Six Flags Over Texas: Runaway Mine Train

Wilder than an acre of snakes.

Six Flags Over Texas is an Arlington icon. Since its opening in 1961, it has attracted over 100 million visitors. Though dozens of rides and attractions have come and gone over the years, a handful are still around from the early days. One of the ten oldest rides in the park—and still one of my favorites—is the Runaway Mine Train. The ride opened in the summer of 1966 and was fully operational by the park’s 1967 season. The Runaway Mine Train wasn’t the park’s first roller coaster, but it was the first one specifically designed for the park. Its cost at the time was substantial, supposedly costing 10% as much as the park’s total construction five years earlier. It was one of the park’s first thrill rides and is the oldest roller coaster currently in the park.

Even though roller coasters in the 1960s were relatively tame by today’s standards, the Runaway Mine Train was one of the first of its kind. Its tubular steel track became the basis for many amusement park rides in the future, with the design still being used today. It’s also heavily themed, which was common in the early days. The modern rides at Six Flags tend to have a name and a color scheme and are not as themed as they used to be.

Runaway Mine Train – wilder than an acre of snakes

Located in the park’s Boomtown section, which began to take shape in 1963, the ride took its theme from a mining operation. The housing queue looks like a mining building. During the ride, you go through a mining camp with tents and equipment. The camp feels abandoned, and there are a few places where you feel like you’re going to go off the track, adding to the “Runaway” feel. Some of the ride is smooth and flat, but much of it is delightfully jerky, bumpy, and erratic. In addition to the steel track, much of the ride is constructed from wood, making it a hybrid roller coaster. And, if you enjoy nerdy specs as I do, the ride hits a top speed of about 35 mph, goes along nearly 2,500 feet of track, and has a height of 35 feet. The ride lasts over three minutes, which is considerable, as many modern rides don’t last nearly as long.

Entrance and queue house

In 2006, for the ride’s 40th anniversary, American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) recognized the Runaway Mine Train as a roller coaster landmark, “a designation reserved for rides of historic significance.” There is a commemorative plaque near the ride’s entrance.

ACE plaque recognizing the Runaway Mine Train

My favorite part of the ride is towards the end, where the train casually goes up a hill, or a lift as it’s called. It then travels through a building—the Ace Hotel and Saloon—depicting a scene from the old west. There are six mannequins inside the saloon wearing period costumes—three men sitting around a table playing cards, a bartender serving drinks, a man sitting at a piano, and a woman watching on. While not elaborate, a few other props and details help give the scene an authentic feel. It’s an impressive amount of detail for something that riders only see for five seconds. The scene hasn’t changed much since I was a kid! It feels like a scene from an old western movie, giving the ride a unique element. Many of the park’s early designers had experience with film sets, and you can still catch glimpses of their artistry.

After the saloon, there is a sudden drop. The coaster then plunges through an underground (and underwater) tunnel for the finale. It took me a while to realize that you went underground in the tunnel. It’s completely dark in there, and while it only lasts for a few seconds, it is a memorable and exciting part of the ride. As you emerge from the tunnel, a gust of wind hits you in the face. It’s a pleasant mixture of calm and excitement as your attention is distracted by the saloon, and then down you go! It’s just enough of a drop for your stomach to flutter but not enough to do a full somersault.

While on the ride, you see several other taller, faster, and more contemporary roller coasters nearby. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of Six Flags’ past and present, and even America’s if you want to go that far. While the Runaway Mine Train often gets overlooked by many modern thriller seekers, it’s still one of my favorites. It was likely one of the first roller coasters I ever rode. In the 30 years I’ve been going to Six Flags, the “Mine Train” has kept its appeal and charm. What it lacks in thrills, it makes up with nostalgia and good old-fashioned fun.

Enjoy the ride on YouTube.

Blog post & photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 11-14-22

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