I'm Back From Thunderhead Gap

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Well most people on here know I was working for GCII helping Chris build the trains for Thunderhead. My reward / bonus for doing a good job building the trains was going down to Dollywood for 2 days and test riding Thunderhead.

The first day I was there we arrived at the park around 8 am. Chris Gray had to do all his morning checks on the train (getting ready for it's maiden voyage) and just let me walk on the ground around Thunderhead. All the pictures you see on the net don't do Thunderhead justice. The hillsides where the first drop and second hill are steep. You can't tell how steep until you are climbing around on the ground. After roaming around for about 45 minutes I went back up to the transfer building and Chris was still checking the trains.

A few minutes later Bob (sorry I forget your last name) one of GCII's jobsite formen told me to follow him. We walked around to the station then thru the station and onto the runout. I got to go with him while he did his morning walk around the track! :) I was amazed at how steep the lifthill actually is walking but that didn't compare to what I was in store for. Walking down the first drop was crazy. The best I can describe it is walking down a twisted ladder not facing it. The next up hill the "s" curve was nuts too. Up where it changes direction the walkway goes from one side of the track to the other so you need to cross over the track about 60 feet in the air. After that I thought the rest of the track was pretty easy to walk. Chris and Jeff Pike joined us for the rest of the walk.

By around noon we were ready to roll. The train was sent out of the station and up the lift loaded with sandbags. The train flew around the course and back to the station. The next time around they decided to have the train hit a dead lift. The only thing is when Brian Ondrey from Consign went to start up the lift again it blew a fuse. After a few hours the fuse was replaced and it was ready for a few warm up runs. After that it was ready for people.

In order to get Thunderhead ready for this weekend. Yes thats right Saturday. The ride ops and train needed 40 hours of running time. This was mid day Wendsday so 40 hours of running time means LONG periods of running. After everyone else working on the ride getting it ready was gone it was time to ride, ride, ride. The first day I basicly rode it from around 4pm until 11pm when they called it a night.

The following day we arrived at the park around the same time 8am. Chris did his morning inspections. Today GMH was there with Fred the crash test dummy to run tests. Fred got the first few runs 4 in each section front, back, and middle. After that it was time for the rides to begin again. This time we stayed until 5:30 am running. Chris went home around 11pm because he had to be at the park early to do a complete inspection and training of the park mechanics with the trains. So it left me, Jeff, Brian, and the ride ops until morning. Around midnight Dollywoods ground keepers came over and rode it for an hour or so when they were suposed to be working.

In the 2 days I was at Dollywood I must have ridden Thunderhead almost if not 200 times. I think I rode it more than anyone else even Mike Boodley. :)

I must say that GCII was one of the coolest places I worked. Not because it was building Millennium Flyers (although thats cool too) but everyone was great working with. I don't even know how many mom jokes got thrown back and forth between Chris, Jeff and myself at the office. We had fun but got our work done at the same time, thats the kind of stuff that makes a job fun and one you like.

I guess everyone is wondering what Thunderhead is is like. Thats why I left the best for last.

WOW! WOW! WOW! Thunderhead is ....... I'm at a loss for words! I don't know how to describe it. It's the craziest wooden coaster I've ever ridden. Great Coasters needs to change their name. Thunderhead is more than great. I think it will be the coaster to compare other wooden twisters to. This is the wooden coaster everyone wanted GCII to build for years. Mike and Jeff will have a very hard time trying to top this.

Thunderhead I think will become an instant #1. I don't think it lacks anything other than competition. Floater air, quick pops of air, laterals in every direction, speed, speed, and more speed. Who ever heard of handrails being head choppers? Some turns if you turn your head to the side you can kiss the walk way! All of this happens in about 45 seconds from the top of the lift until the brakes. The ride goes from mad to pure insanity by the end. Wood coaster are suposed to feel out of control Thunderhead just doesn't feel out of control, it is out of control. Although half the seats were filled with sandbags the places I rode front 2 , back 2, and middle 2 row all delivered. The middles isn't as crazy but it still delivers. There will not be a bad place to sit.

