2017 Spring Internship

By , July 27, 2017
Kyle Wilson

After spending the last five months as an intern at GCII’s Sunbury headquarters, it’s about time that I finally contribute to the blog! I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone for what has certainly been the most eventful time period of my professional life thus far.

From the day I first accepted the position, it was quite difficult to really know what I was getting myself into. In fact, five months in I still can’t really say that I know what to expect on a day to day basis. While some may see this as a downside, it has actually allowed me to have numerous different beneficial experiences during my time here that I otherwise would not have had. That being said, however, for this reason it will be incredibly hard to wrap up this past semester in just one post, but I will try my best to give a snapshot of what I have been up to the last five months!

Starting with the very first day, the other interns and myself immediately got to work on helping to make 2017′s four new rides (at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Kings Island, OCT Chengdu, and OCT Chongqing) a reality. For some of us, our first task was to help Todd, one of our Mechanical Supervisors, assemble actuators used for some of the magnetic brakes on these coasters. The idea behind these actuators is pretty simple: based on the speed of the train, the actuators will move a strong magnet (StRoNg MaGnEt) into or out of the path of a fin bolted onto the bottom of the train made of a specific copper alloy. This basically introduces or minimizes the braking force caused by the eddy currents induced in the fin. This was the first experience I had assembling something of this size and complexity, and served as a suitable precursor of much of what was to come.

We worked on these actuators for the first couple of weeks, before some of us broke off to work on various other areas of need. Personally, I most commonly worked back and forth between assembling a few basic train parts and helping Todd gather and inspect some of the parts for many of the mechanical systems seen on the 2017 coasters. One of these systems, for example, was the transfer table which is used to transfer trains onto or off of the main track for various reasons, including daily train inspection. In addition, this also gave me the opportunity to occasionally help make notes for drawings and/or make suggestions for potential changes to how the parts are specified within them.

Part of the way through February, all five of the interns began working almost entirely on helping Dan, GCII’s Millennium Flyer mechanic, produce the nine Millennium Flyer trains for this year’s new rides with the exception of the trains for Busch Gardens Williamsburg and with the addition of two new trains for Wildcat at Lake Compounce. This was a very difficult (requiring long hours and a steep learning curve), yet incredibly beneficial experience. For me, I feel as though I now have a much better physical understanding of the design and assembly of a ride and the considerations one must make in doing so. During this time, we also had the pleasure of spending some time with Senior Engineer, Adam House, who offered us quite a bit of insight into the design of GCI’s coasters, our careers, and engineering in general.

This long stretch of working on trains started to slow up towards the beginning of April. Around this time, I also had my first opportunity to work (though briefly) on site! I made a trip with Jerry, our Mechanical Installation Supervisor, to help install a new Platen system specifically designed for the Millennium Flyer trains we were building for Wildcat at Lake Compounce. For those who don’t know, the Platen is essentially a rectangular tube located in the station that is moved up and down by a series of short stroke pneumatic cylinders. Without going into too much detail, when the train is sitting in the station this tube engages a mechanism on the train that unlocks the restraints. We spent the better part of two days working to install this system. It was an experience that was surely different than what I was used to and I learned quite a bit about mechanical installation in the process.

The following week, I had another incredible experience on site, this time with the other four interns, as we embarked on a trip to Kings Island to install one of the final pieces for the theming on the trains. This was a very different experience from being at Lake Compounce, as it was the first time I had been on the site of a ride that was still being constructed as a brand new ride, as opposed to simply a ride being renovated. From walking around the site and talking to many of the people who were working there on a day to day basis, I believe we all learned a tremendous amount about the design and construction of a ride. Due to the timing of this visit, we also had the incredible pleasure of experiencing the ride first hand while it was being tested and commissioned!

More recently, much of the work that I did involved helping to organize the procurement and shipment of all of the parts and hardware used for the mechanical systems of future GCII projects. This is similar to some of the work I did on the 2017 rides, but this time in much greater detail, as I was already familiar with many of the parts involved with these systems. This gave me another great opportunity to truly learn, analyze, and understand the interaction of all of the parts involved with the mechanical operation of the ride.

Overall, my semester spent at GCII was an incredibly unique experience. I will never forget the time I spent as a Great Coasters Intern, all that I have learned from the experiences I had, and the spectacular memories I made along the way. As I move on from this experience to the next, I cannot thank those who I was involved with during my time here enough and I look forward to continuing to make strides toward reaching my goals!

Kyle Wilson Signiture

Farewell to Florence

By , December 23, 2016
Tyler Mullins

Farewell Florence

It’s now been four months to the day that I started my internship with Great Coasters International and what a roller coaster ride it’s been (pun intended). These four months have been filled with so many incredible opportunities – I had the chance to learn new software while modeling Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s InvadR, fly to Arizona to make connections at a technical conference, visit Mystic Timbers’ construction site at Kings Island, and so much more. It’s hard to believe that today is the last day here in Florence, as it still feels like only yesterday that it was my first day in the office and I came in without realizing that I was wearing my polo inside-out (yeah… let’s not talk about that part though).

For my final post I thought I would share a few final things I’ve learned as a GCI intern that I haven’t blogged about yet. It’s cool to have worked on some upcoming roller coasters and to get a behind-the-scenes look at how parts of the industry operate, but some of the most valuable things I’ve learned are lessons that I’ll still be able to apply outside of a company that makes roller coasters (although a career in the industry, whether for a park or a manufacturer, is still the end goal). These lessons include…


…It’s Okay Not to Know Things

There is a lot that goes into a roller coaster. Like, I’ve loved roller coasters and theme parks since I was a little kid and thought I had a pretty good understanding and knowledge of all things coasters. Turns out there’s a lot I didn’t account for or even consider.

