Lightning Rod (roller coaster)

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Lightning Rod
Lightning Rod main entrance
Park sectionJukebox Junction
Coordinates35°48′21″N 83°31′44″W / 35.8058°N 83.5289°W / 35.8058; -83.5289
Opening dateJune 13, 2016
Cost$22 million
General statistics
TypeWood – Launched
ManufacturerRocky Mountain Construction
DesignerAlan Schilke
ModelTopper Track - Custom
Track layoutTerrain
Lift/launch systemLinear Synchronous Motor
Drop165 ft (50 m)
Length3,800 ft (1,200 m)
Speed73 mph (117 km/h)
Max vertical angle73°
Height restriction48 in (122 cm)
Trains2 trains with 6 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows for a total of 24 riders per train.
Lightning Rod at RCDB
Pictures of Lightning Rod at RCDB

Lightning Rod is a wooden roller coaster located at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Marketed as the world's first launched wooden roller coaster, the ride is themed to hot rod cars from the 1950s and was manufactured by Rocky Mountain Construction. It was originally planned to debut on opening day in 2016, but a problem with the ride's unique launch system delayed the opening to June 13, 2016. A mechanical issue occurred the following week, resulting in an extended closure that caused Lightning Rod to miss most of its debut season.


Dolly Parton first unveiled plans for a new roller coaster at a Dollywood amusement park presentation on August 7, 2015.[3] Known as Lightning Rod, it would become the first wooden roller coaster in the world to use a launch system instead of a traditional chain lift hill.[3] Featuring a peak speed of 73 mph (117 km/h), it would also become the world's fastest among wooden coasters.[3] The ride, estimated to cost $22 million, represented the largest investment in park history on a single attraction as of 2016.[3] The investment is one component of a multi-year expansion costing $300 million, which began in 2013.[3]

Lightning Rod was scheduled to open with the park on March 15, 2016, but the opening was postponed.[3][4][5] On March 24, 2016, Fred Grubb of Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) stated that the roller coaster's magnetic launch system, which was being developed by an outside contractor, "would not be able to perform at the level required for proper operation".[6] Grubb did not elaborate any further on the nature of the problem, nor did he estimate the length of the delay.[6] Lightning Rod opened occasionally for "technical rehearsals", where select guests could experience the ride, but it didn't open officially to the public until June 13, 2016.[7]

On June 20, 2016, Dollywood announced that Lightning Rod would be closed while a recalled mechanical part was being replaced on the roller coaster, by request of Rocky Mountain Construction.[8] Park officials re-opened the ride, again as a "technical rehearsal", on June 29, 2016.[9] On September 5, 2016, Dollywood announced that the ride was once again fully operational.[10]

Mayfield Dairy released a co-branded ice cream flavor called "Smoky Mountain Fudge" advertising Lightning Rod.[11]

Ride experience[edit]

Lightning Rod's trains are themed to hot rod cars from the 1950s.[12] Each train has six cars, each seating four people (in two rows of two riders), for a total capacity of 24 riders per train.[12]

Lightning Rod departs the station via a right-hand turn and is launched up its first hill, accelerating from zero to 45 mph. After a short drop, the train crests and descends its tallest hill, dropping 165 feet and attaining its maximum speed of 73 miles per hour.[12][10] Lightning Rod then climbs to the left and enters the first of several steeply-banked turns. Dropping out of the turn, the train rises to the right, then snaps to the left and back to the right again.[10] After another right-hand turn, Lightning Rod enters another snap-left-then-right sequence. The train enters a double-up climb before descending the mountain through a sequence of four consecutive drops prior to banking right and passing near the station. The train then enters its final turn, a climbing 180-degree turn to the right, before dropping and entering the final brake run, leading to a right-turn back into the station.[10]


Lightning Rod claimed the Best New Ride of 2016 from the 2016 Golden Ticket Awards.[13]

Golden Ticket Awards: Top wood Roller Coasters
Year 2016 2017 2018
Ranking 11[14] 5[15] 6[16]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 15, 2016. Retrieved November 15, 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 29, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Carly Harrington (August 7, 2015). "Wood coaster, 'Lightning Rod,' is new at Dollywood for 2016". Journal Media Group. Archived from the original on August 9, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  4. ^ "Lightning Rod: World's Fastest Wooden Coaster". Dollywood. March 15, 2016. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  5. ^ "Dollywood's new "Lightning Rod" coaster delayed". March 15, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "RMC's Statement on the Delayed Opening of Lightning Rod Roller Coaster at Dollywood Theme Park". March 24, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  7. ^ "After weeks of anticipation, Lightning Rod coaster opens at Dollywood". Knoxville News Sentinel. June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  8. ^ "Spokesman: Motor locks up on Dollywood's 'Lightning Rod' coaster, causing smoke". WATE 6. June 21, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  9. ^ Thomas Novelly (June 29, 2016). "Dollywood's Lightning Rod coaster reopens after recall". Gannett Newspapers. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d "Dollywood's Lightning Rod fully operational". Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. September 5, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  11. ^ "Lightning Rod On Mayfield's Newest Ice Cream Flavor". Dolly 2016-04-27. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  12. ^ a b c "Dollywood Adds World's Fastest Wood Roller Coaster For 2016". August 7, 2015. Archived from the original on December 5, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  13. ^ Baldwin, Tim (September 2016). "Dollywood, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island win Best New Rides" (PDF). Amusement Today. Arlington, Texas: Amusement Today. 20 (6.2): 28. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  14. ^ "2016 Top 50 wood Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 20 (6.2): 46. September 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  15. ^ "2017 Top 50 wood Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 21 (6.2): 50. September 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  16. ^ "2018 Top 50 wood Roller Coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. 22 (6.2): 48. September 2018. Retrieved September 13, 2016.

External links[edit]