Category: Uncategorized

So What’s *Really* in the Shed?

By , December 16, 2016
Tyler Mullins

As a Great Coasters intern, and having grown up with Kings Island practically in my backyard, one of the most common questions I now get from friends and family is “So what’s really in the shed?” For those unfamiliar, Kings Island’s new roller coaster was announced in July with an exciting POV of the ride and a mysterious hashtag, #WhatsInTheShed. The ride will end in an eerie and overgrown shed, its contents a mystery.

Well, mostly a mystery. I can’t comment on the seemingly paranormal contents of Mystic Timbers’ shed, but I can talk a bit about the engineering side of things and my role in making them a reality.

The beginning of the structure will include a transfer track, otherwise Mystic Timbers couldn’t simultaneously run three trains (fun fact – ignoring the few dueling coasters, this is only GCII’s second coaster with that many trains). One of my recent assignments has been to take a 3D model of the transfer track and create drawings that show how to construct the complete assembly. The task has been extremely challenging but super rewarding – I’ve learned about plan reading, communication, and several other skills that are critical to being an engineer.

For starters, the plan reading. If you’ve ever built a Lego set and followed the detailed instructions, placing brick by brick until you completed it, then you’ve read plans. That’s an extremely simplified idea of how the transfer track is built, albeit with some noticeable differences. For starters, the size – versus a small plastic toy, crews will be building something that’s over 50-feet long, weighs over 15 tons, and consists of more than 3,400 individual parts. And instead of having numbered steps in their plans, instructing the crew in what order to complete different tasks, these plans only show a completed structure and then pages of details and dimensions. It’s up to the crew to decide what order of steps is most efficient and the most logical.

The next skill I’ve learned about is communication. Since the plans don’t just walk the crew through step-by-step, it’s important to make sure all the necessary information for building the structure is communicated clearly. This has been tricky, as you don’t want to leave any questions unanswered but you also don’t want to overload the pages with unnecessary information. You want to find that balance where the crews are told just enough, which I’ve discovered is a lot more difficult than it sounds.

While working on the plans I’ve also learned a lot about the mechanics of a transfer table itself and the names of so many different parts and components I never even knew existed. Plus I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time in Autodesk Inventor, further familiarizing myself with all the software’s tools and features. I’m now really excited to potentially use Inventor in the future for school projects and elsewhere.

My internship with Great Coasters International ends a week from today. I can’t believe how fast it’s flown by, but I’m super grateful for all the amazing opportunities I’ve had and all that I’ve learned. I’ll make sure to post at least once more before then, so stay tuned!

Oh, and for what’s really in the shed? Like, outside all the engineering stuff and the lessons I’ve learned through working on a transfer table? Well, I guess you’ll have to wait till the ride opens to find out ;)

Update from Sunbury

By , December 14, 2016
Tim Garnier

Time for a bit of an update on what has been going on in Sunbury! We’ve been hard at work on trains for the entirety of my internship, and the pace of our work has only been picking up. With 4 new rides and a few other trains to build, this is the most we have ever done in a year.

Continuing from where I left off, last month I was sent to deliver the InvadR banisters to Busch Gardens so they could get them ready for the big reveal at IAAPA. The banisters, along with the seats and bodies, are all new parts, while the chassis themselves are from Gwazi in Tampa. They are in great shape, and Williamsburg has done a great job theming them for InvadR. It was such a good experience to be able to walk the job site and see the installation of some of the supports I had fabricated. The ride is really taking shape nicely.

Busch Banister

Meanwhile at Kings Island, work is about to begin on the ride buildings. This is exciting for me because I helped determine the amount of lumber and hardware that we sent to the job site. It will definitely be surreal walking into the station after so many hours of studying its plans and counting its pieces.

A few weeks ago, we finished work on the third GhostRider train and got it safely shipped off to California. We began work on that train around the time I started at GCI, so it was very satisfying to see it finally make its way to the park. I hope I can get out to Knott’s and ride it sometime soon!

Since then, we’ve been working on parts inspections for the two jobs in China, and last week we began building those trains. In only a few days, we were able to install all of the hardware on the underside of one train and flip the chassis rightside-up to get ready to work on the bodies. With only about a week left in my internship, I definitely won’t see these trains finished, but I am glad to be a part of the process. Until next time!

Trip to the Timbers

By , December 9, 2016
Tyler Mullins

You can spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer in anticipation for a new ride. It’s easy to drop hours watching its virtual POVs, days following its progress on a webcam, or – in my case – months creating and editing drawings for many of its 500-something bents. But no matter how much time you spend staring at the screen, you don’t quite realize its monstrous size or just how awesome a ride it will be until you see it in person.


