Alexander: Here at Coaster Kings, we like to fantasize about how things could be. We like imagining how things could be better (or at least different), especially when it comes to coaster performance.
By now, pretty much every enthusiast has had a “this needs to be RMC’d” moment when riding a wooden coaster that isn’t what it could be, but in the wake of a baker’s dozen Rocky Mountain Coasters Iron Horse projects since 2011’s game-changing New Texas Giant, the conversation has changed.
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Major next-generation wood coaster restorations quickly evolved beyond ripping off wood track and making it steel (to mixed results), but many are still more intrigued by Iron Horse reinventions than a less-dramatic fix. Too often people cry “RMC it!” whenever a wood coaster stops performing at maximum potential (the most radical move is NOT always the best move), but we’d be lying if there weren’t at least another dozen rides that would make great Iron Horse candidates.
We’re going to explore the prospects of 20 coasters – 10 that we think that should be left alone, and 10 that might be better off as Rocky Mountain Construction converts (for the record, parks that already have an Iron Horse are exempt from this list. Sorry, Apocalype-at-SFMM-truthers). To keep things interesting, we’ll talk about these rides in an alternating pattern – and, since we’re traditionalists, let’s start with a popular “RMC IT” that we think is perfectly fine the way it is:
1. BEAST – KINGS ISLAND
DON’T RMC IT
We get it – The Beast is the original overrated coaster. It was the Millennium Force of wood coasters 20+ years before Millennium Force was the Millennium Force of steel coasters. The Beast is famous for being big, fast, and scenic (and not much else), but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good fit for an Iron Horse conversion. It’s a pleasant ride with a strong following, and, aside from being slowed down during early tweaking, it’s essentially the ride they built in 1979 (the same can’t be said for many woodies pre-RMC). If Kings Islanders want RMC, hope for something custom. Giga T-Rex, anyone? 😉
2. GRIZZLY – CALIFORNIA’S GREAT AMERICA
Fate never was kind to this ride; a then-independent Great America enlisted Curtis Summers and Kings Island to build a 4th Wildcat (Coney Island Cincinnati) – inspired coaster. Rather than re-build the splendid Grizzly from Kings Dominion, the watered-down Bush Beast at Australia’s Wonderland was the template. Add some lighter-than-air Morgan Manufacturing “California Style” rolling stock, and what you get is the most snooze-worthy woodie around (at least, for those who fit in Grizzly‘s unreasonably narrow train-lock envelope. Turns out Cedar Fair seatbelt policies and Morgan trains don’t mix).
RMC’s Railblazer is already a sensation for California’s Great America, but even locals will tell you it’s a different beast from nearby Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s Joker (a surprise gem in the Iron Horse lineup). A lot could be achieved with Grizzly‘s plentiful superstructure while both retaining the ride’s original length and creating an experience unique to what’s already in the area.
3. HURLER – CAROWINDS
DON’T RMC IT
There isn’t a single U.S. park hungrier than Carowinds: with 3 $20m+ coasters added inside a decade, Charlotte’s little-regional-park-that-could now demonstrates a growth plan aimed at world domination. Where does RMC fit in this equation? Probably somewhere, but if I were Cedar Fair, I’d keep Hurler off limits. Its Kings Dominion twin made a solid Iron Horse conversion – and while many theorize that other Hurler will be next, we think this is all the more reason to preserve the existing ride. Twisted Timbers has its place in the roller coaster lexicon, and so does Hurler – as both decent ride in its own right, and as part of the Southeast’s deteriorating woodie collection. Besides, why wish for another Twisted Timbers when you could wish for another Ghostrider?
4. MIGHTY CANADIAN MINEBUSTER – CANADA’S WONDERLAND
Canada’s largest park offers an interesting challenge: when your two major wooden coasters are in a race to the bottom, which one do you chose for an Iron Horse remodel? The one that’s been more “ruined”, of course. While Wonderland’s Wild Beast (Coney Island Wildcat clone #1) is less unique than the Coney Island Shooting Star – based Minebuster, it’s also been less-messed-around-with. Hasty Paramount-era modifications reduced the ride’s original 3-hill runout to 2 large and bland hills (which are subject to the unforgiving chlorine drips of hovering waterslides). You could always fix the existing ride, but who can resist the idea of an Iron Horse out-and-back??
