Category: Trains

By , November 4, 2012
Colin Coon

Time for another blog!

We’ve had a busy few weeks in the shop as the end of the year approaches.  There has been plenty to do and the workflow has been non-stop.  IAAPA is approaching so we have been doing a lot of prepping for that.  For anyone who doesn’t know, IAAPA (the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) hosts an annual trade show in Orlando, Florida that brings in hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors from all over the world.  Great Coasters attends every year and we bring down large crates full of our booths, two lead coaches (one from our Sunbury shop and one from Coke), several models, and the supporting equipment to make it all go together smoothly.  As a result we have to go through and make sure that everything is in tip-top shape, find space for new things for the booth, and then pack it all up to send down to Orlando.  This has taken us several weeks to do, but we completed all of it on Friday and are ready to go!  Chris has also been working on a new model that will debut at the show which Kevin and I helped out with.  It’s a pretty cool concept, so look for it at IAAPA!

Another big part of the internship that most people don’t read about is the Elysburg Haunted House.  For three weekends we volunteered at the haunted house and I had a really good time doing it.  We dressed in ghillie suites, covered a path in dozens of pine trees, then blended in and jumped out at people as they walked past.  After working at Universal for a few years I always wanted to work at Halloween Horror Nights, but this was my first opportunity to actually be a scareactor and I loved it!  We had nearly 10,000 people come through the house during the three weekends we were open-which was a pretty good turnout.  We had planned on opening for Halloween night, but Sandy had other plans for us.

Finally we have started receiving chassis for Gold Striker from our manufacturer.  Once everything for IAAPA ships we will start preparing the chassis for final assembly since a majority of our components are complete.

That’s it for this installment, stay tuned.

By , October 4, 2012
Colin Coon

Another week, another blog… The last two weeks have been interesting over at Great Coasters. We’ve been getting lots of train pieces ready for Gold Striker on the cosmetic side of things. I spent a few days getting the seat sides and seat bottoms ready for upholstery, and then took them to the upholstery shop where they will be completed. Considering that each car is made up of half a dozen upholstered pieces this took some time to get all prepped.

We’ve also been working on getting the IAAPA booth ready for this year, as well as a few items going to EAS. I’d say a good half of our shop is filled with stuff from the IAAPA booth right now as we go through and inventory everything. This years booth will be pretty cool looking, so check it out in November if you are attending!

There have also been a few big orders from three different rides that we are compiling parts for. Since it is the off season a lot of track work is going on at several rides across the country, and we even supply hardware for rides that GCI did not construct. What that means is that we have been really busy trying to stay on top of everything! Hopefully these orders will be done in the next week or two so we can clean up the shop a little bit.

Lastly I’ve been running around and doing as many parks and Halloween events in the area as possible. I’m not used to having an off season, nor am I used to the independent Halloween events going on here in Pennsylvania. It’s actually really cool to see how detailed some of the haunts are, and it feels a lot different than the ones I’m used to. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Until next time,

By , September 16, 2012
Colin Coon

It’s blog time again!

This week involved a lot of preparation for the Fun Spot and California’s Great America trains.  There are literally thousands of parts and pieces that make up each individual train, and hundreds per car.  Anything that is directly bolted to the chassis of each train is usually made up of an assembly.  For example, each guide wheel weldment has to be constructed from several different parts and once it’s a completed assembly it can be bolted to the chassis.  My week consisted mostly of putting these assemblies together so that when the chassis show up we can attach everything on quickly.

Another thing that we started working on durning the evenings this week was a Coaster Dynamix.  I’ve always wanted one of these things, but I’ve never really gotten a chance to play around with one.  So far I can see why these models are not for everyone, they are difficult to get just right!  However when it’s done it should be a really cool model.  I’ve never really been interested in coming up with layouts, but after messing around with this for a few nights I’m slowly seeing why laying out a coaster is fun.  Plus, it’s nice having it right in front of you to tweak and perfect to your liking (Chris is also a perfectionist so that helps).

Thanks for reading,

By , September 6, 2012
Colin Coon

Hello again everybody,

Last week was rather exciting to say the least and was a real eye opener for me in many different ways.  More on that in a bit, but if you don’t already know Kevin the other intern has arrived in Sunbury and has already completed his first week of work.  Go check out his blog as while I will be talking mostly about train assembly Kevin will be talking a lot about the structural components going on with Fun Spot and Great America.

