Category: Engineering

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.

By , June 28, 2013
Eric Wilcox

Surprise! Turns out my last post was not going to be my last day at GCII. Clair has asked me to stay on for a couple weeks to assist with the preparation of the new shelving units that I designed. Dan and I have been consolidating inventory and rearranging the shop to make space for where the new shelving units will be placed. One of the shelving units has been built (not put in place yet) and more should be made next week. Once completed, I believe the new shelving will help increase efficiency for managing inventory and sending out hardware for repair jobs

Stay tuned!

By , June 14, 2013
Eric Wilcox

Hello everyone,

Today is my last day at Great Coasters International. While I am sad that my internship with the company is finished, I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to work inside the company. I have learned so much in the close to six months that I have been here and there is so much still to learn!

Since my last post, I have had the opportunity to visit the work site for White Lightning down in Orlando, FL. Dan and I traveled down to Florida the week before Memorial Day and assisted in the final steps to opening the ride. Having put in a lot of hours  in the shop fabricating all the structural components, it was great to see the entire coaster standing. Dan and I also got the chance to ride the coaster before it opened to the public which was extremely cool! Orlando residents should be proud that they have a great wooden coaster in their city. But the best part of the experience was getting the chance to watch the first guests enjoy the coaster that I had a part in making. It will be an experience I will never forget.

After returning from Fun Spot, Dan and I started taking inventory of all the hardware & parts that returned from the work sites in Florida & California. Every part had to be inventoried so we knew exactly how much was used on site. One might think this is an easy task but when multiple truckloads come back to shop all filled with brackets, bolts and more, it can become a time-consuming task.

Finally, Clair asked me to design higher load capactiy shelves for our pallets of hardware, track bolts and coil nails than the shelves currently used at the shop. It was a great opportunity to apply my engineering knowledge to something that will allow the company to be more efficient in day-to-day activities. Leftover steel structure from White Lightning will be used to construct my designs so if you ever visit our office in Sunbury, look for the white pallet racks!

I would like to thank Clair, Chris Gray, Jerry Long & everyone at GCII for providing the internship program to young individuals interested in the entering the amusement industry I have learned a lot about the industry through this experience and I know, now more than ever, that this is the industry I want to be a part of. It was a great experience and I will never forget it.

This is Eric Wilcox, signing off!

Some Closing Thoughts

By , May 27, 2013
Nathan Rubin

Wow! It’s crazy how quickly time flies! Five months ago, I began my internship with Great Coasters, which is truly an experience I will never forget. I pursued my passion for years prior leading up to this internship, and have been able to begin to see the fruits of my labor. Looking back on when I first accepted this internship, I never imagined being able to learn as much as I did in such a short period of time. Four of my five months were really spent on AutoCAD; however, these last few weeks really allowed me to apply everything I learned in the office.

To backtrack a bit, I was in Orlando for the last two weeks, aiding in the assembly of the air system for White Lightning. A few weeks prior, I had been tasked with creating the air system layout for the ride in AutoCAD, but never did I think I’d find myself actually helping install it. I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to work in the field on a brand new ride. The hours may have been long, and the Florida humidity brutal, but every minute of being on a job site is just pure exhilaration and anticipation. It is amazing to see each component come together so quickly once the ride machinery is on site, and the diligence and commitment that everyone on the construction side of this industry puts into each job. As I have stated before, seeing a single bent in AutoCAD is fun, and seeing it assembled in a photo is even more exciting; but being able to see each bent in person, connected to make a unique, beautiful, flowing structure is breathtaking. And even moreso, seeing each of those structural bents work in unison with one another as the 6,000+ pound vehicle careens around the track is even more amazing.

Reflecting back on my experience with Great Coasters, I truly wish that I had focused a bit more and taken in every piece of information that I possibly could have absorbed. However, I am beyond satisfied and grateful for the amazing experience that GCII has provided me with. The practical design and construction experience that I have been blessed to acquire is second to none that I could have even hoped to have obtained elsewhere. And, now that all is said and done, it was unbelievable to be able to see people’s expressions after riding White Lightning, and knowing that my five months of work played a small part in their happiness and excitement. White Lightning is truly a beautiful, exciting and action-packed ride that is perfect for families and enthusiasts. I can’t think of a better project to be involved with as my first project in the amusement industry. Great minds, great effort, great patience and great mentors provided a great internship experience at Great Coasters


By , May 3, 2013
Nathan Rubin

It’s finally theme park season in the North! That being the case, I took full advantage of checking out Kings Island this past weekend, despite the large crowds. Overall, it was a very enjoyable park! Clean, family-friendly and home to a unique collection of rides. I will say that Flight Deck was my favorite ride (and fully underrated for how intense of a ride it is), but keep in mind that I was not able to make it on The Beast, Racer or Vortex due to crowds and commitments I had made that day. I’m headed back to Kings Island after work this evening to check out The Beast and then down to Holiday World tomorrow for opening day to see how their rides are running this season!

