Wooden roller coasters have been a cornerstone of amusement parks and theme parks for more than 100 years, and over that time there have been very few changes in their technology.  That is until the dawn of the twenty first century when INTAMIN developed a new system for prefabricating the components of a wood coaster  creating a smoother, faster, more dynamic ride. 

In 2005, with the opening of Kingda Ka just having taken place, an announcement was made that the ten year old Viper roller coaster was being removed, however, there was no announcement of what would be replacing it. Along with the removal of Viper, the surrounding area began to show the markings of a big new construction project. The fan community quickly began circulating rumors of a major new coaster but the rumors were dismissed as fantasy coming on the heels of the world record breaking addition of Kingda Ka and the Golden Kingdom.

Trees all around the area were marked for removal along with a stand of trees in the infield of Rolling Thunder. It quickly became apparent that something big was on its way.

With Viper cleared except for the preserved station, it quickly became apparent the plan was to re-use the southwestern themed structure as part of the new (and still unannounced) attraction. As the summer went on the trees were cleared from the area around Rolling Thunder, with site preparation happening in several areas that were inaccessible to guests. 
With all of parts and debris of the former Viper cleared, markings began appearing for new construction. Rebar frames were beginning to be fabricated as the initial steps of creating footings for a new attraction commenced.  Construction trailers and other equipment began to show up on site as well.

While site preparation was still happening inside the park and no announcements had yet been made about what was coming, the construction area in the parking lot that had served as the delivery area for Kingda Ka's parts began to receive shipments of materials. With the arrival of the first prefabricated wooden rails, the cat was out of the bag and it quickly became obvious that Great Adventure was building a new INTAMIN prefabricated wood coaster, but the debate raged on as to how big and what the layout would be right up until the day the announcement was made. 
With the arrival of Labor Day, the area from the bridge near the Northern Star Arena to the Taz Tornado (Rotor) ride was closed off completely and disassembly of the rides and existing structures began. The first of the rides to be removed was the Rodeo Stampede which was carefully taken apart for relocation to Six Flags Over Texas.

The Taz Tornado was also removed as part of preparation for the new roller coaster. The Rotor had been relocated twice before while at Great Adventure, but this time it was not to be and the ride was scrapped as it was removed. 

A third ride was removed from the area as well, and in this case it was the Tweety Carousel that had just been relocated for 2005 when its Bugs Bunny Land home was demolished to make way for the Golden Kingdom. The kiddie carousel would be relocated once again for the 2006 season to park's other major addition for the upcoming year, Bugs Bunny National Park.

While more coaster parts continued to arrive in the parking lot staging area, site preparations went on inside the park with the fixtures and equipment being removed from the buildings slated for demolition.  The area was cleared of the Dry Gulch Shooting Gallery (formerly Los Sombreros), Pedro's Pitch games structure, a fountain, and a waffle cones stand.  In addition, the facades of the "ghost town" that served as the queue for the Viper were also removed.

Key El Toro Technical Specifications Click the image below to watch
a promotional video for El Toro
Maximum Speed:  70 mph
Lift Height:  188 feet
First Drop Angle:  76 degrees
First Drop Length:  176 feet

Ride Time:  1 min 42 sec

Track Length:  4400 feet

Number of Trains:  2
Passengers Per Train:  36
Ride Capacity:  1500 per hour
At the end of September the announcement was finally made, and El Toro was unveiled as the centerpiece of the brand new Plaza del Carnaval area of the park which would debut for the 2006 season. This would be the second record breaking coaster and the second newly themed area added to Great Adventure in two years. This was all part of a planned five year reimagining of the park that would have improved and updated all of the areas. That plan would change after just two years with the changes in corporate management and the financial situation of Six Flags.  
As the 2005 season began to draw to a close, construction really went into full swing with footers being poured quickly to beat the winter weather. Demolition of the remaining structures and walkways was taking place as the parts for the massive new coaster continued to arrive from Europe.  
The following are the October entries from Great Adventure's official construction journal on their website:

Oct. 12 - At the end of September, construction started and we began to establish the footprint of the ride, identifying the exact locations for the foundations and the sequence in which they would be installed. Excavation began and reinforcing bars were placed in the footings and concrete was subsequently poured. So far we poured approximately 20 footings and 20 piers with anchor bolts.

