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Silver Dollar City debuts Outlaw Run, a wooden coaster with a twist. (Actually, lots of them)

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Published: March 13, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Can wooden coasters successfully execute inversions? That seems to be the dominant question posed by theme park operators since the infamous Son of Beast at Kings Island closed down years ago. Wednesday at Silver Dollar City, Herschend Family Entertainment and Rocky Mountain Construction debuted Outlaw Run, which seeks to answer that oft-posed question.

Outlaw Run sign

Outlaw Run's queue starts in typical amusement park fashion, with a switchback on a concrete slab (capable of holding over two hours' worth of anxious passengers). The queue is covered, decorated, well-ventilated, and moves past a few interesting tidbits of eye candy such as humorous and informative posters, luggage, and the office of Depot Proprietor Clem Barker, where an assortment of ticking clocks come alive every half-hour to mark Mr. Barker's obsession with punctuality.

The office of Depot Proprietor Clem Barker

These props tie in with the coaster's backstory which goes something like this: Passengers climb aboard the Western Missouri Stagecoach line to chase their dreams in the untamed west. However, rumors abound that an outlaw gang is on the loose and sure enough, those rumors are true!

Western Missouri Stagecoach

A wild race through the wooded hills ensues, but the bad guys are left in the dust, because at Silver Dollar City, "the good guys always win!"

As for the ride itself, Outlaw Run is unlike any coaster on the planet. Constructed from the ground up to utilize Silver Dollar City's varied and hilly terrain, this wooden coaster packs a wallop of entertaining elements into a fairly compact ride experience. There are eight key elements along the course including an 81-degree first drop and three inversions – all of which serve to keep the ride exhilarating and action packed from beginning to end.

Overbanked turn

The highlight of the course, and the most talked about element, is the double corkscrew at the end of the circuit. These uphill inversions provide a graceful, almost weightless finish to the ride, slowing the coaster as it heads back to the station. These are intense elements, definitely not for the faint of heart, but they are "tame" enough that the ride can still be considered family-friendly, provided that the family is filled with coaster lovers! In a nutshell, Outlaw Run is fast, smooth, exciting, and just plain fun.

No, I wouldn't wait two hours for this coaster (shoot, I wouldn't wait two hours for ANY attraction), but Outlaw Run has already become my favorite ride at Silver Dollar City. Filled with wonderful and original thrills, as well as immersive theming, this coaster is going to be a big hit for thrill seekers and theme park fans alike.

With Outlaw Run, Silver Dollar City solidifies its standing as the premier theme park in the Midwest, offering not only world class, unique roller coasters and signature amusement rides, but also amazing customer service, high-quality immersion, award winning shows, a one-of-a-kind natural cave tour, and top notch culinary items (aka "great food").

On the downside, Outlaw Run's Achilles' heel will be rider capacity – a problem common to many of the unique coasters being built today. While the coaster does have two 24 passenger trains, I was told by ride ops that they are hoping for peak levels of about 800 - 1000 riders per hour. That total is decent for a wooden coaster, but not great for a theme park expecting increased crowds of 85k because of this one of a kind, new ride. Massive initial waits could be off putting to first time visitors used to the people-eating attractions at places such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. However, local fans and less anxious riders will appreciate the Midwestern hospitality of the extremely friendly ride ops and may even use the wait time to investigate the creative touches throughout the coaster's lengthy queue.

So, can wooden coasters successfully execute inversions? In the case of Outlaw Run, the answer is an emphatic "yes." And if this instant classic is any indication of what the future holds for ingenious wood coaster designers like the folks at Rocky Mountain Construction, fans of the genre should be smiling from ear to ear. I know I am.

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Readers' Opinions

From Mike Gallagher on March 14, 2013 at 2:46 AM
Nice write-up. Your enthusiasm for this park always comes through. I didn't realize there were 3 inversions..I only knew of the climactic barrel rolls. Thanks for the review. How many rides did you get, Sir?
From Rob Pastor on March 14, 2013 at 6:14 AM
Sounds great. I've always preferred wooden coasters over iron. Good to hear that they're starting to do some new tricks......Excellent article.
From 68.119.129.132 on March 14, 2013 at 6:16 AM
Do they expect 85,000 visitors per week, month, season?
From James Koehl on March 14, 2013 at 6:24 AM
I agree with Mike and Rob. Very well written article. I am going to have to figure out when we can get a trip scheduled to SDC.
From James Rao on March 14, 2013 at 7:02 AM
Thank you,gentlemen, I appreciate your enthusiasm and your kind words.

I was able to ride Outlaw Run a good half dozen times and could have gone even more, but was too busy running around talking to coaster designers, engineers, PR folks, ride ops, reporters, web site and podcast personalities, and local reporters. Plus, there were a few backstage areas to visit for pictures and Q&A, and some free grub at the outstanding new Pizza place, Crossroads Pizza, opening this season (cause nothing says, "1880's" like pizza!).

