Category: Shop

Trains and Shipments

By , October 19, 2016
Paul Brenckle

Hello again,

Last time I left off with getting to work on trains. Well, that sorta happened.

Sept 24-30
I mainly worked on the Kings Island trains. I finally got to assemble a few guide wheel weldments and then mount them on the chassis. Occasionally, the weldments do not fit due to the coating on them, so you need to take a brillo pad to that area on the chassis. Fun fact, there is a difference between a cap screw and a bolt. Basically, there is a flat washer face under the bolt head of a cap screw, where as a bolt is lacking a flat washer. They are also forged differently, but in our case, it is better to use a cap screw on the trains to conserve space. Once all the weldments were put in, the upstop wheels needed to be put in. There is no easy way of tightening the nut on the upstop wheel axle, it takes about 3 minutes per wheel. Putting on the magnetic brake fins is one of my favorite parts. You have to shimmy the fin around to get the spacers and cap screws to fit just right. Sometimes it takes 10 seconds, other times 60 seconds. All in all, its great to see the trains come together from the ground up. On Friday the 30th, Dan was out for the day, but left work for Ian, Tim, and I. We got to mount all the lap bar cans and put the lap bars in the GhostRider train. Also, not all of the lap bars precisely, so we had to use an emery cloth to get them down to the perfect fit. It was interesting to do this without Dan being there to help. While we were getting the lap bars put on, our project manager at Busch called and needed truss plates for the Station ASAP. We had planned on a trip to Dollywood, so they had us stop at Busch on the way home because it was faster than setting up a small shipment.

Oct 3-7
Next week I noticed that Busch Gardens went vertical. It was great being part of that process and nice to see that construction ensued after the parts were delivered. One of the days I got to assemble all of the seat dividers for GhostRider and set them aside for future use. I also got to drive down to the vendor to pick up some bolters for the seat side foam. We received updated quantities on hardware and brackets for Mystic Timbers, which was helpful for an upcoming shipment. That week an engineer from Busch Gardens came up to see how everything was coming along for InvadR. They are refurbishing the old Gwazi trains, but everything from the floorboards up will be new. That Friday was opening night for the Elysburg haunted house, I wore a mask and (hopefully) scared people in the basement of the house while Dan terrorized everyone at the slaughter barn.

Oct 10-14
Last week, it dawned on me that last minute shipments are normal, and you can never fully relax. To get these shipments ready to go, I worked with Ryan, Bob, and Clair to make sure everything that we sent was correct. It involved a lot of hustle and questioning to get it right. Ian and I also quality checked a delivery of brackets and got them stacked on heat treated pallets to ship out to China next week.

Over the weekend I went to Cedar Point with the Penn State TPEG and the other interns for an amazing tour of Raptor, Valravn, Dragster, and Maxair. This week I’m taking off to see family for a day, then I’m off to Scottsdale for the ASTM F24 Conference.

 


Introduction and Life in Sunbury

By , September 21, 2016
Paul Brenckle

Hi everyone, I’m Paul and I’ve been an intern for Great Coasters International since late May. There were some issues with the intern website, so I haven’t been able to post until now. I’ve done a lot of work this summer and have a few things to share.

I’m from Butler, PA, and am studying mechanical engineering at Penn State University. My passion for theme parks began when my family visited the former Six Flags Ohio amusement park, where I rode my first roller coasters. I would spend most of my childhood building my dream rides in Rollercoaster Tycoon or with K’nex, hoping that one day I could do that in real life. Much to my (happy)surprise, I would end up working on them this summer. Here’s a summary of how I ended up at GCI.

In August 2014, I attended GCI’s conference called FREDx (Future Ride Engineers and Designers), to interview for a possible internship. Obviously, I didn’t get a position right away. However, I met some great people and kept in touch. After two years of attending a Penn State branch campus, I transferred to main campus for junior year and joined the Penn State Theme Park Engineering Group (PSU TPEG), which was one of the best decisions I have made. With this group, I attended other conferences, like SkyNEXT, IAAPA, and ASTM F24. I highly recommend attending these conferences, as they are a great way to learn about the industry, find possible internships, and have fun. I was able to reconnect with a few of the GCI engineers at IAAPA and ASTM, and got an offer for a summer internship this past spring.

