The deeper I dive into this hobby, the more appealing the aspect of collecting certain categories becomes. What with all these ranking lists I throw around, it can feel much more satisfying to provide insight into the most definitive set possible, ones without the various gaps in experience that inevitably come with having not been absolutely everywhere (yet).
Some collections are obviously easier than others, which comes down to factors such as proximity, location and of course sheer numbers. There’s a fundamental sense of achievement in being able to say ‘I’ve done them all’ (gotta catch ’em all), though this is also laced with a more depressing undertone at the same time – there aren’t any more to have fun chasing down. Luckily a good majority of them will remain as moving goalposts, an endless source of entertainment to pursue and maintain in future.
The most recent collection I managed to complete was that of riding all the Gerstlauer Bobsleds to have ever been built. This particular achievement wasn’t planned out at all and was only noticed by chance, a passing thought during a road trip that happened to contain the last of the set. How many of these are left to try? RCDB says just Tiki Waka and you’re done. Well isn’t that something.
We’ve covered a couple of other lists from German manufacturer Gerstlauer up to now, but what is this particular model all about? It was in fact the first ever rollercoaster they tried their hand at, back in 1998 when one of their nearby potential customers Erlebnispark Tripsdrill were looking to up their coaster game. As a park steeped in local folklore and the various histories of traditional workmanship, the queueline theme ended up looking at the construction and use of various sleds for the transportation of goods. The cars for the ride itself resemble such sleds, or sleighs, which in the modern era are something you’d only really expect to see around Christmas time.
This inaugural design appears to be how the coaster model took on its name, although it has led to some confusion amongst enthusiasts over the years. Bobsleds with a rather different design are of course featured in the Olympic winter games and there just so happens to be a coaster product that was once offered by both Intamin and Mack Rides back as far as the ’80s. Unlike those two, the Gerstlauer runs on traditional steel rails throughout the layout, mainly capitalising on the four-seater single cars to provide a ‘family-thrill’ experience packed with a combination of hairpin turns, twisted drops and airtime hills.
There was a time when I considered the majority of these as nothing more than a slight enhancement on the common Wild Mouse coaster, but having ridden a significant number of custom layouts, this year in particular, I have developed a new found appreciation for what they have to offer. Like most of the coaster world, if anything the designs are just getting better and better, what with over 20 years of refinement behind them now. So let’s take a look.
The list begins with clones, of course. Much as I berate them, there’s actually nothing to stop a cloned layout being fantastic in it’s own right, but these particular ones (the 390/4 model) just don’t offer enough of the good stuff I’ve come to expect from the ride type. Gold Rusher in particular is an even more undecorated version of the under-decorated ride that follows it, complete with out-of-place tyre-driven section next to some wood, and so is about as copy and paste as you can get.
And here’s the original. For the fantastic park that is Motiongate, Green Hornet is underwhelmingly themed for a ride based on a movie franchise. Looks aside, there’s something about the more compact layout design that doesn’t sell it well. It comes with lots more twisting and turning which all leans on the repetetive side and gives of an air of certain common fairground coasters. Given that there isn’t actually much separating a lot of these, the single bunny hop just can’t compete with those that have multiple.
Aside from the wonderful aspect of interaction that’s inherent with a rollercoaster at Gröna Lund I just don’t remember Vilda Musen riding that well. The layout is certainly inventive and unique, but it simply can’t do much with it’s height differential and relies a lot on Wild Mouse style laterals and sharp transitions. Which fits the name perfectly I suppose.
I took the same sort of impression away from Tiki-Waka once I could actually tell what was going on amidst the rainstorm. It looks fantastic for starters, though with so much track located directly above pathway it’s a little meandering and lacks a bit of dynamic range even though it tries to be far more inventive than earlier examples with wacky track shaping and the like.
Straight back into the highly similar designs, Cobra is quite formulaic but rather enjoyable for it. Twisty section. Lateral section. Twisty section. Airtime section. Twisty Section. You know where you stand with it – in a field.
Essentially the same ride as the above, just with more accentuated hills and drops (plus a bonus helix) at the end, along with a nicer Norse vibe and the partial setting over water.
And the original is the same as that, except much more nicely themed again, integrated deeper into the landscape, efficiently operated and has a hilarious German question on a sign that appears out of nowhere, mid castle.
Though suspiciously reminiscent of the 390/4, the 380/4 came many years beforehand and has that certain spark that was missing on the later attempts. Again the interaction with theming and setting help things along nicely, but overall it had more vigour and purpose for whatever reason.
Though the almighty RCDB lists it as fully custom, as far as I can tell and recall this is a mirror image of the original (or the 480/4), with some slight tweaks to profiling here and there. The last drop under the bridge there is stretched out for instance, to go with yet more genius interaction with the surroundings. Once again I specifically remember this one riding just that bit harder and faster on the day we happened to experience it and sometimes that’s all you get to judge it from.
I rode all of this top 5 within the space of a few weeks on our most recent roadtrip through Europe and though they contain the most variety amongst everything we’ve seen so far, they’re also the hardest to separate in terms of enjoyment. Aside from having completed the set, the fact that they were all a cut above the rest was the inspiration for spotlighting them in a list like this in the first place. In trying new things with quirky designs, there’s a much greater range of forces to be found and that’s something I’m all about when it comes to ride layouts. Speed Rockets does that perfectly with strange double downs, whippy overbanked turns and a twisted approach to those bunny hills.
There’s charm by the bucketload to be found here with Rattenmühle, we’d bigged it up amongst ourselves for years (based on name alone) and it didn’t disappoint. The car design alone is worthy of the top half, yet there’s a station full of mischievous rats and a mischievous layout to match it. Even little details like the pre-lift drop and the slightly odd top hat-style element show us again that there’s so much more to be done than just helices.
While leaning back on the much more traditional Wild Mouse approach again in terms of fairgroundness and compact-icity, the modern Gesengte Sau is vertically huge in comparison to all the other layouts and finally makes proper use of that extra height differential with some rather cool bigger drops. With more block sections than ever (ones that it just happened to be ploughing straight through when we rode it, to the point of causing the ride system safely shut down on more than one occasion), there’s plenty of ride length to be had to and it’s all rather above average from start to finish. Which means I loved it and Austria has a strong Gerstlauer Bobsled game.
I have a confession to make regarding this ride, one that I never mustered the courage to bring up in the recent trip report about it. I lost my hat on it. It feels like such an embarassing rookie error that should never have been made by someone who has travelled the world riding four figures of this type of thing and I am rather traumatised by the mere thought of the whole ordeal. All I can put it down to is how unexpectedly amazing Heiße Fahrt was, a disaster that’s testament to the coaster’s power. In believing I was fully prepared for whatever it could throw at me, the fact that does absolutely everything that’s great about the rides above, but better, caught me off guard. I was so distracted by how much I enjoyed it that I forgot about the simple things like worldly posessions jammed between my knees.
If we’ve learnt anything from this list it’s how well the ride type lends itself to theming and integration with the surroundings. Small punchy layouts with compact manouevers fit perfectly around any feature you want, unlike those big hulking hyper coasters. And so the standout of this particular category took it all a stage further and constructed the ride entirely indoors. Themed to the vampire hunting film franchise, this building is densely packed with scary setpieces and moments of interaction that simply bring the overall experience to another level. With all the visual spectacle going on, it puts the hardware to fantastic use by means of hidden surprises in those violent drops and turns and the end result is a quality themed attraction of the highest order.