Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City has always been known for a lot of things: a beautiful setting, friendly employees and great food. However, only recently has the park become a destination for those enjoying the thrill of roller coasters.
For the 1993 season the park contracted with Arrow Development to design a mine train called Thunderation. Arrow designer Ron Toomer worked closely with Silver Dollar City and created a roller coaster that was a family attraction and integrated it with the facility's unique topography.
Eight years later the park worked with Bolliger and Mabillard on a two-train, five inversion roller coaster. Built on a hillside, Wildfire offers guests a beautiful view of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake before turning them head over heels.
Type of Coaster:
Height: 98 feet
Max drop: 110 feet
G-force: 3.9 G's
Top speed: 64 mph
Length: 3,506 feet
Compressed Air 0 - 53 mph in 2.8 seconds
Mid-course Lift Hill, Overbanked Turn
Number of Vehicles:
3 - 16 passenger trains with lap bar restraints
S&S Power, Premier Rides
Silver Dollar City
For the 1999 season BuzzSaw Falls opened at Silver Dollar City. It was an attraction from Premier Rides sold as a water coaster. The ride was part flume, part coaster and like many of the park's other big-budget attractions was nestled into the rolling hills. During the summer of 2003 the park began looking at options for modifying or replacing the attraction. That winter the park contracted with S&S Power to provide an air-launched coaster for the 2005 season. To cut down on costs it would utilize part of the Buzzsaw Falls coaster track and the lift hill. In addition, Silver Dollar City planned to keep much of the station structure for the new coaster called PowderKeg.
As the new roller coaster went up over the winter of 2004-2005 there was a lot of speculation about the ride. To being with, it was the first steel coaster to open since S&S Power's acquisition of Arrow during the fall of 2002. This company purchase allowed S&S access to Arrow's decades of development, which included items such as chain lifts and wheel assemblies. While none of these designs were taken exactly from the old Arrow plans, they did serve as starting points for component design. Second, this was the first roller coaster to utilize the company's unique lapbar system. The lapbar, which S&S debuted in the fall of 2002, was comfortable and can currently be found on their Sky Swatter, Screamin' Swing and Screaming Squirrel machines.
S&S has built launched roller coasters since 2001, but never one like PowderKeg. The company's early launches were "in your face" where the fast acceleration was the majority of the ride experience. The company's Dodonpa coaster in Japan accelerates riders from 0 to 107 mph in 2 seconds! On PowderKeg the launch is decidedly more drawn out, it goes from 0 to 53 mph in 2.8 seconds. While slower than the world record holder, the acceleration is still impressive and thrilling.
According to Silver Dollar City the ride is "fashioned after the powder mills of long ago -- those very same mills that turned the bat guano into black powder." Going into the station one notices all of the great theming touches such as a boat from Buzzsaw falls smashed into the ceiling, antique postcards and a catchy theme song which urges riders to go for a wild ride on "this PowderKeg." After boarding one of the 3 sixteen-passenger trains I folded the unique lapbar down on me and pulled the entire unit toward my lap. The restraints were checked and the train advances out of the station. We rolled forward about thirty feet and then stopped. All of the sudden the entire track section moved diagonally up and to the left, raising about 10 vertical feet. We were now in the nitroglycerin shed.
General Manager Brad Thomas said that, "The PowderKeg ride begins in a powder mill amid barrels of nitro-explosives that rock and tip. As the nitro 'explodes', the cars burst out of the building with special effects of fire and smoke shooting through the roof." Nitro spilled everywhere as the train lumbered forward and grabbed a hold of the catch car. I heard a large hiss from the air tank and then we ride gracefully accelerated to the launch's top speed. While PowderKeg launches directly into a 60-foot hill, it drops a lot more. The ground below gives way, which means that the train actually falls a little over 100 feet to the ground. It picks up speed as it turns to the right and vaults over a second airtime hill. Cruising with power the ride flies through a fun over-banked turn and accelerates over the fourth hill. As the ride crests this element it turns to the left and does a tight turn. Here PowderKeg picks up speed and turns into a different ride.
While the coaster's first third is about airtime, PowderKeg's second part is all about speed. Like a "bat out of hell" the coaster tears over the old BuzzSaw Falls track, weaving through a number of steel supports. Two pairs of magnetic brakes slow the train before it engages the old lift hill. Riders get time to catch their breath and look around at the beautiful trees and Table Rock Lake seemingly hundreds of feet below. After enjoying the view PowderKeg does a turn and rips out from under us as it dives down a great drop. The coaster's last element, called a Dragonfly turn, pulls some nice g's before the magnetic brakes slow us at the ride's end.
PowderKeg offers many things, but I think it's most important aspect is the ride's many surprises. The transfer track, the launch, the layout hidden in the trees; all of them make the ride all-out fun from start to finish. Silver Dollar City obviously wanted a roller coaster that appealed to both families and teens, and S&S delivered in spades. This coaster has something for everyone. In addition, it doesn't leave riders wanting more like so many launched coasters seem to. PowderKeg is a perfect fit for Silver Dollar City and I all I can say is that you need to try this "blast in the wilderness."
Related Web Sites
Silver Dollar City
Powder Keg logo and artwork courtesy of Silver Dollar City.