Last week I had the opportunity to make this realization when I visited Mystic Timbers’ construction site at Kings Island. It wasn’t my first time seeing the coaster in person – over the course of the summer and fall I occasionally visited the park with friends and family and saw the construction of the new ride, albeit each time from a distance. I could only catch glimpses of it from the train, the Eiffel Tower, or the midway. But when I returned on a cold December morning, donning my steel toed boots and a hard hat, I was able to stand in the center of the monster and truly appreciate just how incredible it’ll be.


So what will make Mystic Timbers one of the most incredible rides of 2017? For starters, the height. The ride is 109.2-feet tall, or taller than any other roller coaster Great Coasters International has built in this country. As I watched construction workers climb the interior of the structure, it was fascinating how they were completely dwarfed by how big the ride is.


Also impressive is its location. The ride snakes through the woods, careens over the side of steep hills, and even jumps over White Water Canyon a mind boggling six times. It will interact with the rapids ride, the trees, and the railroad, hurtling pass everything at speeds of up to 53mph.


Another thing that really stood out was the ride’s scale. Sure, being tall is one thing. But this ride is sprawled over the landscape and you really don’t realize just how big parts of it are until you’re staring straight at them. For example, as some concept art shows, the ride will leap over a large pond as it heads toward White Water Canyon. For those unfamiliar, this is actually the rapids ride’s reservoir, where it pulls all its water from to operate.

Photo courtesy Kings Island


This area is also the reason I was at the park this morning. Mystic Timbers will fly over the reservoir twice, traveling over some massive steel bridges and across a concrete island now built in the center of the reservoir. I needed to snap some photos and check some measurements for back at the office, but while out I also had the opportunity to take in just how incredible this will be.


Visiting Mystic Timbers’ job site was a really cool opportunity that gave me a new perspective and appreciation for the ride and the crews that are building it. It really helped me make a lot of connections between my work in the office and what’s being built at the park, plus it’s always nice to visit Kings Island. It was easily one of the highlights of my time at Great Coasters, which is quickly wrapping up. My last day is in only a couple weeks – where did the time go?!


I’ll try and share a bit more soon about what else I’ve been working on, so stay tuned!

Build a Bridge and Get Over It

By , November 15, 2016
Tyler Mullins

Something that the official InvadR POV (visible here) doesn’t fully show is just how well the new ride will interact with the surrounding attractions. The coaster is reminiscent of a Roller Coaster Tycoon creation with how it’s tucked into the pre-existing area, traveling over a maintenance road, the park’s railroad, and a 41-year-old log flume. The ride will also travel over itself three separate times, including over its first drop.

If InvadR was a steel coaster, then the track wouldn’t have any issue going over these obstacles – a steel coaster is typically supported by a bunch of big steel columns with large gaps in-between them. But for a coaster like InvadR, even though the supports are made of steel they’re built in an intricate pattern as if they were made of wood. And this intricate pattern means the largest gap between bents is only nine feet. When accounting for clearance envelopes, nine feet isn’t sufficient space for all those things passing under the ride.

The solution? Build a bridge and get over it. Not just one bridge, but a whopping ten.

Many of InvadR’s bents are built on top of these long steel bridges, the longest of which is below the first drop and spans nearly 40 feet. And while these allow for the ride to be built over and around obstacles like the flume and train, designing and manufacturing the bridges also creates new challenges and problems to solve.

For starters, the bridges have to be manufactured to exact specifications. Something being cut short or offset even 1/16 of an inch could potentially render the whole bridge useless and require a new one to be fabricated. To avoid this costly headache, the dimensions are checked multiple times by multiple people ensuring that everything is correct.

Another challenge is incorporating the bridge into the rest of the structure, which calls for a lot of unique and custom connection pieces to attach bents and ribbons to the bridges. These produce challenges too, as they all have to be designed, checked-over, and fabricated. And it’s always possible that the original design isn’t as ideal as expected and that it’ll need revised, which in turn restarts the cycle all over again.

I’ve really enjoyed all the problem solving that comes with these bridges and I have learned a lot regarding terminology, steel fabrication, and structural stability. I’m also really excited to see these bridges be fabricated and installed at the park, as their installation allows for a lot more of the ride to be constructed.

Alongside this work on InvadR’s bridges I’ve also been checking bents atop some of Mystic Timbers’ bridges, creating assembly drawings for parts of InvadR’s structure, and completing miscellaneous tasks as needed. It’s hard to believe I’ve already been at GCII for two-and-a-half months and that I only have one-and-a-half more, but I’m still loving the experience.

I’ll write again in a couple weeks and share more on the progress of these new rides, so stay tuned!

