- The Blast Coaster
Smurf Mountain Blows Its Lid.
In 1979, Kings Dominion
(Doswell, Virginia) added a huge artificial mountain at the back
end of the park and packed it with three attractions. Hidden behind
the craggy walls of The Lost World, Thrillseekers could
sample Atlantis, a flume ride, The Mine Train, a
journey into the mountain's dark recesses, and Timeshaft,
a themed stick-ya-to-the-walls Rotor. Each of these amusements
was pleasantly diverting and the ominous mountain looked pretty
keen, but the Lost World promised more excitement than it delivered.
Just one year later, Atlantis was revamped into The Haunted
River. And in 1984, The Mine Train was overrun by animated
blue vermin, becoming Smurf Mountain. I'm sure those cloying
munchkins still have a few fans, but I ain't one of them and I
shed no tears when the Smurfs were forcibly evicted. The Haunted
River continued to flow for many years but the bulk of The Lost
World remained silent. Like a time bomb slowly ticking away, this
dormant mountain was waiting to explode.
PKD's planners were ready to create a ride that would have this dramatic structure
live up to its potential. In conjunction with the renowned thrill
ride designers at Intamin AG, the Paramount Parks Design and Entertainment
group envisioned a scream machine that would become a truly precedent-setting
attraction. It would be the world's first inverted linear induction
motor-launched rollercoaster, with a 155-foot tall vertical climb straight up and out the very peak of the mountain. Intamin
had experience with inverted machines, having created the Eurostar,
the world's first portable inverted coaster, and they certainly
knew a thing or two about electromagnetic propulsion; Intamin
shall always be infamous for creating the first 100 mile-per-hour
thrill rides, Australia's Tower of Terror and America's Superman: The Escape,
two linear synchronous motor-powered mind-melters. But
no one had ever strapped LIMs onto an inverted coaster track,
and there's never been an inverted ride with a completely vertical
launch. "Ambitious" didn't even begin to describe it.
To no one's surprise, there were delays. But after months of adjustments
and some quick thinking, they pulled it off. On August 3rd, 1998, Volcano: The Blast Coaster officially erupted with white-hot
fury and once again, the thrill ride history books have been rewritten.
This spectacular ride is in a category all its own.
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Located in the Congo section of the park, between the Avalanche Bobsled
coaster and the Outer Limits: Flight of Fear(TM) indoor
LIM coaster, the Volcano rises above a shady pseudo-tropical
landscape. After passing beneath a foreboding stone gateway that
welcomes you to the terrors ahead, the entire ride comes into
view: bright yellow track held aloft by dark maroon-brown supports
snakes around the mountain, well over 100 feet off the
ground. From a distance, you can see the innovative triangular
rail structure curling up out of the volcano's "crater."
If you can possibly stand still and be patient for a moment, you
might witness one of this attraction's most incredible touches:
a tremendous jet of fire exploding out the peak. This ain't no
holographic trick, friends; the searing heat these flames create
burn away any notion that they might be some kind of artificial
effect. Yessir, this volcano is blazingly active.
But the fiery show is only a precursor to the actual eruption.
A thundering rumble signals the blow-out as a screaming trainload
of human lava rockets into daylight, eight pairs of legs pointing
towards the heavens as the cars invert... Sssssssmokin'!
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The entrance to the queue proper begins underneath a faux-African totemic
arch. There we begin to stroll through of the base of the mountain,
getting an even closer look at the lay of the land. A sweeping
"post-eruption" 270-degree curve soars overhead, leading
directly into the first of three barrel-roll inversions. Watching
the trains twist through this maneuver so far up in the sky will
touch you deeply.
Should another fireball let loose while you're standing at an
exterior point in the line, you'll be checking for scorch marks
on yer clothing. When folks tell you this ride is "hot,"
they're not just speaking metaphorically. I took pleasure in the
thought that had any renegade Smurfs remained hidden away in the
shadowy bowels of this mountain, they'd long-since been reduced
to piles of ash. "Have a Smurfy day!"
The wait ends inside a spartan loading station, where we can see
just how Intamin has interpreted the traditional inverted coaster
train and boarding system. The most obvious difference is that
these trains currently provide seating for just eight passengers.
It's clear from the covered mounts behind every other row that
Volcano was intended to carry twice as many Thrillseekers at a
time. Park reps conceded that the electric power needed to propel
a fully-loaded 16-passenger train to escape velocity was not yet
available but would be by next season, so we can expect rider
capacity to improve in the coming years. Though this means a longer
wait for the time being, it also means that every seat provides
a nearly "front-row" experience, a nice consolation
The flame-orange steel trains glide over a poured-concrete floor; there's
no fancy-schmancy retracting metal platform, like those found
on Bolliger & Mabillard's inverted machines. And riders disembark
at a separate stop behind the load position, so we're greeted
by an empty train.
