-themed park in Williamsburg, Virginia. They had ordered the two coasters from new-comers Bolliger & Mabillard. At the time they were a young company and had not done a sitdown looping coaster. So, they decided to only work on one of the two projects. The result is my all-time favorite coaster Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Drachen Fire - Busch Gardens
Enter Arrow, the company we can thank for two of the park’s other gems: Loch Ness Monster and Big Bad Wolf. Busch had luck with Arrow on those two installations, so they were hired to finish the Williamsburg coaster. The designs for Drachen Fire were like nothing the veteran builders had done before. With the use of state-of-the-art computer modeling the company said it could deliver the unique steel looper. And so, Drachen Fire was born.

A Dragon Like No Other
Drachen Fire boasted several never-before seen elements. The ride opened with a wrap around corkscrew performed during the initial 145′ drop (pictured above). Next, was the camelback hill designed for airtime. An element with two back-to-back inversions called a cobra roll followed. After exiting the cobra roll, riders hit a short brake run. Right out of the brake run the train dove into a diving corkscrew. Then there was the cutback which was like a corkscrew but riders entered the element the same way that they exited. And finally, there was one last standard corkscrew, and helix and then the ride was over. Drachen Fire’s trains had a sleeker design and lights on the sides which must have looked really cool at night.

Drachen Fire was Too Wild for Public
While enthusiasts drooled at the unprecedented elements, the general public was too busy being pummeled by the roughness to marvel at the ride’s uniqueness. Complaints of head and neck pains (and I would assume low ridership) prompted Busch to take measures to renovate the ride. The diving corkscrew after the brake run (pictured below) was removed in an effort to reduce the punishment the beast was giving riders. The renovation wasn’t enough and in July of 1998 the ride was closed.

Too Late
Unfortunately, by the time I made it to Busch to ride Drachen Fire (I think it was the SummerDrachen Fire - Busch Gardens of 1998) it was in its standing, but not operating phase. I remember viewing those coils of electric blue steel rising from the green landscape of Busch Gardens from atop Loch Ness’ lift. The lifeless wonder was also visible from the park’s steam train route as it passed through Germany. Busch attempted to sell Drachen Fire and many hoped it would be bought and relocated. Unfortunately, no buyers emerged and the ride was scrapped and recycled in the Fall of 2001. Today, the old station is used for storage and the area where it once stood, next to Das Festhaus is closed off.

A Tale of Two Designers: B&M vs. Arrow
The difference between the head-bang-into the over the shoulder restraints ride of an Arrow looper and the distinctively smooth, 99% pain free ride on a B&M looper lies in the location of the center of gravity. B&M designed their coasters with the heart of the riders as the center of gravity while Arrow made the center of the trains their center of gravity. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the demise of Arrow in 1999 and the continued success of B&M, but the proof is in the pudding. Save a few exceptions like Demon at Six Flags Great America, Loch Ness Monster, and a few others, Arrow coasters punish riders while B&M’s are smooth and enjoyable thrill machines.

What’s Your Take?
Anyone get to ride Drachen Fire before its untimely demise? Leave a comment below.

102 Responses

  1. Shannon

    I rode Drachen Fire as much as I could every year. I love roller coasters and I was 7 years old when it opened and so excited to be able to ride it the folllowing year. It was definitely one of the best coasters, even though my head banged back and forth between the harness throughout the ride. But, it was definitely worth it! And the wait for rides back in the day were never extremely long like they are now!

  2. Stan

    Rode it when I was 13. The reason why I crack my neck to this day. BRUTAL. Sadly I want to ride it again.

  3. Charlie

    My wife and I rode Drachen Fire at least 10 times or more. She wasn't as much of a fan as I was. She usually complained that it was a bit rough and it bounced her head from side to side. I loved it and never had a problem. I just kept my head back like you were instructed to do. Yes it was a bit rough, but that was part of it's charm. Loved the color scheme also. Sorry I will never get to ride it again!