On my first day I was given the owner/operator’s manual for one of GCII’s recent projects and told to start reading. Every page had terminology, diagrams, and descriptions that just went straight over my head. I have a much better understanding four months later, but up until this last day I’m still being introduced to new things daily and am continually learning more about how the rides are built and operated.

It’s okay not to know something. Everyone starts there, and it’s only through lack of knowledge that you then have the opportunity to learn.


…Mistakes Will Happen. Use Them to Your Advantage

I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes. One of my new-found favorites, typically accredited to Henry Ford, is “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

In the process of learning all these new things at Great Coasters, I’ve definitely made some mistakes along the way. I’ve had to remake models and update drawings after learning I goofed small things up. And while I could let these mistakes frustrate me, it’s better to instead focus on what I learned in the process and apply it to my work in the future.


…Expect the Unexpected

Great Coasters is opening four new roller coasters in 2017, more than the company has ever built in one year. That means four massive construction projects that each consist of thousands of parts, dozens of workers, and seemingly endless hours. There is a lot that needs to be done before any of these rides can open to the public and I had the chance to work on different components of each of them. Walking into work each day though I rarely knew which project I would be focused on that day. And, in the midst of doing something for one project, I would often get a phone call or email instructing me to switch to something different.

I learned the importance of being flexible and expecting the unexpected. It was important to adapt quickly, as one moment I could be working on bents for Kings Island and a minute later I’m searching for a drawing for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s transfer table. I sometimes felt thrown-in to these situations, but I’ve discovered that is one of the quickest ways to learn something new.


So, now that my internship is just about wrapped-up, what’s next? I’ll be returning to Ohio State University in January for my penultimate semester. I’ll be president of the school’s Theme Park Engineering Group (shameless plug – check out our website at tpegosu.com), working for Residence Life, and taking a variety of classes. Come summer I’m hoping to return to the industry for another internship and have already begun applying for positions. Then, after graduating next December, my goal is to begin a career in the industry.

I am extremely grateful for my time at Great Coasters and for all the amazing opportunities I’ve been given. I’ve learned so much, met some fantastic people, and reaffirmed my passion for the industry. Big thank you to the amazing team behind Great Coasters for everything. It’s been an incredible four months and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

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!

Trains and Shipments

By , October 19, 2016
Paul Brenckle

Hello again,

Last time I left off with getting to work on trains. Well, that sorta happened.

Sept 24-30
I mainly worked on the Kings Island trains. I finally got to assemble a few guide wheel weldments and then mount them on the chassis. Occasionally, the weldments do not fit due to the coating on them, so you need to take a brillo pad to that area on the chassis. Fun fact, there is a difference between a cap screw and a bolt. Basically, there is a flat washer face under the bolt head of a cap screw, where as a bolt is lacking a flat washer. They are also forged differently, but in our case, it is better to use a cap screw on the trains to conserve space. Once all the weldments were put in, the upstop wheels needed to be put in. There is no easy way of tightening the nut on the upstop wheel axle, it takes about 3 minutes per wheel. Putting on the magnetic brake fins is one of my favorite parts. You have to shimmy the fin around to get the spacers and cap screws to fit just right. Sometimes it takes 10 seconds, other times 60 seconds. All in all, its great to see the trains come together from the ground up. On Friday the 30th, Dan was out for the day, but left work for Ian, Tim, and I. We got to mount all the lap bar cans and put the lap bars in the GhostRider train. Also, not all of the lap bars precisely, so we had to use an emery cloth to get them down to the perfect fit. It was interesting to do this without Dan being there to help. While we were getting the lap bars put on, our project manager at Busch called and needed truss plates for the Station ASAP. We had planned on a trip to Dollywood, so they had us stop at Busch on the way home because it was faster than setting up a small shipment.

Oct 3-7
Next week I noticed that Busch Gardens went vertical. It was great being part of that process and nice to see that construction ensued after the parts were delivered. One of the days I got to assemble all of the seat dividers for GhostRider and set them aside for future use. I also got to drive down to the vendor to pick up some bolters for the seat side foam. We received updated quantities on hardware and brackets for Mystic Timbers, which was helpful for an upcoming shipment. That week an engineer from Busch Gardens came up to see how everything was coming along for InvadR. They are refurbishing the old Gwazi trains, but everything from the floorboards up will be new. That Friday was opening night for the Elysburg haunted house, I wore a mask and (hopefully) scared people in the basement of the house while Dan terrorized everyone at the slaughter barn.

Oct 10-14
Last week, it dawned on me that last minute shipments are normal, and you can never fully relax. To get these shipments ready to go, I worked with Ryan, Bob, and Clair to make sure everything that we sent was correct. It involved a lot of hustle and questioning to get it right. Ian and I also quality checked a delivery of brackets and got them stacked on heat treated pallets to ship out to China next week.

Over the weekend I went to Cedar Point with the Penn State TPEG and the other interns for an amazing tour of Raptor, Valravn, Dragster, and Maxair. This week I’m taking off to see family for a day, then I’m off to Scottsdale for the ASTM F24 Conference.


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!

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