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.

First Few Weeks in Florence

By , September 9, 2016
Tyler Mullins

Hello! My name is Tyler and I’m one of the newest interns for Great Coasters International, Inc.. I started here in the Florence office about three weeks ago but it’s already been a roller coaster of learning experiences and assignments. I’ll jump into some of those in a moment, but I’ll start with better introducing myself.

I’m a civil engineering student at Ohio State University and will graduate next December. I’ve had a passion for roller coasters and theme parks for as long as I can remember – as a kid I used to spend endless hours dreaming up and drawing my own rides, building parks in Roller Coaster Tycoon, and visiting the nearby Kings Island amusement park. As a freshman in college I joined the Theme Park Engineering Group (TPEG), a student organization devoted to learning about and networking within the theme park industry. Through the group I’ve been able to work at transforming my passion into a future career, including attending FREDx over the summer and beginning my internship here at GCI.

In terms of what I’ve done in the office so far, I’ve been busy with different assignments for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s “InvadR” and Kings Island’s “Mystic Timbers”, two exciting GCI roller coasters opening next year. The latter has been incredibly surreal – not only did I frequently visit Kings Island from a young age, but I also spent parts of seven summers working there. Working on a new roller coaster for Kings Island has been a longtime dream come true, helping the ride transition from concept to reality.

For Busch Gardens’ ride I’ve been checking bent drawings, marking-up layouts of the ride, and learning a lot about the different ways a steel structure differs from a wooden one. I’ve completed similar assignments for Kings Island’s, including work on foundations and brake locations. Both projects have required an extensive use of AutoCAD and Inventor, two pieces of design software. I worked with AutoCAD a little bit last semester, but this was my first time even touching Inventor. In only a few weeks I feel as though I’ve grasped a much better understanding of how both programs work, but I know there is a lot left to learn. Every day I’m discovering something new about AutoCAD or Inventor, like how to do tasks more efficiently or the proper way of displaying information on drawings.

To wrap up, these first few weeks have been amazing and I’ve already learned so much. Things have also been super busy though – alongside the two new coasters in the United States, there are two more that will be opening in China. This is more rides in a single year than GCI has ever done before, so there’s no shortage of work to be completed. I’m sure I’ll be preoccupied with a lot of that, but I’m super excited for it and to share more about my experience soon!

It’s Been A While

By , April 9, 2016
Kaan Toy

Whoa it’s been a while!  I apologize for not writing anything up in a while (a month is too long) but parks around here are starting to open up and well… you know.  A lot of things have happened since my last post.  GhostRider’s silver train is essentially complete and the gold train isn’t far behind.  By the time you read this post Plopsaland’s trains will be on their way overseas as well.

This past week I have been helping to put the finishing touches on the silver train such as the running boards, seat belts, and knee guards.  In addition, earlier in the week I helped Todd build a set of static skid brakes that are going to be installed on Yankee Cannonball’s brake run at Canobie Lake Park.

In the last update I promised that I would have more to tell you about GhostRider’s trains.  In hindsight, it seems like they came together incredibly fast and I wish I would have been able to give progress updates as they were being built up;  however, it was a bit of a catch 22 as I was never able find a good chunk of time (probably a sign that I go to bed too early) to sit down and write a post while we were working on them.  I can say that one of my favorite moments of the whole building process was seeing the first tub (the part of the car that surrounds the riders from the sides and back) completed.  There was a very real sense of accomplishment associated with seeing the car resemble the final product that sits of the track.

Working on GhostRider’s trains these past several weeks has made me realize how much the customer matters to Great Coasters.  Parks have the option of installing a maintenance rail that is separate from the transfer track.  The maintenance rail allows the train to be free of the track stack and be accessed more easily.  In order to roll on to the maintenance rail however, a set of load runners has to be installed on every car that sits just under the road wheel axles.  As you can imagine, tolerances have to be tight on roller coaster trains in order to fit all the parts they contain all in a relatively compact space and these maintenance rollers are no exception.  After we had set all the road wheel axles and tightened down the road wheels we received a change order requesting that these maintenance rollers be installed on the trains because Knott’s Berry Farm had decided to build a maintenance rail for GhostRider.  Normally, the installation of the load runners would be done before the axles are installed and would have required us to take all the axles and wheels back out this go around.  Unfortunately, doing so would have been an extremely lengthy process that would have set us back by a bit.  However, instead of telling the park that it wouldn’t be possible to install the load runners, Shawn and Dan took the time to develop a method that allowed the rollers to be installed without completely removing the axle.  I’m very glad to be working for a company that seeks out win-win solutions and values the customer as much as Great Coasters does.

