Comparing the old and new Fire in the Hole at Silver Dollar City

Fire In The Hole
Artwork for the new Fire in the Hole (© Silver Dollar City)

Starting today, the reimagined Fire in the Hole in Silver Dollar City officially opens to the grand public. The attraction replaces the classic Fire in the Hole that closed last year, but has been erected on another site in the park. The reimagined version of the ride has soft-opened over the last few weeks, giving guests an insight in the ways in which Silver Dollar City paid homage to the original ride.

Ever since opening in 1972, the original Fire in the Hole has been a guest favourite ride, combining a dark ride experience with a family-friendly roller coaster. However, its eventual closure was inevitable, and on 30 December 2023 the last people could ride the classic dark coaster. The park held a contest on social media where fans could win a spot on the very last ride of the attraction. Nonetheless, the construction of a replacement ride was already announced and, after a few weeks of soft-openings, the new Fire in the Hole is open to the public from 30 March 2024. The roller coaster of the new Fire in the Hole was constructed by Rocky Mountain Construction, and the trains of the new coaster were revealed in November at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando. The park spend $30 million on the new attraction.

The new trains of Fire in the Hole (© Silver Dollar City)

The original classic

The original Fire in the Hole opened in 1972 and revolved around the story of a group of bandits, called the Baldknobbers, that burned down the town Marmaros. Both the Baldknobbers and the town of Marmaros did not come out of the blue. The Baldknobbers were indeed a group of bandits, being active in the Ozarks area (where Silver Dollar City is located) in the 1880s. The town of Marmaros was a miner’s town roughly located where Silver Dollar City is today. Legend has it that the Baldknobbers indeed burnt down the actual city of Marmaros in the late 1880s, but it is unsure to what extent this story is true or just a legend.

Nonetheless, the story of the Baldknobbers burning down the city made a good starting point for the ride. Fire in the Hole revolved around fire fighters and marshals that try to save the city and catch the Baldknobbers. The ride system consisted of a self-built wooden roller coaster with fire truck-themed trains. The attraction featured only two small drops, one of which lead into a splashdown. Most of the attraction consisted of a gentle ride.

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Coaster train of the original Fire in the Hole (© Heartline Coaster)

Comparing old and new

With soft-openings already taking place since mid-March, guests have already been able to experience the new Fire in the Hole. The park also uploaded an early onride POV-video, enabling us to take a close look at the old and the new ride and compare both versions.

The ride starts from the station, which is themed as a fire station. Starting from there, the first scene takes place in a simple forest where the crickets chirp and the birds sing. Moonlight shines on a wagon and a waterfall. A sign welcomes you to the town of Marmaros as you enter a cave. The new version uses the exact same sound effects upon exiting the firehouse. This time though, a sign welcomes you to Silver Dollar City instead. The new scene is littered with fireflies and even has a human figure, telling guests that the town has been set ablaze.

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Exiting the station, decorated as a fire station (Screenshot from POV © Silver Dollar City)

In the second scene the train enters the town, which has been set ablaze by the Baldknobbers. The overall set feels more spread out in the original, where the new version has the burning buildings closer to the ride’s track, giving more of a sense of danger. Both versions feature the same story beats, with a character of a shooting villager being changed to the marshal in the new version.

The original third scene consisted of a small corridor, made of burning buildings on the left side and a blank wall on the right. Not a lot happens here in the original. The new version added a Baldknobber being shot by the marshal from the earlier scene. A new screen shows a firefighter inside a burning building.

The next scene brings us to the front of a large hotel. Both versions feature the back end of a man balancing on a ladder, while his front half is stuck inside of the building. An interesting difference to note here is that the original scene has the mansion on fire, whereas the new version doesn’t. The man himself is also standing on a regular ladder in the new version, whereas the original features the man balancing on a broken piece of balcony. The entire balcony is not present in the new version. The original also featured another character climbing down a tree to escape the burning hotel. This character is not present in the new version. The new version concludes with a screen showing a Baldknobber that is also not present in the original.

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The hotel scene (Screenshot from POV © Silver Dollar City)

Next, the train enters a corridor where there is a Baldknobber throwing a barrel of what seems to be tar on the riders. The new version features a different voiceline and the Baldknobber is now a static figure with movement simulated with a strobe light, whereas the original featured movement. A small scene followed in the original that is not present in the new version. It featured a Baldknobbers camp with four (static) characters and a sign reading ‘’Baldknobbers camp, Ya All Keep Out!”. The new version moves directly into scene six.

The sixth scene features a log hut in the middle of nature, that has also been ignited. The original version has the house owner filling a bucket from the nearby lake to extinguish the fire, while a wild bear watches him from the other side. The new version has the homeowner missing and instead has two firemen, one with an axe and one with a hose. A voice-line saying ‘’Hurry, the Baldknobbers are gonna blow up the bridge!’’ has also been added to the new version, along with the lake being relocated to the front of the cabin instead of being on the left side.

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Firemen trying to save a remote house (Screenshot from POV © Silver Dollar City)

This following scene was originally a dark cave, with not much going on as it leads to scene eight. The new version has this cave changed into a dark forest, where Baldknobbers can be heard yapping about the crate of TNT they are carrying and subsequently dropping.

Riders get a view of the burning Kinney Bridge in the next scene, before they turn to enter this covered bridge. The original version had a couple Baldknobbers standing in front of the bridge entrance with a carriage, but the new version features only one Baldknobber here. After entering the burning bridge, it collapses and leads to a drop. The new version has more animated flames and a better ‘collapsing’ effect but, apart from that, the scenes are identical.

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The burning Kinney Bridge (Screenshot from POV © Silver Dollar City)

The next scene originally saw one Baldknobber being caught by the sheriff, with two more characters on the sides of the scene. It featured a Baldknobber hanging from a lever on the left side, forcing the vehicle to take a detour. The new version features an animated Baldknobber in front of the vehicle instead. This Baldknobber is pulling the lever to force the vehicle to take the same detour through the abandoned mine. The new version of the scene also changes the sheriff who has caught one Baldknobber into a policeman who has caught two instead, with them tied up in a cartoonish way.

The following scene sees the vehicle entering the mine, with a train being heard in the background. This is when the vehicle takes a turn towards the headlight of the train (the train isn’t physically there in the original) with a Baldknobber standing to the left. The vehicle then dives down to avoid the train. The new version actually features a real train and there is no Baldknobber in the scene. The original stock train sound has been replaced with a more realistic sound effect.

The final scene features the iconic “Fire in the Hole”-line. The vehicle takes a drop and splash into a pool at the bottom. This marks the finale of the attraction, after which the vehicle returns to the station.

Wondering what the ride looks like? Watch the official onride video by Silver Dollar City below:

Onride video of Fire in the Hole (© Silver Dollar City on YouTube)

A classic that stays a classic

The first conclusion after comparing both versions of Fire in the Hole is that Silver Dollar City stayed very close to the storyline and scenes of the original ride. Though some elements have changed and many effects were updated to 21st century standards, most of the elements of the original ride are copied into the new one. In doing so, Silver Dollar City does not only honour the original Fire in the Hole – better still, they manage to give a brand new ride the feeling of a true classic.

The fact that the new Fire in the Hole stays close to the original, also means the attraction retains its family-friendly dark ride appeal combined with its roller coaster thrill, ready to entertain new generations of Silver Dollar City visitors. The old Fire in the Hole was a classic dark ride and a guest-favourite attraction, while the new installation is truly an instant classic.

© Dark Ride Database
Article by: Quintus, Erik, Will and Luc