ThrillRide

 


 

Volcano - The Blast Coaster

The Former 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 prize.

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 Time.

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 second.
Lava-Rock & 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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Volcano - The Blast Coaster

  • TRACK LENGTH: 2,757 feet
  • TOP SPEED: 70 Miles Per Hour
  • MAX. G FORCE: 5
  • MAX. HEIGHT: 155 feet
  • RIDE DURATION: Approx. 2 minutes
  • CARS: Each train composed of four cars. Each car accommodates two rows of passengers, two per row.
  • THEMING DESIGN: Paramount Parks Design and Entertainment, Charlotte, NC
  • MANUFACTURER: Intamin AG, Switzerland

Volcano: The Blast Coaster logo and artwork TM, © 1998 Paramount Parks Inc. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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© Robert Coker.
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