Athol, Idaho - 07/18/1999
"Next time I'll fly..."
Silverwood Theme Park is located between Coeur D'Alene and Athol up in the northern part of Idaho. Yes, Idaho. Potatoes and sunflowers and all that, and I was almost at the Eastern limit of my car rental contract. In fact the park is unexpectedly far north of Coeur D'Alene, but only a few moments South of Athol. But nobody (except coaster nuts going to Silverwood) has ever heard of Athol, population 311. Instead everyone refers to that resort town to the South which most of us can neither pronounce nor spell properly.
I think it was jjmailman who warned me that the parking lot is across the road from the park. Approaching from the South, the first thing you see is the Grizzl...er...Timber Terror Footnote 1 with the giant letters on the side identifying the park as Silverwood. I parked the Radio Flyer in the parking lot and hiked to the park entrance. It's a pretty long walk from a space across from the Coaster Once Known as Grizzly down the parking lot, through the tunnel, and up to the entrance gate.
Admission was expensive for this trip, on the order of $25. I don't remember exactly. I do remember that there was some kind of Pepsi products discount available that I knew nothing about. To be fair, I think parks that do local couponing of his kind ought to also extend the same discount to people without coupons who can prove they live outside the park's market. But then, I'd prefer a lower gate and no discount anyway. I hate couponing.
Silverwood's entrance is set at a right angle to the park, and located at one end of the park. Straight out from the entrance is a small carousel, tucked away in a corner. Across from the carousel is access to a turn-of-the century main street, which actually faces away from the road. Passing between the buildings to their front side, you are standing on a narrow walk between a row of shops and a railroad track. On the other side of the tracks is another narrow walkway which hosts a candy store, and the customer service booth, which I believe also doubles as the airport terminal. Parked between the two paths is a motor-oil fired steam powered locomotive pulling a slew of passenger cars. I noticed on the posted schedule that the train was scheduled to depart soon, so I climbed aboard. I figured it would be a good way to kind of get a feel for the layout of the park.
Well, Silverwood isn't really an amusement park, it is a show park. I expected a train ride; what I got was a show. The train took off into the woods North of the park, alongside the highway. From the rear car our banjo-playing conductor told jokes Footnote 2 and narrated our journey. To our left was a dense evergreen forest. And I do mean dense. I swear the tree trunks were less than a foot apart. The train ride reminded me of the Knoebel's Pioneer Train, only with a narrow-gauge train instead of a miniature train. We circled around, then stopped abruptly deep in the forest. "The engineer tells me there is some trouble on the track ahead..."
It turned out to be a damsel in distress, flagging down the train. Distress, dat dress...whatever, it was a really ugly dress, and the damsel wasn't much better. She looked like she could use a shave. Then "her" brother showed up. What followed was a bit of a train-robbery scenario which escalated from stopping the train to robbing the train to blowing up the train. When the one guy said something about wanting our conductor to go through the train and get all our money I was surprised the conductor didn't say something about us having already been cleaned out at the front gate. In any case, things went terribly wrong for the bandits, and we took off. We pulled out of the woods just beyond the airstrip and blew our whistle at a passing freight train. Now we were back to civilization, as proven by the two CCI wooden coasters looming over the end of the park. We got a very quick tour of the midway, our conductor grabbed a corndog through an open concession stand window, we heard a little banjo music, and a park employee attacked the train with a Super Soaker. More than enough excitement for a 3-mile train loop!
After returning to the railway station, it was time to finally explore the park on foot. After crossing the railroad track to the airstrip side, I found that to the north is a building housing an ice skating show. To the South is a theatre for the park's signature stage show which, like any good coaster nut, I declined to see. A long walk past the park maintenance facility, railroad shop, First Aid, and theatre leads to a large gate. Well, it's more of an arch than an actual gate, but signs indicate that at this point one is leaving Main Street and entering the Country Carnival. Naturally, this is where the carnival rides are hiding.
The rides are laid out in a large loop, with a couple of odd spurs leading off to expansion areas such as the flume and the rapids ride. It's a very traditional selection of rides except for the gas Krazy Kars in place of more traditional bumper cars. Their Paratrooper is either a road model or a converted Spitfire, as it does not descend for single-stop loading. On the Monster, many of the tubs have 'minimalist' lap bars which are straight instead of looped around. A concession to larger riders? The Bumper Boats are unusual simply because there is no upcharge to ride them. And finally I reached the Corkscrew.
