FREDxGCII at Knoebels - Photo Journal
Elysburg, Pennsylvania – Friday, July 13th, 2012
$1.50 in tickets to ride a Giant Wheel? I must be back at Knoebels!
However today I'm here for a very different reason, and it's not to ride the Giant Wheel...
Well, okay, maybe I do have to ride the Downdraft at least once, while it's there and while we're waiting for everyone else to arrive.
Downdraft = Some intense lateral airtime.
Okay, now that I've got that done, it's time to join this gathering of individuals who are here for the first annual FREDxGCII event. "FRED" stands for "Future Ride Engineers and Designers", and it was hosted at Great Coasters International's plant in Sunbury, just a short drive from Knoebels. If you know your wooden coaster design firms you may recognize some faces on the far right.
The first part of the event consisted of an informational tour of GCI's plant, which unfortunately I couldn't get take any pictures from due to a non-disclosure contract we had to sign. The second part of the event was hosted at Knoebels, where we would get an exclusive backstage look at the park by Jim Martini, one of Knoebel's lead technicians. The best part, besides being able to take photos during the Knoebels tour, was that it was all free for anyone interested in a career in roller coaster or theme park design.
After learning some basics about park operations and ride design that goes into Knoebels, we were on our way to the back of the park for the tour's highlight.
Yes, that's right, we would be walking the Flying Turns...
...With none other than Mike Boodley as our tour guide. Having retired from GCI, Mike has made getting the Flying Turns open his personal project.
When told that Knoebels was trying to recreate a wooden-trough Flying Turns coaster, Mack Rides, who've made their own steel-trough bobsled coasters for decades, said that it couldn't be done with today's safety standards. It's still too early to say who's going to be right, but Mike Boodley and the Knoebels team are determined to make it happen, even if it's taken much longer than everyone wanted. Here's the chassis and wheel assemblies for the latest car prototype, which I believe has finally shown promising initial results this year.
Lots of technical explanations going on here which I can barely get into. One detail I recall is that the first prototype cars had their chain dog positioned in a way that could cause the cars (lacking upstop wheels) to actually lift up off the track on the back wheels. They somehow inverted/reversed the design on this new version such that the physics would now keep it grounded on the track at all times.
Part of the problem with re-creating the Flying Turns is that the new cars have to be a lot heavier and more rigid than their predecessors. If you look at photos of the old Flying Turns, you'll notice that many of the people rode them with their arms crossed over their chest. Mike offered a theory that this was because the original cars would flex in a way that the slats between the wood planks on the seat and floor would open and close in a way that your fingers could easily get jammed, .
Finishing our presentation of the new car prototype, we next headed for the Turns itself.
At this time they were rebuilding the transfer track and station area, so we couldn't get to the ride this way.
Crossing beneath the Flying Turns.
Gathered around to start the most exciting part of the tour.
Looking at the backside of one of the ground-level turns, a perspective I've never seen before.
Boodley and crew posing for more photographs.
The inner lining of the trough was originally Cyprus, but it had to be replaced with southern yellow pine.
The Flying Turns in her as-yet unfinished glory. Construction started in late 2005 to early 2006. In a weird way it's becoming the roller coaster equivalent of the Sagrada Família.
I believe part of the problem with the Cyprus was that it warped and decayed too easily after getting wet, and it kept moisture trapped underneath causing mold and rot (or something like that, don't quote me). Even the southern yellow pine has already distorted to the point that you can see cracks between the pieces, even when they had been nailed in with Inca-level precision less than a year earlier.
Another somewhat recent feature are these sensors, which will kept track of the cars, since the troughs are so big it can be hard to spot from off-ride if anything is amiss.
I believe these larger cameras were installed so the operator can check for hats or other items lost in the trough.
Climbing up into the trough to walk the Flying Turns for ourselves.
Drain for after periods of heavy rain... another miscalculation of the original design.
The Walking Turns
At this point we could mostly just ask questions on a one-on-one basis and explore the track for ourselves, which is what we did.
Turning through the trees. There are always trees nearby at Knoebels.