Coaster Kingdom

Thunder Coaster (Tusenfryd)

Parabolic isn’t a word I really appreciated until recently. Since then, I have learnt how it can change a good ride into an incredible ride, a fun drop into a frenzy of airtime and a so-so opinion into standing ovation – literally.

Subconsciously, none of the 2001 European coasters opening interested me. Perhaps I haven’t had time to trawl the almost infinite realms of the internet for construction reports, pictures and information, perhaps I am just waiting for coasters to open before I get excited.

It wasn’t until the ride reports of these rides started filling my inbox that I felt obliged to find out more, specifically of Thunder Coaster, Tusenfryds’ largest investment so far.

The second drop is something of a contemporary phenomenon, which brings us back to the word ‘parabolic’. Instead of the drop sharply turning downward into an equally angled drop, it takes the path of natural descent following the direction the train would fall if there were no track.

This caused a lot of excitement; it means airtime, after all. When people talk of Thunder Coaster, you would probably hear nothing of the ride other than drop two. It would be interesting to see how one drop, however good, could make the ride  top so many peoples’ top-ten lists.

Thunder Coaster is beautiful. The mottled mix of sweeping turns envelope the towering peaks of the lift-hill and infamous second drop as the whole ride straddles the rocky hillside on which it is built. The pathway wraps around the ride, as it undulates up- and- over the dramatic landscape, dotted intermittently with evergreen trees, lumps of rock and grassy knolls.

The queue takes you into the centre of the first drop as it spirals around you before you're under the lift and into the heart of the ride. Many wooden coasters don’t offer an opportunity to those snap-happy enthusiasts, Thunder Coaster can keep you happy for hours.

Like the majority of buildings in Norway, the station is a flamboyant concoction of wooden architectural styles, open on the side with a wooden slat roof covering the station track.

Once let onto the platform and queued up behind the air-gates, riders leave as you are allowed onto the train. Like the ones at Six Flags Holland and Belgium, the Vekoma rolling stock is glorious.

The comfortable seats are surprisingly wide and incredibly snug. With the amount of legroom given to you, you may be surprised that someone doesn’t come along and offer you peanuts and warm towels.

The green and red trains are four cars long, each seating six riders. Each car is fronted by a black railing, a refreshing change from the normal boxed front. Although looking sympathetically apt for a wooden coaster, they still look sleek and new – a clever balance that Vekoma have just right.

Strangely the lap-bars vary from that of the Six Flags Holland and Six Flags Belgium trains. Instead of a padded T-bar, you have a more normal inverted-U, however,  devoid of any padding.

Once you pull down this bar and it is checked, the train smoothly advances out of the station before engaging on the lift-hill. The lift is like most modern wooden coasters – contentedly fast, reasonably quiet.

The view is great, though. To your left, the sweeping first drop and the dramatic landscaping of the park. Yet, to your right, the majority of the ride, dipping, turning and intertwining almost endlessly.

You slowly advance over the end of the lift before the train startlingly accelerates into a leftwards lurch, spiraling down relentlessly towards the ground, pulling you severely to the right.

As you sweep past the rocky landscape below, you burst through the structure of the lift hill, climbing sharply as you do. As you head towards the sky the track sharply levels out before dropping.

As you rise from your seat, the track gets steeper and steeper still. As you turn towards the ground, the train is pulled from under you. You continue to levitate from your bench, your thighs hit the lap-bar, your toes curl in fear as you wonder just how much steeper, faster and intense this drop will get.

A final lurch sends you further skywards towards an overhead stretch of track crossing, before you are pulled back into your seat as the train levels out and sweeps around a 180-degree right-hand turn.

In one of the fastest stretches of track I have ever known on a wooden coaster you absolutely pelt it round into a skyward climb up into a double bunny-hop, the second jump of which throws you over the lift-hill.

Another dramatic turn sends you towards the lift-hill structure, pulling you down in another frenzied moment of airtime sending you airborne towards the overhead wooden structure.

From here, the track turns once more to the right banking outrageously to your right, sweeping into another head-chopping drop under the return track from the second drop and into a rather Megafobia’esque 180-degree turn, undulating dramatically as it does.

From here, you drop twice more in a rally of bunny hops, before listing to the left and hitting another turn, heading you back towards the brake run. After another drop, a camera catches your surprise as you are once again pulled away from overhead structure as you climb into the sharp final  brakes.

As the train rolls slowly around the 180-degree turn back into the station, the ride may now be under control, but your mind remains in overdrive. The ride is simply superb.

The bars spring up out of your way and you run down the ramp and past the photo booth. As people wipe tears from their eyes, as people clap their hands in astonishment and as people jump around like panicked rabbits, you soon realise that we’re  not the only ones who love wooden roller coasters.

The first drop was a surprise. The intense laterals are unique and as soon as the train is travelling fast enough, you are bodily hurled through the lift structure into the second drop.

I could write for ages about the second drop – whether any of it would make sense is obviously up for question, but this parabolic drop is perhaps one of the finest drops ever crafted out of wood.

As soon as you think it has got to its’ steepest, it gets steeper. As you rise from your seat, before you have a chance to recover, you continue to be pulled from your seat with spectacularly powerful negative forces.

The stretch following is incredibly fast, again with strong laterals. The ride then morphs itself into Megafobia featuring undulating and swooping turns into runs  of bunny hops.

The ride exceeds not only the expectations of the new rider, but also of the designer, Robert Casey. On paper, the ride is down to last a minimum of 55 seconds. Even before it officially opened, it was happily doing 54, sometimes 52. Although a second here-and-there may perhaps appear to be insubstantial, with the ride going that much faster over drops designed for slower speeds, you can be assured of a good ride.

For the first time since Tonnerre De Zeus, Thunder Coaster has got the fine balance of airtime and laterals just right. Also well balanced, the ride is smooth enough to give a potent and forceful ride, but throws you about enough to remind you that you’re on a wooden coaster.

There is very little wrong with the ride. A helix would have been nice, but that said, the  alternate offerings of lateral forces more than make up for this. A wooden coaster is a very hard thing to pull off well, especially modern ones. Thunder Coaster has a character of its’ own, a great selection of elements and perhaps the most outrageous dose of airtime safely possible on a roller coaster.

It had a lot to live up to. And it did.

5/5 Marcus Sheen