Testing the Sky Dragster at Skyline Park

It has been a while since I visited Bad Wörishofen and their local amusement park the last time. Back then, I did a small internship at Gerstlauer Amusement Rides in nearby Münsterhausen and stayed at a friend’s house for quite some time. Since then, Skyline Park nearly doubled in size and some interesting rides came and go.

As Skyline Park is one of the few theme parks, where a ride on a Funtime Slingshot is included in the entrance fee, I started my day in this area of the park. However, due to strong winds, the Sky Shot would not open on the day of my visit.

Also, the nearby Caripro Gyroflyer Sky Rider had some issues during its test run and had to be towed back to the station. The unique suspended spinning coaster did not run at all for the remaining time of my visit.

As the queue for the Wiegang Bobkartbahn Bob Racing hardly moved at all, we continue our way to the spinning coaster Sky Spin. I rode this Maurer SC2000 twice on my only visit to the Oktoberfest in Munich so far. Back then the ride was still known as Cyber Space and was operated by the Kaiser family. Between 2003 and 2012, the ride was known as Whirlwind in the English Camelot Theme Park. After the park’s closure, the ride moved to Skyline Park in 2013 and continued to entertain its riders ever since. Unfortunately, the ride became quite jerky over time, which is a bit of a surprise when compared it to other installations of its kind.

Passing the Schwarzkopf Wild Cat Nostalgische Achterbahn, which I was not allowed to ride as a single rider (probably because of the Covid-19 rules), we now encounter another roller coaster made by Maurer. Skyline Park has a good connection to the Munich based manufacturer, which is why you can find two of their prototype coasters within the park. The first one was the SkyWheel and the second one is the Spike Coaster Sky Dragster.

The Sky Dragster is currently the only Spike Coaster in operation. Its design is a mixture between the classic Steeplechase coaster and a powered coaster, although the position of the rider is quite close to the rail. The cars are directly driven by a cogwheel which runs along a gear rack attached to the side of the track. Due to this configuration, a rollback is not possible, thereby the track can be bend in all different kind of crazy manoeuvres – it is even possible to accelerate the vehicle along a vertical stretch of track, which is otherwise quite complex to achieve on conventional track designs. Like a Bobkartbahn by Wiegand, the rider can control the speed of the vehicle and a control system adjusts the distance between the cars when needed.  Moreover, everything is surveyed by the system, which on the one hand gives you a remarkably high security, but on the other hand led to a lot of issues during the first seasons of the coaster.

On the day of my visit, the coaster was running without issues. The track at Skyline Park features a long straight just after the station before you enter a horseshoe turn. This is directly followed by a 360° righthand curve. Two hills in a double-up fashion join immediately after. On the other side of the layout, you then enter a strangely banked upwards leading spiral. After a descend back to the station level, you then run through a very tight s-bend, before reaching the station. A second lap follows.

I really like the acceleration of the Spike Coaster. Compared to conventional powered coasters, the system is far less inert. The only thing I did not liked too much is the slow pacing on most of the elements on the Sky Dragster. I know that this is to limit the forces on the rider, yet it is kind of hilarious to allow a system to have a high degree of flexibility on the track design when you must regulate it massively to do so. However, if your design for the most part consists of straight sections, then this system is fine. Therefore, it does not surprise me, that the Spike Coaster will be most likely to be found exclusively on Cruise Ships like the Carnaval Mardi Gras. For a theme park, the low capacity of the ride is not at all justifiable, unless you are Mirabilandia and want to gain some extra revenue due to your fast pass system.

In the same corner as the Sky Dragster, you can find the Zamperla Turbo Force Sky Circle, as well as the large transportable log flume Wildwasser 3 by Mack Rides. It is the second transportable log flume of the park owner who found its way to Skyline Park. The first one was the Pirateninsel, which now have found a new home at Eiffelpark in Rhineland-Palatinate. The Wildwasser 3 was the largest log flume to be found on the German fair circuit and therefore features three shot rides, whereby the first one is being done backwards.

Close to the Wildwasser 3, you can find the world’s largest Star Flyer. The chain swing Allgäuflieger offers a wide view onto open fields, the mountains and of course the Skyline Park just underneath. Due to strong winds, I had to give the ride a miss.

A ride which I gave voluntarily a miss is the large inverting pendulum ride High Fly by SBF Visa, as I was already punctured by their restraints the day before on the Papageienflug at Tatzmania Löffingen and I did not want to risk it again. The High Fly is currently the largest inverting pendulum ride in Germany, but that record could be broken easily if a park is interested in doing so.

