If the track gauges of some model railroaders become too large, then a theme park can also be created as a result. That’s roughly how the history of the Parc des Combes can be summed up. In 1985, the model railway enthusiasts from Le Creusot and the local politician, and later president of the NPO Chemin de Fer Touristique des Combes, Serge Chevalier decided to revive the old track of the Chemin de Fer des Crouillottes..
Originally, the line was used to transport slag from the blast furnaces of the Usines Schneider to the Plateau de la Combe for disposal. However, it was already shut down and dismantled in the 1950s. Now the line had to be re-laid. The tracks, rails and sleepers were taken from the Creusot-Loire – a recently bankrupt steel company. Five years later, the first 2.5 km section was opened from Parc des Combes station down to the Combe Denis. The current 5.2 km circuit of the Train des Combes was completed five years later. A station was also built in the centre of Le Creusot, not far from the SNCF station. This was accompanied by the construction of the third section, which was completed in 1999. Since then, during the French summer holidays, it has been possible to travel by the Train des Deux Vallées over a distance of 10 km from the city centre up to the amusement park. In addition, on selected days in July there is the possibility to travel by steam train.
In 1996 the construction of a summer toboggan run from the Wiegand company took place. The success of the Luge d’été laid the foundation for the park’s current orientation. In 2003 the Déval’Train, a family roller coaster from the Dutch manufacturer Vekoma, followed. The subsequent years are characterised by smaller novelties, before the Alpine Coaster 2007 set new standards in visitor numbers. In 2011 Vekoma presented the Family Boomerang, a new development, which made the Parc des Combes famous nationwide. In 2013 the interactive roll-over ride L’Escadrille, also a new development from Technical Park, followed. The French must have liked this, otherwise the next step for a park of this size is hardly explainable, because in 2017 a Flying Fury moved into the park with Canad’R. This is one of only two rides worldwide! Vraiment magnifique!
Before we dare to climb up the mountain to the self steering propeller, we have to get the Pass Partout, the all-you-can-ride whistband of the park. Of course, there would also be the possibility to buy single tickets, but this is only worth it if you have come to the Parc des Combes for up to four rides and are not interested in the Train Touristique. Of course you can also buy a special ticket for the train ride if you are not interested in the theme park. The actual entrance is free.
Passing the station of the Combes, which includes the park’s restaurant and a number of smaller children’s rides, we make our way to the two toboggan runs. We join the queue on the left and are immediately the first passenger of the day of the Alpine Coaster.
During the ascent we have an excellent view of the upcoming attractions, especially the Canad’R. At the top we steadily increase our speed in several small zigzag curves. In the following serpentine curves we cross several smaller waves, which make us lift up a little bit out of our seats. Shortly afterwards we race towards a helix. With now pronounced speed, we race through a long left turn and soon over a beautiful jump. Unfortunately the short and enjoyable ride ends after another right turn.
But before we get right back into the Alpine Coaster, we dedicate ourselves to the Luge d’été. Parallel to the ride we just tested, we climb the lift hill, but then turn right at a slightly lower altitude. After another right turn, we quickly increase our speed over a steeper gradient. A left turn and a small zigzag passage follow at high speed, before we see ourselves in a right turn with a pronounced cross slope. Now several left and right turns follow in quick succession, which can also throw you off track. After a jump and another right turn the ride ends.
It is difficult to say which of the two rides is the better one. I personally enjoyed both of them very much. Since none of the French visitors even had the idea to brake early, both rides were experienced at full speed. In general, however, the Luge d’été seemed to be more popular with the visitors.
Via stairs we now reach the station of the roller coaster Déval’Train. The ride on the classic roller skater layout with a length of 207m is particularly convincing because of its embedding in the surroundings and the high degree of theming. Of course, this ride features several laps, so that the little ones get their money’s worth.
The Boomerang roller coaster is a little more exciting and faster. However, it is only available for groups of 6 people or more, so I had to wait here for some time for my ride. Especially in the low season you should not be too early at the Parc des Combes, because it takes some time until a sufficient number of people find their way up the mountain. But you will have the Canad’R all to yourself as soon as it opens. One way or another, at some point the time had come, and since only a few people got off after the ride, it was possible to take one lap after the other.
