Bents! Bents! Bents!

By , October 3, 2016
Tyler Mullins

If you’ve ever watched the show “How I Met Your Mother”, you may remember an episode in season 6 where Robin gets a new co-anchor named Becky. Becky was super exuberant and bubbly (much to Robin’s dismay) and is best remembered for a commercial she starred in, exclaiming “Boats! Boats! Boats!”. The past couple weeks have made me think of this scene, only instead I’m imagining someone shouting “Bents! Bents! Bents!”

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a bent is a frame designed to support something like a bridge, a roof, or, in the case of Great Coasters, a roller coaster. Bents consist of two vertical posts, horizontal chords and diagonal pieces connecting these posts, and sometimes diagonal batters that span out to the sides. The roller coaster track sits on top of this structure, running perpendicular to the bent.

Here is a quick photo of a generic bent to help you visualize what I’m talking about:

A wooden roller coaster is supported by hundreds of these bents, each custom designed and built to accommodate for the terrain, forces, and other factors at that point in the ride. And while the majority of Great Coasters’ projects use wooden bents, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s InvadR is the company’s second ride to instead have steel ones.

So why are bents at the forefront of my mind? So much so that I’d make a blog post titled “Bents! Bents! Bents!”? Well, the majority of my time since I last wrote a blog post has been devoted to InvadR and its bents. All 330-something of them.

I started by reviewing drawings of bents that the design engineers created, checking to make sure all the dimensions and information were accurate. I then had the chance to create some drawings myself, learning some new things in the process. For example, Great Coasters uses standardized parts whenever possible to save on cost and time. And for customized parts, very specific drawings have to be made so that they can be fabricated correctly.

I’ve also now had the opportunity to begin making the bents myself, starting with simple AutoCAD sketches and ending with accurate, detailed 3D models. That’s been really cool to learn, albeit challenging at times.

My past few weeks may have been absorbed by bents, but we’re now in the homestretch of modeling and making drawings of them for InvadR. It won’t be long until all the pieces have been fabricated at Great Coasters’ office in Pennsylvania and then sent to Williamsburg and assembled on-site. I can’t wait to watch the ride begin to grow, nor can I wait to see what I’ll learn or do next as a Great Coasters intern. I’ll make sure to share whatever it is with you though!

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