Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter Google Plus Email Newsletter

Vote of the week: Backward roller coasters?

Written by
Published: January 25, 2013 at 12:25 PM

I honestly thought that 2013 was going to be the year of the barrel roll on a wooden roller coaster.

But after really looking into it, it turns out that these are not true wooden coaster barrel rolls. The Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City are both wooden frames with steel tracks, making them hybrid coasters more than pure woodies. Another hybrid, Hades at Mt. Olympus, (it has a steel frame and a wooden track) is also getting a barrel roll.

So…that being said…this is NOT the year of the wooden coaster barrel roll. But if we fish around a bit, we find another trend in roller coasters for 2013.

Full Throttle
Six Flags Magic Mountain's new Full Throttle will run backward for a bit, as well as forward

It seems like the maintenance people who work on roller coasters can’t seem to figure out which way the seats go on and have built Batman: The Ride at Six Flags Great America backwards. The roller coaster is still going to roll forward but the confused maintenance crew has the seats facing backwards. This cycle has been repeated for Hollywood Dream at Universal Studios Japan, but only for one train. The maintenance crews at Thorpe Park are a little bit less confused than the previous two and have only put the back two rows of The Swarm on backwards. [And let's not forget the backward launch on the new Full Throttle, coming this year to Six Flags Magic Mountain. -- Robert]

This is following a trend of Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast at both Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags St. Louis where the trains ran backwards. I would guess that these must have been popular if they are continuing the trend. If you have been on any of these, please give your thoughts below.

Does this idea intrigue you? Are you more likely to go on one of these rides facing backwards? Would you be more willing to visit a park that had a backwards coaster?

Please vote below and let us know in the talkback your thoughts on this matter.

Readers' Opinions

From Mike Gallagher on January 25, 2013 at 7:37 PM
I enjoyed backward-facing roller coasters when I had the chance to ride them (with the exception of sit-down and inverted boomerangs.) One of the best times I ever had at a park was closing down Racer at KI backwards several years ago. So I voted "first in line" However, if GAdv runs Batman backwards, I would not count it as a new credit. I do count re-located coasters as new credits.
From Tony Duda on January 25, 2013 at 5:33 PM
Mike, didn't Batman Chiller at Great Adventure go backward for the second half of the ride? I rode it a few times when it wasn't broken and think that was the case.
From AJ Hummel on January 25, 2013 at 5:53 PM
As far as I'm concerned, there are three types of backward coasters: shuttle coasters, coasters with backward sections, and coasters with backward trains.

Shuttle coasters: These are quite common, often taking the form of a boomerang (regular or inverted). Other well-known designs include shuttle loops, impulse coasters, and the Mr. Freeze twins. Since these coasters go both forward and backward by default, turning the train around has no effect on the ride experience except for a launch or spike. I will say that Superman: Escape from Krypton is better than the original Superman: The Escape, both due to the faster launch and looking straight down from 400 ft up. It's not a must ride attraction, but I'd wait close to an hour for it now while it used to not be worth it if the line was anything over 15 minutes. I have a feeling Mr. Freeze (which I rode in the original configuration) is probably similar in that the spike and launch are better but the rest of the ride isn't likely too different. For most other shuttle coasters, turning the train around probably wouldn't do much (other than doing everything in reverse first...which might cause the second part of the ride to be a letdown).

Coasters with backwards sections: This is any complete circuit coaster that goes backwards at some point during the ride (such as Revenge of the Mummy). I actually think this is a neat trick, since riders travel backward through a different section of track than they covered going forward. However, for rides like Full Throttle that just use it as a gimmick, it seems somewhat pointless (my opinion may change after riding it, however).

Coasters with backwards trains: If a ride originally ran the train backward, that's fine. Otherwise, turning the train around is a total gimmick. While running one side backward on racing coasters is somewhat neat (assuming the trains are racing), on a ride like Batman it seems like it would actually hurt the ride experience. When going backward, you cannot see what is coming and are unable to prepare yourself for sudden twists and turns, and you are also much more likely to suffer from motion sickness. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Batman opens and within a month the train is turned forward again due to too many complaints of an unpleasant riding experience and/or excessive protein spills.