Day rides are awsome but night rides are even better. At night when the train flies thru the station you can't see it you just hear it. I'm not sure if the park will do anything about that but it is awsome like that all you hear is a LOUD roar for about 2 seconds and it's gone. The flythru is going to pump everyone up waiting in the station. I can only imangine how many people will jump when they are caught off guard by it.

If Thunderhead is the Daytona 500 the Ozark Wildcat is a Sunday Drive.

If you miss Thunderhead you are missing what a wooden rollercoaster should be. Yes it's that awsome. *** Edited 3/29/2004 1:01:11 AM UTC by coasterpunk***

Wow, thanks for the great TR. Can't wait to ride it, though, I don't know when I'll feel like driving 16 hours, but from the sound of it, Thunderhead would be worth it. Thanks GCII!! They never cease to amaze me.
I'll be there next Saturday April 3rd! Coasterpunk you've got me pumped for it...Thanks for the great trip report.

I survived a Japanese typhoon and the Togo flat ride of death!!!!!!
I don't think you can get anticipointment from Thunderhead. A drive from another planet is worth the drive. IT'S THAT GOOD! Now only if Dollywood will have an event like the Phun Fest or Coaster Mania we will be set. :)
coasterpunk said:

Wood coaster are suposed to feel out of control Thunderhead just doesn't feel it is out of control.

So it doesn't feel out-of-control? I hope that's a typo, because the best wooden coasters are those that feel out of control.

Only a nine hour drive for me.....Hmmm......

I'm pretty sure he meant it to read like this:
"Wood coaster are suposed to feel out of control. Thunderhead just doesn't feel; it is out of control." Note the added punctuation.

As in, Thunderhead IS out of control. It doesn't just seem like it. Got it? Good.

Can't wait to ride it!!!
-Matt in Iowa

-Matt in Iowa
I feel like a kid waiting on Christmas morning! I will be there 04/22. Thanks for a great trip report. I am ready to GO!
If PKI wasn't "opening" this weekend, I would be calling off work and play there and going to Dollywood. I'll get there sometime before the end of April.

Thanks for the TR! I'm really pumped as well for the ride. Since I had the impression that Thunderhead Gap was a new area, are there any other things such as stores or restaurants (not that Dollywood needed anymore, they have tons and fantastic food and shopping at that)?

If anyone new is going to the park, their "family dark coaster", Slidewinder, Smoky Mountain Adventure (motion theatre show), and Tennessee Tornado are must-rides as well. Enjoy one of my favorite parks!


Rode Thunderhead today.

Coasterpunk isn't lying or over-exaggerating over it. It is the best coaster ive ever ridden in my entire life!

Thunderhead Gap has the coaster, restrooms, a so called 'rainmaker', a coca-cola truck that sells drinks, and showers which are just mist towers.

I waited in line for 3 hours today, it was worth every second of it!

Pardon our dust...Signature is building for your future enjoyment!

That's awesome coasterpunk! I can't wait to ride Thunderhead, it will be cool!!!!!!

May 27 First Day of Dollywood-- it cant come any sooner

Ride Op, eh?


Pardon our dust...Signature is building for your future enjoyment!

:O! Can you sneak me on? ;)

Pardon our dust...Signature is building for your future enjoyment!

CoastermanX said:
:O! Can you sneak me on? ;)

Hehehe, sorry man, but I do not have the power to do that. How about enjoy the wait and know that you will be riding the #1 wooden coaster in the world.. :)

I hope they expand the queue area, its horrible right now.

Pardon our dust...Signature is building for your future enjoyment!

nasai's avatar

The Flying Turns makes all the right people wet - Gonch

BullGuy's avatar
I haven't read a trip report praising a coaster this much in a long while. I can't wait to ride.

Never Has Gravity Been So Uplifting.

Does anyone know if it will be open at the end of November, say Thanksgiving. My family and I go to Gatlinburg every year and I am dying to ride it. If not I guess we'll just have to make the drive twice.

"Punks are non-conforming conformists." "Preps rock my Docs." "Tell them about how I'm defying gravity. God! I can't get that song out of my head."
Dollywood knows.

And the answer appears to be "Until Dec. 30".

*** Edited 3/28/2004 11:11:25 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

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