When I first heard that my hometown park was removing a roller coaster I’d grown up with – the venerable Iron Wolf, B&M’s 1st stand-up coaster – I said “they better replace it with something really good.” In 2014, they did just that, by debuting the world’s fastest, steepest wooden coaster**: Goliath.
**Actually, both El Toro and T-Express are greater in height, however their drops are not as large as Goliath’s.
Though identical in name, this ride in northern Illinois is not to be confused with the bright orange Giovanola hypercoaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, nor SFNE’s Vekoma inverted giant boomerang, nor the B&M hyper in Georgia, nor the Batman clone at Fiesta Texas…..nor….well, you get the idea. Six Flags loves to recycle names for their rides, and the Goliaths are no exception to that rule.
Rocky Mountain Construction has done a lot of refurb work across the country, but they’ve only completed a few jobs entirely from the ground up, most notably Outlaw Run @ Silver Dollar City and Wildfire @ Kolmarden. Goliath was the 2nd such custom creation from Alan Schilke, and it’s a beast.
(all photos by Eric S unless otherwise noted)
Goliath took the place where Iron Wolf used to stand (coaster pun, hah!), towards the very back of the County Fair section of the park. It doesn’t occupy much land, and riders on the nearby train ride can snap some excellent, up-close photos of this RMC monstrosity.
There really isn’t any apparent theming at all, apart from the front of the trains. Occasionally the station plays some epic-sounding music, though the verbal instructions usually drown that out.
As for the trains themselves, it’s a pretty standard Gen1 style with tight seating. Station attendants are ADAMANT about riders not pulling down the hydraulic lapbar until they’ve secured and verified your seatbelt, likely due to the intense nature of the ride. Huskier guests may have a tough time squeezing into the seats; fortunately the middle of the train has some specially-designed spots for them.
*THE BIG GIMMICK(S)*
Unlike many other RMC’s, Goliath doesn’t have any pre-lift bunny hops. The noisy chain hauls you up at a pretty good clip, and about 1/3 of the way up the hill there’s a psyche out moment where the chain lift hesitates and slows down for a brief second. Truthfully, that freaks me out every. Single. Time. And I’ve tallied more than a dozen rides. Oh, and the lift hill is pitched at an unnervingly steep 45° angle, so there’s that.
Once at the coaster’s 165ft apex, the train dangles for a moment before plunging down a 180ft drop at a jaw-dropping, 85°. It pretty much feels (and looks) like a vertical drop, and riders in the back row will be treated to an ejector moment as they get whipped over the top. At the bottom, you’ll enter a subterranean tunnel which helps the train to reach a max speed of 72mph and rocket up into an overbanked turn a la Millennium Force. From there, the train flies over a small hill for some more ejector airtime sweetness.
*THE REST OF THE COASTER*
The first inversion is a dive loop, which appears oddly out of place on a wooden coaster, but RMC gets the job done. This transitions to the highlight of the layout, a hair raising zero-G stall that seemingly defies gravity. After this, you re-enter the tunnel from earlier and close out the ride with what the designer calls a “twist & shout”, which is fancy jargon for another overbanked turn. A quick hill follows this and then the brake run.
One cycle takes about 1 minute and 45 seconds, although more than half of that is spent on the lift hill, so in reality the ride time is only about 30-40 seconds long.
Typical wait times are anywhere between half an hour and an hour, but on busier days (i.e. weekends) the queue can easily stretch upwards of 1-1/2 hours. Thankfully there’s a single rider line, though it isn’t always available for some reason. There’s “assigned seating”, but I always demand the back row and never had an issue with station attendants.
Trains seat 2 across in 12 rows and dispatch times are reasonably quick, considering the strict enforcement of tightened seat belts and very snug lap bars. Heftier guests may have a difficult time squeezing into the constricting cars.
The topper track makes for an incredibly smooth ride, and apart from the visual aspect of twisted wooden beams, I couldn’t tell the difference between riding this and a steel coaster. Goliath was an excellent replacement for the aging (and honestly unfriendly to male riders) Iron Wolf. SFGAm did good this time around.
Of the four Rocky Mountain Construction creations I’ve ridden to date, I’d place Goliath at the bottom of that list, simply because it’s over far too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolutely exhilarating coaster, but when you compare it to the overall ride length of Iron Rattler or New Texas Giant, I found Goliath’s thrills to be far too short-lived.
The dive loop is dandy and the zero-G stall has to be experienced to be believed, yet those all-important moments that take your breath away aren’t sustained throughout, like on Lightning Rod.
I’d give Great America’s Goliath a 7/10 for uniqueness and 8/10 for thrill factor. It’s an incredible roller coaster that seems to end just when things are heating up.
Final Rating – 7.5 out of 10 (Good approaching Great)
Have you ridden this looping wooden giant? How do you think it compares to RMC’s other creations like Iron Rattler, New Texas Giant, and Wicked Cyclone? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
This was a part of our 12 Days of Coasters special! Every day from Christmas until January 5th, we gave away a roller coaster review for you to enjoy. You can check them all out here. We thank you for reading, hope you’ve had a merry holidays, and wish you a happy New Year!