The Son of Beast roller coaster, located in Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio was a star that shined too brightly for its own good.
It was the first and only wooden roller coaster to offer a loop within its track in the world, and at the time— was the only hyper-coaster with wood used as its primary structural component.
The name hyper-coaster sounds intense - because it absolutely is.
In order to be denoted as a hyper-coaster, a roller coaster must measure in at a minimum of 200 feet in height and the track must be of the closed-circuit variety. This excludes coasters that may make the height requirement but start and finish in two different locations or are of the forward-then-backwards track setting.
This type of roller coaster model trades loops for that incredibly satisfying zero gravity feeling created by several dig drop moments allowed by its initial ascending height.
Not only was the Son of Beast packed with those weightless moments, but it also had a single menacing loop.
Compile the tremendous g-force, huge loop, and the fact that it is made of wood, and you have a unique ride the likes of which will never be seen again. For a time, Son of Beast was the must-see attraction for roller coaster super fans, but what was with that name?
Son of Beast’s Famous Predecessor
If you have ever see the words “Son of” before anything, chances are, it is version 2.0 of an original. That is exactly the case for Son of Beast. This massive hyper-coaster owes its namesake to the original Beast, a gigantic wooden coaster that, at the time of its release at Kings Island, was the tallest, fastest, and longest wooden roller coaster in the world.
Since then, taller and faster coasters have come out of the woodwork (pun intended) to take the crown. It currently is, however, the longest wooden roller coaster in the world after all of these years. In fact, the Beast measures in at 7,359 feet, translating to almost 1.5 miles and spanning over 35 acres.
The Beast boasts a total ride time of over 4 minutes, a duration that is just unheard of in the roller coaster community. A decent amount of that time is devoted to its two separate lift hills, which in itself is an extreme rare occurrence when it comes to thrill rides.
For the coaster to maintain its speed throughout the duration of the ride, two different lifted ascensions were necessary so that it could traverse the incredibly vast track. The track itself offers several large drops the likes of which still rival today’s coasters. An incredibly intricate system of switches leads confuses the rider in the best way possible.
A certain stretch of track could lead the rider into assuming that they would be going in one direction, but then all of a sudden, unpredictably switch the path—sending them into a totally different direction all together. In some cases, a mechanical switch would send riders into a complete 180-degree rotation causing a disorientation of the best kind.
Aside from the double load feature and switching mechanism—the Beast also offers a wide array of tight turns, steep hills, and an underground tunnel system that the coaster periodically drops down into.
The developers of the ride also made sure to utilize the beautiful land upon which their coaster would reside. There is a significant portion of the track which traverses through the forest of trees surrounding the larger than life coaster. This intimate connection with nature is a concept that is just not seen in other coasters as much as it should be.
Very rarely does a coaster receive a sequel, but it this case, the Beast absolutely deserved a son.
THE BIRTH OF A SON OF BEAST
Son of Beast would arrive on the scene in May of 2000, immediately taking the crown for fastest and tallest coaster in the park. This iteration of the Beast took up only 12 acres, but fully took advantage of its space by offering a wide selection of helixes, sharp turns, big drops, and that one menacing loop.
Having a loop incorporated into a wooden roller coaster is so incredibly rare, and for good reason. Whenever the coaster train goes through an inversion, the force placed on the track is massive enough to do significant damage to the stability of the track if it is not properly fortified. Steel is usually used for tracks containing loops to compensate for this staggering force.
Unfortunately, after years of wear and tear to the inversion brought on with each and every ride, the loop was removed before the start of the 2007 operating season.
The removal of the loop would prove to only be a temporary fix in terms of correcting the massive coaster’s structural integrity. The speeds achieved with the record breaking top height of the coaster made for an extremely exciting ride but would also add to the increasing fragility to its wooden frame.
Aside from withstanding the speed of the coaster, the track also had to deal with the g forces placed onto it at the rides steepest hills and tight turns. The failing system compiled with numerous reported head and neck injuries from riders would come to a head in 2012 and the ride was permanently closed on July 27th.
A new roller coaster called Banshee would eventually be constructed in place of The Son of Beast, but not before workers placed a tombstone at the site to honor a truly innovative machine that was just not sustainable for its time.
Son of Beast was surely ahead of its time. While the first of its kind coaster was a success for a time, the uniqueness of the ride ended up being its downfall.
Hyper-coaster tracks and coasters must be able to connect at an extremely intimate level to make the ride as enjoyable as possible for patrons.
Steel coasters are able to form tight connections that drastically lower the chances of the machine slightly coming off the track at high speed peaks and valleys. The strength of the steel is also strong enough to support the massive focus exerted on the track by the coaster during the incredibly tight turns that have become synonymous with the hyper-coaster.
While Son of Beast proved to be exciting, wood was just not a good skeleton for ensuring lasting stability through all the tremendous wear and tear caused over time.
Passengers began to complain of signs of whiplash and other injuries as a result of the jerky nature of the coaster at some of its track components. The force caused by tight turns damaged the structural integrity of the coaster to a point that maintenance became too big of a responsibility to continue.
The pioneer in wooden looped hyper-coasters began and ended with the Son of Beast, as it was closed after 9 seasons during which as many as 7 million people rode its track.
Key Takeaways from The Son of Beast
The Son of Beast was an incredibly unique amusement park ride the likes of which may never be seen again. If anything is taken as a lesson from Son of Beast, it is that some things are just not meant to be combined.
The originality of the coaster should always be applauded, but it’s practicality was just not there. Including a loop on a wooden roller coaster just for the sake of doing so, proved to be too much for the track to handle. A wooden roller coaster is built for speed and hills, not loops and and track pressing inversion forces.
Hopefully this wooden hyper-coaster will serve as a learning experience for all future wooden roller coaster manufacturers. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Even though Son of Beast is gone for good, Kings Island theme park in Mason, Ohio is still an amazing place to plan a trip. You can pay your respects to the innovative Son of Beast and even visit the coaster’s predecessor, the Beast, which will not be going anywhere.