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Rollercoasters, Eh? 2019 Q&A Session Notes!

Missed the Q&A session with Peter (director, maintenance/construction) and Colin (manager, electrical/tech services)? Read all about it below!

Disclaimer: All of the text presented here was transcribed by me using an audio recording of the Q&A session. There are points in the recording where I could not definitively understand what was said. There have been edits and omissions throughout because of this, as well as for clarity, but I tried my best to keep the responses as accurate to what was said.


What is going on with Guardian and Sledge Hammer this year? Sledge has two pods down. Guardian has issues with the projectors?

Sledge Hammer is a prototype ride. It’s a one-of-a-kind in the world, same with Guardian. 

Sledge uses DeviceNet, a protocol to communicate between the pods and the main computer. We have a problem with DeviceNet on two of those gondolas. A solution would be to shut the ride down for a lengthy period of time to rewire it, or we can run without those two units, so we have elected to continue to run it so people can enjoy it. This winter, we will upgrade the communication system on the ride with a different system so hopefully we won’t have to deal with those issues in the future.

Guardian is also a prototype ride. That ride has its own challenges. It is in an environment that is not friendly to the projectors. We have elected to go to 2D on that ride to provide a more reliable experience for our guests. Keeping the 3D clear and crisp was not always the best so going to 2D would make that easier for us and also makes the ride more reliable. For 2020, we will remain on 2D. The Zombies experience will remain 2D.

What was the naming process for Yukon Striker?

Some of you who have been around the park for the past few years may have noticed our push toward a brand around Frontier Canada, with Soaring Timbers, Lumberjack, Flying Canoes, Canyon Trader Company building, three more buildings with Yukon Striker, and the anchor ride.

Yukon Striker was a name that rose to the top of the list because we wanted it to be connected to the Frontier Canada themed area. Some people asked why we didn’t go with the third name in the trifecta of Behemoth, Leviathan, and Ziz. Ziz didn’t fit with that brand. Many of our guests outside of the enthusiast group wouldn’t understand that three-way connection anyway so it didn’t make sense to our core business.

Was Major Mackenzie was a recreated character from the 80’s?

Major Mackenzie is a costumed character that wanders the streets of Frontier Canada. He was recreated from a character that existed in the park in 1986.

Why was the theme of Frontier Canada resurrected?

Frontier Canada was a proposed themed area back in 1981 when the park was first built. It was originally supposed to open in 1983 or something like that. The park didn’t see its attendance numbers that was originally projected so it was shelved. The water park was built instead. The two anchor rides at the time would have been Minebuster and White Water Canyon. Those two rides were built but nothing else in that area was developed so we wanted to close that loop and come back to completing that themed area. We felt it was something that the park needed, something that would give us a brand to work towards to fill in those gaps.

Motors on Yukon Striker?

Leviathan’s is the largest in the park, around 500kW range. The lift chain motor at the base of Yukon Striker is actually identical to the Behemoth lift chain motor – We could literally swap it 1 to 1. The drop chain motor at the top of Yukon is smaller than Behemoth and Yukon lift chain motors.

The lift chain motor at Yukon/Behemoth is 396kW and the drop chain motor is 317kW. DC motors.

What is Yukon Striker’s lift chain speed?

Leviathan runs at around 4.5m/s and I believe Yukon is around 4m/s.

Where did the idea of the loose article bin system at Yukon Striker come from?

It came from a photograph I saw from a park in China. They had a similar system on a dive coaster there. It didn’t have what we wanted it to have so we took that system and improved on it. Colin and I spent a fair bit of time this past winter developing that system, working with a conveyor manufacturer. Colin designed the control system for it, using industry devices. It’s the same kind of system used at the Honda plant in Aliston, GM, Ford plants.

We wanted a system that would be reliable that would run like a clock, non-stop. We wanted it to be simple where guests could load their items in the bins and retrieve them at the end. We wanted it to be out of reach of guests. We think we’ve come up with a system that is reliable and service-proven, and suits the needs that we had.

Could Guardian have the bin system in the future?

Colin and I are exploring that to see if it feasible. We believe it is but the question is if we can afford to do it.

(Question unclear) Flight Deck?

They’ve made many many copies of that same ride around the world. Vekoma is based in the Netherlands, they designed it, they built it, they worked with us to install it. It is not on the list to be replaced. Even if we passed a hat around and everyone chipped in $1000, we couldn’t build another ride.

With the success of the bin system, has any other park reached out to you for information?

Kings Island is building that new coaster for next year and you will likely see a similar system on that ride. My counterpart down there has contacted me a few times about it for details. I think it makes sense.

