Dollywood Lightning Rod

We're going to Dollywood in 2 weeks and very much looking forward to riding Lightning Rod HOWEVER... every time I check the App it is closed. I havnen't been there since before Wild Eagle was installed. Is this normal? it seems like a lot of coasters/rides are closed for maintenance at any given time? Is it a heat thing? Lack of ride ops? Just wondering. Please let me know in case I need to make some alternate plans if rides I really want to go on will be of service.

Bobbie1951's avatar

I am by no means an authority on this but Lightning Rod has had an erratic track record ever since it opened. It's my understanding that it has major mechanical issues. I know someone who went to Dollywood twice in order to ride it and on both occasions it was closed. On his third trip he got lucky. When I went there last September I went with the expectation that there was maybe a 50/50 chance of its being open. It was in fact closed when I arrived at the park but by late afternoon, a wait time for 25 minutes for LR was posted outside Mystery Mine so I thought omigod, that must mean that it's actually up and running - and it was. So I was in luck. I think that with this coaster you have to be prepared to take your chances. Why it's down at the moment - whether for maintenance or other issues - is one of those unknowns. It certainly isn't a case of lack of ride ops. When I rode it there were plenty of ride ops including team members directing traffic in the loading station. Just looked at the Dollywood app and it would appear that the only rides closed at the moment are LR and Mystery Mine.


Tekwardo's avatar

It’s common knowledge that it has major mechanical issues. The park issued a press release. But it’s getting better. It goes back to this was the first LIM installation for the supplier and they apparently weren’t very good.

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It operates sporadically, but should be open some time during the day. My last trip there in May, it closed three times on a single day, each time around 1/2 hour. Then reopened for operation. The LIM gets wonky at temps over 85 degrees, and when there’s excess humidity, (from my experience). There is a LR down detector site that gives you each days operations, type in a couple different days and you’ll see what I mean.

The first two seasons I went at Holiday time and it ran all day each visit.
That didn’t excuse the slooow operations, but a saving grace is that it was about a walk on anyway.

Here’s that down detector by the way. It goes back several months and shows individual days, hour by hour status.

That site is pretty amazing. Who has the time/interest to do such a thing? I would love to see this information for more parks.

Thank you!

According to that link, Lightning Rod hasn't operated since 7/3, nearly a full week ago. I figured that the detector was buggy, but a quick query on Twitter seems to suggest that might actually be accurate:

If that's the case then holy hell Dollywood should be asking for their money back at this point.

Edit: Dollywood's website lists it as being down indefinitely as well.

Last edited by PhantomTails,
Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

That's an interesting website. I'm guessing someone wrote some software which pulls the wait times from the Dollywood app somehow. I'm sure the data isn't 100% accurate, but looking through some of it, the results are pretty dismal. The advice in this thread seems pretty spot on.

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Yikes!!!! This ride is cursed with problems. I would've thought by now the operational track record would be a little bit better by this point but sheesh. Guess we won't be seeing too many RMC like LR anytime soon.

I’m assuming you’ve already made your trip; and I was hoping LR would be open for you. But watching the last two weeks of it being closed for repair, I guess you didn’t get to ride. That stinks, because when it’s operational, it’s a truly phenomenal ride. Hopefully they can work out it’s finickiness to get it to a reliable state of operation.

I am taking a trip next month and was planning on starting by flying to TN but I think I will change my plans based on this thread. However that downtime site has all the coasters down every day. I hope that is not the case.

Note, that down detector lists all times of the day(24 he’s); thus it shows coasters down when parks NOT open. You have to scroll through to see actual operation. (Ie it’ll usually show Closed for the day from 00:00-10:00, then a bunch of hours of operation until either it closes for maintenance or the park closes, then it goes back to closed for the day from 21:00-24:00). It always shows closed for the day for first few entries because park doesn’t open until 10:00. It’s a little confusing when they write closed for the day.

Here’s an example
Showing “closed for the day” until park actually opens. (Just clicked individual ride to see its operational status)

Dollywood screwed up on this ride. Using the terrain, it could have been an amazing, reliable coast if they had built it with a traditional lift hill. But their quest to be the "first" with every coaster they install has caused this to be a PR nightmare. The coaster would have been just as incredible without a launch.

No it wouldn't.
Furthermore, while it was bad for Dollywood, it was probably not the PR nightmare you think. Each time I went to Dollywood, Lightning Rod or not, the park was busy and everyone had fun. The park, like the Smokies, is a vacation destination and I doubt unavailability of a ride kept visitors away in droves. Only enthusiasts keep track of such things and get so butt hurt about it.

Vater's avatar

super7* said:

PR nightmare.

Good lord, dude. Maybe to the 47 coaster dorks who religiously follow Dollywood's Twitter feed. If anything could be considered a "PR nightmare" with regards to an amusement park, it would be something along the lines of the Smiler wreck.

LostKause's avatar

How hard would it be to reconfigure the ride with a traditional chain lift? Even if that could be done, the intended speed of the coaster would probably be affected, unless they made the lift just a little higher, which could be done if the first little drop was removed.

I daydream too much.

There's a lesson in the unreliability of this ride that everyone can learn from. Buy name brand stuff, and stay away from cheap knockoffs just to save a buck. Save up for it, if you have to.

There are probably a lot more lessons, but this post is already too long.


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Didn’t Jeff or someone used to argue here that lift speed doesn’t have any effect on how fast the train would be going at the bottom of the first drop? Never understood the argument l, whoever it was.

But then again, what do I know?

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