Lightning Rod Construction Tour + Train Reveal
Although Dollywood is closed for the season, the park was bustling with activity over the weekend as crews continued work on the new-for-2016 Lightning Rod launched (yeah, launched) wooden coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC).
On Saturday, American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) hosted their Winter Warm Up at the park, which included updates from the Southeast’s largest parks. But it wouldn’t be a Dollywood coaster enthusiast event without a behind-the-scenes tour of whatever is under construction for the upcoming season. Luckily, this is a great pre-season to tour as Lightning Rod nears completion.
Dollywood’s director of public relations, Pete Owens, was on hand to give an update on the coaster’s progress: Lightning Rod’s track will be completed within the next week, and testing is expected to begin around later in the month.
But testing can’t happen without a train or two, so the group was later escorted outside to see the trains up close.
This was (I believe) the first time the trains have been seen this close.
The attention to detail is top-notch, which is typical for RMC trains. I wouldn’t might driving this around town.
The flames are also a nice touch.
I can’t wait to see these flying around the track at (a top speed of) 73 mph.
Lightning Rod’s 165-foot plunge is best viewed from the employee parking lot, so this will likely become a much sought-after view for enthusiasts.
The tour continued to the actual construction site, which gave an even rarer up-close look at the coaster.
The post-lift dip should be a nice fake-out for those unfamiliar with the coaster’s layout.
The 90+ degree banked breaking wave turn (quite a mouthful) immediately follows the 165-foot drop.
There’s no doubting that this is a 73-degree drop!
Lightning Rod is expected to open to the public on March 19, 2016. Stay tuned for more updates as the opening approaches.
Correction (Feb. 1, 2016): an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Lightning Rod’s track is complete (as of Jan. 30, 2016). Track will be completed within the next week, and testing should begin in mid-February. We apologize for the error.
Special thanks to Jason Slone for sharing these photos with us.
What do you think of Lightning Rod so far? Share your thoughts about the coaster in the comments section below.