For some more GCII related news, Gold Striker was opened to the public on Wednesday for a commercial shoot, and I have seen nothing but spectacular reviews about the ride. I’m hoping to be able to visit one of my Stanford or Cal friends soon and get to check it out! Also, Evan and I will be headed down to Fun Spot on Tuesday to help finish up White Lightning. I am extremely excited to be able to get some hands-on experience with the ride that I’ve been working on in AutoCAD for the last four months. That being the case, I plan on bringing my camera down to Fun Spot to get y’all some great photos of this absolutely beautiful ride

Keep checking our Facebook page for some more on-site photos!

By , April 5, 2013
Nathan Rubin

It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent just over two and a half months here with Great Coasters. It feels like just yesterday that I drove up to Cincinnati from Austin.  Although I will be leaving sometime in the next few months to return to my studies, I am excited to make the best of the time I have left here.

The number one thing that I did not anticipate coming into this internship was the volume of work required to design a ride, even as small as White Lightning. Working in an office with only four other people, many of whom are working on multiple projects at once, means that the time spent on each project must be well allocated. Focus is key to success – and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had a few days where I have lost focus on occasion. This profession does require long hours and sometimes tedious work. There are some tasks that one might even consider boring or frustrating. However, I have truly loved every minute of it, and never at any point reconsidered the fact that this is what I want to do. My biggest takeaway, at least at this point in the internship, is that you absolutely have to be passionate about working in this industry to be truly successful.

I am looking forward to the next few months, as I am so excited to learn even more about this industry and see at least the very beginnings of some new, amazing attractions coming up the pipeline. The people in the Kentucky office have truly been like family to me, and I will miss each and every one when I head back to Austin. However, the lessons that I learned and the work which I have done will stick with me throughout the rest of my career. I hope to share this knowledge with other people as I work on starting the Texas Theme Park Engineering Group down at UT Austin. I encourage each of you to continue looking for some new blog posts and GCII Facebook posts, as I plan on sharing some awesome photos with y’all from the upcoming months!

What Makes Great Coasters "Great"

By , March 24, 2013
Nathan Rubin

I’ll be honest. Coming into this internship, I wanted to design roller coasters that pushed the limits. I’m a huge fan of crazy negative g’s and insane, wacky elements. Not to say that my love for intense rides has changed; however, spending this past Saturday at Dollywood really made me appreciate what Great Coasters does and why our coasters are truly “Great.”

After a behind the scenes tour of Blazing Fury, the group I was with headed over to Thunderhead for a few rides before the park opened to the public. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I knew it would be a very different ride than my current #1, El Toro. To say that Thunderhead blew me away would be an understatement. The rapid transitions and changes in laterals, combined with abundant airtime is a completely different experience than any ride I’ve ridden thus far. The pacing on the ride is excellent, and everything from the use of the surrounding terrain to the smoothness of the Millennium Flyers really contributes to the overall ride experience. However; this is not my favorite ride I’ve ridden because of the intensity of the ride, or the physical attributes of the ride. It’s because of the atmosphere and variety that Great Coasters rides add to the theme parks I’ve been to.

Pictured below is Patsy, who was at the park when we began riding at 9 AM and was operating Thunderhead until the park closed at 8 PM. Today happened to be her birthday, and if it were my birthday, I’m not sure that I would want to be operating a ride for 11 or 12 hours straight. However; Patsy and all the ride operators in the station exhibited a ton of energy from open to close, invoking conversation with the riders and even going as far to high-five them as the ride left the station. Patsy could not stop going on about how much she loved this ride; from how it twists beautifully through the forest to how every age group loves it and how proud she is to operate it. This is when I realized why Great Coasters is such a great company. It’s because our rides offer something for everyone, and provide an attraction that all ages can enjoy. It’s thrilling, yet at the same time, re-rideable over and over. Thunderhead, while just a ride, means so much to the people who ride it, the people who operate it, and the park who owns it. It truly is a ride that defines the culture of the park, and I would argue that many of our other rides do the same.

Just after riding the last train of the day, I asked Patsy if I could take a picture with her. This is because I wanted to share this with all my friends and GCII fans. The best part of my experience wasn’t even the ride at Dollywood, but the pure joy that Patsy exhibited when seeing the smiles on people’s faces riding the ride and hearing all the positive commentary about the ride. Thunderhead had many amazing moments, but my favorite and most memorable was getting a high five from Patsy every time the train left the station. There’s something about the culture that the antiquity of a smooth, wild wooden coaster embodies that cannot be rivaled or matched anywhere else. I am thankful that I was able to go to Dollywood this weekend, as it truly reminded me why I love this industry Nothing can compare to seeing the smiles and enjoyment of the people able to experience the amusement industry


Me and Patsy.

By , March 15, 2013
Nathan Rubin

Happy St. Patrick’s day from Great Coasters International!