The next ride on our path through the park is Sky Rafting, formally known as Wild ‘n Wet. The transportable water ride by ART Engineering starts off with a vertical lift. Once at the top, a long slide section is initiated. Due to the curvy layout, the boats start to rotate heavily. A short drop nearby the end of the slide section comes a bit by surprise, as nobody in the boat knows who will get wet.

Not as unpredictable, yet kind of spiny is the small spinning coaster Kids Spin. The small coaster by SBF Visa comes in the proven 3 loop layout, whereby upward leading curves to the right always lead into a downwards leading curve to the left. Due to the constant change in curvature, the cars can get a good spin. After several round, the train then comes to a stop in the station and the cars must be manually turned back into position before you can exit the ride.

Passing the large thrill coaster SkyWheel, we now have a look onto the ghost train Geisterschlange. The old ride by the showman Lehmann has found its retirement home at Skyline Park. The ride is simply a beauty of a ghost train and it is nice to see that it gets preserved for the future in an amusement park like Skyline Park.

As the weather during my visit got worse and worse and heavy rain started to fall around lunch, let us now have a look into the only indoor attraction at Skyline Park. The hall opposite of the cute Baustellenfahrt once offered a motion simulator. It is now home to the Rotor Zero Gravity by SBF Visa. The Italian company gave the famous ride concept a new life by introducing translucent walls to the ride, where traditional rides feature a wooden barrel. To further increase the friction, the walls are also angled and feature a rather rough surface. The ride could therefore run slightly slower, but it does not. For minutes you are now pressed onto the wall, which becomes more and more exhausting over time. The light show is a plus, nevertheless, I was quite happy when the ride finally came to a stop.

It was nice to get back to Skyline Park after so many years. Unfortunately, due to the weather and because of the Covid-19 guidelines, I could not give every attraction I wanted a try. Nevertheless, I was quite happy to have tested the new Sky Dragster roller coaster and spend some time with some classic rides before I moved on earlier than expected.

 

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The Flight of the Fēnix

I haven’t been to Toverland for a long time. A lot has changed in the time since my last visit. There is now a new themed area with roller coaster and boat ride, and a brand new entrance area called Port Laguna. This connects the themed areas to each other and serves as a sympathetic hub to return to in the afternoon for the cliff diving show. It’s a very quiet area, which is very much in keeping with all the hustle and bustle in the rest of Toverland.

This also eases the situation in the first hall – the former entrance area – which a full-grown amusement park fan doesn’t really get to see any more, unless he or she really wants to ride the Toos Express (formerly Boomerang) or the dinghy slide. So this is an opportunity for Toverland to transform the hall even more into a toddler’s paradise in the future.

Meanwhile, the second hall also saw some thematic changes. The log flume became Expedition Zork (although nothing has really changed here) and the Woudracer Bobkart ride was redesigned as the new Maximus-Blitz-Bahn and made weatherproof by adding a roof over the outdoor track. In addition, the ride has been given a new queue, which is now themed after an Austrian inventor. Fittingly, there is now also a beer garden, which, however, mainly serves local beers.

In the outdoor area, the new roller coaster Fēnix is hard to miss. Together with the quiet (yet impressive due to its indoor part) water ride Merlin’s Quest, it forms the Celtic-like themed area Avalon.

Once you have left the queue, which is well worth seeing, behind you and decided which side to take, the ride on the Fēnix wing coaster can start straight away. In a right-hand bend, the Firebird first leads us through a dark hall, which also houses the roller coaster’s maintenance track. Above this, an ice dragon gives us a nasty look and fogs us up a bit. Shortly afterwards we climb the ride’s lift.

Having reached a height of 40m, we can enjoy the view for a while, because unlike other wing coasters, we don’t immediately turn around our own axis, but first ride through a wide right turn. However, it happens here too, as it does on most wing coasters, and we tackle the dive drop. Here we first turn upside down before we plunge to the ground. We now pass the first valley with full force and immediately fly over an airtime hill. After a second valley with a lot of pressure we turn direction in a quite high Immelmann, whereupon we make a right turn and enter a curve close to the ground. We then remain there for a few seconds, with a fair amount of blood pumping into our legs. But far before we reach the critical values, we already climb a zero-G roll and are turned very smoothly around our own axis. Back on the ground, we quickly pass under a footpath before gaining some height in a left turn. We immediately lose this height in a right turn before we reach the starting height for the braking section in a gentle bend. Shortly afterwards, we enter the large station hall again.

Fēnix is an extremely entertaining wing coaster that knows how to surprise with its close-to-the-ground manoeuvres. It is a little different from other roller coasters of its kind, but that is by no means a mistake. Instead of long, drawn-out inversions, you mainly go through curves close to the ground, which leads to a lot of pressure in your feet. However, you are still far away from grey out and other discomforts, which is one of the main criticisms of the ride.

