The Art of Attractions - October 2019
Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) sends thrill ride fans (including me) literally and figuratively over the edge in fits of ecstasy.
The Swiss company is regarded as one of the industry’s foremost roller coaster designers and manufacturers based on its renowned roster. B&M’s legendary lineup of rides numbers well over 100 and can be found at parks across the globe. But it all started with one coaster: “Iron Wolf” at Six Flags Great America in Illinois in 1990.
After 21 years inciting howls of glee on the midway, the park chain moved the stand-up coaster in 2012 to Six Flags America in Maryland, where it was renamed “Apocalypse.” For the 2019 season, Six Flags America converted the ride to a sit-down, floorless coaster and redubbed it “Firebird.”
That meant the end of the line for the original stand-up vehicles. Except it wasn’t.
“A number of us thought it would be nice to return one of the lead cars to B&M,” says Dave Johnson, director of marketing at Six Flags America. “We were aware of the train’s historical significance and value as B&M’s first coaster project.”
At IAAPA Expo 2018, Tom Iven, Six Flags’ senior vice president, U.S. park operations, broached the idea with B&M founder Walter Bolliger. He was thrilled.
“‘Iron Wolf’ has a big place in our hearts and in the history of our company,” says Sophie Bolliger, Walter’s daughter and B&M’s vice president and head of sales. The vehicle will be prominently displayed in the company’s office, she adds. “We are extremely pleased and grateful to Six Flags.”
Johnson notes the park sent the car on its way to B&M on June 26—30 years to the day when Six Flags submitted the purchase order for “Iron Wolf.”
Sometimes essential artifacts end up in parks’ boneyards or are scrapped altogether. And that’s a shame. For an industry with such a rich, colorful, and important history, it’s critical to preserve and honor the past. Speaking of which, Six Flags donated the ride’s other lead car to the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives in Texas, where it will be on display for all to enjoy.
I tip my hat to Six Flags for its thoughtful, wonderful gesture, and I encourage all of you to be mindful of preserving the legacy and history of your parks and attractions.
I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one listening for that characteristic B&M roar and looking forward to being sent over the edge.
A lifelong park fanatic, Arthur Levine has been writing newspaper and magazine travel features about the industry he loves since 1992. He’s been the Theme Parks Expert at TripSavvy.com (formerly About.com) since 2002, and is a regular contributor for USA Today.