The ride itself begins with the ascent of the reverse lift hill. Once in the starting position, you are stopped briefly while the friction wheels are pushed apart. Now the track is free and you race straight down the just climbed track. You cross the station at 60 km/h and then shoot into an uphill left turn. Now you race through a valley, before an upward helix leading over hill and dale joins up. The train loses its momentum on the undulating spike that follows, whereupon it reverses direction and passes the track backwards. The train then comes to a halt again in the station.
Family Boomerangs are definitely a great roller coaster type. Therefore it is even better that the Parc des Combes has recognised this with the English amusement park Drayton Manor before all others. Although the original layout with its undulating course does not offer a distinct speed profile, this does not detract from the fun of riding. It is even better when you can do several laps at once.
The next attraction on our mountain ascent is the aerobat L’Escadrille. After the success of the Gerstlauer Sky Roller and the Sky Fly from the same company, the Italian manufacturer Technical Park has come up with its own interpretation of an interactive roll-over roundabout. Insofar it is nothing unusual, as it is good manners to adopt successful concepts from other manufacturers. Instead of a direct copy, however, the focus was on an intensified development of the well-known paratrooper ride.
Although I knew in advance that the ride is not really exhilarating, one should always be open-minded about new rides. So first of all the positive: The gondolas are comfortable and the wings also fit well in the hand. But now the negative: Whether you move the wings or not does not change the ride. This means that permanent rollovers are impossible right from the start, and whether you like it or not, at some point everyone will go head over heels through the pit. Hourra…
In general, the concept of a modified paratrooper is not wrong. But the ride on the aerobat is simply no fun. From my point of view, the ride is just too steep to take advantage of the interactivity of the ride. That’s a pity, because the concept itself has potential.
Well, in that case you’d better get into a modified Apollo 2000. With the Woodside 66, a sidecar from Technical Park has been in the park since this year. The swing of the interactive compressed-air ride can be controlled by the throttle twist grip on the motorbike, at least until the air runs out at some point. But after a few laps on the ground, the wild or not so wild rocking can start all over again. A really great ride, which has quickly gained popularity in the amusement park industry.
Something that unfortunately did not benefit the last ride on our exploratory tour through the Parc des Combes. Although very popular with fans, the Flying Fury is still in the shadows, probably due to its low capacity and technical complexity. But all this has not stopped the Parc des Combes from putting the ride on a mountain where everyone can see it from afar. You wouldn’t believe how high the 37m high ride can seem when you look down a mountain during the ride.
Due to the interactive nature of the ride on Canad’R it is difficult to reproduce the ride in detail. However, it looks something like this: ” So, I now have the joystick in my hand, how does it go forward? Okay, now I’m going in circles. What happens if I move this control to the side? Aha, now I turn over to the side. Next I pull the joystick towards me, aha, the propeller is now moving clockwise. Well, then it can start”. After this short period of getting used to it, everything is ready to get down to business. Friends of very strong accelerations can also start a turbo phase, in which the plane switches to automatic for a short time, then straightens out and accelerates with 5G. Depending on which direction you hold the stick, this happens either forwards or backwards. You have to be very careful not to expose yourself to a Grey Out or even a Black Out – apart from that the ride is quite nice.
So much so, in fact, that I tried out the wildest driving manoeuvres several laps at a time. Sometimes you can lose your orientation quite a bit during the ride, but no matter if you are upside down and turning sideways through the station area or do laps with permanent side rollovers, I only had the most extreme ride when the ride had a fault shortly after the start and then went to zero position. Interestingly, the boom then drove at snail’s pace and counter-clockwise for a complete lap before reaching the entry position. In the beginning it was very relaxing, but at the latest with the hangtime part and the fabulous view at a height of over 30m it became quite frightening. Luckily you can trust Italian technology, but the ride was closed for a while after that.
Later on I was able to do some more laps on Canad’R, but after my sixth ride I broke it down. Shortly after the ride started, nothing more happened and I could wait – at least halfway comfortable – for a good 15 minutes to be released from the ride. In the late afternoon the ride started again, but then I had to leave again for my next destination.
Parc des Combes is a very pleasant small theme park with a rather interesting portfolio. Hardly any other park of this size offers so many – for the country – unique rides. If the park continues to develop in this direction, you will have to go to Le Creusot all the time. The Parc des Combes is already a must-see for every lover of really good rides. Moreover, the park can be perfectly combined with Le Pal, a park that you must experience one way or another. If you are also a friend of narrow-gauge railways, you will definitely have fun here.
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