Category: Shop

GCI 101: Intro to Trains

By , May 12, 2014
Manny Esteves

So this blog is going to consist of the random facts I’ve picked up throughout the whole assembly process of the trains. I’ll start with some basic Millennium Flyer facts and then go into some more detail.

So Millennium Flyer trains have been a big selling point for Great Coasters, except for the first three coasters; Wildcat, Gwazi and Roar. A lot of people like them because they embody what GCII is all about, creating rides with that classic feel to them. However, they were created with the intention of entering and making turns with a much smoother transition and that’s why you’ll see some parks swap out their original cars for Millennium Flyers (after we modify the track a little bit). The technical term used is “roll”, “pitch” and “yaw.” Basically in terms of mechanical physics, roll is the movement in the x-axis, pitch is the y-axis and yaw is the z-axis. They’ve been called the “gold standard” in the wooden coaster industry and are something Great Coasters takes a heavy amount of pride in.

Our coasters are in a transition period in terms of brake systems. We carry the brake fins and supplies necessary for the traditional system, however all new rides use a copper-zinc alloy magnetic brakes we now carry. Magnetic brakes basically use eddy currents when entering the brake run to slow it to a gentle stop. For the younger readers, an eddy current is basically a current that is produced by changing magnetic fields to repel the brake fins and slow it down. It’s cool because it’s directly proportional to the speed of the ride coming in and therefore makes it a lot safer.

I’ll finish with restraint systems, which is what I consider the most important part. Even though we make zero G coasters, GCII still goes the extra mile with safety by including seatbelts in addition to the traditional, single person lap bar. I spent two whole days the other week just assembling the lapbar mechanisms and getting familiar with every individual component. The lapbar mechanisms are attached to the gear hubs (which are shown in one of my previous blogs and responsible for that clicking sound you hear when you pull it down) and if you buckle up, you’ll have me to thank for enjoying the comfort of our awesome trains! …Okay I guess Dan gets credit for making sure I’m doing everything correctly too, but you get the picture! So, class dismissed, don’t forget we’ll be taking a field trip in the next blog and finals are coming up soon!

Lesson 7: Despite what people will say, roller coasters undergo strict safety inspections and regulations. If they’re operating, the company and park has done a massive amount of work to ensure your safety.

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!

By , April 26, 2013
Colin Coon

Hello again everyone,

Long time no blog, but we have been very busy and very productive this last month as the opening of both Gold Striker and White Lightning quickly approaches.

As many of you have seen already, Gold Striker has been testing!  Below is a POV from the first run of Gold Striker if you haven’t seen it already yet.  According to Chris the ride is very fast and I have a feeling that it will be a great addition to the park.  I have to say it feels pretty awesome to see something you’ve worked on for the last half a year make it around the track like that.  Two functional trains under my belt so far, with two more to go!

Gold Striker POV

Trains for White Lightning have also been nearing completion and as I type this 90% of the first train is ready to go.  It should leave Sunbury sometime next week with the second train following shortly behind.  I feel a bit more attached to these trains since not only will they be nearby in Orlando, but also because of some design work that I helped with.  I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to see it when they show up in Orlando in the next few weeks!

Speaking of next week; next week will be my last week here in Sunbury.  I’m not going to say my goodbyes yet though, not until next time at least.  We still have two trains to push out the door, a bunch of spare parts to get together, and two weekends of Knoebels to take advantage of before I can even think about leaving!  Also if it all works out I hope to be around on-site in Florida for the initial startup of White Lightning

That’s where we sit for now, thanks for reading!

By , March 13, 2013
Colin Coon

I’ve spent roughly the last month and a half dedicated to solely trains.  The last few weeks have been getting all four trains basically up to the same spot in terms of assembly, and now that we are there we are finishing up one train at a time.  Basically all of the chassis can roll on the track as we speak, but putting seats, lapbars, running boards, and everything else in between are being done one train at a time.  This keeps things moving smoothly and we don’t have to keep track of where each of the 36 chassis are in terms of completion.

Goldstriker train one is almost fully completed with only a few minor things to bolt on before shipping it off to Great America.  Train two is also coming along nicely as well and is currently getting the seats and lapbar components installed.  The trains turned out really awesome and the colors Great America chose for them really make them “pop”.

The trains for White Lightning are also in assembly as we speak.  Running boards have been assigned to each train and most of our painted parts have arrived at the shop.  Once train two of Goldstriker is completed we will concentrate on finishing up what remains of the White Lightning trains.

Also structure over at Fun Spot is going up incredibly quickly.  The entire lift has been stood, including the tallest bent which was installed last week.  It looks amazing so far and I’m really excited to have this ride so close to where I live.  Jerry, Kevin, and Eric have worked really hard (as well as the rest of Jerry’s team) and it certainly shows.

