Location: Heide-Park Soltau, Soltau, Germany
Opening Year: 2001
Built By: Intamin A.G.
Top Speed: 74 MPH
Height: 159 feet
Colossos is a wooden roller coaster built by Intamin A.G. of Switzerland for a park called Heide-Park in Germany. At first glance, it seems like your everyday, normal roller coaster – and in a way, it is. But beneath its nondescript exterior lies a fundamental shift in the ways wooden roller coasters are built.
For centuries, wooden roller coasters have all been constructed using the same method. Several strips of wood would be placed on top of each other, then a “running rail” made of steel, referred to as “strap rails”, would be placed over the several layers of wood.
This method was cost-effective, easy to build, and was used in wooden roller coaster construction for centuries, beginning with the very first roller coasters in the early 1800’s. Even today, the vast majority of new wooden roller coasters are built using this method.
While this method is effective, it also has its drawbacks; the biggest drawback is maintaining the profile of the track. Wood is susceptible to the vagaries of nature, more than steel will ever be. It requires a lot of maintenance to keep wooden roller coasters stay smooth and rideable. The layers of wood, over time, would be bent out of shape, expand, or contract depending on the weather. All this makes for a lot of hard work; it’s not unusual to see a wooden roller coaster go down for a few weeks at a time to undergo a process called “retracking”, which is essentially what it sounds like – the track is ripped apart and replaced with fresh wood. While this ensures quality, it can also be expensive.
In the early 2000’s, Intamin – once again at the forefront – introduced a new way of building wooden roller coasters, affectionally called the “Plug-N-Play”.
In a “Plug-N-Play” wooden coaster, the track was made out of a single, solid piece of wood – eliminating the need to “layer” strips of wood like before. This improvement made for easier construction – since one could simply “snap” the pieces into place – and required less maintenance.
This was the result – the very first “Plug-N-Play” woodie opened in 2001 at Heide-Park Soltau in Germany.
Following Colossos, many other new-breed wooden coasters would be built in the ensuing decade. Balder at Liseberg, Sweden. El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure, Newark, New Jersey. And T-Express at Everland, South Korea (which I’ll get to ride this summer!).
All of them would go on to have flawless track records, open to some of the best reviews from roller coaster critics, and require much less maintenance.
I think it’s not a stretch to say that a new era of wooden roller coasters has dawned.