Speaking of Great America, on the 29th Gold Striker was officially announced!  We were all pretty excited about that, and the train components should be arriving in Sunbury in the near future.  So along with Fun Spot I will also be working on the Great America trains as well.

But the bulk of our work was done at Dollywood this past week.  On Monday Dan and I drove down from Sunbury to Pigeon Forge, which took about 10 hours total including a stop for lunch and gas.  Of course, to relax a bit we spent some time on the Go Carts located on the strip.  And also the ever-amazing Jurassic Jungle Boat ride, which most definitely was the highlight of my time spent in Pigeon Forge.  If you’ve never been on it, I highly suggest doing it!

Anyway, on Tuesday and Thursday we were on site at Thunderhead doing some small projects both on the trains and on the structure itself.  Dan and I finished our little project up in a little over a day, so for about 10 hours on Thursday we helped the other three guys do some structural work.  Until that day I completely underestimated what it takes to build a wooden roller coaster.  I mean we only replaced a few dozen boards or so in the whole ride, but the manual labor required to do so was completely insane.  I give these guys a lot of credit for doing what they do to keep a wooden coaster up and running (while also looking good too).

It was a really cool experience to get some work in the field with one of our rides.  It really wasn’t anything like what I was expecting, but it was probably one of the best learning experiences that I’ve ever had in this industry.  It takes a lot to keep a ride looking and functioning like new, and I now have a better grasp on exactly how much work is involved.

Until next time..

By , August 17, 2012
Colin Coon

Hello again everyone!

We had a pretty fun week in Sunbury at GCII.  On Monday I spent most of the day with Dan going over a shipment of guide wheel assemblies called “weldments.”  This involves cleaning up the weldment, test fitting the guide wheel and upstop axles, then inspect each weld for proper penetration and completion.  Once they have been cleaned and inspected the guide wheel can be added to the weldment, then placed on the train.  In all, it takes about 15 minutes to clean the weldment, 10 minutes to install the guide wheel, and maybe another 10 minutes to install the completed weldment to the chassis.

It took about a half a day to install all of the weldments and make sure the proper hardware was installed.  We should be ready to flip the chassis within the next few days, as work will be completed on the lower chassis.  If you don’t know what flipping is, our chassis arrive upside down upon delivery.  This allows us to install everything on the bottom of the chassis first, since that is where almost all of the mechanical components of the train are located.  Later in the week we torqued down all of the bolts to their specified value, and double-checked again with another torque wrench just to make sure that everything was done properly.

I’ve also been tagging along with Dan to various places around town that supply parts and services for the trains.  While most of the incoming parts for the trains and structure are shipped to us there are still a bunch of local businesses that service our needs.  Anyway, I should be making runs to these places solo in the next few weeks to pick up parts and pieces for our trains.  Hopefully I don’t get lost!

Another thing that I have found completely amazing this week is the turnaround time for parts orders.  Sometimes it’s easy to go in the back, pick up 20 wheels, throw them on a pallet to be shipped, and be done with it.  Other times we have to take a few extra steps, which rely on our suppliers as well.  For example, this week we had an order for about 15 seat side panels for one of our rides.  All of our seat sides arrive as bare metal and need to be powder coated prior to sending them out to the park, and this obviously takes some time right?  Wrong.  We got the order Wednesday around lunch time, took the seat sides down to the powder coater that afternoon, picked them up Friday morning at around 9am, and loaded them on a truck this afternoon.  So in roughly 48 hours we got 15 seat sides prepared, painted, and shipped.  Pretty impressive, and it’s something most people tend to overlook.

Lastly our new intern, Kevin, will be arriving next week in Sunbury.  I’ll let him do his intro and stuff, but make sure to check out his blog as well!  We will be doing some different stuff from one another too, so that should be interesting.

Thanks for reading!

By , August 14, 2012
Colin Coon

Hello everyone!

My name is Colin and I am a Mechanical Engineering student from Orlando Florida.  During the last three years I have been working in attractions at Universal Orlando Resort but just recently became the new intern with GCII.  I participated in FREDxGCII a few weeks ago and strongly encourage anyone who is looking to get their foot in the door to attend this event.  It sure worked for me!