Once the automatic gates swing wide, we clamber into our assigned
seats and pull down the over-the-shoulder harness. There's another
small variation to the familiar: a backup-duty seat belt on the outside of each harness secures it to the bottom half of
the clam-shell. Both recorded announcements and stickers on the
back of each row warn us to keep our brain pans firmly upright
against the seat back. And with that final instruction, it's Sweaty-Palm
Unlike other electromagnetic-launched coasters, Volcano does not
immediately surge forward. No, the tension builds even further
as the train slowly floats through a 90-degree bend to
the left, positioning us before a long, black tunnel through the
mountain. Girding our loins, anticipating that moment when the
juice will cut loose, we creep away from the comforts of the sun
over a murky pool of water. Any second now.
Then we hear a glorious sound - that fine whine of impeccable vintage, the
ascending squeal of invisible forces thrusting the train to what
feels like Mach One in just seconds. Faster and faster,
we ram through the air, the seats pushing against our backs with
merciless strength. Smooth and constant, the acceleration is beyond
anything any other inverted coaster can match. And it's only the first big push we're gonna get.
The train blasts back into daylight as we exit the mountain and
surge to the left. The track banks hard and fast, tossing us away
from the ground and we begin to race through a massive horizontal
curve. Off the starboard side, the Outer Limits building is reduced
to a blur. Awesome speed, near 70 miles per hour, charging along
like an F-16... though the train has yet to really change altitude,
your spirits are already flyin' high. The track levels off as
we enter a straightaway right back into the mountain... and now
the fireworks really begin.
Like a set of afterburners, the second array of linear induction
motors pours it on and we re-enter the mountain, ready to go up
and out. Inside the pitch-black core, locked down into a jet-propelled
La-Z-Boy, we feel ourselves tilting way back, till we're completely
reclined (if you feel like you might blow chunks, now is not the
optimal moment). Through a dense mist, our vehicle performs a
completely unnatural act, plowing straight up a vertical section
of track. Oh, bay-bee! There's a slight twist to the left
and once more, we're blinded by the Sun's rays.
Except now, we have to tilt our heads down to see that
big ball of light. We're inverted for the first time, curling
over the lip of the crater, spewing out the top of this volcano
155 feet above the ground... Boys and Girls, you can put that
one on your list of Greatest Thrillseeking Moments.
We whip back around and head to the left, making a banked turn
around the peak and towards the front of the mountain. Keep in
mind, we're still over 100 feet in the sky. Nice view up there,
ain't it? It's about to get nicer. Off in the distance,
we can make out the loopy steel of the park's Anaconda coaster, well beneath us. We enter the first barrel-roll and the
world turns upside-down at a... very... leisurely... clip. Keys,
wallets, spare change all threaten to spill free; loose clothing
rides up yer bod - this coaster wants you to know what gettin'
inverted is all about.
Finishing off the barrel-roll, we swing around another wide 180-degree bend,
with barrel-roll Number 2 dead ahead. Again, flying up and over,
personal belongings threaten to take flight. We scrape past the
mountain's surface and, facing the Avalanche, navigate
a turn to the right and head back behind the big rock, where Barrel-Roll,
the Third is tucked away.
Volcano's last delight is an 80-foot drop along a twisting dive
to the right. We plunge back down into the mountain where the
brakes grab hold and quickly bring us to a stop.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photo at right sums up everything
just fine; that ear-to-ear grin never left my face for a single
& Roll, baby!
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With the addition
of V:TBC, Paramount's Kings Dominion becomes the first park in
world to possess two LIM-powered coasters, a fitting honor
since PKD was the first park to introduce linear induction to
the Thrillseeking world back in 1996. Outer Limits: Flight
of Fear, designed by Premier Rides, was an amazing leap forward
in rollercoaster technology and remains one of this Thrillseeker's
favorite rail-riders. It's just a sign of the times that an inverted LIM coaster should follow so quickly. Can a stand-up LIM coaster
be far behind? I don't think so.
V:TBC is also this park's tenth coaster, joining the aforementioned OL:FOF, the Anaconda, The Grizzly, the esteemed Rebel Yell racer, the Avalanche, the Taxi-Jam(TM),
the Scooby-Doo (two fer the kids), the Hurler and
the Shockwave. There are few parks anywhere with a more
comprehensive collection. And to make up for Volcano's operational
delay, the park will open for a full day on October 24th, a date
not on their existing schedule. PKD has also confirmed that for
1999, their most excellent waterpark will more than double in
size, becoming the "Waterworks," with new slides, activity
areas and a much larger wave pool.
Make sure this park is on your Thrillseeking agenda and get ready
to feel the burn.
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- The Blast Coaster
- TRACK LENGTH:
- TOP SPEED:
70 Miles Per Hour
- MAX. G
- MAX. HEIGHT:
- RIDE DURATION:
Approx. 2 minutes
- CARS: Each
train composed of four cars. Each car accommodates two rows
of passengers, two per row.
DESIGN: Paramount Parks Design and Entertainment, Charlotte,
Intamin AG, Switzerland
The Blast Coaster logo and artwork TM, © 1998 Paramount
Parks Inc. All rights reserved.