At the present time, we are fabricating the “bents” on site – bents are what the track sits on; and lumber that will be assembled on location is being sized, cut, labeled, drilled and packaged at a mill in Germany. The goal is to finish concrete work in phase one, two and three which includes the lift structure, in and out of the station, and the first drop, in a timely matter so we can begin wood erection. A challenge lately has been the excessive amount of rainwater we have to pump out so we can continue our progress.
Update from Richard Beane – Site Superintendent

Oct. 19 - This past weekend, we completed topography and tree markings for the new childrens' section – Bugs Bunny National Park - and confirmed the final layout and placement for the childrens' rides. We also began excavation for the top of the lift footings and assembled more than 30 bents.
Update from Al Rubano – Director of Construction

Oct. 24- The past two days we've poured concrete for the lift footings and pier caps and continue to fabricate bents for the lift area.
Update from Al Rubano – Director of Construction

Oct. 28 - The construction of El Toro continues to move along at a steady pace. With the majority of footings, concrete pier caps and anchor bolt placement substantially complete for the lift, we are focused on the concrete footing pour for the crest of the lift hill to the return drop. More than 400 yards of concrete, equal to 40 truck loads, will be needed to fill the enormous area supporting the return at the top of the lift hill.
Portions of the track and lumber for El Toro continue to arrive weekly. The lumber for the lift area is staged in the parking area next to Kingda Ka. Approximately 40 two-legged bents have been fabricated. The bent assembly carpenter crew is in the process of bundling up components for three-legged bents for transport and staging in the lift area for assembly on site. Erection starting at the base of the lift will begin on or before Mon., Oct. 31, 2005.
Update from Al Rubano – Director of Construction

By the final weekend of the 2005 season, the first bents were in place and El Toro had officially began vertical construction.

These are the November & December entries from Great Adventure's official construction journal on their website:

Nov. 3 - The major concrete pour was completed for the lift hill Oct. 28. With the footings for the lift hill and return drop in place, form work to complete the setting of anchor bolts and pier caps follows. The first bent frame was erected Oct. 28. Eleven bents are currently in place. With the mild Nov. weather we’re experiencing, we expect to make a significant progress by week’s end. Clearing for Plaza del Carnaval continues with the removal of 54,000 sq. ft. of concrete walkway and site grading. We are currently preparing the area along Lahaway Creek. This section will consist of approximately 35% of the track for El Toro.

For the next several weeks will focus on lift erection and footing for the return track adjacent to the lift and along Lahaway Creek.
Update from Al Rubano – Director of Construction

Nov. 11 - The construction of El Toro continues moving forward. The mild November weather has been in our favor and enabled us to accomplish a lot over the last week. The lift hill has been assembled to a height of about 75 feet and several sections of track along the bottom of the lift hill are in place. Assembly and erection will continue throughout the weekend. We have excavated footings for the bents extending along the Lahaway Creek. Footings for the bottom of the return drop have been excavated in preparation to be formed. Al Rubano – Director of Construction

Nov. 18 - The foundation work continues from the drop adjacent to the station, heading south along Lahaway Creek. Gang footings have been poured behind La Cantina and at the hairpin turn where the ride heads back along the creek, past the station to where it crosses over Rolling Thunder. Bent erection at the lift hill continues, rising past the height of 110 feet, heading to the 188 foot goal.

Nov. 23 - Foundation work and bent erection continues this week. We'll break for turkey on Thanksgiving and return Friday to pick up where we left off.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Dec. 2- Bent erection on the lift hill continues at a steady pace. With the erection of bents 48 and 49 we should reach a height of 164 feet by the end of this week. The 188-foot height for the lift should be completed by Christmas.
Al Rubano - Director of Construction

Dec. 8- “Nor Hail, Rain, Sleet or Snow.” Regardless of the weather conditions we continue to move forward on a daily basis.

Addressing the challenges of winter weather, especially snow removal, Six Flags workers start each day with plows, shovels and brooms to remove the snow, allowing them to continue to work. The erection of the bent frames is occasionally hampered by high winds and for worker safety, work must be held up.

A 380-yard concrete pour was completed for the footwork under the top of the hairpin turn. Bent erection is complete to column line 60 at approximately 164 feet. Columns 49-52 are erected to the 97-foot elevation. Bent erection continues to top-out at column line 62 at the 188-foot elevation before the end of the year.

