Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Goliath at Six Flags Great America - A History Lesson (Part 2)

By CM Venom

1990-2011: The Howl Of The Iron Wolf
The spring of 1990 brought the new Great America brochure, and the announcement of the park’s new attraction Iron Wolf, a standup looping coaster. As in previous years, the brochure was produced months before the completion of the ride, forcing Six Flags to use placeholder images for promotion. In this case, photos of the Six Flags Magic Mountain standup coaster Shockwave were used in the brochure. (Although it was never specifically stated that the photos weren’t of Iron Wolf, the brush covered hills and mountains in the background pretty much confirmed this coaster wasn’t anywhere near Illinois.)

Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard had left Giovanola in 1988, and created their own company, the now-famous B&M. Great America tasked them specifically to create a new coaster for the park, and Iron Wolf was the result of their first full endeavor as a company. (The relationship between B&M and Great America would continue to expand; in 1992, the company would install the game-changing Batman: The Ride, and would add further offerings such as the hyper-twister Raging Bull, Superman: Ultimate Flight, and the second Wing Coaster in North America, X-Flight.

Iron Wolf boasted a 90 foot long twisting first drop, a vertical loop, and a corkscrew over 2900 feet of maroon and grey track. The trains created for the coaster featured an over-the-shoulder restraint and a bicycle seat-like protrusion for added support. The restraint system was mounted on a vertically-moving base, allowing each rider to adjust into a comfortable riding position regardless of their physical height. These bases would move freely during loading, but would lock into place at a point before dispatch.

Invariably, some riders would find pre-ride amusement in bouncing the frame up and down repeatedly, causing some to become locked into an uncomfortable position either squatting low with knees bent or supporting most of their body weight crotched on the “seat”. (Having ridden the coaster in both of those positions, I can equivocally state that both were pretty damned uncomfortable.)

Iron Wolf would remain in that spot for 21 years. The standup coaster would remain popular for several years before it began to gain a reputation for roughness, and wait times would only exceed 30-40 minutes on the busiest days of attendance. As the coaster aged, complaints of headbanging became commonplace, although most of the serious discomfort could be avoided by keeping one’s head firmly pressed against the headrest. (An alternate method to avoid rattling cranial trauma was to stick one’s neck out as far as possible and lean the head into the turns and elements, certainly a braver option.) The standup genre never really gained widespread popularity in the industry, and B&M would only create a handful more before focusing their attention on different products. The last B&M standup installation was the Georgia Scorcher in 1999, although the company still technically offers them for sale.

Great America announced the impending closure of Iron Wolf in August of 2011, giving guests about a month to experience the venerable coaster for the last time. The coaster gave its final rides on September 5, 2011 to a small group of American Coaster Enthusiasts and a few park guests who exhibited questionable judgment. The final cycles were host to little fanfare aside from a few balloons in the station and a few offhand comments during train dispatch. (There was rumored to be a sheet cake involved in the proceedings, but if there was one, park employees wisely kept it hidden until the departure of the ACErs.)

In a throwback to the days of Ride Rotation, it was announced that Iron Wolf would not be scrapped, but moved to Six Flags America in Maryland, where it would be reassembled and re-themed as “Apocalypse”. Great America began removing signage and portions of the station during the park’s Fright Fest celebration, and once the heavy machinery was brought in, the coaster was down in a matter of weeks. Apocalypse opened at SFA early in the 2012 season, and the Great America plot of land was left empty once again.

2012-2013: Waiting For A Giant
When SFGAm opened for the 2012 season, the only thing remaining on the site were a few remnants of concrete footers, most of the queue line, and the stark and barren Iron Wolf station. As most of the coaster was tucked away from view and only a relatively small portion of the site actually bordered the County Fair midway, most guests didn’t even seem to notice that anything was missing (although I did witness one individual ask a park employee where “Steel Wolf” was located). During Fright Fest, the site was temporarily transformed into a small walkthrough attraction that served as the finale to a zombie-themed overlay of a leg of the park’s railroad. Costumed actors and busted ride props dotted the scene, and most guests enjoyed the mild scares not knowing that they were walking on the actual “gravesite” of two of the park’s more unique coasters.

In August of 2013, the park announced the imminent arrival of Goliath, which is currently being constructed on the County Fair site, making it the third roller coaster to occupy that space. (Other park sites have played host to a larger number of different attractions, most notably the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom location used for If You Had Wings, If You Could Fly, Dreamflight, Take Flight, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but this is a first where coasters are concerned.) Similar to before, parts of the foundation and lower framework of the Iron Wolf station will be re-used, but most of the entirety of the Goliath station will be a new construction.

Keep listening to Coasterradio.com and checking this blog, and we'll bring you the latest Goliath news as we draw ever closer to the opening of this monumental record-breaking coaster. I'm CM Venom, and thanks for reading.

No comments:

All Original Content Copyright 2005-2016 - Lift Hill Media, LLC