Goldstriker also had one of the final shipments go out today and it is very much nearing completion.  All of the mechanical components (brakes, lift motor, chain, etc) are now on their way to the ride.  I’m equally as excited to see this ride open in the coming months; hopefully I get a chance to go out and ride it this year!!

Speaking of which, as of next week I will have survived my first “off season” that I can remember  Parks are beginning to open again, which is something I’ve never really had to look forward to as a Floridian (humble brag)!

As always, stay tuned!

By , January 23, 2013
Colin Coon

Hello again everyone,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these but I figured now is as good a time as any to write a new one.

To start, Great Coasters has asked me to extend for another semester.  It was a pretty easy decision to say yes, so I will be interning until summer classes start again in May.  I’m pretty excited to see what this next semester holds in store for me!

As far a shop related things go, we haven’t had a whole lot going on during the month of December.  In fact most  of the month of December was dedicated to inventory.  Luckily with Dan and I working on it we managed to get a solid count of everything and can start focusing on preparing the trains for Fun Spot and Great America.

Since returning to Sunbury, Dan and I have been catching up on lots of things around the shop.  Park orders, inventorying incoming parts, picking up and delivering parts, and preparing materials for repair jobs have more or less taken over our days.  More and more train parts are coming in, so the big push to get everything together is fast approaching.

For the rest of this blog I want to talk about what I have learned so far at Great Coasters and what I hope to learn over the next semester.

The last six months have been incredibly rewarding and I have learned so much more than I ever could have expected.  I’ve had a chance to dip my toes in several areas of the company such as putting together park orders, working in the field at Carowinds and Dollywood, loading trucks for California and Fun Spot, and even answering the phones for a while (no we don’t fix pinball machines, thanks Joe).  I feel as though I have a very solid idea of how the company works as a whole now and while I can’t learn everything in a short six months I have learned that it takes a lot to run a manufacturer such as GCII.  Getting to experience all of these things first hand is more than I ever expected I would get out of this internship.  And to top it all off I am pretty decent at driving a forklift now which I’m a little proud of!

For the next six months I am really looking forward to building the trains for White Lightning and Gold Striker.  It feels pretty good to know that a ride I had a hand in will be operating down the street from me when it opens.  I also feel that I have a bit more responsibility now and can more or less function on my own at work.  Dan obviously still has a lot to teach me, but I’m comfortable with doing most things unassisted  Now all I need to do is become a proficient driver in snow!

Stay tuned for the next installment, which hopefully won’t take as long!

By , January 20, 2013
Eric Wilcox

Hello GCII Fans!

My name is Eric Wilcox and I am GCII’s newest intern. I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. I was selected for an internship from the FREDxGCII event last July. The event is not only a great way to meet individuals in the industry but also those who share the same passion for roller coasters and amusement rides.

I spent my first day at GCII working with Dan and Colin unloading train parts and consolidating hardware into boxes for inventory. Any materials that are left over from rehab projects (such as Sky Princess at Dutch Wonderland) are sent back to Sunbury. Often times, the leftovers are pretty unorganized so it takes some times to sort all of the different bolts, nuts and other parts.

Not to long after, I was sent over to Jerry who oversees the Steel Structure department. My first task was to punch holes into Slab Anchor Angles which will be galvanized and sent down to Fun Spot in Orlando, FL. This task gave me the opportunity to use a Scotchman machine that I did not have experience using before. Josh, another employee who works with Jerry, showed me the basics on how to run the machine safely and efficiently. After only a few days, over 1000 units were ready to be galvanized (which is critical for White Lightning’s steel structure and its location in Florida).

Jerry also brought me along to help in the installation of a transfer table at Knoebels for their Flying Turns attraction. For those who do not know, the Flying Turns is an attempt at bringing back the Norman Bartlett Flying Turns from the 1920s-1930s. These intense rides were wooden bobsled style coasters (predating the steel varieties from Mack Rides and Intamin), where riders navigated helixs and tight turns. I am extremely excited about this ride and hope I will be able to ride it later this year.

Stay tuned for more of my experiences at GCII!

By , December 8, 2012
Kevin Young

Hey everybody!

It’s been a few weeks, so I figured I’d give you a quick update on what’s been happening around the shop.  Fun Spot progress continues, as the first powder-coated steel has arrived on site in Florida.  Another truck has left the shop for powder-coating, and we are already working to get material ready for a third.  I’m not exactly sure how many trucks it will take to finish this project off, but rest assured that these first two only scratch the surface.

