A Look Back at the Legendary Drachen Fire at Busch Gardens
Drachen Fire was an infamous roller coaster that lived in the Rhineland, Germany section of Busch Gardens Williamsburg from 1992 to 1998. While it had a short run, it’s easily one of the most well-known defunct coasters in past years. I will relay the background story I’ve seen several times on the coaster enthusiast circuit. I have no way of validating the B&M involvement part of the story. But here’s the folklore of Drachen Fire, the most famous defunct coaster of the past twenty years.
The story began when Busch planned to build two steel looping roller coasters. One was to be built at their African themed park in Tampa, Florida and one at their European-themed park in Williamsburg, Virginia. They had ordered the two coasters from new-comers Bolliger & Mabillard. At the time they were a young company and had not done a sitdown looping coaster. So, they decided to only work on one of the two projects. The result is my all-time favorite coaster Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Enter Arrow, the company we can thank for two of the park’s other gems: Loch Ness Monster and Big Bad Wolf. Busch had luck with Arrow on those two installations, so they were hired to finish the Williamsburg coaster. The designs for Drachen Fire were like nothing the veteran builders had done before. With the use of state-of-the-art computer modeling the company said it could deliver the unique steel looper. And so, Drachen Fire was born.
A Dragon Like No Other
Drachen Fire boasted several never-before seen elements. The ride opened with a wrap around corkscrew performed during the initial 145′ drop (pictured above). Next, was the camelback hill designed for airtime. An element with two back-to-back inversions called a cobra roll followed. After exiting the cobra roll, riders hit a short brake run. Right out of the brake run the train dove into a diving corkscrew. Then there was the cutback which was like a corkscrew but riders entered the element the same way that they exited. And finally, there was one last standard corkscrew, and helix and then the ride was over. Drachen Fire’s trains had a sleeker design and lights on the sides which must have looked really cool at night.
Drachen Fire was Too Wild for Public
While enthusiasts drooled at the unprecedented elements, the general public was too busy being pummeled by the roughness to marvel at the ride’s uniqueness. Complaints of head and neck pains (and I would assume low ridership) prompted Busch to take measures to renovate the ride. The diving corkscrew after the brake run (pictured below) was removed in an effort to reduce the punishment the beast was giving riders. The renovation wasn’t enough and in July of 1998 the ride was closed.
Unfortunately, by the time I made it to Busch to ride Drachen Fire (I think it was the Summer of 1998) it was in its standing, but not operating phase. I remember viewing those coils of electric blue steel rising from the green landscape of Busch Gardens from atop Loch Ness’ lift. The lifeless wonder was also visible from the park’s steam train route as it passed through Germany. Busch attempted to sell Drachen Fire and many hoped it would be bought and relocated. Unfortunately, no buyers emerged and the ride was scrapped and recycled in the Fall of 2001. Today, the old station is used for storage and the area where it once stood, next to Das Festhaus is closed off.
A Tale of Two Designers: B&M vs. Arrow
The difference between the head-bang-into the over the shoulder restraints ride of an Arrow looper and the distinctively smooth, 99% pain free ride on a B&M looper lies in the location of the center of gravity. B&M designed their coasters with the heart of the riders as the center of gravity while Arrow made the center of the trains their center of gravity. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the demise of Arrow in 1999 and the continued success of B&M, but the proof is in the pudding. Save a few exceptions like Demon at Six Flags Great America, Loch Ness Monster, and a few others, Arrow coasters punish riders while B&M’s are smooth and enjoyable thrill machines.
What’s Your Take?
Anyone get to ride Drachen Fire before its untimely demise? Leave a comment below.