Wooden roller coasters belong to the typical American amusement park as do cotton candy, funnel cakes and the national anthem for park opening. While the coasters made of wood are only slowly rediscovered as interesting attractions in Europe they always have been a fundamental part of parks in the US.
With steel coasters advancing more and more the limits of classic wooden coasters became visible: High speeds, fast turns, inversions the old rides just could not keep up with those new and exciting elements. Engineers however would not just give up so easily and began to create always higher, faster and more extreme wooden roller coasters: The ride 'Son of Beast' at Kings Island, OH even had a vertical loop first and up until now only wooden coaster in the world to have one however completely made out of steel. The Texas Giant also originates from this era of gigantic wooden roller coasters.
The Texas Giant has been opened at Six Flags Over Texas the mother of all Six Flags parks in March, 1990. At the time it was the highest wooden coaster of the world with a total height of 143 feet. The ride was designed by the Dinn Cooperation which was also responsible for other large wooden coasters at that time. The ride had 3 trains with 7 cars each for 4 riders, 28 riders per train, built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC).
Already after the first year of operation and continuing the following years some fundamental changes had to be made: Parts of the track were redesigned, the trains cut back to 6 cars and several trim brakes installed to get the ride quality and maintenance costs under control. However even with these actions taken the ride was getting more violent to ride over time. Also the comprehensive annual maintenance works resulted in the ride being closed regularly during the winter opening of the park.
Comparing this ride to other woodies of that time best example is the 'Rattler' at the not too far away Six Flags Fiesta Texas park shows many parallels. Limits of a wooden roller coaster were often mostly ignored and many rides had to be made less fast and extreme only shortly after they opened.
For Six Flags Over Texas it was clear that the state of their once signature coaster could not be of permanent nature. In the year 2011 the park wanted to celebrate its' 50th birthday with a new giant attraction and the decision was made to completely rework and enhance the troubled coaster: The 'old' Texas Giant took its' last riders on November 1st, 2009.
It took all of season 2010 and 10 million US-$ to get the Texas Giant back again as a top attraction for years to come. During the renovation works one thing became very clear: Once finished there would not be much resemblance left to the old wooden coaster.
The most extensive change for sure comes with the track: The wood has been completely removed and replaced by prefabricated steel track from the manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction. This resulted in partly intense reactions from fans as the once pure wooden roller coaster now transformed into more of a steel coaster with wooden supports.
Reactions cooled down and turned into anticipation however as the new layout of the ride was released. Here as well some fundamental changes were apparent: The new first drop not only is 10 feet higher but also 79 degrees steep. The following layout includes some very steep banked turns and fast taken hills. The helix around, under and over the lift hill had been removed a sacrifice to the higher friction losses of a steel coaster compared to a wooden coaster. But even then the track only roughly follows the old layout.
The new trains of the ride have gotten a nice retro-look and are each themed as a classic Cadillac including a Texas bull horn up front a must for a ride with this name. The trains have been made by German manufacturer Gerstlauer Amusement Rides.
As we enter the park we quickly walk towards the New Texas Giant. Every so often we see the massive first drop between tree tops and buildings, guiding us directly to the entrance of the ride. It is only here that we can see the impressive 79° steep first drop and the overbanked turn right beside it in full glory for the first time. Frequently another train is thundering along the track accompanied by loud screams while we wait in line, slowly approaching the station. Still the original station from the former Texas Giant it is surprisingly narrow but little space means little wait time and soon we finally can get in one of the trains. Immediately striking is the window glass on the side that is meant to block putting our hands sideways out of the train. Also there are no seat belts definitely a plus for ride capacity. Very soon the train is checked, cleared and all riders cheer as we begin moving out of the station our ride on the new Giant begins!
Quickly we climb the lift hill. The sign on top 'Wait let's discuss this!' - puts a brief smile on our faces but is soon forgotten as the train suddenly drops down and takes us with it to the ground especially in the back rows a very intense experience! We thunder through the first valley and into a series of three up to 95° banked left turns, each of them with interesting airtime in extreme banking. Shortly afterwards we climb up to the mid course brake run already but it's a very short break as we plunge down to the left again to the second part of the ride. Turns and hills full of airtime take us closer to the station. We speed through the first right turn after the lift hill past the station building and back to the rear part of the ride. Many airtime hills later we suddenly rush through a dark tunnel where our airtime is sweetened by a surprising light show. A quick return to daylight takes us into a second and then even a third tunnel where we fly out of our seats in complete darkness. The tunnel exit is directly beside the waiting line and gives us a chance to quickly greet all those who still wait for their ride. A small last airtime hill as farewell and we speed right into the final brakes, smoothly slowing down to walking speed what a gigantic, airtime-filled ride!
|Manufacturer:||Rocky Mountain Construction|
West Chester, Ohio
|Opening:||Texas Giant: 03/17/1990|
New Texas Giant: 04/22/2011
|Duration:||ca. 2 minutes|
|Max. G-Forces:||4,2 G|
|Trains:||3 trains with 6 cars per train,|
24 riders per train
|Special:||Steepest Drop 79°|
|Investment:||5,5 Millionen USD|
|Remodeling costs:||10 Millionen USD|
There has been much talk about the extreme remodeling of the New Texas Giant before and after the opening. It is a fact that the ride is smooth like butter on the new steel track and therefore cannot be seen as a wooden roller coaster anymore. But no matter if it should now be classified as a steel coaster or as some sort of hybrid, what counts in the end is how much fun to ride this coaster is.
And what massive fun it is! The coaster is completely reborn as the New Texas Giant. A slow, painful ride became an airtime-filled roller coaster giant which impressively claims a spot at the highest ranks of the roller coaster hit list with its' extreme elements and fast layout.
Congratulations to Six Flags, Rocky Mountain Construction and Gerstlauer for this successful project! The ride immediately became a top attraction with high wait times but even higher popularity among guests and rightfully so. We are full of anticipation how the future may look like for other wooden roller coasters that are equally suitable for this kind of extreme remodeling and rebirth. Until then: No discussions let's ride!