The real highlight of the event, for me anyway, was getting to meet and visit with Joel Manby, the President and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment. He is quite an impressive leader, and for me, meeting him today was very special. I know I shouldn't hero worship, but hey, everyone has their heroes and he is in my top five (behind Jesus, my Dad, my Mom, and my amazingly patient wife). Suffice to say, I am sure I made a geeky fool of myself, but it was such a cool moment in my life that I don't care! ;)

The folks at Silver Dollar City really put on a great event (Lisa and Martha, you are wonderful people and you're lucky I held back or you would have been getting hugged incessantly!), and the excitement the people at SDC have for Outlaw Run is infectious. I had a wonderful time. And hey, getting to tell folks you are at an event representing the Great Robert Niles and TPI is quite special indeed.

If everyone truly gets just 15 minutes of fame, my time came yesterday, and it was a blast!

From Russell Meyer on March 14, 2013 at 7:40 AM
As far as inversions, that first one isn't what I would call an inversion. The train goes a little past 90-degrees, but flips back without fully flipping riders upsidedown.

I was a bit suprirsed as to how short the ride is. I know this wasn't supposed to be a massive installation, but it looks to be one of the shortest woodies in the US.

As with all wooden coasters, it's appeal is going to come down to it's smoothness and the ability of Silver Dollar City to keep the ride tolerable. I don't know enough about the construction of this specific coaster to say what type of maintenance needs to be done or the longevity of specific parts, but it's going to be critical that an agreesive maintenance regimen be completed to keep the ride in tip top shape.

I did have a few questions---

1. What type of trains are used on this? Are they custom to this coaster, or are they PTC or Milennium Flier trains?

2. What type of restaints are used? I would assume that they're just lapbars, but there must be some design considerations because of the inversions. Is there a redundant seat belt?

3. What are the height restrictions on this coaster? Is it the standard 48 inches or something different? What about larger guests---can it accomodate the ever-growing American waistline? Older woodies with PTC trains are going out of favor because "wider" guests cannot fit comfortably into the seats due to the divider. Heck, I'm only 190 lbs, and feel a little squeezed in some PTC trains.

From James Rao on March 14, 2013 at 9:04 AM
Hi Russell... the ride is short in length (1 minute, 27 seconds, nearly 3,000 feet), but compensates for it by packing in a lot of fun elements that blend together nicely. You'll enjoy the ride, I am sure.

As for your questions, most have been covered in previous articles here on TPI, so I did not go into those details. My apologies.

Three Inversions:
The official press release states,"[Outlaw Run has] "A record-breaking 3 inversions, with a 720-degree (double) barrel roll and a 153-degree outside banked turn".

From personal experience, that 153 degree turn sure feels upside down to me!!! And in the on-ride video I received my hair stands straight up (or straight down) during this element, so it counts!

The Trains:
Rocky Mountain Construction's innovative and dynamic track required a specially designed train. RMC designed and created the train and Herschend Family Entertainment designer, Merrill Puckett Miller, designed the styling and theming to fit into the storyline of Outlaw Run.

These specially designed, one-of-a-kind coaches/trains twist with the high-tech track system. Furthermore, the trains have a newly designed suspension system with shock absorbers (traditional wood coasters utilize a foam system).

Outlaw Run has a state-of-the-art restraint system that consists of an individual lap bar and a shin restraint. No redundant seat belt. The seats accommodate a wide variety of body types, up to 6’8” and 320 pounds.

In my opinion,the seats are very roomy, very comfortable, and well padded. I am about 5'7" and 155 pounds, so take that opinion FWIW.

You can read more about the trains in this article from Mr. Niles.

Finally, Outlaw Run has a 48" height requirement.

Again, my apologies for not getting into the stats, Russell, but if you need any more details, let me know. I received a very nice packet of details which I would be glad to share with anyone who wants them.

From Barry Wallace on March 14, 2013 at 8:36 AM
So is it possible Rocky Mountain might introduce a clone of this ride at Dollywood? I don't know how attendance levels at Silver Dollar City compare to Dollywood, but if you have concerns about load capacities it might be even more prohibitive in Tennessee.

However, if it were built and open by, say, 2015, "Wild Eagle" will still only be about 4 years old and still a big draw (as will Thunderhead and Mystery Mine) so maybe capacity won't be a big deal.

I still believe what they need is not another coaster but a really great, immersive, high capacity dark ride. I wish they'd bring back a majorly updated Flooded Mine but that probably won't happen. Next choice would be a white water/river tour simulation.

