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Roller Coasters

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New Age Inversions

In 1990, a new firm called Bollinger & Mabillard based in Monthey, Switzerland, appeared on th scene and breathed new life into the industry with a second-generation standup coaster. This ride, called the Iron Wolf, was built at Six Flags Great America and featured a complex layout packed with severe banking and multiple inversions. What really caught everyone's attention, though, was the precise engineering techniques employeed in B&M's debut effort. This stringent attention to detail made the Iron Wolf unbelievably smooth despite the wild gyrations it was performing. This superb coaster also featured a four-across seating configuration, a trait that would consistantly show up on nearly all B&M coasters.

Several other notable B&M stand-ups materialized at U.S. theme parks, including Parmounts Great America and Paramount's Carowinds. At it turned out, these glass-smooth crowd pleasers were but a preview of what B&M had up its sleeve.

In 1992, while other manufactures were churning out relatively normal looping coaster installaitons, B&M unveiled a brand neww roller coaster system that seemed downright unthinkable: the inverted coaster. The proto type dubbed Batman-The Ride, and it joined B&M's Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America. When details of the attraction were first released, there was speculation that the ride just wouldn't work. As with the suspended coasters that came before it, Paramount's Kings Island - The Bat, it trains hung from an overhead track. Buy instead of pree-swinging coaches, these vehicles were rigidly fixed to their wheel assemblies. This novel arrangement finally made possible the introduction of upside-down elements to the suspended coaster concept. History was in the making.

Batman - The Ride featured an ultra-tight layout, which included two vertical loops, a zero-G heartline spin, and a pair of corkscrews. But B&M pushed the thrill factor up yet another notch by making the vehicles resemble floorless ski lift-like cars, allowing riders' feet to dangle. This openness dramatically heightened the sense of flight. The world and the industry at large were justifably amazed. To date, numerous examples of the successful Batman - The Ride have opened at Six Flags parks around the country (along with clones of the same design at other parks).

B&M went on to build even larger, more elaborate versions of this ride at parks around the world. North American installations that deserve mention include Raptor at Cedar Point, Aplengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Monte at Busch Gardens Tamp Bay, and Top Gun at Paramount's Carowinds. These latter two inverted coasters are heavily themed and incorporate underground tunnels with fog and other special effects.

Other companies scrambled to hop on the inverted bandwagon. In the meantime, B&M introduced a succession of larger standup and sit-down looping roller coasters. Each of these rides featured the now familiar four-abreast seating and degree of smoothness in the engineering process that was second to none. The firm entered the non-looping hyper-coaster market in 1999 with installations at Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Apollo's Chariot) and Six Flags Great America (Raging Bull).

In the late 1990's, other firms joined the hypercoaster craze by building emormous non-looping steel coasters. Each of these wonderful rides was a success in its own right, but none seemed to equal the appeal of the very first hyper-coaster--Cedar Point's Magnum XL200. Even today, Magnum still ranks as one of the most popular steel roller coasters the world has ever seen, probably in part because of its magnificent lakeside setting.

Taken from:

ROLLER COASTERS by Scott Rutherford

Published in 2003 by Lowe & B. Hould Publishers

Previously published in 2000 by MBI Publishing Company.

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