That’s all for this week, hopefully another one of these posts will be live come this time next week.

P.S. – A bit of Great Coasters trivia.  After conducting a month long experiment I’ve concluded that the office’s least favorite Dum-Dum flavor is bubblegum.

Super Short Update

By , March 6, 2016
Kaan Toy

Just a quick update this week.  We’ve been hard at work gathering up and prepping items to be shipped out to Plopsaland.  In addition, the new greasing system that I touched on for a paragraph or so last week is now sitting pretty on all of the actuating brakes headed to the park. The trains for GhostRider are starting to take shape as well and are looking pretty wicked; the paint job is out of this world.  Hopefully I’ll have some more details regarding them to share with you in the future.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Hardware, Hardware Everywhere

By , February 28, 2016
Kaan Toy

Hi again all, a week has passed since I last typed up a post and I just wanted to check in and let you know what’s been happening the past seven days here in Sunbury.  I’ve still been very busy hunting down all the machinery hardware that’s needed for Plopsaland.  In addition to gathering all the hardware, I have begun to perform basic quality control on the machinery parts themselves.  Typically, this consists of using a pair of calipers to take measurements of the parts, cross referencing these measurements with callouts on the drawings and finally, making sure that all the parts we have received are within the provided tolerances.  So far in my (relatively short) college career, I haven’t had a class that places an emphasis on the engineering constraints that exist as a result of real world manufacturing methods.  I’ve come to realize that something’s appearance on a sheet of paper can vary from its appearance in real life.  If seemingly small part tolerances stack up in the right (or the wrong) way, they can cause an assembly of parts to be out of alignment.  Little ripples can cause big waves if you’re not careful about the calculation of allowable variance.  Anyways, enough of that, on to the exciting stuff! (for me at least)

Recently, I have been asked to research and come up with a system that allows for the linear bearings on the actuating magnetic brakes to be more easily greased.  Essentially, these linear bearings allow the brakes to move up and down smoothly and currently, the greasing points for the bearing blocks are in somewhat hard to reach locations within the brakes themselves.  After making a few phones calls and searching around to see what knowledge the internet could provide, I drew up a design that used tubing and a mounting block to reposition the greasing points just underneath the top of the brake where they could be accessed from above the track.  Finding a way to mount the block and route the tubes in such a manner that they did not interfere with any existing brake parts proved challenging, yet after several revisions the final product is now sitting on one of the brakes headed out to Plopsaland.  Hopefully by next week they will be on all of them, including the brakes headed to Knott’s Berry Farm.  I can’t quite put into words how it feels to be able to look at these brakes knowing that I had an impact on their design.  Although the addition was relatively minimal, I am very grateful for the opportunity to leave my mark on Great Coasters in some physical form.

Trains have been progressing steadily but (as you can probably guess by the wall of text above) I haven’t been too involved with them this week.  Seat sides and backs are sitting on Plopsaland’s trains to get an idea how they’ll look.  Currently we are waiting on a delivery of parts that will allow us to mount the seats into place.  Once that’s done we can adjust the lapbars to their final positions.

I suppose that’ll be all for this go around.  I hope you enjoyed reading, and I’ll catch you in the next update!

Hey There!

By , February 21, 2016
Kaan Toy

Hey there everyone, I’m Kaan, one of the three (yep, you read that right. Three.) interns working at the GCI Sunbury office this spring.  First off, I’d like to apologize for the lack of blog updates.  We’ve been here for about a month so far but have just been swamped with work.  That said, hopefully updates will be popping up on here more frequently and consistently in the future.  I wanted to keep this first post fairly light so I’ll try not to throw the whole wall of things we’ve been doing lately at you, maybe just a brick here and there.  Anyways, let me introduce myself a bit.

