Drachen Fire @ Busch Gardens | Defunct Roller Coasters

Defunct Roller Coasters Roller Coaster Reviews

A Look Back at the Legendary Drachen Fire at Busch GardensDrachen Fire - Busch Gardens
Drachen Fire was an infamous roller coaster that lived in the Rhineland, Germany section of Busch Gardens Williamsburg from 1992 to 1998. While it had a short run, it’s easily one of the most well-known defunct coasters in past years. I will relay the background story I’ve seen several times on the coaster enthusiast circuit. I have no way of validating the B&M involvement part of the story. But here’s the folklore of Drachen Fire, the most famous defunct coaster of the past twenty years.

The story began when Busch planned to build two steel looping roller coasters. One was to be built at their African themed park in Tampa, Florida and one at their European-themed park in Williamsburg, Virginia. They had ordered the two coasters from new-comers Bolliger & Mabillard. At the time they were a young company and had not done a sitdown looping coaster. So, they decided to only work on one of the two projects. The result is my all-time favorite coaster Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Drachen Fire - Busch Gardens
Enter Arrow, the company we can thank for two of the park’s other gems: Loch Ness Monster and Big Bad Wolf. Busch had luck with Arrow on those two installations, so they were hired to finish the Williamsburg coaster. The designs for Drachen Fire were like nothing the veteran builders had done before. With the use of state-of-the-art computer modeling the company said it could deliver the unique steel looper. And so, Drachen Fire was born.

A Dragon Like No Other
Drachen Fire boasted several never-before seen elements. The ride opened with a wrap around corkscrew performed during the initial 145′ drop (pictured above). Next, was the camelback hill designed for airtime. An element with two back-to-back inversions called a cobra roll followed. After exiting the cobra roll, riders hit a short brake run. Right out of the brake run the train dove into a diving corkscrew. Then there was the cutback which was like a corkscrew but riders entered the element the same way that they exited. And finally, there was one last standard corkscrew, and helix and then the ride was over. Drachen Fire’s trains had a sleeker design and lights on the sides which must have looked really cool at night.

Drachen Fire was Too Wild for Public
While enthusiasts drooled at the unprecedented elements, the general public was too busy being pummeled by the roughness to marvel at the ride’s uniqueness. Complaints of head and neck pains (and I would assume low ridership) prompted Busch to take measures to renovate the ride. The diving corkscrew after the brake run (pictured below) was removed in an effort to reduce the punishment the beast was giving riders. The renovation wasn’t enough and in July of 1998 the ride was closed.

Too Late
Unfortunately, by the time I made it to Busch to ride Drachen Fire (I think it was the SummerDrachen Fire - Busch Gardens of 1998) it was in its standing, but not operating phase. I remember viewing those coils of electric blue steel rising from the green landscape of Busch Gardens from atop Loch Ness’ lift. The lifeless wonder was also visible from the park’s steam train route as it passed through Germany. Busch attempted to sell Drachen Fire and many hoped it would be bought and relocated. Unfortunately, no buyers emerged and the ride was scrapped and recycled in the Fall of 2001. Today, the old station is used for storage and the area where it once stood, next to Das Festhaus is closed off.

A Tale of Two Designers: B&M vs. Arrow
The difference between the head-bang-into the over the shoulder restraints ride of an Arrow looper and the distinctively smooth, 99% pain free ride on a B&M looper lies in the location of the center of gravity. B&M designed their coasters with the heart of the riders as the center of gravity while Arrow made the center of the trains their center of gravity. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the demise of Arrow in 1999 and the continued success of B&M, but the proof is in the pudding. Save a few exceptions like Demon at Six Flags Great America, Loch Ness Monster, and a few others, Arrow coasters punish riders while B&M’s are smooth and enjoyable thrill machines.

What’s Your Take?
Anyone get to ride Drachen Fire before its untimely demise? Leave a comment below.

101 Comments

  1. I lived a couple of hours from BG and spent one summer up there for summer school. I remember riding it the summer it opened and it was intense. To this day I remember my now brother in law and myself commenting about how much it beat us up but with the speed and inversions it was too intense to not ride again. I rode it several times over the next few years and then after coming back to the park in the 2000s saw it was gone. Really I could understand why as it beat up folks bad, but I really liked it back in the day, now as a little older maybe not quite like I used to.

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  2. Have you all looked at the tracks and supports of Drachen Fire? Becuase when they melted the steel of Drachen Fire(both tracks and support)since the support was lighter than the tracks when they mixed and melted it made it a lighter color. From there they didn't scrape it but molded it into support colomns. And they were used for the GRIFFON, the trains were taken apart and used for the Griffon. Half of Griffon is Drachen Fire. Instead of selling the parts and steel they used it for the Griifon, so now when you ride,or look at Griffon your riding/seeing a diff version of Drachen Fire. It still lives on.