ASTM in Arizona

By , October 27, 2016
Tyler Mullins

I just passed the two-month mark interning at Great Coasters and my time here has been phenomenal. I’ve learned so much and have had a lot of opportunities to work with Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s InvadR and Kings Island’s Mystic Timbers, alongside a small assignment for one of two coasters coming to China next year. But while everything in the office has been great, today I’m writing about something out of the office – 1,800 miles out of the office, that is. Scottsdale, Arizona.

What’s in Scottsdale, Arizona? Well, last week there was an assortment of roller coaster engineers, theme park owners and operators, and ambitious students pursuing their dreams. That’s because Scottsdale was home to ASTM International’s F24 committee on amusement rides and devices.

For those unfamiliar, ASTM International is a standards organization that publishes technical standards for almost anything imaginable – construction vehicles, sports equipment, toys, and, yes, amusement parks. And to keep these standards updated and relevant the committee meets bi-annually. I had the opportunity to take a couple days off work last week and join one of these meetings, flying out Wednesday evening and staying in Arizona through the weekend.

Here are some of the highlights from the conference…

  • Networking with Industry Professionals – As mentioned, there was no shortage of ride engineers and park owners and operators. Most major ride companies were present, from those that create towering roller coasters to those that manufacture children’s rides. And, as someone whose dream job is in the amusement industry, this was a fantastic opportunity to network and make connections.
  • Meeting Other Students with a Similar Passion – Students from around the country regularly attend these conferences to learn more about the industry and network. I joined two fellow Ohio State students and had the opportunity to meet others from Drexel, Cal Poly, Penn State, and more. Meeting fellow students is one of my favorite things about ASTM, as it typically leads to super-nerdy conversations about roller coasters and sharing our experience thus far in the industry. Plus, as was phrased by GCI’s own Adam Yerdon over the summer, “These are the people you’ll be working with someday in the industry,” so no time like the present to get to know them.
  • Learning About Different Standards – Networking with industry professionals and other students is great, but the reason behind these conferences is the standards. I sat-in on sessions over fall protection, station guarding, adventure attractions, aquatic play, and waterslides… and that was all within the first day. There are different standards for different types of rides and attractions and the list keeps growing as the amusement industry continues to evolve.
  • Participating and Contributing in Sessions – While engineers perform the majority of the work in these sessions, students are welcome to sit-in on the sessions and contribute. Everyone was very accepting and patient with us undergrads, explaining things in more detail when needed and encouraging us to participate in the sessions and share our opinions and experience. I even joined a task group at one session, meaning I’ll be working with a team to help draft language for some new standards. I’m really excited for that opportunity.

If you have an interest in the industry and hope to someday work as a roller coaster engineer or similar, I strongly encourage you to look into attending an ASTM conference. I had a fantastic experience this year and I’m super grateful I had the chance to go. It was a great opportunity to network and learn, plus the 90-something-degrees in Arizona felt much better than the colder temperatures here in the Midwest.

I’ve only been back for half-a-week but I’m already looking forward to the next conference. It’ll be in New Orleans in February and I plan to take off from school to attend, so if you see me there be sure to say hi!


By , October 25, 2016
Tim Garnier

I’m Tim Garnier and I’ve been working in the Sunbury office since August. I am currently a junior at Virginia Tech studying mechanical engineering. Like almost every intern coming through GCI, I’ve been passionate about the industry, and especially roller coasters, for as long as I remember. I interviewed with GCI at the FREDx event this past summer and they needed help right away, so of course I said yes. I have already learned so much by working here, and I look forward to more!

It’s only been two months, but I feel like I’ve already gotten to do a little bit of everything here at the shop, and even some on the road. I started out working on steel fabrication for InvadR’s supports. I got to use many different machines and processes to create parts that make up the ride’s bents. I was mostly working on supports for the ride’s far turnaround, and now I believe the rest of the steel for the structure is almost complete. I grew up going to Busch Gardens Williamsburg with my family, so it’s incredible to get to be a part of their newest ride.

Working on trains has been very interesting for us, especially since all of the current Sunbury interns are studying mechanical engineering. Our trains are really quite intricate and beautiful in their design. We recently installed the lapbars for GhostRider’s third train, which is coming together and starting to actually look like Millennium Flyers.

Occasionally we do some driving for work, usually just to our local vendors to pick up or drop off parts, but sometimes we get to go much farther. Last week we traveled to Hersheypark to deal with some parts, and a few weeks ago we even made a stop at Busch Gardens for a delivery! It was definitely interesting to get a look at a side of those parks that most people don’t get to see.

More recently I’ve done some work in AutoCAD and Inventor, checking lumber and hardware counts for the Kings Island buildings. No, I don’t know what’s in The Shed. Really, I don’t. But I do know how big the shed is and how much material we’ll need to build it!

That’s all from me for now. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more on what’s happening at the GCI office in Sunbury!

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!

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!

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