When I started in May, I was one of four interns in Sunbury. Dan was traveling around the world to help parks get ready to open their new rides, so Mitch – one of the spring interns (also a fellow PSU TPEG member) – stayed to help the new interns get settled in until Dan returned. My first week consisted of assembling guide wheels, filling brochures for the Asian Attractions Expo, and steel fabrication for the new InvadR roller coaster coming to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Until the end of July, Jase and I worked in the fab shop, preparing the steel bents, making brackets, and minimizing waste. Once Scott was transferred to the engineering office, I took his place preparing shipments for the new rides.

These past few weeks have been interesting. I was able to travel to local companies to pick up a few things for the trains with Dan, such as chassis, seatbacks and bolters. We’ve flipped two trains worth of chassis, one for Knott’s and one for Kings Island. Things are coming along nicely. This week I’ve been working with Ryan and Bob to make sure all the hardware, brackets, and lumber are gathered for a repair job starting in the beginning of October. Since everything is ready to ship out, I’ll get to help Dan out with the trains (the most fun part of the job). I probably left out a few things, but this post is getting pretty long.

One last thing before I go. Dan always volunteers at the Elysburg Haunted House and asked us interns for help. We’ve gone out a few times during the week and weekend to help set up a barn. Dan really loves Hall0ween and is constantly thinking of new entertaining ways to scare people. I’ll just say that this year is going to be awesome at the haunted house and I’m excited to help out in every way I can.


Week 2: Finding my Bearings in the Shop

By , January 23, 2015
Matt Brueckmann

Apologies for the punny title, though, I did take a look at some of the hitches we use to attach each coaster car together (which have bearings in them).

Anyway, let’s talk about one of the unique things about GCI, the shop! I’m working in the Sunbury, PA office, the headquarters of GCI, where our shop and materials are located. Since we design and build our own coaster cars (the Millennium Flyer and Mini-llennium Flyer), our company is unique in that we have this shop space for the main purpose of building and assembling our own trains in-house, which is really neat. At our Sunbury location as a whole, we have anything from multiple types of lumber, track steel, seat side cushions, wheels, multiple versions of car chassis, lapbar cans (the base of the system that locks your lapbar into place), hardware (nuts, bolts, etc), and much more all within several storage areas. Since this was my first 2 weeks here, I would say a lot of my time was spent observing, asking questions, learning where everything is, and then from there attempting to do as much work as I could. Luckily, Fall intern Sean was here for the last 2 weeks, which certainly helped speed up some of the learning curve for things, along with getting some major work done, even on my first day.

The one thing that I think I’ve learned quickly while being here, is that there’s so much more that goes on at a roller coaster manufacturer than just working on whatever the latest project is. There’s so much more that goes on often behind the scenes. Just in my 2 weeks here, I have done anything from assembling cars, to compiling/shipping part orders for certain parks, to sending out parts to our local machining partners, to collecting incoming part shipments.

In addition to the work going on in the shop filling orders and assembling trains, there’s also the work going on in our Engineering Office, which often interfaces with the shop as you can imagine. They handle the design work, and I know for our trains, there are always improvements being made to the finest detail to improve the rider experience, safety, and maintenance work. The Millennium Flyer itself has had numerous changes since it was first made, many of which can be seen on the outside. Even beyond that, there are improvements being made day by day for our cars that I’ve even gotten to experience myself, many that happen under the hood. An example of this is a part that we tweaked a tolerance on to the 1,000th of an inch, just so that several other parts could fit together better and allow for easier future maintenance. That attention to detail with these cars amazed me, and made me realize that there is so much more to building a roller coaster than I ever realized.

Lesson 1: The work that happens before opening date, is just as important as what happens after.


The End?

By , December 29, 2014
Sean Jurado

Well my internship was supposed to end last Tuesday… Surprise! I’m still here. My spring semester starts late, and things are really picking up around here, so I got an extension til mid-January. No complaints here.

Anyways, on to important things. Our chassis started coming in a few weeks ago, and Dan and I have been busy tackling them. We’ve got 12 cars with about half of the underside built up, and the rest coming today. It’s been really cool actually building the cars, because I’m getting to see what all the parts I’ve been gathering, building, and shipping out actually do, and where they go.

