Roller Coaster Year in Review

Overview

2018 was a glorious year for new roller coasters.  The year saw an interesting array of coasters –14 total – open in the USA.  Germany’s Mack Rides scored a major victory with the groundbreaking Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City, a spinning coaster with inversions, and also produced the beautifully designed Slinky Dog Dash, a family coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Gerstlauer contributed three: two Euro-Fighters (Adrenline Peak at Oaks Amusement Park and Tantrum at Darien Lake) and one Infinity coaster (HangTime at Knott’s Berry Farm, which features a vertical lift hill and suspends riders over a 96-degree drop.)  The most prolific contributor was RMC (Rocky Mountain Construction) with a total of five: three makeovers (Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point, Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion and Twisted Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia) and two new builds (Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and RailBlazer at California’s Great America),  Other coasters that opened during the past year are Premier Rides’ Skyrocket II model Electric Eel at Sea World San Diego, Intamin’s Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure, The Gravity Group’s Oscar’s Wacky Taxi at Sesame Place and Skyline Attractions’  Skywarp, Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Twisted Timbers

This year’s offerings range from enjoyable to exciting to hair-raising.  I got to experience only four of these coasters – plus one that opened in the UK – but they were four that appeared to be among the most interesting and proved to be well worth experiencing. The first was Twisted Timbers, RMC’s makeover of the old wooden Hurler.  What RMC did with this coaster is nothing short of amazing.  From the initial barrel roll drop to the final brake run it’s a fabulous ride incorporating three inversions, several trick track elements and a series of hills with abundant ejector airtime.  Of the newly opened coasters, Twisted Timbers is the one that surprised me the most.  I hadn’t expected it to be this good.  Full review on this site.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Time Traveler

The next was Time Traveler, a dual launch spinning coaster with three inversions.  Beautifully themed, it sends riders spinning down a 90-degree drop before taking them through a course which includes a dive loop, vertical loop and zero-g roll.  What’s most remarkable about the ride experience is its unpredictability.   Because of all the spinning, riders have no way of anticipating what position they will be in during any part of the ride.  Time Traveler is the most innovative – not to mention most whimsical – coaster I rode this year.  Full review on this site.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Steel Vengeance

Next was Steel Vengeance, the mother of them all.  RMC’s remake of the massive and monstrous Mean Streak, it delivers on all fronts.  My first ride ranks among the most bizarre I’ve ever had.  As soon as the train was dispatched, the heavens opened and rain came down in torrents.  It was lashing me in the face and stinging my eyes, almost blinding me, so to minimize the discomfort I rode with my eyes closed.   Going down a 200-foot 90-degree drop and through four awesome inversions without being able to see anything or know what’s coming next was pretty wild.  I had no sense whatsoever of what was happening until we hit the mid course brake run.  It was a white-knuckle ride. Fortunately, the rain had tapered off to a drizzle for my next four rides – so I could actually see – and all I can say is that Steel Vengeance makes most coasters seem tame by comparison.  Of the new ones I rode this year it’s unquestionably the most thrilling.  See John’s full review on this site.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster

The next and last new coaster I rode is Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster, themed after the DC Comics superhero.  What makes this noteworthy is that it features RMC’s Raptor track with a single rail and single file seating.   The single rail configuration, 100-foot 90-degree drop and abrupt changes in direction make for a ride which is both intense and exhilarating.  However, there are both comfort and capacity issues.  Wonder Woman is the only one of the new coasters that didn’t blow me away.  Full review on this site.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Overseas

While a solid collection of coasters opened in the USA, GCI’s (Great Coasters International) Wicker Man opened in the UK at Alton Towers.  The first wooden coaster to be built in the UK in 21 years, it’s also the first to incorporate a pagan ritual and the element of fire.  With a flaming Wicker Man effigy at its centre and a number of nicely banked turns, this coaster is consummate proof that bigger is not necessarily better.  I found Wicker Man to be absolutely delightful.  Full review on this site.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Roller Coaster Closings

Several coasters in the USA went for their last rides this year: Firehawk at Kings Island, Cannonball Run at Waterville USA and Flitzer at Morey’s Piers. (This may not be a complete list.)  The closing of Firehawk was of particular interest to me, bringing the number of Vekoma Flying Dutchman coasters in this country down to two.  I’m a great fan of this coaster model, probably because the riding position is so unusual, so I went to Kings Island the day before it closed for good.  I’d gotten in three rides and was going to call it a day but had an irresistible urge to go back and grab a 4th ride.  This proved to be unfortunate in the extreme, as the train got stuck on the lift hill and the ride ops were unable to move it forward.  I spent an hour and a half on the lift hill on a cold, damp night in a supine position, locked into the restraints, before finally being evacuated.  It was quite an ordeal to be immobilized for such an extended period, then having to climb down a ladder to get off.  An unforgettable experience, one for the memory books.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Final Thoughts

There were so many intriguing coasters that opened during this year that I wish I could have ridden them all.  Time and budget constraints prevented me from doing so but I’m happy with the choices I made and look forward to riding some new coasters in 2019. Happy New Year!

What’s your take?  Have you ridden any of the coasters that opened in 2018 and if so, what did you think of them?