I don’t think Dollywood’s Tennesee Tornado is very well-known even in some enthusiast circles. Maybe it’s because it has a relatively short track length. Maybe it’s because it only has three loops and not five or six. Or, maybe it’s because it was designed by Arrow. Once, a leading designer of steel roller coasters, Arrow was a fixture in the amusement industry. They have a number of landmark roller coasters, but also many coasters that give punishing rides. The excitement and enjoyment of a good loop is easily lost when you’re too busy getting your head bounced off of those hard horse-collar restraints.
Tennessee Tornado – Theme & Scenic Lift Hill
Thankfully, Tennessee Tornado is a big exception to what’s nearly a rule. Built in 1999, the terrain looper offers a surprisingly smooth, but brief ride. Like a few of the other rides at Dollywood, it’s built right on the side of a mountain. The station has a down-home country theme and its adorned with posters that have tornado tall tales. In my two visits to the park, it’s been a near walk-on, so don’t expect to have much time to check out the queue. Still, the look of the station was worth noting as many parks go the sparse route.
The trains had some theming touches as well. They looked great with a brown, worn metallic look and rivets. The seat and restraints are the same run-of-the mill Arrow design. After the train moves out of the station, it takes a u-turn to the left. Then, it turns to the right and climbs the lift hill on the edge of the mountain. While the train might feel familiar, the view from the lift won’t be. You’re reminded of the Dollywood’s pretty, mountainous terrain as you look out from the lift. Don’t look too long. If you’re seated towards the back of the train you’ll get pull over the crest and get treated to a surprising burst of speed. Suddenly, the gentle scenic climb is over and the ‘Tornado has grabbed everyone’s attention.
Tennessee Tornado – A Looping Mountain Coaster
After getting pulled over the crest, the train drops just a bit and takes a speedy turn to the right. You almost get a ‘down the drain’ type of feeling as you find a tunnel at the end of this banked turn. The train plummets down into a black hole; a tunnel that follows the slope of the mountain. Flying back out into the sunlight, you rise right up into a massive vertical loop. It looks a bit wider than your typical tear drop-shaped loop. The loop’s large size give it an almost B&M-like feel as it seems like you’re upside-down for quite a while.
The train returns to the ground and rises up a hill. It takes a turn and then dives into a standard vertical loop that’s followed immediately by a sidewinder loop. Then, the train zips its way through the first large loop and back to the final brakes just a few seconds later.
Did Arrow Save the Best for Last?
What’s also shockingly B&M-like is Tennessee Tornado’s surprisingly smooth ride. As a knee-jerk reaction I was prepared for the typical punishment, but it never came. As a Pete Owens from Dollywood shared, Tennessee Tornado was Arrow’s last looping roller coaster. It certainly seems like the company was on the right track so to speak. Maybe they had found the recipe for a much more enjoyable looping experience. Sadly, it was too late. As the story goes, all of the development issues with X at Magic Mountain a few years later caused the company to go bankrupt. One has to wonder if the company had designed more coasters like Tennessee Tornado sooner, if they’d still be around. This is a short, but very satisfying ride with a unique layout. It’s another great reason to get down to Pigeon Forge. Final Rating – 7.0 (Good)
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