Dollywood created a second firefighter themed ride, with the first being Blazing Fury, to commemorate the volunteer fire departments that protected the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the 1940's. And last Friday Dolly revealed it to the world.
She invited volunteer firefighters from all around the area to help with the celebration. Here she is directing them to speed up their bucket brigade so "we can get this ride open."
Once the full bucket tipped the scale, the bell rang, and the inaugural launch took place. Here is a look at FireChaser Express as it is launched from the station and travels through the first half of it's course.
This pictures epitomizes what Dollywood expected from FireChaser Express. Children 39 inches tall, their parents, and their grandparents all riding together. And from the smiles, everyone seems to have found something to like on the new attraction.
Sweeping banked turns with gentle drops and floating airtime, FireChaser Express launches forwards and backwards, with a traditional lift hill in the middle.
There is also a brief visit to Crazy Charlie Cherriebaum's Gas and Fireworks Emporium.
We caught up with the President of the Dollywood Company Craig Ross, who took a few minutes out of his very busy day to share his insight on FireChaser Express and Mother Africa, the show headlining The Festival of Nations.
Through the fire tower and around the waterfall, expended fireworks litter the mountain after the Crazy Charlie's experience. With some toppled telephone poles thrown in for good measure, the fourteen passenger trains take a fun ride before returning to the station.
The station is finely detailed, like most public buildings were in the 1940's, and the trains have lots of extras also. This is an example of the extensive theming throughout Dollywood. Scott was able to get Dollywood's Senior Art Director Ralph Nielson to share some details.
This old fire truck looks in good enough shape to respond to the call, and it really sets the stage for those wanting to go from "Zero to hero." Dolly hopes FireChaser Express will reinforce the belief that "We can all be heroes if we'll just step up and help others, whether it's in a small way or a big way." What a nice lesson from the "Volunteer State."
This video shows the complicated operation of FireChaser Express. If you look close, you can see how the track changes direction outside both the station and Crazy Charlie's. While riders of one train are being blown up, the track changes, another train launches out of the station, that track changes, and the train at Charlie's launches backwards to return to the station. There is so much going on, people gathered in the midway just to watch.
If you look closely, at the back of the first car you can see something different on FireChaser Express. Mounted to the track are green arms with rubber fingers. They are there to remind riders who might have played basketball in their day to pull their arms in, because of the railings coming up next to the track. This is required because of the wide variation in heights of the riders who choose to enjoy the roller coaster.
This is a cam action anti-rollback that Gerstlauer has begun using on their recent family coasters. The cars have a drive sword under the floor with a textured finish where the launch wheels engage, both forwards and backwards. If the train should somehow slip the lift chain, the cam locks pinch the drive sword and hold the trains still until they can resume the climb. They have the advantage of being quieter than regular anti-rollbacks, the better for riders to enjoy the sirens.
We also talked with Joel Manby, CEO of Hershend Family Entertainment Company about where Dollywood is headed for the future.
Here is the progress to date on the resort, you can see the construction crew working on Saturday to prepare for the next big expansion for Dollywood.
As we take a final look a FireChaser Express, we would like to say thank you to Dolly, Craig, Joel, and Ralph for their time. Also, a big thank you also to the crews of FireChaser Express and Wild Eagle, for their assistance. And Pete, we couldn't have done this story without all your help. Thanks!