This week has been quite the exciting week here at the Kentucky office, but finally coming to an end. We have been working full force on White Lightning, and that is most definitely evidenced by how quickly the structure has been going up in Florida! For those of you who haven’t seen, the lift hill and first drop are almost completed, along with the brake run and some of the smaller bents heading towards the turnaround. It has been exciting being able to see the AutoCAD drawings turned into reality at such a rapid rate.

The coolest thing about working in this industry that I have discovered so far is how gratifying it is to work for so many hours on something so complex, and then see each piece come to life. Although detailing steel and the main design have been completed for all our rides opening this year, there are still many things to be done before opening. These next few weeks, I anticipate assembling a ride manual for the various parks and learning more about the mechanical systems that are associated with our rides I hope to be able to provide y’all with some great pictures next time!

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By , February 18, 2013
Nathan Rubin

Hello GCII fans!

I just wanted to give y’all a brief update of what’s going on at the Kentucky Engineering office. These last two weeks have been spent working almost exclusively on finalizing steel posts, batters, bracing, ribbons, and diagonals at Fun Spot. I take it that many of you have seen the photos of the brake run posted on our Facebook page. I would definitely expect to see many more in the near future of the lift hill starting to take shape. Detailing and cutting the steel is what takes a long time; however, the construction is as simple as putting in some bolts and aligning the pieces. (Okay, some more than that goes into it, but that’s the general idea). This should be a very rapid process up until the track is laid, which requires time, patience, and LOTS of experience.

I know this is a short update, but these past two weeks have been very busy, and a LARGE amount of work has been done. Joe, Jeff, Evan, Adam and myself have been extremely focused on making White Lightning as flawless as possible. It is shaping up to be amazing ride, and could not have been completed without the talent and dedication of everyone at the engineering office in Kentucky, as well as our steel fabricators, train manufacturers, and the entire construction crew in Florida.

I look forward to updating y’all with some photos from the job site in the near future As always, the best way to follow our progress is either through our Facebook page or Fun Spot’s!

A Typical Day at The Office

By , February 6, 2013
Nathan Rubin

These past three weeks at the Florence office have been three of the most entertaining weeks of my life. Alongside hours of hard work on some final touches for the Fun Spot steel fabrication drawings is an atmosphere filled with constant fun. Considering that we work in the amusement industry, this is only appropriate. Instead of focusing on the engineering work going on in the office, I really wanted to focus on what a day in the office is like.

Our office is host to three dogs. Gordo – Joe’s new dog, Abby – Evan’s dog, and Finley – Adam’s dog. I am normally greeted to the office by friendly banter between Abby and Gordo, along with the infamous “No Gordo!” which Evan has become an expert at yelling. However, this is not the thing that defines my morning. The absolute best greeting that anyone could ever want to receive is Jeff’s “How’s it going, Players?” followed immediately by “Where’s my coffee, intern?” The rest of the morning is filled by the occasional amusement industry jest or Joe experiencing the excellent restroom skills that puppies typically exhibit.


Gordo creating mischief around the office

Once lunch rolls around, we normally collaborate on where to eat. However, anytime the words “Skyline Chili” are uttered, the lunch venue is immediately set. For the record, Cincinnati chili is NOT real chili, but nonetheless, it is growing on me. Even Adam, who habitually abandons us to go work out at lunch, cannot refuse this Cincinnati delicacy.

We then arrive back at the office, stuffed full of pasta and oyster crackers that are better than those in Texas (as most everything is better in Texas except for that), and return to work. Last week, a past intern, David Stamper joined us for lunch and post-lunch festivities, which I have provided pictures from. It happened to be an exciting day, as we received miniature Millennium Flyer trains from Chris Gray at the Pennsylvania office. We then proceeded to place the FedEx envelopes that were packaged with these 3D prints on our heads, and take random pictures with a golden cup in the office.

Golden Cup!

The excitement that afternoon was not over yet; as a very large package arrived in the mail (as shown below). It was a Phish poster that Joe had ordered from his favorite concert ever. Seriously though, he showed us the video from it, and it was pretty awesome. Joe was so excited, that amidst the fun of unwrapping the package was a moment of panic where we thought he may or may not have broken his nose. This should give you an idea of how excited Joe was to open this package. Once the package was unwrapped, David Stamper returned to Louisville, and all was well again at GCII. We proceeded to continue vigorously working on the Fun Spot steel detailing until the exciting day came to a conclusion.

Phish Poster Unwrapping


^That dashed line above represents the point at where my sarcasm ends and I begin posting about what y’all want to actually hear. I promise my next blog entries will be more content related; however, I wanted to give you GCII fans an insight (even if dripping with sarcasm and hyperbole), into the fun that this industry really represents. At GCII, a lot of fun is had in the office, but at the same time, vast amounts of work are accomplished; moreso than I ever did working at any other engineering firm. The engineers at this firm are some of the brightest in the nation, and I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to work and interact with them. I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress at Fun Spot! White Lightning is shaping up to be one of GCII’s best

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