MAKING its debut at the beginning of June this year, the new Pioneer roller coaster has brought yet more Wild West thrills to OK Corral in France.

Manufactured by Germany-based Zierer, the original idea for the ride came from the park itself, with the theming of the attraction having to fit totally with that of the park, so the Wild West. It features the first horse and wagon themed trains ever designed for use on a coaster and has been four years in planning and development. Construction began in early November last year.

Suitable for most age groups, Pioneer takes riders on a 500m long circuit on one of two trains featuring six horses in the front and a chuck wagon in the rear, to create the striking effect of the wagon and horses so familiar in Wild West films. The capacity of each train is 12 riders – six on the horses and six in the wagon – who are taken to a maximum height of 25m during the ride and a top speed of 65km/h.

So why was the decision taken to add a new coaster in 2018?

“We had already been thinking of something new for a few years,” park owner Mathijs Bembom told InterPark. “We’ve done something quite big one year and then something smaller the next year for a while, as well as making changes in the theatre and shows in the park. Our camping area has also got bigger over the years and so a new roller coaster was the next step. We thought about what we could do that would be different to anywhere else, as we did with our Gerstlauer coaster which is a bit different to any other.

“As you know OK Corral is all based on the Wild West so it was important that our new ride was totally in our theme. This was the reason why we chose horses and to make it a world first we decided that they had to pull a cowboy chuck wagon. This had not been done before and we knew that you would get two totally different ride experiences from sitting once on a horse and once in a chuck wagon. It was not easy to find a roller coaster construction company to build it, but it was Zierer from Germany who took up the challenge to build it.

“It took four years to develop and quite a few different track layouts before we decided that the one we built was the right one,” he continued. “It had to fit on our mountain and follow the shape of the land and of course the seats of the horses had to give you total freedom when you sit on them, that’s why we developed with Zierer a new seat restraint system. It is the biggest project we have done in any of the Bembom parks anywhere.”

Bembom added that the park likes almost all its rides to accommodate all visitors so the new coaster was designed to allow those from 1m in height to ride accompanied by an adult and those of 1.3m to ride unaccompanied. And clearly guests who do ride very much enjoy the experience.

“You should see their faces,” comments Bembom. “They are shocked (in a good way) by the height, with the ride being positioned on a hill which overlooks the rest of the park. It also features a very impressive lift, with the lift hill section being very quiet as the trains ascend. We’ve made use of various technical advances too so that there is no noise from the wheels, which makes it more like being on a horse.”

Pioneer has clearly been created following a great deal of thought to the design and the incorporation of the overall theme of the park. As a result, a number of key elements have been included, with Bembom highlighting in particular the design of the trains and their seats.

“A key element of the ride is the very different ride experiences you get when riding either on a horse at the front of the train or in the chuck wagon at the back. Riders feel totally free on the horses due to the design of the restraint. This is what is so impressive.”

With a number of attractions from Zierer and Gerstlauer already operating in the park, although other manufacturers were considered, the choice came down to these two companies and it was Zierer who eventually won out.

“It is always difficult to choose (a supplier),” said Bembom. “There are many coaster companies in the market but we have lots of Schwarzkopf/Gerstlauer rides and many Zierer rides. Zierer was totally open to every idea we had and the developments and ideas we came up with, so we decided to go with them. All our remarks were listened too and it was not just a case of offering us their standard items. It needed to be different and Zierer did this to achieve what we wanted. The mechanism required for the restraint bars is totally new, for example.”

The end result is a fine addition to OK Corral for many different reasons and visitors of all ages will enjoy this themed experience long into the future.