Silverwood's Corkscrew is the original Arrow Corkscrew which once operated at Knott's Berry Farm. So it's just a little ride, it has been moved once, and when it opened, it was the only ride in the world that turned riders upside down not once, but twice. I headed up to the platform, and one of the first most obvious things I noticed was the very sensible queue gate arrangement. At the end of each chute there is a double gate. The gates are arranged so that when fully open, they are well clear of the train. Instead of a pneumatic cylinder, these gates are simply spring loaded to remain closed. When the train arrives, riders push them open and board. No pneumatics, no motors, no latches, no automation. The only problem is that many riders don't realize that they need to push the gates open themselves. But if a ride must have gates, this is the way to do it.
Silverwood is taking good care of their Corkscrew. Oh, sure, it is a little rough, but it runs well. The wheels are all in good shape, which seems to be unusual for a relocated Arrow looper, and it doesn't hunt between the rails due to worn guide wheels. I did notice that the train does not have the new safety bracket, but it is also apparently not the original train...or at least it has been modified. The train and station are now equipped with a remote release system for the shoulder bars. Knott's got rid of the ride a long time ago, but the Corkscrew found a good home.
The ride collection is fairly conventional--
|Ride Name||Manufacturer||Common Name|
|Silverwood Central Railroad||restored train |
|Krazy Kars||RDC||Krazy Kars (gas) |
|Tilt-A-Whirl||Sellner||Tilt-A-Whirl (modified cable) |
|Country Drive||Arrow?||Antique Cars |
|Scrambler||Eli Bridge Co.||Scrambler |
|Super Round-Up||Hrubetz||Super Round Up |
|Thunder Canyon||Hopkins||Rapid River Ride 8 |
|Tremors||Custom Coasters Int'l||Wood Coaster |
|Timber Terror||Custom Coasters Int'l||Wood Coaster |
|Ferris Wheel||Eli Bridge Co.||Eagle-16 cable drive Wheel |
|Bumper Boats||J&J Amusements||Bumper Boats |
|Roaring Creek||Arrow?||Flume |
|Elephant Ride||?||Kind of like a Helicopter |
|Tiny Toot||Zamperla||Dragon |
|Kiddie Wheel||Zamperla||Kiddie Wheel |
|Red Baron||Allan Herschell||Red Baron |
|Helicopters||Allan Herschell||Helicopter |
On around the rapid river ride, which I noted is called Thunder Canyon. That sounds like a good name for a rapids ride; it has an oddly familiar sound to it.........! Footnote 3. I didn't ride, but walking all the way around leads to Tremors, the newest of the two Silverwoodies. The first thing I noticed was the hour-long queue which was equipped with strategically placed burlap shades over the ramp. I also noticed that the building is not built square. I don't mean the building is an odd shape, I mean the corners are not square. As the ride name implies, the station is built to look like it has been shaken a bit. Makes it easy to hide the fact that the platform has to run downhill! Signs posted around the station dramatically emphasize the importance of not standing up on the ride. In the station I noticed that there is a two-button co-dispatch control at the back of the train, marked "CO-DISPATCH" and "E-STOP". The interesting thing is that the E-STOP button is a guarded button further marked, "BREAK GLASS TO OPERATE". If the platform operator wants to E-stop the ride, he'd better really mean it! I boarded the train, sat down in the back seat, and pulled the lap bar down to the second notch. Without a word, the attendant came past, and gave the bar a tug even as the person next to me was trying to staple herself into position. I noticed that Tremors has slightly different lap bars from most PTC ratchet bars; these have a double rail on the end, just like the ones on Kings Island's coasters. Hmmm...I'd heard that was a modification made by Kings Island in their case...
Tremors has a couple of earthen tunnels, but at no time does it actually go below grade. This allows for an interesting effect on the first drop. More about this in a moment.
Tremors begins with a no-nonsense climb up the lift, where it turns around and screams down the first drop. At the bottom of the drop is an underground tunnel. The train is going far too fast, and you are far too busy recovering from the amazing airtime of that drop to notice the spectators clustered around the pull-out from that first drop, or the fact that the pull-out doesn't come out from underground, but rather through the side of a building. Tremors is a kind of a stretched-out twister, sort of a Raven without the hillside. The weakest part of the whole ride is the up-and-down helix at the mid point; other than that, the ride is nonstop action, a physics-defying CCI ride that just keeps getting faster and popping riders skyward with significant airtime on every drop. Wow! It has that unmistakable "faster and faster" CCI signature. It's an amazing ride.
Indeed, the Tremors exit leads down a short path to a gift shop building, a gift shop building of interesting construction. The building is on and in the artificial hillside at the base of Tremors first drop. This means the building bridges the track, and in fact at one end of the building there is an enclosed glass-walled Footnote 4 tunnel with a coaster track running through it. This is the pull-out from the first drop, and the train goes through at a breakneck speed. While most of the tunnel is glassed in, the portions which are well overhead and below the track are covered with mesh so that as the train goes through it sets up quite a breeze. The only disappointing bit is that the structure of the building and tunnel is completely isolated from the coaster structure, in some cases with support posts only a couple of inches apart. So the building, the Shake, Rattle and Roll Gift Shop, does not, in fact, shake and rattle as the train rolls through. The gift shop, by the way, sells shirts and on-ride photographs, and a few other related items. I was just happy to finally visit a park which actually sells coaster shirts!