5. WILD BEAST – CANADA’S WONDERLAND
DON’T RMC IT
As indicated above, we’d rather see the original Coney Island Wildcat clone stay intact than get RMC’d. It may not have the setting of Kings Dominion’s Grizzly, but it certainly has more strengths than Great America’s Grizzly (besides, why pick two similar coasters for an Iron Horse remodel? They’d probably end up being clones of each other.)
6. MAGNUS COLOSSUS – TERRA MITICA
As fate would have it, “lost Paramount Park” Terra Mitica in Spain (managed by Paramount from 2002-06) built a precursor to Kings Island’s infamous coaster disaster, Son Of Beast. One of few Roller Coaster Corperation of America woodies built before Paramount sued them into oblivion, Magnus Colossus was a fine demonstration of RCCA’s aesthetic-before-experience design model. The big, boring, beautiful ride struggled to crawl its way back to the station on empty dispatches, and with high maintenance costs and poor ridership, Terra Mitica shuttered the ride in 2016. Assuming the ride isn’t a total loss structure-wise (although Son of Beast supposedly was), Magnus Colossus would be a playground for RMC.
7. BANDIT – MOVIE PARK GERMANY
DON’T RMC IT
Pretty much everything RCCA touched is a failure, but a rare exception is Germany’s first modern woodie: a late-era Cyclone clone called Bandit (originally Wild Wild West). Despite a troubled past of train swaps and retracking, Bandit defies the odds by being more enjoyable now in its 20th season than at any other point in its timeline – an impressive designation for any coaster. With nearby Walibi Holland’s Vekoma woodie Robin Hood enjoying a swan season before becoming Europe’s first Iron Horse, eyes will soon be cast upon Movie Park: will they follow the inevitable success of “Iron Robin Hood”, or will they bank on Bandit‘s subsequent appreciation of value?
8. COASTER EXPRESS – PARQUE WARNER MADRID
Neither the immediate problems of then-sister property Movie Park Germany’s Wild Wild West, nor the disappointing performance of fellow Spanish new park Terra Mitica’s Magnus Colossus, could spare Warner Bros. Movie World Madrid from having an RCCA on their opening roster (also called Wild Wild West before 2005 saw its replacement with an even dumber name). Coaster Express is basically mini-Son of Beast (sans first drop and vertical loop), so this is pretty much as close as we’d ever get to Iron Son of Beast (although, SURPRISE the ride is recently closed until further notice. Structural problems? Sent someone to the ER? Who knows!).
9. STAMPIDA – PORT AVENTURA WORLD
DON’T RMC IT
Enter: the only park in Spain with an operating wooden coaster – Port Aventura. The park’s junior woodie, Tomahawk, was retracked by GCI (and fitted with adorable junior Millennium Flyers); we can only hope for the same treatment on the dripping-with-potential 1997 CCI Stampida. The ride suffers from a problem that has plagued wooden coasters for over a century (beautiful, heavy trains that beat up the track), but if Port Aventura let GCI go full Ghostrider on Stampida, they’d have a world-class dueling coaster.
10. LE MONSTRE – LA RONDE
I’m not saying that La Ronde “needs” to respond to the mounting dominance of Canada’s Wonderland (since the parks are in totally different regions and La Ronde clearly doesn’t care about, like, anything), but wouldn’t it be cool if this troubled Bill Cobb monstrosity became a dueling RMC? I’m not sure how many of Le Monstre‘s problems are technical and how many are simply a result of La Ronde’s operational apathy, but the addition of capacity-crippling PTCs in place of the original Morgan trains really messed with things (not that it’s PTCs fault – La Ronde just seems fond of poor fits *cough*Ednor*cough).
Continue with spots 11-20 on page 2!