Construction of the support services and ride photo buildings, merchandise kiosk and restaurant renovations will begin before the holidays.
Al Rubano - Director of Construction

Dec. 17- - Construction on El Toro continues to move along at a steady pace. The goal of topping-off the lift is right on schedule. Weather permitting, the top bent will be positioned at the 188-foot height Tues., Dec. 20. We are also focusing on the steel fabrication work for station modifications as well as continuing foundation and pier work.

Now that we have the permits for the ride photo building, merchandise shop and restaurant, work will begin in those areas on or before the first of January.
Wishing everyone a very, happy holiday season!
Al Rubano - Director of Construction

Dec. 20
Park Completes Towering Lift Hill of ‘El Toro’
The construction team at Six Flags Great Adventure today reached an important milestone in the erection of El Toro. After placing the top portion of the 188-foot-tall wooden track support slowly and carefully into position, El Toro now ranks as the second tallest wooden coaster in America, and the third tallest in the world.

This 188-foot-tall support is known as “bent 55” of 613 total bents
Fun facts about bent 55
• 208 boards of lumber
• 192 bolts
• Each bolt measures 24 mm x 440 mm
• 22,500 lbs.
• 34.5 feet wide at the base
Bent 55 is separated into two sections, a top and a bottom.
The “topping off” piece is the bent’s top section
Fun facts about bent 55’s top section
• 87.5 ft. tall
• 19.8 ft. wide at the splice
• 56 boards of lumber
• 7,500 lbs., placed on top of a 15,000-lb. base
The crane lifting bent 55’s top portion is 260 ft. tall.

Approximately 10 workers climb bent 55’s top portion to secure it to the structure.

Temporary bracing of bent 55’s top portion takes approximately 2 to 3 hours
Al Rubano - Director of Construction & Richard Beane – Site Superintendent

Dec. 28 - On Dec. 20 the lift hill was topped off at 188 feet.  We are now focused on bent assembly for the hairpin turn at the top of the lift hill to the first drop.  Massive bents will be assembled on the ground, lifted and set in place to an erected height of 187 feet.

The winch drum for the cable and catch car system has been set.  As we move forward, we are in the process of setting up a separate lift-detail gang to focus on El Toro’s track and mechanical assembly.

Work continues at a steady pace throughout the area.  Last week a concrete pour for the station bent footings was complete.  During this last week of 2005, excavation work in the Plaza del Carnaval section will continue from the return at the top of the lift to La Cocina restaurant.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction
These are the entries from Great Adventure's official construction journal on their website:
January: February: March:
Jan. 6, 2006 - Despite recent inclement weather, progress continues for the erection of El Toro's supports and track placement. Earlier this week, column 58 was topped off at 188 feet. We are currently at a height of 97 feet through column 63. Column 63 is the area where the track starts to turn between the lift hill and the first drop.

Phase 1, 2 and 3 of ride foundations at the lift and station area are substantially complete. Phase 4 foundations which run along the Lahaway Creek, then makes the turn behind Wildside Pizza is 65% complete. Engineering for the final foundation phases 5 and 6 have been completed and are in fabrication for reinforcing.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction

Jan. 12, 2006 With the mild weather we’re experiencing in central New Jersey, the size of El Toro’s massive structure increases daily. Over the last couple days, the first bent in the curve at the top of the lift hill (#63) was erected to completion.

Workers are busy throughout the entire construction site. The electrical underground conduit, which will run the motor control room, is nearly 40% completed. Storm sewer and sanitary relocation will be starting soon along with installation of the underground air lines necessary for the ride’s braking system.

The layout for Phase 5 foundation work has been started. Phase 5 is the area inside Rolling Thunder’s track where El Toro crosses over and continues along Rolling Thunder’s return track .
Richard Beane, General Construction Supervisor

Jan. 19, 2006 The high winds and rain this week were definitely a challenge. We continued erection to bent 65 at the curve of the lift hill. We started erection at column lines 101 to 107 which runs parallel with the station pass the invert of the first drop. Foundation will continue through phase four and layout continues for phase five and six.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

Jan. 27, 2006 This week we continued framing of the hairpin turn at the top of the lift. To keep the job moving we are working on various sections of the coaster. We continued erection up to columns 115. We are assembling bents for column line 137, which is heading south along Lahaway Creek.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction
Feb. 4, 2006 We've had a great start to phase 5 and 6, although we tend to loose one day of work a week due to inclement weather. We erected 188 feet to bent line 71 and erected from column lines 99 to 115 and 141 to 166. We substantially completed phase 1, 2 and 3 and are approximately 95 percent complete with phase 4. We began installation of underground conduit on the motor control center to the base of the lift continuing to the top of the lift as well as the safety rigs located in the cross-over section of phase 5 and 6.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

Feb. 10, 2006 Work continues at a normal pace with the exception of three rain days last week. We erected to bent line 73 and erected from column lines 116 to 118 and 167 to 170. Framing for the station unload deck is complete and we started framing for the station loading deck. The installation of underground conduit on the motor control center to the base of the lift continuing to the top of the lift and safety rigs in the crossover section are substantially complete.