Right across from the Tremors exit is the entrance to the Grizzly^H^H^H^H^H^H^HTimber Terror. Footnote 6. As it turns out, Timber Terror is a really good name for this ride, for an unexpected reason. It is an out-and-back coaster which has airtime on every drop. On the way out to the turnaround there is a double-up, and the turnaround has a diving swoop in the middle of it. The return run is right along the outbound run, and the ride ends with a fairly wild helix, followed by an unwinding set of curves back to the loading platform. As I rode this coaster I couldn't help but think it seemed really familiar. Then it dawned on me. Timber Terror is the father of Shivering Timbers. The new name fits because it establishes that the ride does indeed belong to the Timber family. Many of the Shivering Timbers design elements are right there. Timber Terror is a smaller ride and it doesn't have the trick-track, but apart from that, there appears to be a definite family resemblance Footnote 7. Two outstanding CCI wood coasters at a single park! That brings up the obvious question: Which one is better? And I honestly don't know. Tremors is a fantastic ride, but loses some for the helix. Timber Terror is a little shorter and doesn't seem as fast and wild, but has to get a bonus for the single-position lap bars. Either way, there is a lot of airtime, a lot of action, and a lot of excitement. Timber Terror has a much shorter wait. Had Tremors not been so busy, I probably would have cycled between the two coasters all day long, but as it was I got fewer rides on Tremors than I would have liked. Remember also that I made this visit almost without sleep, so standing in line wasn't exactly something I wanted to do if I could avoid it.
Coaster Alley is the path that runs between Tremors and Timber Terror, and leads back to the more dense ride area and to Tinywood, the children's play area. Coaster Alley is rather sparse, but has ample room to host a midway of flat rides in the future. For right now they have the Skydiver, which I skipped, and an elephant ride of unknown origin. It looks and operates a bit like a Mini-Jet kiddie ride, but it is significantly bigger, and has a 42" minimum height requirement. So it is more like an elephant themed Roto Jet, only not as high or as fast. I didn't ride it myself. Walking on down Coaster Alley takes you past the four kiddie rides and to Tinywood. Tinywood has a couple of interactive climbing structures, not nearly as elaborate as Hollidog's Funtown at Holiday World, and a "coaster". The "coaster" in this case is a Zamperla Dragon, a small version with an oval layout. Having failed to ride two Dragon coasters on this trip so far, I had to try this one. It is a neat ride, but by no means a roller coaster in any sense of the term. There is also a big sandbox area which also has a set of hand-cars running around it. These are new hand cars, built by Zamperla and looking a lot like the Sellner hand cars now available. The attraction was unattended, so I don't think it can really be considered a "ride", but I mention it because I'd never seen a Zamperla hand car before.
I'd been all the way around the park, so I cruised around the park again to make sure I didn't miss anything, and I took some more coaster rides. I also bought one of the most unusual coaster shirts I have ever seen, unusual because it is an embroidered T-shirt with a Timber Terror logo on it. Very interesting.
Silverwood is a very nice park, and turned out to be a very good side-trip to take, even though it was two days out of the way. If you happen to be appropriately skilled and licensed, you can reduce the travel time to this out-of-the-way park by taking advantage of the on-site airstrip, but unfortunately that was not an option for me. When the park closed at 7:00pm, it felt like it really wasn't time to go yet, and I wonder if Silverwood has considered extending their summertime hours for that reason. The park has grown beyond its apparent show-park roots and truly is a fun place to visit.
Next: Jantzen Beach SuperCenter
Northwest Coaster Tour 1999 index
Trip Reports 1999
Or go back to Dave's page...
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Footnote 1: When the ride opened, it was the Grizzly. After a Major Amusement Park Operator complained about possible trademark infringement, the name was changed to Timber Terror.
Footnote 2: How many musicians does it take to tune a banjo? Footnote 5
Footnote 3: While Cedar Point's rapids ride is also called "Thunder Canyon" I don't believe that name is in Cedar Fair's list of trademarks...
Footnote 4: Not really glass, but you get the idea.
Footnote 5: Don't know...it's never been done!
Footnote 6: ^H is the representation of Control-H, ASCII code 008, which is a backspace, in case you don't understand that bit of typography.
Footnote 7: Of course I'm gonna be really embarassed if I find out that Larry Bill didn't design Timber Terror...