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    • Sounds like a nice bit of BG folklore, but I seriously doubt that there are any shared parts between Drachen Fire and Griffon. Especially the trains since they were designed by two different companies.

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    • stillstanding…

      that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It still lives on my $*#…it's a roller coaster. And if it is melted for columns in Griffon, then the ride is no more.

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  3. I loved Drachen Fire. I too had to remove my earrings to ride. Once you rode it you understood how to brace your head for all the rough spots. It was one of the best coasters ever. I'm sad it's gone. I believe rough spots were well the worth the fun.

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  4. I am going on a trip to Busch Gardens this Aug 20th. I was looking forward to getting on this rollercoaster. I havent been to the park since the summer of '96. I am def getting on the GRIFFON, but Drachen Fire was one of my faves, and will be missed. R.i.p. Anyone ever hear of bracing their heads against the head rest?? This coaster kicked $(#!!!

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  5. Greatest Coaster Ever. Got to ride it several times – and it had a great location next to Das Festhaus. After having been to both Busch parks over several years, several Six Flags and Paramount parks (inlcuding Kings Dominion, north of Williamsburg)- an avid coaster rider – I can't say enough how amazing this coaster was. The corkscrew inverted roll was the best (cobra roll?). The only thing that I have ridden that comes close is the HULK at Islands of Adventure in Orlando – one engineer who worked on the Hulk told me he was trying to mimic the barrel-roll of an F-15! The big bad wolf and the Loch Ness monster were tamed by the Drachen Fire and there really was not enough "coaster" publicity to get people excited about it outside or inside the park – I mean I am a coaster junkie and I did not even hear about the ride until I got to the park, and then only because I Saw it next to Das Festhaus. We rode it all afternoon the first time I went there. I don't even remember seeing the Drachen Fire in BUsch's commercials – like you would see the Loch-Ness… It did bang you around some – you had to keep your head back – against the headrest – people with poor instruction following skills would stick their head out to look around and get the bang-bang. It was so high up, there was a lot to look at!!

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  6. My daughter, ex husband and I rode DrachenFyre in the summer of 1997. It yanked, braked, slowed down, braked, rattled and kept going till the end. After getting off, I found out it was made by Arrow of Utah. Arrow is also known for Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain and several other horribly rough rides. I have looked at the original designs and concepts and too bad they didn't wait for a top notch designer like B&M. However, I feel sad that they did not bring in B&M or somebody later because that coaster had MASSIVE potential, especially in a redesign. WHat a dumb thing to do-scrap and melt down a great design. Shame on you, Williamsburg! BTW, still chuckling that Arrow went under, did some innovations like Revolution at Six Flags and then rode on their laurels. ANy way, I commiserate, sorry to see DF gone. And Big Bad Wolf!

    Reply
    • Yeah, I do wonder what could have been if Busch could have waited one more year for B&M to be available. They designed the ride originally, but weren't large enough to handle another project that year, so Arrow stepped in.

      If you're referring to Revolution at SFMM that was built by Schwarzkopf not Arrow. Thanks for the comment. At least you can say you rode it, for what it's worth.

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  7. I do not normally ride roller coasters although I have riden every one that has been at Busch Gardens. Drachen Fire was my favorite. Although violent, I enjoyed it. Not being a fan of riding roller coasters, I try them at least once to say I did. That one was my favorite. I rode that one more than any other until it's closure. Gone but not forgotten along with the Big Bad Wolf. I visit Busch every summer and still ride the train to see remnants of Drach. The only things you can see now is the platform hut (now used for storage) and one of the concrete slabs that had a support leg on it.

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  8. I rode this ride with my oldest grandson the year it opened. He and I managed to ride five straight shots. He's crazy and I'm not much better; but we love coasters of all kinds. Twenty-seven shots in a row on 'Grizzly" in KD, not as punishing as DF. Like I said, I'm a bit short on common sense when coaster riding is involved.

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  9. Is it true that Drachen Fire was melted into supports for Griffon?

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    • No.