It’s also nice from and engineering side of things, because I’m asking Dan questions (practically every other part) about why things are shaped the way they are, what each flange or section is for, why so much seemingly extra material, stuff like that. The most common answers are strength, and fail-safes. In the unlikely event that a wheel is lost, that protrusion from the chassis will catch the track, or, to make the car extra stable, this section was beefed up to be extra strong. Obviously, I haven’t seen the math that goes into designing these things, but my intuition from looking at them and asking questions is that they’re plenty strong, and thus safe. When talking about how safe coasters are, I’ve heard it said that you’re more likely to get in an accident on the drive to the park, than on any of the rides in the park. Looking at everything here, I believe it with no hesitation.

That about wraps it up for now, we’ve got a lot of train building to get to, but I’ll be back here at least once more before I leave.

Oh, and we’ll have another intern up here starting next week, so look forward to him posting stuff soon after

Back to work!


Halfway Point: Reflections and Lessons Learned

By , October 31, 2014
Sean Jurado

Wow, I’m already halfway through this internship. When did that happen?

The last several weeks have been filled up with getting the IAPPA trade show cars ready (no pics til after the show, that would be spoilers, and who likes those anyways?), filling orders, and general maintenance of the shop. We’ve started getting in parts for an upcoming job. Stay tuned through our official news channels for more on that.

Bit of  a change in pace today as far as what I’m going to talk about here. A few weeks ago, we received some old parts from one of our parks. The plan was to get them refurbished, but first we had to see if they were any good, or if they were just too worn out to be salvaged. So I got to go at them with a set of calipers and check the wear of some of the holes. It was an easy enough task, but what was cool about it was getting a hands on look and feel for what wear and tear of components looks like. It’s definitely something different to see the actual effects of several years of use. It’s amazing how little room there is for error on these trains. We’re talking about gaps on the order of 10^(-3) in. causing a part to be unacceptable. That’s really small. For the uninitiated, we’re talking about a few sheets of paper in thickness. To me, that scale seems even more tiny, as I’m studying structural engineering, so I’m used to dealing with distances on the order of 10s of feet down to 0.1s of feet. The idea of measuring down to even the inch is often unnecessary. That’s really precise. I guess that’s why they’re so safe.

Speaking of safety, I’ve been looking at and learning about all the safety features we have on these trains. We’re talking about backups for the backups. Take the upstop wheel for instance. This wheel rides underneath the track and stops the car from coming off the track when it crests a hill. Now, if you design the ride just right, gravity will be enough to keep the car on the tracks without the aid of such wheels (if you ever hear people talking about pulling G’s, positive or negative, this kind of thing is what they’re talking about). Doesn’t matter, we have upstop wheels on all of our rides, but there’s a backup for that backup. The are 4 layers of redundancy for keeping the train where it belongs and its passengers safe.

I’m not going to lie, that idea, the multiple redundancy, fascinates me. I love getting to see or figure out how something works; that’s a large part of why I am going to be an engineer. I’m really enjoying my time here, but I do look forward to the day that I can work in an engineering office (I’d love for that to be here at GCII of course). Still, even though I’m doing more shop work and not really looking at the engineering side, it’s still worth it to be here and working on roller coasters at all.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Jake a few weeks ago. He was telling me about some of the rides he’s worked on and some of his experiences he’s had in this industry. Jake’s one of our field supervisors, so his job is to manage and run a project. On site, he’s at the top of the food chain. He was saying that even though it’s difficult, exhausting work, far from home and family, and all the other trials and difficulties that come with it (it is a large construction project after all), that in the end it’s all made worth it by that first ride of a brand new coaster. Getting to be on that inaugural train is a special treat, and there’s no other way to get it. Couple that with the immense pride and satisfaction in a job well done, and you’ve got an amazing feeling that rivals the thrill of the ride itself (I’m paraphrasing of course, but I think the message remains intact). That really resonated with me, because I’ve felt some similar things from my side as a newbie (or, a few months ago, as a hopeful outsider). I’ve felt and known that it’d be worth working longer hours, or moving somewhere unexpected if necessary to get into and stay in this industry

So, what’s next? No idea, but I’m looking forward to it.


