[Editors Note: Attraction Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights a different SDC attraction each week]
Powderkeg is another in a long lineage of unique and innovative Silver Dollar City rides and attractions. This one-of-a-kind air powered family launch coaster opened in 2005, but its story doesn’t begin there. Powderkeg sits on the site what was once another unique one-of-a-kind SDC ride: Buzzsaw Falls, a Premier Water Coaster prototype that opened in 1999. In typical prototype form, Buzzsaw Falls was riddled with mechanical issues stemming from being one of the first rides ever to transition from a river raft style ride to a roller coaster. Just five years after its inception, Silver Dollar City announced plans to build a completely new experience in its place. Powderkeg actually utilizes a large section of track from Buzzsaw, which includes the long turn through the woods and the lift-hill. The original Buzzsaw track is easy to spot because it doesn’t have the large spine that the modern S&S track utilizes.
In true Herschend form, Powderkeg pays homage to it’s lineage in several ways. The main queue area and station building from Buzzsaw Falls was reconfigured and reused for Powderkeg. While waiting in line, you’ll notice a few pieces of the Buzzsaw Falls that were apparently “blasted” away when Powderkeg took over. Most noticeable is a large section of busted and rusted track that leans against the queue building. Looking back as you cross the bridge from the queue building, you’ll also notice one of Buzzsaw Falls’ original boats lodged into the roof of the queue building. The concrete trough underneath Powderkeg’s break run is also original from Buzzsaw, and used to have torrent of water coursing through it during Powderkeg’s early years. Powderkeg’s maintenance also once belonged to Buzzsaw Falls, and used to include a small section on the side that housed the namesake Buzzsaw which popped out to scare Buzzsaw Falls riders as they started the coaster section of the ride.
Powderkeg’s layout was heavily influenced by Alan Schilke, who has now become a legendary ride designer through his work with S&S and now Rocky Mountain Coasters. Outlaw Run is another one of his designs. Powderkeg’s design is also notable for its use of S&S’s adjustable restraint technology, which allows riders as small as 42” inches to ride alongside full-sized adults.
Powderkeg starts out with one of the more unusual tricks of any coaster: an uphill track transfer system. The train rolls forward out of the station onto a stretch of transfer track, which moves the train sideways and up an incline into a themed shack. In the shack, the track lines up with the rest of the ride, a few effects and a voice dialog go off, and the train rolls out onto the launch track to be blasted off. The train first makes a complete stop, sirens go off (apparently required by Missouri law?), then finally: whoosh! A pillar of fire bursts out of the shack behind the train, as train shoots off with a force that catches everyone off guard. Riders shoot over the first hill, which provides major airtime which lasts all the way down the preceding curved drop. Then riders crest a perfectly parabolic airtime hill, which also provides some major air. An over-banked turn comes next, in which riders fly high into the air, making a 180 degree turn-around in a fashion that sends them nearly upside down. From there the train roars over another hill, but this one ends with another “high-performance” over-banked turn which shoots riders into a low to the ground.180 degree hairpin turn complete with 90 degree banking. The excitement drops a little at this point, as the train smoothly flies through a long curve stretching through the woods. Coming out of the curve, the trains hits the brakes at the bottom of a mid-course lift hill, then proceeds upwards, giving riders fantastic views of Wildfire and the wooded valleys surrounding the park. At the top of the lift, the train makes a funky turn-around before diving 100 ft downwards. The track then shoots upwards once more, bringing riders into a crazy over-banked helix. Then, unfortunately, the ride is over, as the brake run is all that’s left.
There were a few extra tricks and gimmicks that were intended to be included Powderkeg, the most obvious of which was a splash-down effect after the drop from the lift-hill. The concrete basins were constructed for this effect soon after the ride was built, but the ride’s sensors turned out to be very sensitive to water so the effect was never completed and has since been mostly removed. If you can recall any other special effects that were originally meant to be included, let me know! I know there were others, but I wasn’t paying as much attention at the time.
Powderkeg was originally mentioned in a series of ride concept survey that were sent out around 2003-2004. Silver Dollar City has utilized guest surveys since Miss Mary’s time, but I believe these were the first to utilize the internet and caught the attention of enthusiasts like myself. Other concepts considered can be found on our Old SDC Ride Concepts page.
Further details and info on our SDC Wiki page