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      • It says on wikipedia that it was i kinda belive that because Griffon and Drachen fire are the same colors

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  10. I worked there the year it opened and BG had a special party for employees before it was open to the public.So my girlfriend and I got to be one of the first groups to ride it and I loved it so much I rode it 21 times in a row.My girlfriend after the first ride ran to the fence and puked in the bushes I was like hell yeah I am going again…later.(I was 17 at the time)

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  11. I worked in Busch Gardens the summer Drachen Fire opened and used to go there late in the evenings on my days off…we had free admission to the park in our off hours. As long as there were no people cued for your car, you could ride it continuously. I loved the cars in the back, the way they get pulled by the gravity of the front cars. It was simply an amazingly intense ride. I didn't ride it because it was the smoothest ride I have ever ridden, or I would have gone for a merry go round. it was pure adrenaline with amazing drops turns flips and curves. My personal favorite coaster and no rougher than a wooden coaster, but a lot faster. Certain temperatures made the track even faster than normal and since I worked in the same area as the maintenance people I knew when it was. In 1992, they weren't trying to slow it at all and I heard the max speed of it was 110mph. I rode it pretty close to that speed quite a few times. Great coaster, great loss.

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  12. I do not recall this ride as being brutal. In fact, it really sucks that they took this ride out, but other fun (but headache-causing) rides like the Shockwave and Grizzly at Kings Dominion, still exist. A lot of rides cause this kind of stress to the body when they are rated as Top Thrill Rides, with excessive speeds. What do you expect?

    Regardless, everyone has their opinions, and mine on this ride is that it is truly missed!! My one and only year I got to ride was in 1997.

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  13. I got to ride it when it first came out. My husband & I had seen it on the discovery channel. When we got to the car loading area and the signs read "remove earrings" I knew we were in for it. When we got off the coaster we were done for the rest of the day with dull, mind numbing headaches. When we returned to the park a year or two later, the ride was closed. We took the train ride to get up close to it. It stood there silent, tall, strong and yet seemed so weak & vulnerable. It's a shame it didn't work, but @ least I can say I got to ride it.

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  14. Yes I came on opening day when this coaster was first introduced. I can see why everyone complained about it, my girl at the time got a headache from it on her first time riding it. My neck was sore mainly from it from all the head shaking it would cause. Not withstanding I rode it like 4x that day, but after that time never road it again. It would keep banging your head back and forth in the harness which was unconfortable to say the least.

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  15. I remember the Dragon Fire. I rode it in 1993, when I was 13. I do remember my having head and neck pains when I got off, but I didn't care at the time, because I was finally able to ride roller coasters, and I would have gotten on anything. My sister rode it in the 1992 season, and had told me about its roughness. I still thought it was fun though. It is for BG's best interests that they took the Dragon Fire down, because sooner or later, they would have had a lawsuit.

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  16. I rode the Drakenfire at Buschgardens, Williamsburg, VA. during the first real vacation I took as an adult. I rode it with an ex girlfriend one of the best girlfriends iv'e ever had. I have fond memories of the visit to BG and the coaster. It's very sad to hear that they scrapped the ride. I wish someone would open up a roller coaster graveyard in the dessert somewhere. then all the old coaster could still live on. Imagine a giant amusement park in the dessert full of all the old rides that would be awsome.

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  17. I rode the Draken Fire in 93 and 94. It was a ride in the back of the park so at closing it had short wait times. If you rode in the front seat it was a pretty smooth ride. On a hot summer day at close I was able to ride 9 consecutive times…. when exiting the ride I did however get sick! I think it was from dehydration though. LOL.

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  18. I actually sent a letter to Busch Gardens asking if they would rebuild Drachen Fire. Does anybody think it will be effective

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    • not unless a
      LOT of people write a letter or sign it like a petition. good luck tho 🙂

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  19. I rode Drachen Fire several times when I went back to Williamsburg for the wedding of two old college friends in the early 90s.

    I remember it being a walk-on; I guess its reputation was already bad by that point. I was getting over my youthful chickenness over roller coasters and I was impressed by the ride, but, yes, it was very rough with constant headbanging–the only time I've ever really experienced that on a coaster.

    Not being a big coaster enthusiast, I assumed all that headbanging was typical of post-1990 coasters, and after that day I found myself thinking that, while it had been fun, I wouldn't want to ride a big modern coaster again for a long time. And it's only recently that I've realized that most of today's giants are not really like that.

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  20. I rode Drachen Fire lots of times… it was one of the best coasters Busch Gardens ever had. That loop at the beginning (pictured above) got me EVERY time… I LOVED it!! Great ride… I was a teenager then and would go to the park to ride that… it was a huge deal to me. As far as hurting to ride it… didn't hurt any more than Flight of Fear at Kings Dominion (before they took out the shoulder harnesses) as far as I can remember. Another good thing… don't ever remember having to wait in a huge long line for it either… hmmmm…

    Reply

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