Things are moving along.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

Feb. 17, 2006 After loosing two days for snow removal, we continued to move forward and erected to the top of column line 76. We now completed the hairpin turn at the top of the lift. Fabrication of bent 77 and 78 are in progress.

We have approximately 20 percent completed in phase 5 and 6.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

Feb. 24, 2006 Work continues on El Toro through column line 80. We have approximately 35 percent completed in phase 5 and 6.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction
March 3, 2006 We continued erection through column line 83, column lines 99 through 136 and 138 through 176. The reason we break-up erection into sections is to allow for site access. We also erected through the station and continued into the hairpin turn outside the station.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

March 10, 2006 We erected to column line 93. Bents 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, and 131, 132, 133, and 137 are built and ready for installation.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

March 17, 2006 The station deck is poured and we began framing for the interior motor control center in the station. We continued detailing and installing ribbon boards, diagonal bracing, walk boards and laminated track. Erection is complete through column line 219 entering the hairpin turn. The mechanical drive is ready for installation on the lift. Phase 5 and 6 are approximately 65 percent complete.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

March 24, 2006 Construction on El Toro continues to march forward aggressively for opening. The trains arrived and will soon go through inspection prior to installation.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction 

With the opening of the 2006 season on March 31st, El Toro was still very much a work in progress. The harsh winter weather combined with uncertainties caused by changes in Six Flags corporate management as well as park level management complicated construction.

The company's new CEO wanted to take Six Flags in a new direction, catering more towards families and less to thrill seekers and made it quite plain that El Toro and the other major coasters being built at Six Flags parks that year would be the last major coasters added for many years to come. Ironically, that same CEO often cited El Toro as the best roller coaster in any park.
The huge wooden structure would forever change the skyline of Great Adventure. The new coaster towered high above the trees and was an immediate visual draw down to the formerly quiet end of the park even while construction was still taking place.
April 8, 2006 The race is on for Six Flags Great Adventure and the opening of El Toro. Construction is moving along at a rapid pace.

By the end of this weekend we will close bent sections 85-88 and 133-137 at the hairpin where the train leaves the station and also the bridge section 176-179, which is the access point to the walkway along Layaway creek. We have roughly 35 bents remaining that will complete the hairpin turn in the Plaza del Carnaval area.

Keep a watchful eye on the next few weeks, because construction is moving quickly.
Al Rubano, Director of Construction
Piece by piece the structure came together. Each piece was sent from the factory in Europe pre-cut, pre-drilled and numbered and assembled like a giant Erector set.

Each week more of the coaster came together with the support structure going up first and the rails being installed section by section as the structure was topped off.



As April came to a close El Toro began to look closer to completion. The bulk of the structure was up and much of the track was in place as the huge new coaster neared opening day. The goal was to get the ride open in time for Memorial Day weekend and the kickoff of the busy summer season.


As May went on the mechanical systems became the focus while the structure was completed. The cable lift system was a fairly unique feature on a coaster, especially a wood coaster. Other INTAMIN coasters featuring cable lift systems had the train engage the lift directly from the station, while El Toro would leave the station and engage the lift with the trains already in motion. The reliability of the cable lift and its proper functioning were a big question mark for many enthusiasts while the construction was still underway.

While the crews were working hard to get El Toro finished in time for Memorial Day, things took just a little longer than anticipated and at the beginning of June the coaster still was not quite ready to open.
During the first week of June test runs began as the crews began to cycle the trains. Water dummies were the first passengers to get to experience El Toro, completing lap after lap on the new coaster.  A big part of the test process involved testing and adjusting the lift hill mechanism.

In the mean time, the crews were hard at work below on the ride's queue area as well as the support facilities like the photo booth in preparation for the coaster's debut.
El Toro not only used the station building from Viper but the old coaster's entry portal as well. The archway which had once featured the Viper logo was fitted with the new El Toro logo.

