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.


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