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.

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