Week II

By , September 22, 2014
Sean Jurado

Monday afternoon Dan and I headed out to one of our machining partners to drop off some stuff. Tuesday afternoon is spent on even more upstops, before running out of parts to finish any more. Wednesday Dan’s on vacation, so I’m under Brian’s jurisdiction ’til he gets back. We spend the morning stuffing brochures for the trade show next week. That afternoon, Clair gave me the project of updating our web-conferencing software, which takes until Friday at lunch to complete. Interspersed around that task I help Brian get some orders ready (while waiting for people to call me back and such). Friday afternoon I touch up the web conferencing stuff a little, round out another order, before heading back to the upstops, just without the missing parts

Week II Totals:

Upstops: 62

Orders: 3ish

Video Conference Clients installed/updated: 1

Computers Resurrected: 1


Week I

By , September 22, 2014
Sean Jurado

We started with lapbar gear hub assemblies on Monday and moved into upstop wheels after lunch. Tuesday brings more upstop wheels and some guide wheels. Finish the guide wheels on Wednesday and move back to upstops. Friday means back in the shop for, you guessed it, more upstop wheels. Also I go to use the forklift, so that was fun.

Week I Totals:

Gear Hubs: ~20 Left and ~20 Right

Upstops: 58

Guide Wheels: 30

(If you don’t know what any of these parts are, don’t worry, it’s not that important If such understanding is ever crucial to the point I’m making, I’ll provide the necessary background)


Final Lessons

By , May 12, 2014
Manny Esteves

What just happened? I swear it was January last week and now it’s freaking May?! What gives? Well, sadly this will be my final post for Great Coasters International as an intern. I can’t even fathom the amount of information I learned about roller coasters, the amusement industry and even myself in the past 5 months. I transitioned from that nervous kid who had Dan watching over his shoulder to taking the initiative to get things done independently and surprise, the more time I spent here the less hiccups that occurred. I felt like I’ve grown as an engineer and I’m looking to take the knowledge and experience I have with me to the next level, whatever that may be. So here’s my wrap up and my final lessons.

Last August I decided to quit my job as a ride-op, drove out to Conneaut Lake Park to go help out with a TV show with a group of people I had barely known. I made a great impression, which turned into a professional connection and eventually a position with Great Coasters.

So Lesson 9: take those risks, it’s what this industry is built on.

I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity had it not been for the Penn State Theme Park Engineering Group (TPEG), the connections the older members made allowed the younger members to get their foot in the door and pick up where they left off. Also, I was elected President this semester, so hopefully I can continue the great work we’ve done.

Lesson 10: There’s strength in numbers, and it’s a lot easier to engage professionals when there’s a group behind you.

You never know who will end up associating with what project and will have a need for a someone with your skills and passion. So put yourself out there, go to conferences, get that job in your local park, network!

Lesson 11: Any experience is better than no experience in this industry.

Lesson 12: Go to IAAPA (plain and simple).

And my final observation is, this industry is tough. It’s a field that has a lot of prospects and not many spots. You’re going to have some periods of doubt along the way, so you have to really ask yourself “how badly do I want this? Am I willing to risk putting all my effort in with a chance of getting no result?” I’ve asked myself this question every day at work, and the answer is always the same. I’ve wanted this more than I’ve wanted anything in my life and I’m going to give it everything I have to make it. So…

Lesson 13: Don’t follow your dreams, chase them.

Thanks to everyone at Great Coasters International for making this amazing opportunity an awesome experience and a special thanks to Chris for giving me the chance to achieve one of my dreams. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better company to start out with.


Hershey and Knoebels

By , May 12, 2014
Manny Esteves

Finally! Opening day! I’ve had some serious theme park withdrawal and decided to head out to Hershey Park and Knoebels’ opening weekends to get my fix. I always found Hershey to be sort of an underrated park; you never realize how many awesome rides they have until you’re actually inside the park. Also, Great Coasters has 3 rides at Hershey, Wildcat (our first coaster) and Lightning Racer (which counts as 2). Interestingly enough, Lightning Racer competes with Great Bear as one of the most ridden coasters in the entire park annually. When I got on, I was shocked to feel how smooth the ride was after 14 years and my eyes were drawn to so many different elements of the ride I never really paid attention to before. I chalked it up to GCII coaster recognition until I started enjoying other attractions like Fahrenheit, Stormrunner , Great Bear and Skyrush. When the ride pulled into the station, my eyes immediately focused on aspects I had been working on the past 5 months. I identified the guide wheel weldments, the brake fins, where the upstop wheels were supposed to be. Chris said it’s part of the job, “you start to see them as these powerful machines.” They’re more than that, though; they’re artistic creations. Too often we associate art with paintings and sculptures when we forget the aesthetic nature that goes into the design of these things. While you’re going down that drop or taking that banked turn you don’t realize it, but take a step back and you may see the beauty behind these massive structures, it just enhances the experience.

