$22 million Lightning Rod is world’s fastest, first launching wood coaster
By Wes Ramey
Dollywood announced the addition of Lightning Rod, both the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster and the world’s first launching wood coaster. Set to roll to the starting line in March 2016, Lightning Rod adds another groundbreaking roller coaster to the park’s already impressive portfolio of world-class attractions. The thrilling $22 million ride also marks Dollywood’s single largest attraction investment.
Themed after a tricked out 1950s-era hot rod, Lightning Rod launches riders from zero to 45 mph more than 20 stories up its lift hill to one of the ride’s first airtime moments. At the crest of the hill, riders face twin summit airtime hills before tackling the daring first drop. Lightning Rod races down the 165-foot drop and propels guests along its 3,800-foot track to a top speed of 73 mph, the fastest speed for a wood coaster in the world.
“Lightning Rod reminds me so much of those colorful cars cruisin’ up and down Main Street in downtown Sevierville back when I was in high school. I remember all those souped up cars—but what I remember most were those good lookin’ boys behind the wheel with those flat top and ducktail haircuts,” Dolly Parton said with a laugh. “I’m truly excited about this ride because it will let our guests experience something just as fast as those hot rods I remember,” she continued. “Even better, it’s the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, so I think we’re going to see a lot of people coming from all over to peel out on the Lightning Rod.”
Located in Dollywood’s Jukebox Junction, Lightning Rod rockets riders around its massive wooden structure on an adrenaline-charged lap through the trees in the hills and valleys surrounding Dollywood. During the ride, guests experience nearly 20 seconds of airtime. The coaster train is comprised of 12 cars, carrying two passengers each for a total of 24 people per train.
Dollywood’s development team has tapped Rocky Mountain Construction as the ride manufacturer. With over 20 years in the industry, RMC is no stranger to out-of-the-box coaster projects. They have designed numerous innovative attractions all around the world. Lightning Rod employs several unique features including the lift hill launch, twin summit airtime hills, a 90-plus degree banked breaking wave turn, a 90-plus degree outside banked turn and a non-inverting half loop.
Lightning Rod puts riders in the driver’s seat of Johnny Rev’s newest hot rod. After months of tinkering, Johnny invites Dollywood guests to step behind the wheel for the first test drive of his rip-roaring new creation. Like any proper hot rod, massive header pipes and an imposing injector scoop peer out from the train’s flamed bodywork.
Lightning Rod is the newest member of Dollywood collection of numerous award-winning attractions. In March 2012, Dollywood opened the $20 million Wild Eagle, the country’s first wing coaster. The company introduced RiverRush, Tennessee’s first and only water coaster, at Dollywood’s Splash Country in 2013. FireChaser Express, the nation’s first dual-launch family coaster, was added to Dollywood in 2014. Dollywood mainstays Mystery Mine, Blazing Fury, Tennessee Tornado and Thunderhead—which consistently ranks among the world’s top five wood coasters—round out the park’s list of innovative coasters.