  4. Jamie Gee

    Ever since I was young I was terrified by roller coasters. And when i got to the age of ten I started liking them more and now I am a die hard roller coaster fan!!!!I remember Drachen Fire one of the Best coasters Busch Gardens have ever made!Arrow Dynamics In my book are one of the best "Original" Roller Coaster Makers out there. As I seen and have heard that they stop running Drachen Fire was due to Neck and Back Pains. The said the same thing for the Big Bad Wolf and why they took it down. Honestly to me If harnesses Were a bit more softer then yes they should of not wasted to tear it down. Even the Big Bad Wolf was giving a bad rap. Those two rides were one of the Greatest rides in my life time. Even though I haven't gotten a chane to ride drachen fire I think people that complained about it should be slapped across there faces. Alpengiest IS the best ride I ever been on but that sharp left turn on that brake stop before the bridge is VERY VERY PAINFUL! If people listen to the instructions and kept there heads back then maybe they would still be standing and running today. I also Believe that Arrow Dynamics and B&M need to Stop the grudge and Remake this coaster! People love fast and wild thrills now a days. Why Fight over something that none of us can enjoy? Think about it! I been on every kind of roller coaster and I can tell you that people need to work together and stop fighting over production and money. Greed is ruining the world! Lol seriously

    • Matt McIrvin

      I think that ship has sailed… Arrow Dynamics is long gone (the remnants were absorbed into S&S), and the industry has moved on.

      I have ridden Drachen Fire, and it was certainly a thrilling ride, but it was also very rough and headbangy even by comparison with wild and twisty 21st century coasters. "Extreme" doesn't have to mean "rough".

      But the reason was something easily fixable with modern design techniques (the lack of heartlining). It might be fun for someone like Intamin or Gerstlauer to create a spiritual successor with a similar layout, but without Drachen Fire's defects. Though I suspect only hardcore coaster maniacs would care about the history of the design, or be encouraged as a result…

  5. Matt McIrvin

    …heck, I've heard that even Vekoma knows how to make a smooth coaster now. If they did it, with their track design, it would even look like the original!

  6. Lori A. Bertothy

    That Drachen Fire coaster beat the crap out of me. And I have trained horses for 30 years! lol We headed for it because the line was so short. Little did we know it was a chiropractors dream. My young sons had the same experience. We aren't gruff about it, just a WTF was that? kind of a feel….

  7. Donny

    Every year as a kid my parents would take me to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The first time I rode Drachen Fire I was a millimeter over the height requirement. I might of been six or seven at the time. I was terrified before my first ride but loved it so much I went back for at least five more rides that day. I remember not finding it that punishing, but my family hated it. It would be great if it was still around!

  8. ruth carruba

    Dracken Fire was one of the best roller coasters that i had ever been on;was on it in April 1992. and the a few years after that.always went on it multiple times each time we were there.was very dissappointed when they took it down. have only been to the park a few times since because there is nothing exciting there anymore.no Dracken Fire and no big bad wolf! they need a great coaster to get me to come back.i have been to all theme parks on the east coast and cedar point in ohio and a few out west and the only coaster that comes close to Dracken Fire is the Volcano at kings Dominion

  9. Rachel

    I remember riding Drachen Fire years ago, and although it was a thrilling ride, I remember it being the roughest roller coaster I've ever been on….even to this day and it beat the crap out of me (the only other rough coaster I can compare it to is the Tennessee Tornado, which just happens to be made by the same company as Drachen Fire, Arrow Dynamics….it'll beat the crap out of you, too)! I remember the harnesses on Drachen Fire had thick pads that my head constantly banged up against. I absolutely love roller coasters and I love Busch Gardens, but I was not surprised when I learned years ago that this coaster no longer existed.

  10. Tsunami78

    I got to ride Drachen Fire one time. As it turns out it was right before they shut it down for good summer of 1998. It was my first visit to BGW(E) and the friends i was visiting were local and didn't want to go on but i insisted since there was no line. I was the only one of about 8 of us that actually LIKED it. I didn't experience much head banging at all (i was also 20, and more apt to handling pain). Everyone else complained after it was over (it even broke my one friend's sun glasses) but i had a blast. It was the only time we rode that day and it closed a few days later for good.

  11. Joey Till

    This just seems like a deathtrap when I look at it. B&M should redo it no doubt.

  12. conneeconehead

    My family and I are roller coaster nuts. But Drachen Fire was a horrible ride. My husband suffered a nose bleed on the way home from Busch Gardens and the rest of us had severe headaches. All it did was knock your head around, back and forth, back and forth. Not an enjoyable ride! Busch Gardens' Apollo Chariot is far better – we get on this ride as much as possible. We could get on this ride all day.