Currently, I’m a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.  This past fall, Nathan (a previous intern that also attends UT) introduced me to Adam at IAAPA and a few days later I received an email asking if I would be interested in an internship.  Well, I suppose by now you can guess what my answer to that question was.  So far I’ve been enjoying my time here and am very thankful of Great Coasters for letting me be a part of their company for the semester.

As for what I’ve been doing these past weeks, it’s really been a bit of everything.  Recently, Todd has had me going through the drawings of the machinery (motor skid, transfer table, brakes, etc.) being sent out to Plopsaland De Panne in Belgium so that I can sort out all the hardware that needs to be sent along with the parts.  At times it can seem a little repetitive but now I’ve found myself to be much more familiar with the mechanical components that our rides employ.  Here and there I’ve also been helping out Dan with train assembly.  We usually work on trains at night or on weekends because Dan is busy with office matters at most times during the day.  Most recently, we have begun to install lapbars on Plopsaland’s trains.  When I started working in January the chassis hadn’t been bolted together yet so it’s been really cool to see them progress to where they are now.  Of course there have been plenty of odd jobs here and there such as filling sales orders, assembling guide wheel weldments, and pulling lumber out of storage but I figured that I can save all that fun stuff for another time.

Hopefully I’ll have another update written and posted by the beginning of next week, time permitting.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Goodbye laddies!

By , August 30, 2015
Matt Brueckmann

Well, I never thought this would come so soon. My time at Great Coasters has come to a close. By the time this comes out, I’ll have made my trek back to California to finish my final semester of school.

In my previous blog post, I talked about what I learned about getting into the amusement industry, so for those of you interested in having a career working for roller coasters or theme parks, I recommend giving that a read.

Before I move on, I just want to say thanks to so many people who made my journey here possible, from my friends and family who believed in me and supported my passion for the amusement industry, to of course all the awesome people I’ve met at GCI, who have taught me and shown me more than I could have possibly imagined. This is certainly not a typical internship by any means, and I think that’s what made it special for me.  It offers a variety of challenges and learning experiences that I probably wouldn’t have gotten in a typical engineering internship.


5 Lessons I Learned About Getting Into The Theme Park Industry

By , July 22, 2015
Matt Brueckmann

Hi again everyone! Today I thought I’d give you a different kind of post, one that might be useful to those of you who love theme park rides and want to join this amazing industry. I’m just beginning my journey myself, so I’m no expert, but I think I’ve seen a lot of things already that differentiate this from a typical career path. So here’s everything I’ve learned so far in 5 points, starting with Lesson 6 (Lessons 1-5 can be found in my past blog posts):


Lesson 6: Find your specialty and run with it.
By all means, if you find some aspect about the theme park experience that you love and want to work in, then go for it. However, I don’t recommend picking a major/field just because it appears to relate to theme parks. Choose a field that you like first purely because you enjoy it, then figure out how you can apply it to theme parks. Most fields have real-world theme park applications, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

There’s so many different ways you can go with a career in this industry, and there’s never a wrong answer to the path you should take, in my opinion. Everyone I’ve seen make it to some point all came from different, unique paths, even sometimes completely different majors and fields. I always found that fascinating because then everyone has their own different perspectives and experiences to bring to the table. I’ve met people in the industry from backgrounds like engineering, hospitality, architecture, interior design, technical theater, you name it, somebody does it.

Lesson 7: Put yourself out there, attend IAAPA!
For the most part, I believe your passion for theme parks will shine through your past experience/projects and skills. Show people why you are a desirable candidate and what you have to offer first, then explain your passion. I know it’s hard getting into contact with people  sometimes, but I can tell you the best way to do so is to attend amusement industry related events. The best place to meet anyone and everyone in this industry is the IAAPA (International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions) Expo in Orlando, FL each November. It’s basically a large tradeshow where every amusement manufacturer and park displays their latest work, and meets with other companies. I highly, highly recommend attending IAAPA, it’s what brought this adventure full-circle for me, giving me opportunities to learn, connect, and at the least have fun looking at all the cool stuff. I mean, it’s basically a pop-up theme park for a week.

