In the wake of the highly-anticipated opening of Iron Gwazi we decided it was time to finally do a ranking of North America’s RMC Iron Horse coasters. We’ve wanted to do it for a while – but of course we had to wait until our local purple crocodile was ready to perform!
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As always, articles like these are totally subjective – everything we’re saying is just our opinion and should be treated as such. We don’t mean to present anything opinion based as fact; we just want to let our opinions help articulate who we are as enthusiasts, and help illustrate what we look for in a great coaster. Anyway, let’s dive in!
11. Twisted Timbers – Kings Dominion
Welp – every list has to start somewhere. Somebody’s gotta be picked last, and this time it’s Twister Timbers. There’s nothing technically wrong with the ride, but we will say that if you’re familiar with Iron Horse coasters, Twisted Timbers will feel like well-trodden territory. The fact that the ride opened the same year as Steel Vengeance doesn’t help either. Twisted Timbers also serves as a nagging reminder of how peculiar-yet-uninteresting Hurler was.
10. Storm Chaser – Kentucky Kingdom
Number ten on our list is a solid ride, but it enjoys the dubious distinction of “Ugliest RMC”: Storm Chaser at Kentucky Kingdom. The ride has a handful of firsts, like “First non-Six Flags Iron Horse Coaster” and “First All-Steel Iron Horse Coaster,” but the ride itself is largely derivative of the five years worth of Iron Horse coasters before it, with little setting it apart other than its run-down-looking plot of land. At least they chose the “good” side of Twisted Twins to remake into Storm Chaser.
9. New Texas Giant – Six Flags Over Texas
Okay so: this is one that should probably be higher up on the list since it’s the O.G., but at this point New Texas Giant feels very safe and mild compare to each of the Iron Horse follow-ups. Rather than a “peaked early” prototype scenario like, say, B&M’s Looping Coaster with Kumba, this is more of a this-was-revolutionary-for-its-time-but-we-were-only-getting-started, Wildcat at Hersheypark kind of thing. Still a good ride nonetheless, and the only RMC that gives riders a break from inversions.
8. Twisted Cyclone – Six Flags Over Georgia
Spring 2018 was a historically stacked era for RMC, with five new coasters from the firm opening within a 3-month period. Despite being overshadowed by the new Single Rail product line and Cedar Fair’s much-anticipated first RMC projects, Twisted Cyclone manages to command attention in unlikely ways. At a mere 2400ft (732m), Twisted Cyclone doesn’t overstay its welcome – rather, it fills every moment of its modest length with memorable moments, like the “victory rolls”–esque double inverting turnaround, or an especially potent wave turn that narrowly clears the first drop. It also has the coolest looking rolling stock of any coaster in the country.
7. Twisted Colossus – Six Flags Magic Mountain
This ride is so polarizing for us that it was substantially harder to place on this list than any of the other 10 RMCs combined. When Twisted Colossus duels (which seems to be an ever-scarcer occurrence), it’s the best coaster on this list. When it doesn’t duel, it’s so frustrating that it makes us want to banish it to the bottom of the list. In the end, the ride finds itself mid-pack – it’s a solid ride even without the dueling, and the double-lift, double-ride execution is certainly unique – but damn if a perfect, double-duel ride on Twisted Colossus doesn’t totally ruin every non-dueling ride thereafter.
6. Wicked Cyclone – Six Flags New England
Now we’re really entering the “elite” territory for RMC hybrids; while most RMCs are stand-out rides within their respective park lineups, a few of them really stand out even among the other RMCs. Wicked Cyclone is peak Iron Horse: an audacious, ill-conceived wood coaster as source material and an emboldened RMC at the helm ready to push boundaries. We often feel that most Iron Horses can only be as good as the canvas they have to work with, and Wicked Cyclone might just be the best example of a well-intended, obtuse woodie being elevated to its full potential by RMC.
5. Joker – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Narrowly beating out Wicked Cyclone for a spot in our Top 5 is Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s Joker. This ride earns high praise from us for one major reason in particular: We loved Roar. Joker will be remembered as the first Iron Horse conversion whose foundation wasn’t a troubled mega-woodie of a bygone era, but rather a solid wooden coaster at a park whose only motivation to “RMC-it” was to simply do something new with what they already had. Like Wicked Cyclone, Joker elevates Roar to unexpected heights, but in Joker’s case there’s still vestiges of clever GCI design choices that RMC managed to preserve beautifully.
4. Steel Vengeance – Cedar Point
We’re going to get a lot of hate for this one, but if you know us at all, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Steel Vengence is a sufficiently executed exercise in excess so bloated and replete with Iron Horse platitudes that it’s precisely clear where we scraped the bottom of the RMC barrel. Another roll here, a few more hops here; once the ride has demonstrated what it does best (most of which is in the first half), it continues to fire on all cylinders with no concern for whether anything in the second half was done more thoughtfully or potently elsewhere on the ride already. Once SteVe‘s kidney-busting, 6-hop finale finally subsides, you might find yourself asking how other coasters seemingly manage to do more with less.
3. Iron Rattler – Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Speaking of “doing less with more,” the impossibly concise Iron Rattler comes to mind when we consider rides that pack a lot of substance into a short duration. In addition to having the most interesting topography of any Iron Horse coaster, Iron Rattler still wins the “Best First Drop” award – taller and steeper drops will never be a cliffside drop into a quarry – and “Best Under Ground Tunnel” award for Iron Horses by default because – well – it’s the only Iron Horse that has one. The drop off the cliff right before the tunnel is also a major standout, and the ride lowkey has the perfect number of inversions: one.
2. Medusa Steel Coaster – Six Flags Mexico
While Iron Rattler has the best topography of any coaster on this list, Medusa Steel Coaster definitely wins “Best Overall Terrain / Setting” for any Iron Horse coaster. Precariously perched on Six Flags Mexico’s dramatic hillside, Medusa Steel Coaster accounts for probably this biggest leap in Iron Horse design – the ride’s ambitious layout and tremendous length were a huge departure from the “safe” and “short” qualities of the first two Iron Horse coasters, and as years pass it’s more and more clear that Medusa Steel Coaster is the bar upon which all other hybrids could be judged. Few RMC projects can claim to be as inspired as Medusa Steel Coaster was, but chalk it up to “third time’s the charm” and the already-pretty-strong CCI Medusa serving as the foundation.
1. Iron Gwazi – Busch Gardens Tampa
We were in a very privileged position going into Iron Gwazi: we’d ridden ten Iron Horse coasters, three Topper Track coasters, two Single-Rail coasters, and an enviable list of other Alan Schilke-designed rides. We have something we like to call “RMC fatigue,” wherein we find that the saturation of RMCs (particularly hybrids) have left us feeling jaded–verging–on–ambivalent about their products. Boy were we in for a surprise with Iron Gwazi, which we could really call the “un-Iron Horse” if its departure from the pedigree’s conventions were any more pronounced. Big, sweeping elements swell and tower over Busch Gardens Tampa, and the airtime moments are beautiful and sustained. Not the violent ragdoll-ing territory of Steel Vengeance, but the elegance and precision of, say, peak Bolliger and Mabillard. The inversions are few but bold: the “Death Roll” may be the best inversion on an RMC, though we need to ride Untamed to be sure. There’s no trace of the GCI Gwazi here, but that’s O.K. – there isn’t really a trace of any other coaster on Iron Gwazi despite looking on paper like it could be “just another hybrid.” Busch Gardens wins this battle handily for us, but the next opponent, Fun Spot Atlanta’s ArieForce One, is already looming on the horizon.