RailBlazer Review: One Rail To Rule Them All

California’s Great America has officially opened their newest roller coaster, RailBlazer, to the public! RailBlazer is a first of its kind ride on the West Coast, and is also the first major project as part of the park’s new master plan. RailBlazer is a unusual single rail “raptor track” roller coaster design developed by Rocky Mountain Construction, just the second of this coaster models built (the other being Wonder Woman Golden Lasso at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, which opened earlier this year). The park held a media preview for the roller coaster early yesterday morning prior to opening to the public, and I was able to attend to take in the new roller coaster experience and talk about the project with park GM Raul Rehnborg.


Riding The Single Rail

One rail, single file riders.

RailBlazer’s signature feature is the single rail design of the coaster and the single file trains. This makes it stand out from almost any other roller coaster, and gives it a unique experience. The ability to stretch your arms out to the side while riding is a weird experience, and in some ways gives even more of a flying sensation than flying coasters do. It also means there are great views from the ride, and no seats really feel “obstructed”. I generally love riding in the front row of coasters, especially things like B&M inverts or flying coasters, but on RailBlazer I found that it didn’t seem to make that much difference. Yeah, the front was fun, but when I rode back to back to back rides in the front, middle, and back, no major differences in force or sensation stood out to me. It’s rare in a roller coaster where all seats seem equally good.

Observe the popular hands stretched out to the side pose.

 

The ride itself is small, lasting only about a minute, but it packs a lot into this short trip. California’s Great America GM Raul Rehnborg described to me the reactions he’d been hearing from guests. “The best validation is just hearing the guest comments when they come off the ride,” Rehnborg said. “I’ve heard everything from Relentless to breathtaking to pure adrenaline.”

Lots of Elements in a Small Space

A big part of that relentlessness is the Rocky Mountain Construction air that the company is famous for. Rocky Mountain is best known for the extreme airtime on their big hybrid coasters (like Steel Vengeance), but they were able to pack in plenty of it on RailBlazer too. The coaster also packs in a lot of stand out elements despite the short duration, several of which are helped by the unique single rail.

The big pre-lift drop is unexpected and exciting, giving the train a lot more speed than on a typical pre-drop. The main drop itself is particularly exciting, with its 90 degree angle dive through a rock formation. The drop also does a great job pulling riders out of their seats as it starts its way down. It impressed me here that every car I rode in had a similar effect, it wasn’t something where only the back seat got lifted.

 

Following the drop the ride rises into a dive loop, which sort of starts what I’d call the middle act of the ride. After the loop it pulls into one of the most “RMC” like elements, and one of the best, a big airtime hill. The entire hill, which includes a nice little twist at the top, I was lifted out of my seat in classic RMC fashion. The then ride drops to the ground along another rock feature, before rising into another of my favorite elements, the twisted climb and banked S-turn at the top.

The big middle airtime hill is one of the best moments.

In my head this is the transition into the final act of the ride. Coming out of the S-bend is another drop that does a great job whipping riders over the crest and out of their seats. The ride goes into a half roll, and then into my favorite element on it, the zero-G roll. This might be the most actual “Zero-G” I’ve felt on a zero-G roll, and this is partly thanks to the single file design. The roll can be truly heartlined with only one row of riders, and be designed so there are not other lateral forces applied. It was a truly unique element thanks to that, and one that stood out the most to me. This is followed by a great low to the ground overbanked turn around a viewing area before coming to the break run.

I think my favorite was the Zero-G roll towards the end.

Again, it’s a lot of elements packed into a small space.


A Sight From All Sides

I mentioned above the final turn goes around a viewing area. One of the things that stands out the most of RailBlazer is how visible it is in the park. The ride can be viewed from pretty much all four sides, and there are a lot of areas under the ride accessible to people. This was all part of a conscious effort by the park.

“A lot of the roller coasters at California’s Great Ameirca are tucked away on sides. RailBlazer we wanted to put in the middle of the park, and give you visual lines of sight from all different sides,” Rehnborg explained. “The other thing is that we wanted the guests to be able to appreciate the attraction whether or not they’re riding it. So when you walk through the queue you’re going to get vantage points of this coaster that you wouldn’t on any other coaster at Great America. I mean you can literally stand underneath a 90 degree drop and watch peoples expressions.”

It certainly makes it great for taking photos and videos of the ride, but it also works to help draw guests towards the attraction. And the views from the queue should help build the excitement and anticipation in waiting riders.

The visual aspect isn’t just limited to the ride itself, the park also put in a lot of effort on the area surrounding RailBlazer. New signage on rides nearby like White Water Falls and Berzker fit with the RailBlazer California’s coastal mountains theme. Hardscapes and landscaping has been improved all around the coaster, as well as new paint on nearby buildings and improved furniture to fit in. And possibly most importantly, the nearby bathrooms were upgraded!

The new Berserker sign and landscaping makes the whole area fit with the California coast theme.

‘When we put in a new ride we want to touch as many areas of the park around it to really complement the new addition,” Rehnborg said. “Really it’s going to be our intent whenever we introduce something to touch areas around the park and reinforce the whole experience. I think we did a good job with RailBlazer paying attention to the level of detail, like in the rock work and the landscaping. It all kind of blends together.”


I don’t think there’s any question that RailBlazer is a great addition to the California’s Great America. It packs a thrilling punch, and offers a unique experience unlike any other rides on the West Coast. I think Gold Striker is still my favorite ride at the park, partly because of RailBlazer’s length, but there’s no doubt that RailBlazer is an attraction that should draw people to California’s Great America. It’s a great addition to their roller coaster lineup, and I imagine even as the park grows it’ll be a great part of it. There’s certainly no ride at the park that lifts you from your seat quite as often, and none that looks as good or is as fun to take pictures of.

And before we go, here are some photos of the other great things at the RailBlazer media event. Special RailBlazer snacks from the CGA food and beverage team (funnel cake wrapped breakfast sausage, yes!), Awesome RailBlazer ice sculptures, and some of the great RailBlazer gear available in the park.

Have you ridden RailBlazer yet? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below! If you want to know more about the ride, or how to get the CGA to ride it, check out Great America’s website here. For more on all the latest on new ride openings, keep checking Coaster101, and make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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1 Response

  1. Zachary says:

    This looks really good. When I first saw the designs for the Single Rail coasters, I was disappointed in how small the rides where. They didn’t really impress. But know, upon hearing about you experience, I may want to ride one of these. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but I think if RMC works on the design and makes it a little longer with more airtime, this ride will soon become one of the best rides in the park. I hope that when RMC comes out with the T-Rex ride, it will be longer, more thrilling and better. Oh yeah, great review!