Coaster Kingdom

El Diablo (Port Aventura)

Once upon a time a thriving coaster company was the Bolliger and Mabillard of their day. Developing each and every ride with oodles of initiative, Arrow Dynamics were the manufacturer first approached by many parks as they could satisfy most parks’ specific requirements.

A lot of money was routed in the direction of a preordained concept, the Pipeline coaster, which, due to design issues never happened. The money invested in this project was lost forever in a whim that was never to be. Whilst Arrow were concentrating on this disaster, other companies over took them with new and successful concepts, ironically often twists on coasters Arrow had championed (stand up coasters, inverted coasters…).

After wasting money on this and progressing nowhere, Arrows brochure now only consisted of passé coasters that were no longer attractive. It was with this in mind that the last coaster of any relevance that they sold was a mine-train. Since then the former greatest have now lowered their benchmark to creating the likes of wild mice.

One of the last coasters they sold was El Diablo. As a new coaster in a new park they had a great opportunity to show off what they were capable of. As a runaway mine train, the theme is merely that: an out of control train, unrestrained around an abandoned Mexican silver mine.

Although it is geographically close to the Silver River Flume, which resides in the Far West, it is far beyond the dusty streets of the west, instead in Mexico, which makes for a long walk.

You enter past a millpond on the right, around which one of the rides’ later helixes goes around. To your left are more turns, this time both above and below, all supported with a wooden framework.

After the helix the track rises up and over the entrance before diving through a smoking building. It is under here that you enter, and the queue takes you through the centre of the rides’ final turn, next to the brake run. The queue slaloms through some large mining buildings before some steps take you into the station.

The theming here is top-notch. Instead of a mountain (mines go underground anyway), the first half takes place over a gorgeously blue lake, the second ducks and dives through tunnels and caverns. The wood supports also make for a very rustic look, again, something many mine-trains lack.

For those of you who have ridden the Vampire, the first of many similarities, this time in the form of the ‘chirping’ noise the brakes make as the train arrives, and subsequently departs from the station.

The station is large for a runaway mine-train, and you can pretty much choose where you sit. It’s a runaway mine-train, so it makes little difference, so it would probably be best to head for where the queue isn’t.

When you get in the train, it takes the form of the Big One with the single lap-bars that annoyingly fall into you as you board, and the bucket style fibreglass seats on which you sit. Like the big one, leg room is one inch too small, the bars are annoying, and the seats comfortable whilst the train is stationary.

Once the staff have run along the length of the train checking bars, the train slowly coasts out, and once it leaves, dives down a surprising six-foot drop into a tight turn deep down underground with bare rock walls to your right. It is this most fun turn that will take you up to the first lift.

The lift is of average speed and takes you about 45ft up above the same lake shared by the earlier mentioned Silver River Log Flume that intertwines El Diablo. Therefore, you are likely to get over-excited Log Flume riders waving ardently at you.

At the top of the lift, the train drops slightly, slaloming through the Silver River Flume above the lake, making a sharp turn before hitting some brakes and starting the second lift. It isn’t particularly smooth considering it has traversed some dead track brightened up by a couple of turns. No effort to add padding to the seat has been made so you are merely sitting on a fibreglass shell. It rides pretty strangely too, very stunted with a shuffling type feel, as if the train is too long.

The second lift takes you up to about the same height as the first. The first can be seen to your left climbing in the opposite direction and as your attention may briefly be diverted, you soon climb over the top of the lift.

You dip off to the left, turning 180-degrees, straightening out and going along a most perplexing straight of track. You then turn 180-degrees back round to the right passing a transfer track (equating to even more dead track) before hitting the third and final lift.

And the award for the worst piece of track in living history goes to…

This living foible apparently arose due to contractual problems resulting in a chunk of the ride being left out. What is left is a lift hill with a ramp of track taking you to the next lift. You can look behind you in disbelief if you wish, and sure enough, there it is, the most peculiar piece of track ever fashioned. A brake run is likely to entertain you more.

The ride goes onto redeem itself somewhat following this most entertaining cockeyed stretch of track. You dive down sharply, swooping into a deep, dark and long tunnel. You climb out of this and motor into the millpond helix, wrapping around a disused wooden waterwheel over a patch of water. You climb, dive through a hole in the wall of a building before enveloping the queue line and hitting the enclosed brake run, turning and returning to the station.

So, what of the ride? Bearing in mind this is a family ride, it isn’t as bad as many people say. That said, however, if it wasn’t for the final jaunt off of the third lift, this ride would be just diabolical. The first ten seconds bode well, but the leg between the first and second lifts are pretty lacklustre and devoid of any memorable elements.

Between the second and third lift just defies explanation. I cannot think of enough adjectives to express the most remarkable length of track I have ever travelled on. And to have the transfer track halfway through the ride? That is surly a first.

It all picks up after the third lift though. If the whole ride consisted of such fluid and swooping dives and turns then we would have a winner. The finished ride though is a bit of a sham, and from what I have ridden so far, what I expect from Arrow.

It seems Arrow created some very unique concepts very early on. Perhaps they lost the plot soon after this, but they have since been making scores of middling rides that lack innovation (though they did try), consistency and any conspicuous elements.

To me, it is clear why Arrow have stooped to the levels of wild mice. They lacked the reflexes to react to the competition that rivals were throwing at them. A shame, but it is to be expected.

2/5 Marcus Sheen