As the countdown to opening continued other features such as a sculpture of a bull and a set of test seats were added inside the entry plaza of the ride.
On June 11th, the first riders got to experience El Toro as the park prepared for the ride's opening day. These first riders were there to film the "B-roll" footage supplied to the news media as part of the coaster's official debut.  
Finally, El Toro made its debut to the general public on June 12, 2006, becoming an immediate success. Being the first INTAMIN prefabricated wooden coaster in North America brought enthusiasts from far and wide to try it out and experience the amazingly smooth ride.    
The crowds loved El Toro, drawing huge lines of guests. Great Adventure's one two punch of the record breaking Kingda Ka and El Toro made the park a destination for thrill seekers and coaster enthusiasts from all around the country and around the world.    


El Toro began its second season in 2007 with new sponsorship posters. As part of the new Six Flags management's approach to improving their finances, they emphasized sponsorships and in-park advertising. Guests in a queue were a captive audience, so it made sense to advertise to them while waiting in line.

In the seasons since El Toro opened the only real changes that have occurred have been the weathering of the wooden structure and the trains being wrapped in advertising. Those aesthetic changes have done nothing to diminish the ride experience, with El Toro delivering high speed thrills and lots of "air time". 

One of the oddest controversies among coaster enthusiasts regarding El Toro has been over whether or not it can be considered a "true" wooden roller coaster. The feeling among some purists is that the prefabricated wooden rails are a cheat. At the same time, many of the same enthusiasts see other wooden roller coasters which utilize a steel support structure as being "true" wooden coasters since the rails are fabricated from lumber on site.

The coaster's reputation has only grown over time, consistently ranked as one of the world's best wooden coasters. The ride has even taken the number one position on annual polls of enthusiasts. Other wooden coasters have been built since then, and so far none has been able to surpass El Toro. Not even a newer post-El toro INTAMIN prefabricated coaster with a taller and steeper drop was able to beat Great Adventure's legenday bull -  El Toro! 
Construction Log Photos from
Six Flags Great Adventure's Web Page
All images below courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure.
Clicking on the images below will not result in a larger image.
Sept 26, 2005 Sept 28, 2005 Sept 30, 2005
Oct 3, 2005 Oct 7, 2005 Oct 21, 2005
Oct 21, 2005 Oct 21, 2005 Oct 28, 2005
Oct 28, 2005 Oct 28, 2005 Oct 28, 2005
Oct 28, 2005 Oct 28, 2005 Oct 31, 2005
Nov 1, 2005 Nov 1, 2005 Nov 2, 2005
Nov 5, 2005 Nov 7, 2005 Nov 8, 2005
Nov 10, 2005 Nov 10, 2005 Nov 5, 2005
Nov 18, 2005 Nov 18, 2005 Nov 19, 2005
Nov 23, 2005 Nov 26, 2005 Nov 28, 2005
Nov 29, 2005 Dec 5, 2005 Dec 6, 2005
Dec 6, 2005 Dec 8, 2005 Dec 8, 2005
Dec 13, 2005 Dec 14, 2005 Dec 16, 2005
Dec 20, 2005 Dec 20, 2005 Dec 20, 2005
Dec 20, 2005 Dec 29, 2005 Dec 29, 2005
Dec 29, 2005 Dec 29, 2005 Jan 4, 2006
Jan 4, 2006 Jan 6, 2006 Jan 6, 2006
Jan 11, 2006 Jan 11, 2006 Jan 12, 2006
Jan 19, 2006 Jan 19, 2006 Jan 19, 2006
Jan 27, 2006 Jan 27, 2006 Feb 3, 2006
Feb 3, 2006 Feb 10, 2006 Feb 10, 2006
Feb 17, 2006 Feb 17, 2006 Feb 24, 2006
March 2, 2006 March 10, 2006 March 10, 2006
March 17, 2006 March 24, 2006 March 30, 2006
March 30, 2006 April 8, 2006 April 8, 2006
April 14, 2006 April 14, 2006 April 14, 2006
April 22, 2006 April 22, 2006 April 29, 2006
May 6, 2006 May 6, 2006 May 14, 2006
May 14, 2006 May 20, 2006 May 20, 2006
May 28, 2006 May 28, 2006 May 28, 2006
El Toro