Another point of criticism – and here I agree with each of the critics – are the incredibly steep stairs on the ride, which is especially evident in the exit area of the ride. For sure they were designed according to the current standard, but it turns out that Dutch stairs are basically ladders deep down. Apart from that, Fēnix is of course a great addition to Toverland.

 

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Scenic Fun on the Scenic Railway

One of the smallest amusement parks, an enthusiast might encounter during his travels is the Luna Park Melbourne in St.Kilda. The historic theme park is sitting on a triangular spot of land with no space to expand anywhere. The amusement park heavily influenced by Luna Park on Coney Island in New York opened its gates in 1912. Its star attraction is the Scenic Railway, which runs along the outskirts of the park and gives it a beautiful aesthetics. Within the courtyard of the wooden coaster, all other attractions are placed.

When you enter the park through its beautiful yet creepy entrance portal, you directly encounter one of the park’s mayor attractions. The Luna Park Carousel was built in 1913 by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters and features 68 horses and chariots. Each horse is unique and has a name.

Right next to it you can find a HUSS Enterprise, a Meisho built boat swing, as well as the Spider by the Eyerly Aircraft Company. This old-style flat ride has one of the creepiest decorations to be found on the eccentric designed by artist and children’s book author, Leigh Hobbs.

Past the park’s Ferris-Wheel, we quickly encounter a Power Surge by Zamperla. Although these rides are quite common on fair grounds in Australia and in the US, I’ve never encounter one of these attractions in person. I was surprised by its smooth and thrilling ride experience.

During our visit to Luna Park Melbourne, the park had hold two scare mazes. Extreme Phobia was located on the top level of the old Dodgems building, which nowadays is home to the Luna Palace room and Haunted Fairytales was located on the top floor of the Stardust room. Both haunted houses were upcharge and a rather expensive experience. My friend Aris went through Extreme Phobia yet did not found it particularly scary nor worth the money.

An attraction I would have wished to be at least a little bit scary was the traditional Ghost Train by the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company from 1934. The short ride in the small trains featured for the most part just dark corridors with static paintings, some black light effects and just a handful of animatronics. Given that the ride featured the longest line in the park, I was not at all impressed.

The novelty of this year was the small spinning coaster Speedy Beetle by SBF Visa, which just replaced the aging Silly Serpent family coaster. Surprisingly, it was the first spinning coaster of this type, I have come along. The small Figure-8 coaster can be found nearly everywhere around the globe and provides an excellent spinning ride for smaller guests.

The second big thrill ride of Luna Park Melbourne is the Kamikaze Pharaoh’s Curse by Fabbri. Unlike other Kamikaze rides by the company this one is much closer to the Original Sky Flyer by Vekoma and Mondial featuring just a comfy lap bar for the thrilling inverting ride. As good as this ride is, it looks like being in a terrible condition.

Something you cannot say about the Scenic Railway, which seems to be overall well kept. During my visit, it was the oldest operational roller coaster as Leap-the-Dips at Lakemont Park in Pennsylvania was currently in restoration. However, the ride is famous to be the oldest continuously operating roller coaster.

The ride on the Scenic Railway begins with a small S-Bend into the cable lift. After climbing the (for a coaster of that age surprisingly straight) lift, we pass a curve above the iconic entrance of Luna Park Melbourne. A large drop follows. After another scenic curve at lofty heights, we now descend close to the ground level and enter a camelback covered by a tunnel. With best views onto Port Phillip Bay, we take another turn. Shortly thereafter, the second round in the triangular layout of the ride starts. First, we take a large drop behind the station building of the Scenic Railway, before we take another S-Bend in order to continue our journey in the courtyard of the ride. Now we take a series of airtime hills and a tunnel while following the layout of the previously experienced track. While doing so, the train loses a lot of momentum and nearly crawls towards the station in the last curve.

The Scenic Railway is a historically significant roller coaster. Unfortunately, it is also the weakest scenic railway, I had the chance to try so far. It seems that the brakemen are using the brakes a bit too much and that the ride therefore becomes so gentle. Nevertheless, I am quite sure if you have a well experienced brakeman, you can have a blast of a time on the Scenic Railway.  It is a nice coaster with a fun layout and therefore worth to keep it running as long as possible. Just don’t miss it when you are visiting Melbourne.

Luna Park Melbourne is not a park I recommend visiting other for their iconic Scenic Railway. The park is expensive and there is a lack of attractions. Overall, it seems that the Luna Park Melbourne had its best years far behind. Everything is just a bit worn off and for a park of its size that does not give the best image you could have.


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