The first week has been very interesting here at GCII, and it has been pretty eye opening already.  Upon my arrival in Sunbury I met with Chris for lunch and we spent an evening at Knoebels.  It was nice to not be in the car after the 17-hour drive up from Orlando and to relax a bit (especially on the Paratrooper).  Chris introduced me to a few members of the maintenance team at Knoebels and they gave me a tour of the control room for their newest ride, Black Diamond.  It was a lot more high tech and complicated than I expected, and all of it was done in house which is equally as impressive as the ride.

During the first week I worked with Dan on doing inventory and consolidation of incoming parts for both the trains and ride structure.  A truck was due to arrive on Wednesday so I had the task of laying out the pallets of materials so that the weight distribution was even throughout the container.  We then staged everything so that when the truck arrived it could all go in quickly and in order.  When the truck did show up it only took about 30 minutes to load nearly 46,000 pounds worth of materials.  Not too bad for two guys and a forklift.

I also completed various parts orders for several different parks around the world where our rides have been installed.  Our parts arrive in Sunbury in mass quantity, so I was tasked with hand counting out the exact number of a specific part that a park had requested.  Sometimes it’s easy, like throwing a bunch of wheels on a pallet, and other times it’s a little time consuming, like sorting out 100 washers and putting them in a bag…then realizing they were the wrong ones.  However this is all part of it, and getting my hands on these parts make identifying them much easier in the future.

Over the weekend a friend of mine and I went down to Hersheypark for the day, and I used it as an excuse to take a closer look at our rides since there are two of them there (Wildcat and Lightning Racer).  It was a lot easier to see how each part interacted with the ride structure and Millennium flyers, and I surprised myself at how many parts I could identify just from the week of doing inventory.  Needless to say, I think I’ve learned a lot already this week and I haven’t even touched a train yet!

In the next few weeks I’ll be heading down with Dan to Dollywood and we will have a small project to do on Thunderhead for a few days.  I’m pretty excited not only to visit Dollywood, but also to get some field experience with the Millennium Flyers and the ride itself.

So far it’s been a pretty good week and I’m excited to see what the next five months have in store for me.

Stay tuned!

Building, Shipping, and ACE-ers (oh my!)

By , February 16, 2012
Pat Slattery

I apologize for the delay since my last post; we had an extremely busy couple of weeks here at GCII. I guess I’ll jump right in and start where I left off.

On January 26, we shipped the remaining nine cars of train 1. The day before the shipping container arrived, each car got strapped down to its custom designed pallet, covered with a blanket, and wrapped in plastic. Then, once the container got here the next day, each car was loaded using the forklift and fastened securely to the floor of the container. I was amazed at how smoothly all of this went- from what I hear, it used to be a far more convoluted and difficult process involving a pallet jack and lots of frustration back in the days before the shop expansion, when GCII didn’t have a loading dock.

After the remainder of train 1 was loaded and gone, train 2 was fully finished before work started on train 3. Train 2 was finished mostly without incident, and was completed on the Friday after train 1 was shipped. This left us one week to build train 3 from the ground up.

The building of Wodan’s third train is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever witnessed or been a part of. It went from completely bare, unchecked chassis on Saturday morning, to a completely finished train by Friday morning… and we didn’t even work that Sunday. That’s just over five working days to assemble a Millennium Flyer from the ground up. Now granted, those were days where we worked 8 AM to 7 PM, but still, it’s really amazing how quickly these trains can come together when all the parts are already here and everything goes smoothly.

After train 3 was finished and mostly wrapped, we had most of a day to get spare parts ready to go. One thing I didn’t realize before I started here was how many spare parts need to be sent for new construction. Since this ride is in Europe, it’s very important to make sure we send a spare part for everything that could conceivably go wrong. It’s also doubly important that we get all of those spares inside the shipping containers with the trains, as a container takes 4-6 weeks to arrive in Europe; if a part is needed and we didn’t send it in the container, it would have to be sent via FedEx, at a cost of up to several thousand dollars.

The day after the trains were finished was a very unique experience for me, as we went to East Coaster, my first ever ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) event, and first event as an “official” member of the amusement industry. By complete random chance, we ended up sitting at the same table as Jeff Filicko from Kennywood Park, who a couple years ago gave a behind-the-scenes tour to myself and several others from OSU’s Theme park Engineering Group during the construction of Sky Rocket. It was cool to see all the representatives from various parks at the event showing off their projects for 2012, and fun to meet complete strangers who were as excited about my job as I am.

