A Netherlands theme park will unveil a $20-million roller coaster this summer featuring a level of thematic detail rarely found in massive steel thrill rides.
The Baron 1898 dive coaster at Efteling theme park will combine a 19th century Dutch gold mining backstory with a 90-degree free-fall drop into a subterranean tunnel.
Similar to the Krake dive coaster at Germany's Heide Park, the double-inversion Baron 1898 built by Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard will reach a top speed of 55 mph over a 1,600-foot-long course.
Set in 1898, the backstory of the new coaster retells the mythical tale of greedy mine baron Gustave Hooghmoed, who discovered a system of old tunnels underneath Efteling just before the turn of the century.
Deep inside the subterranean labyrinth, Hooghmoed made two surprising discoveries: Mountains of gold and a fright of ghosts. Known as Witte Wieven, the white women spirits of Dutch legend were sworn to protect the fertile soil and everything it contains, including the gold.
The Hooghmoed name has multiple meanings. The modern spelling, Hoogmoed, translates to pride or hubris. Broken into two words, the name becomes 'Hoog' (High) and 'Moed' (Courage).
As part of the haunted backstory for Baron 1898, Efteling visitors will be thrust into the role of miners as they walk through the themed coaster station, which doubles as an operations hub where miners are lowered into the mineshaft.
While working on Baron 1898, Efteling's design team visited a mine in Zollverein, Germany, for architectural inspiration and the Netherlands Mining Museum in Heerlen for insight into the daily working life of miners.
Efteling designers conceived of the coaster station as a complex of stitched-together mining buildings of varied heights, depths and architectural styles that visitors explore as they wait to board the ride. Bricklayers built the warren of buildings by hand before intentionally weathering the exterior to make the station look as if it had stood for centuries.
Fabricated at a steelworks in Budapest, Hungary, the steampunk-inspired lift hill features riveted cross-braced steel supports that look like a cross between the Eiffel Tower and a Victorian era iron bridge. A paddlewheel-like gear at the peak of the lift hill creates the illusion that the coaster trains are hauled to the precipice by the giant bronzed cog.
After ascending the 45-degree chain-driven lift hill, Baron 1898 will pause for two seconds at the top before descending a 123-foot vertical drop into a 130-foot-long mine shaft.
Upon emerging from the three-story deep mine shaft, Baron 1898 will navigate a half loop/half roll Immelmann element and an inside-out zero G-roll corkscrew before spiraling through a 360-degree helix.
About an hour south of Amsterdam, the 160-acre Efteling began in 1952 with the Fairy Tale Forest and has grown into the largest theme park in the Netherlands. In 2004, Efteling was designated a classic theme park by the Themed Entertainment Assn., an honor bestowed on such landmark parks as Tivoli Gardens and Disneyland.