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Goliath

Guest Review from CM Venom!

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Living in Southern California, less than two hours away from too many world-class thrill rides to count, I shouldn't complain. But sometimes I do. Like right now: Chicago is too damn far away NO FAIR. My buddy CM Venom managed to get to Six Flags Great America to sample their new Goliath, and he submitted this excellent review. Enjoy!

– Robert

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In today’s amusement industry, there’s no hotter coaster company than Rocky Mountain Construction. The Idaho-based RMC is responsible for pushing the envelope for what wooden coaster track can do, either through the I-Box retracking that gave new life to coasters such as the New Texas Giant and Iron Rattler, or its first original design, the highly touted Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City. Using new technology, RMC was able to manipulate wooden track into elements that would have proved impossible a few short years ago. Heartline and barrel rolls, wildly overbanked turns, and inversions could now become reality. It was a game changer to be sure.

When the news dropped in August of 2013 that the new attraction at Six Flags Great America would be Goliath, a custom-designed RMC coaster that would fit in the footprint vacated by the B&M standup Iron Wolf (since moved to Six Flags America and re-themed as “Apocalypse”), it was greeted with massive excitement. RMC’s previous efforts were widely lauded, and Goliath featured several elements never before seen on any of their creations, as well as breaking three world records for wooden coasters. Goliath would feature the longest and steepest drop (180 feet at 85 degrees), and fastest speed (72 mph) of any wooden coaster on the planet.

Over the next few months, a supremely dedicated crew of workers from Rocky Mountain Construction would put in ten to eleven hour days, six days a week, in an attempt to open the coaster for the beginning of the park’s 2014 summer season. Despite a brutally cold and snowy winter (even by Midwest standards, trust me on this one), Goliath was only delayed by a few weeks, and the park officially opened the 165 foot high behemoth on June 19, 2014.

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Being the hottest thing in the park (and I’m sure partially due to the heavy Six Flags media blitz), most guests waiting at the park entrance before official opening time stampede deep into the park, straight for Goliath. The park has been experimenting with a procedure where they will allow guests to queue up about a half hour before opening, and send out the first train at 10:30 on the nose. No matter where you are near Goliath, the lift hill is seemingly omnipresent, its spartan-looking supports giving off the ever-so-slight feeling that they're insubstantial for holding up something of that size. The entire structure has an intimidating look to it, and it's completely unlike anything else in the park.

The space originally allotted for Iron Wolf’s queue was satisfactory for that particular ride’s popularity, but had nowhere near the capacity that Goliath would demand. The park set up a temporary queue line that uses part of the open midway in front of the adjacent train station. Riders navigate the barricades, pass the station, go through the original (and thankfully covered) Iron Wolf queue switchbacks before heading up a set of stairs into the station. The dedicated FlashPass/single rider line starts at the foot of these stairs, although the park has been experimenting with methods of access. Sometimes, attendants will direct guests to go through the temporary switchbacks before ascending to the station, other times they will simply take guests directly to the base of the stairs. (I believe it depends on the crowds, I’ve seen both processes utilized in a single day's visit.)

Goliath uses the former station of Iron Wolf, albeit with a few modifications. The station has been extended in length to accommodate the Goliath trains, and a new set of switchbacks has been created for the inevitable crush of those wanting to challenge the coaster from the front row.

As a new set of riders heads toward the train, the infinitely patient crew instructs everyone via loudspeaker that once they’re seated, to only fasten the safety belt and not to touch the lap bar. But much like butterfly knives and nearly full Starbucks green tea lattes, listening comprehension is usually left at the front gate, and at least half a dozen guests sit directly on the unbuckled safety belt while violently yanking at the lap bar.

A few words about the restraint system, and those words would be “snug” and “encapsulating”. The seat is molded deep, and the bar consists of a fitted lap restraint and a shin-level restraint; both are dense but soft, and completely comfortable. The bar forces you to keep your feet flat on the floor of the train, essentially immobilizing your lower body, while allowing almost total freedom of movement for your upper body. This may seem like overkill while sitting in the station awaiting dispatch, but you’ll be thankful for the design shortly.

You’ll also probably notice that with the exception of a rubber handle on the lap bar used by ride attendants for the safety check, there’s really nothing to hold on to. It looks like RMC doesn’t subscribe to that “holding on tight” type of foolishness.

The train leaves the station, dropping into a hard left 180 degree turn before catching the chain at the base of the 165 foot lift hill. Owing to the coaster’s limited amount of space to work with, the ascent is steep; if it isn’t 45 degrees, it’s got to be 44. Riders on the left side of the train get an increasingly higher view of the sprawl of the park, while those on the right get a view of employee buildings and nearby subdivisions of residents who have no business complaining unless they were living there in 1974 or earlier. Although not as fast as Skyrush or Millennium Force, the lift is pretty rapid, and your train slowly crests the hill before you know it.