In short, I think a ride should run the way it was originally designed to be operated. I like going backwards on rides that are designed to do it, but if the ride wasn't ever designed for it and the park decides to flip the train around, it won't increase my interest in the attraction and may actually decrease it. Also, for me to consider a coaster a new credit, the track itself must change, not just the trains.

From Mike Gallagher on January 25, 2013 at 7:36 PM
Yes, Tony, you're correct. I've often thought...in retrospect..that the Batman side backwards is the closest I've ever come to a rollback, albeit intentional. I've never even SEEN one on Dragster or Kingda Ka, much less experienced one.
From Todd Donahue on January 25, 2013 at 8:55 PM
I was on a rollback on top thrill dragster the first year it was open. We started going and we started slowing way down when we went up and almost made it over but we started going backwards. My uncle who sat next to me never saw the coaster roll back turned white as a ghost and said "is it supposed to do this?" It was a weird feeling and probably one I won't experience again. That is the only time that I thought it was neat, scary, and special to go on a ride that was not meant to be backwards. Why mess with a coaster. Just look at Avalanche Run, a decent family coaster turned into an abomination the now defunct Disaster Transport. If we don't learn from our history we are damned to repeat it....someone famous said that.
From Anthony Murphy on January 26, 2013 at 5:47 AM
The American Eagle went backwards foe awhile. I think it messes with the track and most of the safety testing is done with the guest facing forward
From Terry O'Neal on January 26, 2013 at 8:26 AM
I haven't ridden Batman at Six Flags in years. Now I will. Sign me up.
From Kurt Dahlin on January 26, 2013 at 10:30 AM
As a coaster enthusiast, I really like the idea of going backwards. After riding my local coasters a few hundred times, it really adds a new dimension to experience them backwards. However, I think it needs to be an option. Some non-enthusiasts are scared enough to experience a coaster for the first time going forward. If you force them to ride backwards, they may bow out all together.

My local park is Six Flags Magic Mountain. When they flipped the cars around on Superman, it took a ride that had become mundane and boring and breathed new life into it. But that's a shuttle coaster and will always go backwards at some point. Every October, a special backwards train is added to Colossus for Fright Fest. Again, it adds a whole new dimension to the ride. Both of these rides are dual-track. I'd like to see the park dedicate each side of the track to running different directions year round. I think they'd get a lot of mileage out of that.

I really hope they decide to flip a train around on our Batman: The Ride. But if they do, I hope they also offer another train facing forward for the less intrepid.

Kurt Dahlin
The Coaster Guy

From 98.21.96.156 on January 26, 2013 at 9:06 PM
This form of making a coaster backwards is like remixing a song you like with a new beat.... it's kind of awkward....

I prefer when the whole coaster is not backwards.... but maybe has a backwards section like Expedition Everest. Going backwards for the entire ride is kind of interesting once or twice, but it's not that fun going up a chain lift backwards. People generally like to see where they are going, which is why we don't like riding in cars backwards.

From Dan Barnes on January 28, 2013 at 2:43 PM
I agree with others that if a coaster like Expedition Everest has a backward section, designed from the beginning to run that way, it can add to the ride experience. But turning a forward-running train backward ruins the ride IMO. I hated Backward Rebel Yell and the backward seats on Thunderation (both of which have been returned to forward-facing seats).
From Eric Fisher on January 29, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Old news, Boss. Magic Mountain was turning the trains around on Colossus 20 years ago as part of Halloween. It is fun to get that perspective. One cannot see where one is going and, even knowing the track, that is fun. It is a gimmick on most coasters - but harmless and fun. I will be the first in line if Leviathan, Kingda Ka or Millennium Force are turned around - that will be a ride.
From 166.147.120.32 on January 29, 2013 at 2:37 PM
Kings Island Racer had one of its 2 tracks running with the trains backwards in the late 80's. Back then it seemed unique.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Previous article: Congress starts asking questions about Disney's NextGen reservation system



Stories from a Theme Park Insider

Stories from a Theme Park Insider

What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)