IAAPA even has a program for students and young professionals (the IAAPA Ambassador Program) where you help put on the show and gain so much personally and professionally, and it’s worth applying to.  If you need more information, I was previously an ambassador so let me know!

Lesson 8 : Take risks, find opportunities.
When you take risks, people will notice. And with an industry like this, it’s a must. I know for some of you it might be hard to travel to Orlando for the IAAPA Expo, or travel across the country for an internship, but start small. Find the companies and people whose work interests you, and start by getting in contact with them. Don’t bombard them with emails, but just give them a reminder every once in a while of your continued interest and dedication, you never know where it could lead. That’s how I got into contact with GCI. When the opportunity arises, do your best to take advantage of it. From getting the courage to start a conversation with someone, to finding your way to IAAPA, you’d be surprised how much people are willing to support you in your endeavors. I personally crowdfunded my trip to interview with GCI, which completely surprised me in how generous and insightful people can be when you share your story and your goals.  Efforts like these further demonstrate your persistence and passion where it counts, where people will notice.

Lesson 9: Relationships are key. Make friends, not connections. 
I can’t emphasize this point enough, as I believe it to be one of the most important. The cool thing about this industry, is that it is so big that there are people doing amazing things in every field, yet also such a small world where everybody knows everybody. I find that when I meet new people, they also happen to be connected to others that I know, and over time you can make a great network of friends, colleagues, coworkers, etc. This is essential and can be mutually beneficial for everyone if you make sure to begin and sustain these relationships.

Lesson 10: Don’t give up.
Just about 2 years ago, I was finishing my sophomore year in college and looking for a summer job. I applied to anything from internships to ride operator positions at my local parks, and didn’t get any of them. Let’s just say I lost a little bit of momentum after that. “How could I design and build theme park rides if no one wanted me operating theirs?”, I once thought to myself. Little did I know that it was the best thing for me at the time for several reasons.  It takes a lot of patience and persistence to survive and thrive in this business, and those were personality traits I once thought I didn’t have, but developed through this process. Use your passions in theme parks and your chosen field to push forward through everything, to ultimately achieve your goals.


This is a little long, but I hope this helps some of you, since I really believe each one of these points helped me, especially in the past year. This industry is tough, and will test you in a lot of ways. I’m not saying its easy, but saying its possible, if you put forth the effort. If you need anymore advice or information about different opportunities, I’m more than happy to help where I can. I feel obligated and honored to help, in return for the great advice and opportunities I’ve been given thus far.

Road Trip!

By , June 9, 2015
Matt Brueckmann

Well, I’m about 5 months into working here, and it’s still surreal to me sometimes that coming to work here has become part of my every day routine. Of course, things around here are never routine, and I still kinda geek out on the inside when I discover something new and interesting at the shop. I was fortunate enough to be asked to continue my internship through the summer, which I accepted of course, so I’m excited to be learning an updating you all on some more happenings in the coming months.

Anyway, back to topic at hand, the title of this post. You may wonder what an intern does on the weekends, especially one not too familiar with this side of the US. I can’t speak for the other interns, but for me, I absolutely love traveling, which is why I’ve loved this adventure of coming all the way out to central Pennsylvania to explore and live in a place completely unfamiliar to me. On top of that, weekends have become my time to take some road trips and take advantage of my time here. Every major Northeast city seems to be within a 3 hour drive from Sunbury, which was an exciting discovery of mine. On top of that, there are theme parks galore here with some rich history, and I’ve been waiting so long for summer to come so these parks can open! I’ve gone a bit crazy trying to study the layout of the parks around here, trying to map out which ones would be nearest each other to do 2 in a weekend, along with figuring out their opening days. A few weeks ago, we actually had Good Friday off of work, so I did a big road trip to Virginia to conquer King’s Dominion on Friday, Busch Gardens Williamsburg on Saturday, and Six Flags America on Sunday. It sufficed to say that after that, I needed a whole recovery weekend after to relax and remember all the new coasters I had just experienced. The least I can say is that I’m really fortunate to be out here just to explore the area alone, let alone working in my dream internship.