One thing that GCII really allows the interns to do is make contact with several of our vendors.  I was sent to the powder-coater to load the first truck headed to Fun Spot, and given responsibility to make sure things were loaded and packaged properly.  Since this is a first-time deal for everyone involved, there are still several kinks to be worked out, and I had to straighten some of them out myself on this particular trip.  As far as I’m concerned, all of these kinks center around getting the steel to Fun Spot in the most perfect condition possible.  We have to consider the fork lift moving it around, the steel shifting around in the bundle itself, and finally the cribbing the steel rests on in the truck bed.  Our guys are working hard with the powder-coater to make this happen, and I hope the finished product will reflect that work.

Well, that’s the vast majority of what I’ve been up to the last 2 weeks at the shop.  This week will be my final week here in Sunbury, and I will be back with a final wrap-up of my experience here in the next couple of weeks.


By , November 4, 2012
Colin Coon

Time for another blog!

We’ve had a busy few weeks in the shop as the end of the year approaches.  There has been plenty to do and the workflow has been non-stop.  IAAPA is approaching so we have been doing a lot of prepping for that.  For anyone who doesn’t know, IAAPA (the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) hosts an annual trade show in Orlando, Florida that brings in hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors from all over the world.  Great Coasters attends every year and we bring down large crates full of our booths, two lead coaches (one from our Sunbury shop and one from Coke), several models, and the supporting equipment to make it all go together smoothly.  As a result we have to go through and make sure that everything is in tip-top shape, find space for new things for the booth, and then pack it all up to send down to Orlando.  This has taken us several weeks to do, but we completed all of it on Friday and are ready to go!  Chris has also been working on a new model that will debut at the show which Kevin and I helped out with.  It’s a pretty cool concept, so look for it at IAAPA!

Another big part of the internship that most people don’t read about is the Elysburg Haunted House.  For three weekends we volunteered at the haunted house and I had a really good time doing it.  We dressed in ghillie suites, covered a path in dozens of pine trees, then blended in and jumped out at people as they walked past.  After working at Universal for a few years I always wanted to work at Halloween Horror Nights, but this was my first opportunity to actually be a scareactor and I loved it!  We had nearly 10,000 people come through the house during the three weekends we were open-which was a pretty good turnout.  We had planned on opening for Halloween night, but Sandy had other plans for us.

Finally we have started receiving chassis for Gold Striker from our manufacturer.  Once everything for IAAPA ships we will start preparing the chassis for final assembly since a majority of our components are complete.

That’s it for this installment, stay tuned.

Mid-way Recap!

By , October 22, 2012
Kevin Young

Hey everyone!

As I reach the midpoint of my internship here at GCII, I thought it might be a good idea to recap some of the things I’ve done and learned so far for those who haven’t been reading along.  It’s already been a great couple of months here and I’ve been busy from Day 1.

The Fun Spot project is the primary reason I was brought in to GCII.  This project, GCII’s first ever completely steel-structured wooden coaster, requires hundreds of individual supports that are cut and punched to specifications here in Sunbury.  While we have just scratched the surface on the processing of this material, the problems that have already been uncovered and solved have given me valuable experience into how to go about managing a first-time project.  Furthermore, seeing the attention to detail taken by the employees here in regards to this project has shown me exactly why GCII’s rides are some of the highest quality in the amusement industry.  Absolutely no detail is too small to examine in depth, especially when dealing with a new structure type.  I cannot wait to see White Lightning built and know that I had a hand in its creation.

In addition to White Lightning, Jerry has given me many opportunities to get my hands dirty working with part fabrication for Gold Striker as well as our transfer tables.  I’ve gotten to see several parts through from raw material all the way through final painting.  I’ve also gotten to go out to the job site and see how some of these individual parts fit into the big picture of the ride being built, which from an engineering standpoint might be the coolest part.  Seeing exactly how a part fits onto a ride and getting to experience part fabrication first hand will be invaluable in the future with part design.

So, what are some of the big picture things that working at GCII has taught me thus far?  First, and most obviously, there is a whole lot more to building a roller coaster than jotting down an awesome layout.  Every individual part of the ride is carefully designed, from the loading platform all the way through the final brake run.  Secondly, when working at a small company the responsibilities of the employees are amplified much more so than at a large corporation.  As an intern, l get to do meaningful work that has a direct impact on the product GCII produces.  This has created a highly rewarding experience so far.  Lastly, as an engineer it is very rare that you will work exclusively with your discipline.  So far in my internship I’ve gotten to see civil and mechanical engineering in action, as well as part fabrication and construction.  These are three different disciplines all equally important in making a high quality ride.

Well, I hope this has been a decent recap of what I’ve done so far this term.  In my next entry I’ll get back to talking about our current activities and such, which should be pretty interesting.  I hope my blogs so far have been informative and I encourage you to continue reading throughout the second half of the term.

Happy Early Halloween!




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