From James Rao on March 14, 2013 at 9:00 AM
I asked the Herschend people about the rumors that Dollywood is going to receive a coaster like Outlaw Run. Their universal response went something like this, "Dollywood just recently made a MAJOR capital investment in Wild Eagle and currently does not have plans to build another big coaster".

I guess that response was to be expected, so we'll just have to wait and see....

As for your statement about dark rides, IMHO there can never be enough dark rides!

From Jeff Carroll on March 14, 2013 at 10:10 AM
James, Thank you for a great article and congratulations on getting the inside track on Outlaw Run! I share your enthusiasm for SDC and this new addition is just one more example of their attention to detail and quality. I was struck by the beautiful view at the top of the lift hill! Is it as impressive as it looks from the video? One of the things I enjoy most about Power Keg, Wildfire and Thunderation is how they use the landscape to compliment the ride! I can't wait to get down to Silver Dollar City again!
From Jeff Carroll on March 14, 2013 at 10:11 AM
James, Thank you for a great article and congratulations on getting the inside track on Outlaw Run! I share your enthusiasm for SDC and this new addition is just one more example of their attention to detail and quality. I was struck by the beautiful view at the top of the lift hill! Is it as impressive as it looks from the video? One of the things I enjoy most about Power Keg, Wildfire and Thunderation is how they use the landscape to compliment the ride! I can't wait to get down to Silver Dollar City again!
From James Rao on March 14, 2013 at 10:40 AM
Thanks, Jeff. The view is great and will get better as the trees fill in during Spring. Keep in mind, you don't have much time for sight seeing... ;)
From Barry Wallace on March 15, 2013 at 8:24 AM
James - TPI just posted a week or so ago that very rumor, that Dollywood was likely to get another new coaster from Rocky Mountain. I wonder where the rumor came from?

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201303/3395/

From James Rao on March 15, 2013 at 9:24 AM
Probably from fans like us! ;)

Outlaw Run update from "opening day" on 3/15.... Initial four hour waits have given way to about 90 minutes at just around noon. The crew is doing a great job of quickly filling and launching trains. Such efficiency bodes well for this instant classic!

From Derek Potter on March 16, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Good stuff. Glad to see they pulled the inversions off well. I think they were wise to use barrel rolls instead of giant vertical loops.

Keep talking about SDC James. It definitely deserves a seat at the theme park table. Such a fantastic place.

From James Rao on March 17, 2013 at 4:30 AM
Thanks, Derek, and I will - don't worry!

Also, here is a little more info paraphrased from the press junket regarding Russell's questions about maintenance on Outlaw Run. I found this info quite intriguing:

Outlaw Run's state-of-the-art trains and track were designed to provide an amazingly smooth ride for a wood coaster – one that will remain smooth over time.

The track has six layers of wood stack completed with a 3” “Topper Track” designed by leading industry expert Fred Grubb and his Rocky Mountain Construction engineering team (btw, I got to meet Fred - great guy - I even have an interview with him during the first time he watched non-RMC passengers ride his coaster). This type of installation has never been accomplished on a wooden coaster prior to Outlaw Run. Sections of “Topper Track” have been used to replace areas of other tracks, but NEVER has a complete coaster been constructed from the ground up using this industry changing, cutting-edge technology. Until now.

Because of the unique design of Outlaw Run's track it will not expand or contract with weather nor loosen due to the movement of the trains as happens with traditional wood coasters, causing the traditional wood coaster ride to become rougher over time. Instead, the “Topper Track” technology keeps the track in alignment to support a smooth and fast ride into perpetuity.

In short, Outlaw Run is designed to maintain its original design standards throughout its life cycle, providing the highest level of comfort and fun for riders FOREVER! Or at least until the world ends....

From Bobbie Butterfield on March 19, 2013 at 11:25 AM
Good article! I envy you. I won't get to ride Outlaw Run until the 1st week of June. I'm awfully glad that Russell Meyer asked about the restraints because that's what I would have asked had he not already done so. I must admit to being somewhat hung up on the subject of restraints. Either they're too tight (such as on Skyrush - or as one of my online coaster buddies likes to refer to it, Thighcrush - about which I recently wrote an article published on Theme Park Insider) or too loose (the restraints on Steel Force never touch the riders' bodies, resulting in an increased sense of vulnerability, although they are obviously effective nonetheless). As far as Outlaw Run is concerned, I am having trouble with the concept of a partially inverted coaster without harnesses. Every other inverted coaster I've ridden has had harnesses as restraints and I feel much more comfortable with these. I can't see how a lap bar and shin restraint could be adequate but then there's a lot I can't see. I couldn't see how Top Thrill Dragster, which of course has no inversions, could possibly be safe to ride in the absence of harnesses (I was used to being safely harnessed in on Kingda Ka) but after 2 rides on it I'm still here. Anyway, if there aren't any fatalities on Outlaw Run between now and June I'll feel greatly reassured.

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