Where you’re sitting on the train will determine the sensation you’re about to feel. Riders in the back will experience a creeping pull that quickly transforms into near-vertical madness, although it lacks the sharp and nearly-violent yank downward that you may have expected. Riders in the front get a bonus visual unlike any other, as the train seems to hang over the top of the hill, slowly inching over, making you almost wonder if you’re actually going to go over or just stall out there...forever. But go over you do, and by the time you’ve plummeted 180 feet to the bottom and through a covered crevasse dug into the ground, you’ve experienced all three of Goliath’s world records.

Before you have a chance to process this information, Goliath shoots you back skyward for the first element, an overbanked turn that RMC calls an overbanked top hat. Not only does the turn send you back in the direction from which you came, it also features an odd little dip in the middle of the element, as if being turned almost completely sideways some 125 feet in the air wasn’t enough. The supporting structure creates a series of headchoppers, but the train is almost moving too fast for them to freak you out. (Almost.) After navigating the turn, Goliath sends you back toward ground level, and fast.

The airtime hill that follows doesn’t look too intimidating as you approach, but taking it at such a high rate of speed is more than enough to lift your liver to the roof of your mouth. Cries of “Oh gawd!” and “What the hell?” are common.

The train rockets up an incline, entering the massive wooden structure that houses Goliath’s dive loop. Most riders will be used to dive loops as an isolated element on a steel coaster, with track, a support or two, and little else. Goliath’s dive loop is encased in a gigantic wooden lattice that you’re in the midst of before you know it, and the sudden change in surroundings is pretty disorienting. Once again, your seat on the train will determine your experience; the front of the train takes the inversion at a high rate of speed, while the back seems to hover and hang for a moment before rocketing back toward terra firma. Riders may think that this is as intense as the coaster gets, but Goliath has a massive surprise in store...the zero-g stall.

Imagine an airtime hill, where inertia attempts to lift you out of the train. The common term is “ejector air”, so named because it feels as if the coaster is attempting to eject you from the train. Now keep the same airtime hill, but traverse it from underneath, creating the world’s first zero-g stall. The force that would normally send you out of your seat now pushes you into it, forcing you down by sending you up. Confusing? It gets weirder. A second force is also acting on you during the stall, as gravity pulls you down toward the ground, which according to your perspective, is actually up. The coaster is engineered so that these two forces serve to almost cancel each other out, and Goliath delivers its biggest surprise, nearly three full seconds of almost total weightlessness.

The closest sensation that you’re going to find similar to this one of the slower heartline or zero-g rolls found on B&M flying coasters like Tatsu, or an inverted coaster in the style of Batman: The Ride. But honestly, those don’t even come close. And to make the sensation a little more disorienting, Goliath’s zero-g stall suspends you in mid-air with no support structure between you and the ground below. It’s a beautifully engineered element that’s like nothing else anywhere.

The train exits the stall, dives into the covered crevasse once again, and turns back 180 degrees through another overbanked turn termed a “twist n’ shout”. Goliath’s train shoots up a small incline into the final brake run with plenty of speed to spare, giving the front half of the train a final bonus pop of ejector air. It’s been nearly a minute and half from when you exited the station, and you get the very distinct sensation that Goliath has just had its way with you.

Initial impressions of Goliath have been favorable, and everyone I’ve spoken to after riding has been pretty positive about the experience. There is a small but vocal minority (mostly on the Internet, shockingly) that complains that the ride is too short and not as forceful as the first RMC original creation, Outlaw Run. What these complaints fail to take into consideration are the constraints that RMC and Six Flags were saddled with at this particular park. The footprint that Goliath sits upon is long, relatively thin, and is bordered on the east by the park’s railroad and backstage employee areas. (For example, the structure for the overbanked top hat runs right up against the park’s outdoor performing theatre, and the closest seats appear to be no more than ten or fifteen feet from the coaster.)

Silver Dollar City had an ample amount of room to work with when installing Outlaw Run, resulting in a sprawling layout that stretches into the surrounding wilderness. At SFGAm, Rocky Mountain had to create a custom design for Goliath that built “up” as opposed to “out”. Simply put, Goliath doesn’t ride like Outlaw Run because it isn’t Outlaw Run. It is Goliath, and it is, in a word, awesome.

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CM Venom is the Mid-America correspondent for CoasterRadio.com, and the author of The Mighty LWF: The True Story of the Renegade Chicago Wrestling Promotion.
E-book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KMHP0JW
Print copies: https://www.createspace.com/4815478

 

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