  13. Nobody

    I think my only trip to Busch Gardens was the year Drachen Fire opened. I was about 15 or so. I remember a path near the front of the park, either leading up to admission gate or just after getting in, where a stout, bearded, medieval-dressed actor was warning all of us about the Drachen Fire. I remember riding it several times that day, with virtually no lines (which I found odd for a new, hyped-up ride). I don't remember the roughness much, but do remember the strange twists and corkscrews and what-not. We had read something about the weightless feelings during moments on the ride, which were true.

    It was also a very lonely ride. Like a real dragon, it bided its time alone, out in the middle of a quiet field, surrounded by trees, with no hustle and bustle nearby. I vividly remember walking up to it that morning, on an overcast day, and the atmosphere was just so…serene. Mysterious. Imagine wandering through a wooded area and stumbling upon a dragon. Would it eat you, or give you a ride? 🙂 That was what the Drachen Fire experience was like.

  14. mtngrl

    I worked on the opening year crew in 1992 after working Loch Ness the two years before. It was a BIG deal back then to be able to work the newest and biggest rides. I can remember we had to do "ride checks" once per hour and ride. I can remember that first year telling everyone they had to remove their earrings before riding. Somewhere in a box I have pics of the ride taken from crew areas and also from the top of the first lift. One of us had to climb those stairs every morning to check the emergency phone and the views were amazing.
    By the end of that first season we were sensing a problem. We couldn't run the thing when it got chilly out as it slowed down too much. We had to start timing rides once the temps got below about 65. The ride was supposed to last 2:02 but if it slowed to 2:12 we had trouble coming. They tried track heaters and all sorts of fixes. That fall, we were running test runs on a chilly morning when it finally happened and got stuck in the batwing. All in all, the ride had tons of mechanical issues starting with that first season but was fun while it lasted.

    • CoasterCritic

      Very cool info. Thanks for the comment. Again, I'm sad that I missed it, but with all of these comments I guess the legend will live on.

  15. Templeknight

    I rode it when it was still considered experimental(early season 1992) had to sign a waiver to ride it. An awesome
    absolutely awesome coaster, I was sorry to see it go. It was thrilling to ride, should not have been torn down. But
    in the interest of honesty, could only be ridden in the front or rear car, the middle cars were brutal. And it was not as exciting ,after they took the one corkscrew out. While it lasted it was a helluva ride.

  16. Daniel Edwards

    Maybe it’s because I was a child barrely tall enough to ride… and a mere 50 lbs. in weight… I found it thrilling. I miss it relentlessly. BUT… I understand BG wanting “world class” coaster… not painful experiences. My uncle who took me was 6 feet tall… too tall for those unusually smaller than normal arrow design cars. I enjoyed it… with all that free leg and head room. Even before the removal of vital loops. Granted it was before computers helped with design… it was a TIGHT tracked coaster… but it should have been modified… not scrapped. I trulely miss it. It had unique and new 9at the time) elements I miss. I wish i had a piece of the OG trach for memory… but i DO have an OG fan flag!!!
    – Long live the memory.
    If BGW wants “world class” coasters… tell them to figure out why verbolten had intense G-Forces that make you gray out and shakes and vibrates so hard it feels it’s gonna run off the track!!!

  17. Dave

    When my wife and I were dating in the early 90s, we would spend a week in VA, with 2 days specifically for Busch Gardens. We were unaware that Drachen’s Fire was a new coaster as our first trip to BG was in 1992 or 93, I can’t remember, but what I do remember was getting tossed around on that ride!! The dive into the imposing loop was crazy, and I would get hyped just seeing it before diving in. We would learn, very quickly, to keep our heads back against the chair as we found it was less painful than having your head raddle around if you didn’t. Once we learned how to ride it, we rode this coaster many times as we could. One evening, we stayed on for at least 3 times….everyone screaming at how awesome it was…the look on everyone’s face when they got off, and I was fortunate to have our picture printed – still in the same Drachen Fire frame with the dragon logo which we have to this day!! Now I’m 44, and I try to tell my kids NOTHING compares…I was so disapointed when I brought them to BG in 2005 that Drachen’s Fire was gone…My wife and I hadn’t been there since we were dating, and were dumb-founded that it was gone. I pray that someone will attempt to build this ride again.

  18. Jesse

    I rode Drachen Fire right after it opened. I was impressed with the maneuvers it could go through but also thought it was a bit rough for the general public. Interestingly enough I would compare just about every maneuver to high performance aircraft air combat tactics with the same physical stresses of positive and negative g-forces on the body. You do need to be ready for those movements so first time riders could get banged around aggressively because they didn’t know what to expect.


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