Working at GCI has given me some fun road trip opportunities as well. I’ve spent a portion of my time here driving out to our nearby suppliers to pick up and drop off parts for our trains. Some of these places are fascinating, and it’s nice stopping by every once in a while to check out their shop/factory floors and take a peek into what’s going on. One of my favorites is the machining company that does many of our larger orders, in quantity and scale, such as machining/welding the chassis for each car together, on an order for one or more trains. Another is the company that foams the padding on lapbars, seats, restraints, etc. for many rides today. It’s interesting seeing how both of these companies grew to have specialty in amusement rides, yet also have a wide variety of projects they’re involved in.

Perhaps my favorite roadtrip experience of all has to be a mix of personal and professional. A while back, some of our guys were finishing up a repair for the legendary Coney Island Cyclone in Brooklyn, NY. Right when I got to work that day, Bob (our VP of Construction) told me that they need some bolts and hardware at Coney Island ASAP. This was as scary as it was exciting to me, as I had never driven to New York City (3 hours away), but who could say no to something like this? In minutes, the car was loaded, and I was off. Once I got there, I was also given instructions to take some photos of the work, which of course also meant taking some photos of me working. The guys think I spent more time getting the right selfie angle standing on the tracks then taking construction photos, they can believe what they want. Overall though, it was a great experience just getting to see one of our repairs going on in real time, and hearing the different perspective of onsite work.

Lesson 5: Keeping a relationship with effective communication between front line workers (those working onsite, in park, or with guests) and those working with them behind-the-scenes is key to an efficient and successful outcome.

To Build a Roller Coaster Train, Part 3

By , April 13, 2015
Matt Brueckmann

…continued from Part 2

Hey guys! I’m back with what I believe will be my last post on this series of building roller coaster trains in January/February. I’m sure at the moment, I’m forgetting a lot of major things I learned, but for now I feel that I’ve summarized some of the more interesting things. I figured this time I’d do more of a pictorial blog post because I thought it would be a neat way to show some of the different steps in the process of assembling the cars. Plus, of course, I know you all would love to see how awesome these trains look. So let’s begin!

Our train cars begin the assembly process upside down, as the lower and upper chassis are bolted together. Also, depending on the position of the car on the train, some cars get different parts than others (like chain dogs, anti-rollback mechanism, etc). I didn’t realize this initially, since I thought all cars were pretty much the same, but they each have their own purpose.

The cars then get flipped, and more of the main body parts that you can see from the outside are attached. It’s still amazing to me that we got 18 of these cars done in such a short time (about a month if you ignored other projects we worked on at the same time), from ordering machined parts to the final product. Most of our work ended up happening in the last week or two, as one of the biggest lessons I learned through this internship, is that in this industry, things are always changing. New situations always arise in this line of work. You could be working on one project, but then a large repair order comes in that needs to be fulfilled. Or, our part suppliers might not be quite ready with the parts they’re making for the trains, as another example. Things never work out exactly according to plan, and that’s just natural. The best thing you can always do is to stay a step ahead in your work, always being prepared for what comes next. To me, that’s what has always been a very exciting and interesting part of this internship, just seeing multiple facets of industry work all at once, and learning how to be flexible shifting from job to job.

I never really got the scale of how much we had built until the shipping trucks rolled in.

Here’s a picture of some cars all wrapped up. We manage to fit about a whole train’s worth of cars, plus some extra parts into one truck. The pallet each car rests on is designed to crib the car chassis at the right points, and be able to slide together like puzzle pieces as shown below. It’s pretty neat, and definitely a result of multiple changes and iterations to best figure out how to efficiently transport these cars. Prepping these cars for shipping, as I’ve seen, is always a first priority before prepping them for the tracks.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this look into the process of building GCI’s Mini-llennium Flyers. Be sure to message me or leave a comment if you have any questions, and I’ll talk to you all in the next post!

Lesson 4: Things never go completely as planned. Always stay one step ahead