Pigeon Forge, Tennesse, USA
Dollywood got its start in 1961 as a small attraction for tourists. Opened by the Robins brothers, its original name was Rebel Railroad. It was opened with a steam train, general store, blacksmith shop, and a saloon modeled after one of the brothers’ former successful parks. Nine years later it was purchased by the owner of the Cleveland Browns, Art Modell, and it was renamed Goldrush Junction. After six more years its ownership changed again when Jack and Pete Herschend purchased it and shortened the name to Goldrush. That name only lasted one season and the next year it underwent yet another name change when it was renamed Silver Dollar City to match its sister park in Branson, Missouri. In 1986 country music singer Dolly Parton became a co-owner of it and it was renamed to its current name: Dollywood. Since Dolly got in on the business it has doubled in acreage and gained the addition of five new coasters, one of which has since left there. When asked why she got into the amusement park business Dolly said, “I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area.”
Dollywood got into the roller coaster business in 1978 with the addition of the enclosed steel coaster the Blazing Fury. It is themed powered coaster at heart, but three large drops allow it to be classified as a roller coaster. The ride and all of its theming were actually designed and built by the park’s construction and maintenance crew. It consists of a long electrically powered incline with theming followed by three drops with powered sections in between each one.
Dollywood wouldn’t get back to coasters until eleven years later with the addition of the since removed Thunder Express. This Arrow Dynamics wooden mine train coaster arrived as a relocation of one of the two River King Mine Train tracks. It originally operated as two side-by-side mine train coasters at Six Flags St. Louis, but the tracks were split up when one was sent to Dollywood where it was renamed Thunder Express. Since it is a mine train coaster, it operated with a steel track on top of wooden supports. It operated until 1999 when it was sent to Magic Springs and Crystal Falls where it opened in 2002 as Big Bad John.
It would be ten more years until Dollywood got back to business with the addition of their largest coaster yet. The Tennessee Tornado, a 163’ tall Arrow Dynamics custom looping coaster with a 128' drop and three inversions landed in there for the 1999 season. It features two loops and a sidewinder inversion as well as showing a style of shaping and supports much different from most other Arrow Coasters. The common scaffolding style supports and small loops placed high in the air are nowhere to be found on this ride. Guests wouldn’t have to wait as long as before as Thunderhead, stormed on into there for the 2004 season. Standing at just over 100’ tall and featuring over 3200’ feet of twisted Great Coasters International wooden track, it is one mean wooden coaster. Since its debut it has consistently been ranked as one of the top wooden coasters in the world by voters. Also, it sports GCI’s famous Millennium Flyer trains, so navigating all of the twists and turns of its track is made easy. One of this coasters exciting moments is a station fly-by in which the train flies through the station while it is still running through its layout. This provides excitement for the people in line as well as a cool experience for riders on the train. It will deliver the thrills for years to come.
One year later Dollywood decided to appeal to children by adding Veggie Tales Sideshow Spin. This 11’ tall mini coaster with a top speed of 14 mph is your prototypical kiddie coaster. With gentle speeds, mellow turns, and a small height make this ride great for getting kids on their first coaster.
Dollywood showed they were serious about delivering thrills with the addition of Mystery Mine, the first Gerstlauer Euro Fighter to call the United States home. Along with innovation comes cost, as it is the most expensive coaster that the park has ever added. It features extensive theming with portions of it being both inside and outside of a heavily themed building. Among the highlights of this thrilling mine tour are two beyond vertical drops and two inversions.
The additions of Thunderhead and Mystery Mine show that Dolly and her park mean serious business. These two rides really put the park on the map as a major force in the amusement park industry. It is on the rise and will only get better in the years to come.
Present Roller Coasters (7)
|Blazing Fury||Herschend Family Entertainment||Enclosed||1978||Open|
|Lightning Rod||Rocky Mountain Construction||Wooden||2016||Under construction|
|Tennessee Tornado||Arrow Dynamics||Sit-Down||1999||Open|
|Thunderhead||Great Coasters International||Wooden||2004||Open|
|VeggieTales Sideshow Spin||Vekoma||Kiddie||2005||Open|
|Wild Eagle||Bolliger & Mabillard||Wing Coaster||2012||Open|
Past Roller Coasters (1)
|Thunder Express||Arrow Dynamics||Mine Train||1989||1998||Magic Springs and Crystal Falls|