The next morning, we had a tour scheduled for all the folks who were at East Coaster and wanted to see the GCII shop. However, I had a bit of a problem when I got up in the morning; I woke up, I picked up my glasses off the table next to my bed… and they completely fell apart. Split right in the middle, Harry Potter style. This was a Very Bad thing, because without my glasses I can’t even recognize people’s faces. Driving without them would be completely out of the question. After briefly considering using them as a pair of monocles, I remembered I still had the magnetic sunglasses attachment for them floating around in my car. I found that, knocked the darkened lenses out, and taped it to the remains of my frames to use as structural support. For those of you who were at the tour on Sunday and may have noticed I was wearing badly repaired glasses, this is the reason why.

The shop tour was another unique experience for me. Having toured the GCII shop several times as an outsider, it was interesting and fun to be one of the “insiders.” We had a great turnout of around 50 people- even Dick Knoebel and his son Rick were here! I hope everyone who came to see the facility enjoyed themselves, and I think we all enjoyed giving the tour.

After the tour was over, I luckily found a Wal Mart up in Williamsport (about an hour away) that had the same kind of frames in stock, meaning I could just buy the frames without having to get new lenses, so I drove up and bought them, and made it back in time for kickoff of the Super Bowl.

The next day, Monday the 6th, was the big shipment day. The container for Train 2 was here when we got to the office at 8:00, with the one for Train 3 due around 10:00. Each container had just barely enough room for a full train plus two pallets of spare parts. The process was much the same as it was for Train 1, with each car being loaded with the forklift, facing opposite directions and fitting together like a puzzle. With the cars all loaded in tightly, there’s only a foot or so of width between them for someone to squeeze into and get them screwed to the floor of the container. Somehow, despite being the biggest one at the office, I ended up with this job for both Trains 2 and 3. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but I got the job done. Both trains were fully loaded and on their way to the Port of Baltimore by 11:30 AM.

To celebrate the completion and shipment of the trains, the whole building crew went out to Longhorn for a steak lunch, where I stuffed myself with a 20 oz Porterhouse steak and a slice of chocolate cake with a scoop of ice cream on top (there’s a reason I’m the biggest one at the office!) The rest of the day was filled with clean up work around the shop, and saying our farewells to Mats, whose flight back to Stockholm left the next morning.

The rest of the week was consumed by taking a full inventory of all our train parts. Theoretically, we should just be able to subtract the parts used on the Europa trains from our previous stock numbers, but just to be safe and to avoid future headaches, a full inventory of every part was taken.

Other than inventory, things haven’t been too busy here since the Wodan trains were shipped. We’ve pulled the chassis out of storage for the Fun Spot America ride that’s being built for 2013 down in Orlando, and have started working on a few various parts for that- I’m gradually realizing that almost as much work goes into preparing to build a Millennium Flyer train as goes into actually assembling it. Otherwise, things have been fairly normal, which in many ways is a welcome change from the craziness of the first five weeks of my internship.

Hello World

By , January 23, 2012
Pat Slattery

Hi everyone, I’m Pat Slattery, and I’m the new intern here at GCII in Sunbury. Like former intern Eamon, I’m from the Ohio State University, and am in the Theme Park Engineering Group there. I actually first interviewed for this internship at the same time as Eamon, in October 2009. I interviewed again in October 2010, and then just a couple months ago finally got the call from Chris that I had been selected, over two years after my first interview with GCII. If I had to give one piece of advice to someone trying to get a job in this industry, it’s that patience and perseverance are absolutely vital.

I’ve been working at GCII since January 3rd, and despite my late start to this blog (at first due to lack of internet access, and then due to a lovely and enjoyable week-long bout with the flu), I do intend to keep this site fairly well updated. I’ll start by giving a quick overview of my time with GCII so far. This has been an extremely busy few weeks for everyone here as we work to complete three Millennium Flyer trains for Europa Park’s Wodan Timburcoaster. We completed the first three cars in time for them to be shipped on the 17th (while also working on the rest of the cars for the first train so they can be shipped this week). While I was out with the flu last week, the rest of the assembly crew (Adam, Dan, Chris, and Mats) worked like crazy and got the rest of the Train 1 cars done a few days ahead of schedule. There’s no time to stop and rest, however, as the second and third trains need to be finished in a few weeks!