Next stop was Knoebels for opening day. It’s a hidden gem over in the middle of Central Pennsylvania as it holds the title of the largest free-admission park. With that family-friendly feel to it, it’s got quite a few great rides and I decided to bring my mom and brother to see what they thought of it. Mom, in particular was someone who I wanted to get a read on. She swore off wooden roller coasters after some rough (and that is probably an understatement) experiences on some less than average classics. When I told her that the GCII specialized in wooden coasters, I saw the painful wince that brought her back to the pains and jolts she now associated with every wooden coaster. She insisted on buying tickets saying she was going to be done after the first one and didn’t need a handstamp, the challenge was issued and accepted. As we went up the lifthill for the Phoenix, I saw the tell tale signs of muscle memory and painful flashbacks. Her teeth began to grit, she clutched the lap bar and shut her eyes, counting the seconds she would have to endure before she said “I told you, I don’t like them.”  Then came the first drop, and her eyes opened like she woke up from a bad dream, “wow, it’s actually smooth.” I chuckled as we went through the rest of the ride, her hands raised and screaming like a little kid. “Well, I gotta hand it to yah. I was wrong,” she said in that heavy Long Island accent. “What else ya got?” We went on Twister afterwards where we had done some track work on my first day on the job and then took a ride on Flying Turns. It was great to see that even though we didn’t build it, the work we did on those rides were enough to bring someone back from the dark side. Maybe next time we’ll bring Dad, although he’s still mad at me for taking him on Sheikra last November.

While GCII did great jobs with their work in both parks, I have to give a shout out to the maintenance crews. We can build and design spectacular structures all we want, but the daily task of keeping the rides smooth and making sure it is a safe and enjoyable experience falls upon the maintenance teams and after experiencing both parks, it’s clearly evident that these people care about their park. So props to you guys!

Lesson 8: True learning is taking what you learn out of the shop, lab, or classroom and seeing it work in the real world


GCI 101: Intro to Trains

By , May 12, 2014
Manny Esteves

So this blog is going to consist of the random facts I’ve picked up throughout the whole assembly process of the trains. I’ll start with some basic Millennium Flyer facts and then go into some more detail.

So Millennium Flyer trains have been a big selling point for Great Coasters, except for the first three coasters; Wildcat, Gwazi and Roar. A lot of people like them because they embody what GCII is all about, creating rides with that classic feel to them. However, they were created with the intention of entering and making turns with a much smoother transition and that’s why you’ll see some parks swap out their original cars for Millennium Flyers (after we modify the track a little bit). The technical term used is “roll”, “pitch” and “yaw.” Basically in terms of mechanical physics, roll is the movement in the x-axis, pitch is the y-axis and yaw is the z-axis. They’ve been called the “gold standard” in the wooden coaster industry and are something Great Coasters takes a heavy amount of pride in.

Our coasters are in a transition period in terms of brake systems. We carry the brake fins and supplies necessary for the traditional system, however all new rides use a copper-zinc alloy magnetic brakes we now carry. Magnetic brakes basically use eddy currents when entering the brake run to slow it to a gentle stop. For the younger readers, an eddy current is basically a current that is produced by changing magnetic fields to repel the brake fins and slow it down. It’s cool because it’s directly proportional to the speed of the ride coming in and therefore makes it a lot safer.

I’ll finish with restraint systems, which is what I consider the most important part. Even though we make zero G coasters, GCII still goes the extra mile with safety by including seatbelts in addition to the traditional, single person lap bar. I spent two whole days the other week just assembling the lapbar mechanisms and getting familiar with every individual component. The lapbar mechanisms are attached to the gear hubs (which are shown in one of my previous blogs and responsible for that clicking sound you hear when you pull it down) and if you buckle up, you’ll have me to thank for enjoying the comfort of our awesome trains! …Okay I guess Dan gets credit for making sure I’m doing everything correctly too, but you get the picture! So, class dismissed, don’t forget we’ll be taking a field trip in the next blog and finals are coming up soon!

Lesson 7: Despite what people will say, roller coasters undergo strict safety inspections and regulations. If they’re operating, the company and park has done a massive amount of work to ensure your safety.


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