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posted: 5/24/2014 8:00 AM

Six Flags vows smooth ride on new wooden coaster

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  • Video: Goliath opening soon

  • Construction crews work on the station and cars for the new Goliath wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. Goliath will reach speeds of 72 mph, has an 85-degree drop and sends riders upside down.

       Construction crews work on the station and cars for the new Goliath wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. Goliath will reach speeds of 72 mph, has an 85-degree drop and sends riders upside down.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • A new high-tech track design enables the new Goliath wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee to reach the speed needed for flips and high-banked turns.

       A new high-tech track design enables the new Goliath wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee to reach the speed needed for flips and high-banked turns.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • The wooden Goliath will be among Six Flags Great America's fastest roller coasters, with a top speed of 72 mph. Among Six Flags' coasters, only the Raging Bull is faster with a speed of 73 mph, officials said.

       The wooden Goliath will be among Six Flags Great America's fastest roller coasters, with a top speed of 72 mph. Among Six Flags' coasters, only the Raging Bull is faster with a speed of 73 mph, officials said.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

One thing is clear about the mammoth structure looming over the revamped horizon of Six Flags Great America in Gurnee: Goliath isn't your grandfather's wooden roller coaster.

In a departure from old-school wooden coasters that are loud, bumpy, slower and limited in what they can do, Goliath will feature the speed, smooth ride and upside-down thrills of a more high-tech steel roller coaster, park officials said.

Manufactured by the Rocky Mountain Construction Group of Idaho, Goliath debuts to the media and coaster enthusiasts during a special presentation at the theme park Thursday, May 29. Officials said the ride is expected to open to the public in June.

But experts say Goliath is more than speed and zero G-forces.

Lee Stellhorn, a Six Flags engineer who helped bring the ride to life during the last nine months, said while most riders will be thrilled by the twists and turns, the true coaster aficionados will revel in the physics behind it.

It starts with the car, where there's no overhead shoulder harness like those found on other looping coasters at the theme park, Stellhorn said. Instead, Goliath uses only lap and shin restraints, even though the coaster spins riders head down for 2 seconds over an extended section of track, he said.

The G-forces inside the car as it turns and dives will keep people in their seat when they are flipped 180 degrees during the middle of the ride, he said.

"It's the physics of the ride that is actually keeping you in your seat," Stellhorn said.

"We could probably go without having anything on the rider, but safety is our priority."

And the key element in that physics is a new track design that also eliminates the loud clicketyclack sound the cars make while rolling on a traditional wooden roller coaster track.

Unlike the steel wheel and track design of the American Eagle and Viper rides, Goliath uses a Topper Track system where a steel rectangle is infused on top of six layers of wood to hug the urethane wheels from the coaster car, said Katy Enriquez, communications manager at Six Flags Great America.

That design allows the coaster to reach the speeds needed to pull off its signature flips and turns, she said.

"It's all about the track," Enriquez said.

"Because of the Topper Track system, the track can bend more than a traditional wood coaster, which enables the coaster to have high-banked turns and the inverted flip."

Plus, she said, it makes the ride smoother and quieter than a traditional wooden coaster.

When the first passenger rides Goliath, Enriquez said, the ride will break three world records for wooden roller coasters -- the 180-foot drop is the tallest drop, the 85-degree drop is the steepest, and its 72 mph speed will make it the fastest in the world.

Goliath will be among the park's fastest coasters: the Raging Bull tops out at 73 mph, while the wooden American Eagle hits 66 mph and Viper has a top speed of 50 mph.

"We decided to bring this coaster to Great America because it's so different from what's out there," Enriquez said.

"In the world of wooden coasters, there were no real changes in innovation between the Viper and the Eagle. But this one is so far advanced in the wooden coaster world."

Scott Heck, the co-regional representative for the American Coaster Enthusiasts Western Great Lakes Region, said with Goliath joining Viper, the Little Dipper and the American Eagle, Six Flags Great America will be the wooden roller coaster capital of the world.

"When you look at it, with all its twists and turns, it really looks more like a hyper-twister roller coaster than a wood coaster," Heck said.

"But to be able to do what they are doing, it's amazing. If you like to ride wood coasters, this will be the place to do it."

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