Today, all of the cars for Train 2 were flipped. For those who haven’t followed this site before, when a Millennium Flyer is built, all the chassis start out upside down.  The running gear (wheels, anti-rollbacks, chain dogs, etc) is built with the car upside down, as it’s a lot easier to access that way.  Then, the cars are all individually flipped, placed on custom made pallets, and the seats, lapbars, running boards, etc, are added on.  The flipping process was very interesting today, as we used a new method that Chris developed over the past couple weeks (it’s not like you can just pick the cars up by hand and flip them over- a fully assembled Millennium Flyer car weighs almost six hundred pounds!).  While it took a couple attempts for everyone to fully learn the new process, it seems to me like it works much more smoothly and safely than the old way of flipping the cars.  With all of the Train 2 cars flipped right side up, we hope to have the full train completed by the end of this week. Keep watching this site, as I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some pictures within the next several days of the progress so far!

5 Wild Weekends

By , November 2, 2010
Jeff Bachiochi

So it seems Halloween season has come and gone. For most parks this means the end of the year, especially where I’m from. I always find it hard to make plans on the weekends of October, because part of me always wants to hit a bunch of parks, while the other side of me wants to celebrate Halloween. And if I’m lucky, I get to do both.

This year, I was able to do a little of everything! Weekend 1 of October took place at Six Flags New England and the Haunted Graveyard at Lake Compounce (which I talked briefly about in my last post). On Weekend 2, I went to the Phoenix Phall Phunfest at Knoebels on Saturday, and then KennyKon at Kennywood on Sunday. Both events were fantastic, but by Monday morning, after driving back to Sunbury at 4 in the morning, I was pretty burnt out! Weekend 3 consisted of a brief visit to Hersheypark, followed by the world renowned Shocktoberfest down near Reading, PA, which was well done and really quite scary.

Weekend 4 was one of my favorites of the year because I got to work at the Elysburg Haunted House! Every year, the Great Coasters guys volunteer and dress up in ghillie suits to scare brave passersby as they walk through our dim-lit “forest”. Although the event is a haunted house, there is a good portion of it outdoors, including our area where we covered a small pathway with pine trees and fog. The best part is that with proper surroundings, we can be practically invisible….well…at least until we decide to scare you! =O ….It was an absolute blast, and I wish I could do it every year.

And as for Weekend 5, I was finally able to drive back to Boston to visit my friends at school to celebrate one of my favorite holidays of the year. It was the perfect way to cap of my favorite month. Although I’m sad that October is over, there is still a lot to look forward to. IAAPA is just around the corner, and this year I’m lucky enough to be an ambassador! Right after that its Thanksgiving, then a few weeks in December, and before I know it, my time here at Great Coasters will be done…

But I’m trying not to think about that. What I should tell you is that sometime during the haze of this amazingly fast month, Chinese inspectors from CSEI came and cleared our trains for take off. The 24 Millennium Flyer cars have finally been packed up and are currently on their way to China! Oh and as for our massive office expansion goes, well we suddenly have a roof and walls! But don’t worry I’ll be uploading pictures soon.

Until next time,


American Coaster

By , August 25, 2010
Jeff Bachiochi

Here at the office in Sunbury, we like to watch Discovery Channel’s American Chopper at lunch. If you’re not familiar, its a “reality” show about Orange County Choppers and all the custom bikes they build. To be honest the dialog is pretty contrived, but the thing I like about the show is watching them build bikes from scratch. We like to joke that Great Coasters should have a similar reality show. We can’t create trains as fast as OCC creates bikes, but we could certainly bring a lot of drama to the show. The office here is filled with characters, and sometimes things get stressful and it gets really interesting ;).   It would definitely be entertaining enough for Discovery Channel. I think people would like watching what we do. Unfortunately I don’t know how much we can even show since a lot of our techniques are a secret so…..

To switch gears, our china trains are about 99% done. With the exception of the 5 chassis’ that need to be inspected, all the cars are set to be completed this week. Over a dozen of the cars are done while others are only missing a couple bolts and nuts. Its really cool for me to see what is basically a finished product. When I first started, these cars were nothing but chassis, and now they’re all grown up! I’ve attached some pictures of the shop to show how crowded its has become. But on the bright side, we are also breaking ground this week on our new building expansion. So within a few weeks we should have a much bigger shop to operate in. Maybe if we have more space, Discovery Channel will want to do our show..stay tuned!

Jeff :)

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