Warning: there are a few spoilers in this post. If you haven’t ridden Blazing Fury yet, you may want to come back after your first ride.
Celebrating its 40th birthday this year is Blazing Fury, Dollywood’s classic, family-friendly indoor roller coaster. Opened in 1978, it was the first coaster at Dollywood, which was then known as Silver Dollar City.
Located in Craftsman’s Valley, Blazing Fury takes you through a late 1800s town engulfed in flames. You’ll encounter a slew of funny residents who are outrunning the flames: firefighters, gunslingers, damsels in distress, etc.
The ride starts out slow and rather innocent. The action picks up as you near the end.
Recently, I had the chance to take a special tour of the coaster before it opened for the day. My tour guide was Barry Stiltner, Dollywood’s Director of Rides Maintenance. He shared some fascinating tidbits about the ride. These are a few of my favorites:
1. Blazing Fury was designed and built in-house.
While most roller coasters today are built by roller coaster manufacturers, Blazing Fury was designed and built by the park’s maintenance staff.
2. Blazing Fury is (mostly) powered by electricity.
Many of the coasters at Dollywood use traditional lift hills that click-clack you to the top of a big hill. Blazing Fury is unique in that it is partially powered by electricity.
Here’s how it works: the electricity enters the building from the electric company. The power is reduced to 230 volts.
As it enters the track, it drops from 230 to a safer 56 volts before entering the train’s motor (seen above), where it then goes back up to 230 volts so that it can power the train.
You likely won’t notice it, but you’re on a very slight incline for most of the ride. Until the drop, of course.
Then, gravity takes over.
3. Blazing Fury today carries more riders than it used to.
When the coaster opened in 1978, it operated with five two-car trains. Each car seats six riders. Today, it operates with three cars per train. There are four trains in total, but only three can operate simultaneously. At least one train is always stored in the maintenance shop – more on that shortly.
4. Blazing Fury’s maintenance shop is located in the center of the building.
As you meander through the town, you may notice glimmers of fluorescent light in between the various scenes of the ride.
That light is coming from the maintenance shop, where Blazing Fury’s trains go for upkeep.
There are two small sections of track that can be “switched” to allow for a train to enter or exit the shop. See if you can spot them next time you’re riding.
5. The sets and scenery lead the way.
Members of the maintenance team often use the ride’s scenery and sets to describe their location: the tavern, saloon, graveyard, etc.
Even directional signs “backstage” point in the direction of the ride’s scenes and sets.
6. Small details include tributes to Dollywood’s past.
If you look closely, you can see a few homages to Dollywood rides of yesteryear, such as the Flooded Mine (where Daredevil Falls stands today).
These signs feature the four former names of the park before it became Dollywood in 1986.
7. Sensors start the special effects and monitor the trains.
There are about 50 sensors along Blazing Fury’s 1,520 feet of track. Think of them as spring-loaded light switches or triggers. The train “flips the switch” as it passes over it.
Known formally as “limit switches,” they serve one of two purposes.
The first is to notify the coaster’s computer system of a train’s location on the ride. The second is to trigger special effects.
That’s why Molly is always getting ready to leap to safety from her balcony when you pass by.
8. The park is continually investing in Blazing Fury’s upkeep.
With Blazing Fury being the oldest – and possibly most beloved – coaster at Dollywood, the maintenance team regularly makes improvements to the ride. In the last eight years, the park has invested nearly $1 million in its upkeep and improvements.
A few years ago, the park replaced a portion of the track to make the ride smoother.
Some of the updates are more subtle. For instance, the horse in the stable is a recent addition to the town.
Blazing Fury was the first roller coaster that I rode at Dollywood when I first visited way back in 2001. And 17 years later, I still love riding it. I’m grateful that the maintenance team is keeping it in pristine condition so that families can enjoy it for years to come.
Many thanks to Barry Stiltner for taking time out of his busy day to show me around. It’s made me appreciate Blazing Fury even more.