Skyhawk issues?

Skyhawk is having a little bit of issues this year. It’s similar to Sledge Hammer where it’s got ethernet going through slip rings and that tends to cause problems. We are working on solutions to improve it for next year because it tends to fault in the bottom position when there’s no real issues.

Will the Golden Ticket Award be posted up or displayed somewhere?

It’s not a very big award… It’s sitting in our office on one of the file cabinets. We don’t have any intent to put it out in the park to display it. We didn’t build the system to get in the running for the award. It’s nice to be recognized but we don’t flaunt our successes that way. We try to provide a quality product and let the guests attendance numbers show the success of that – or not.

But you did win the Golden Ticket. That’s the important thing!

Canada’s Wonderland doesn’t typically win Golden Ticket Awards because we’re not in Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Anyway, I’m very proud of this park. I think we have a great park here, a very beautiful park, with a great variety of equipment. I don’t feel bad when we don’t win an award or a Golden Ticket because I’m confident in what we provide to our guests.

Why is Skyhawk less flippy this year?

Skyhawk is an interactive ride where you can change the pitch of the wings to invert or get you into a rotation. This past winter, we did receive a bulletin from Gerstlauer, asking us to make a change to that wing position so the wings can’t pitch as far as they used to. The manufacturer wanted us to limit how steep you could get that wing. I don’t know if they had an issue at another park but they had a reasoning to make that change. That’s why it’s a little bit more challenging now.

(Question unclear) Sledge and DeviceNet?

DeviceNet is a communication protocol that works on a very low voltage. Without getting into specifics, rule number one when you use DeviceNet is to not use it on slip rings. For those who don’t know, slip rings are are copper ring with a brush that travels around to pass power from one point to another on a rotating machine. DeviceNet doesn’t like that very much at all. For us to try to replace those slip rings would take some time. For us, it’s easier to keep those units down and we’ll look at a long term solution.

(Question unclear) Police cars on the Backlot Stunt Coaster track?

They are dusty, yes.

For Winterfest, are you looking at having rides, especially coasters, running? If not, what’s the biggest issue with it and is it something you’re aiming for in the future?

We will run select rides, they will all be smaller family rides. We will not run any coasters. The coasters are not designed to run in our environment at that time of year. We haven’t run these rides in the winter before so it’s a bit of a learning time for us. We will attempt to run rides like the Rage and Knightmares. Those will be the biggest rides that we will run. The event is not intended to be a rides-based event.

Will Mountain Bay Cliffs be built in-house or by a manufacturer?

All of our projects that we do, we work with local contractors to build things. So with Yukon Striker, we worked with B&M. They manufactured the ride. They did not install it. We hired local contractors to install it. They didn’t build the station. We had to hire local engineers to design the station and another to build it.

With Mountain Bay Cliffs, it will be the same way. We will hire a structural engineer to design the pool and the structure to leap from, and we’ll hire local contractors to build it. We don’t do any construction ourselves. We are involved in the construction process – Manage the contract, meeting with contractors to make sure we meet milestones and safety requirements.

With Mountain Bay Cliffs, how will you prevent someone from doing a belly flop?

You can’t really prevent that. All you can do is ask them is to jump feet first. We cannot take responsibility for what riders do on our rides. We can ask them to do certain things, sit a certain way, to keep their arms and feet inside, but when people misbehave or when they do silly things, they get hurt. People do crazy things and they get hurt because of it, so if they don’t follow instructions, that’s a problem.

Why does Soaring Timbers require a minimum number of riders? What was the thought process in getting that ride specifically?

That ride is similar to Shockwave where it has a counterweight on the other side, and the ride needs that counter-weight to move that gondola. The problem is if the load on the ride is less than what the counterweight is and we have a power problem, the counterweight would come down to the bottom rather than the gondola coming down to the bottom. That’s why we have to load it a certain way so if we do have a power problem, guests aren’t stuck at the top.

We had an agreement to purchase a ride that fell through. We weren’t able to get the ride that we wanted so we were in a spot where we needed to move quickly and get a ride that was already built basically. Mondial had that ride in their factory. It had been sold back to them from one of their other customers and they were in the midst of refurbishing it.

Why were Backlot Stunt Coaster’s effects removed?

That was a result of reliability issues and being able to keep them working. Water and rides don’t work well together, and we had a lot of water on that ride which led to issues affecting the ride itself, not just the effects.

What can you do about cellphones being used on rides?

That’s a tough one because no matter how many times you ask them not to have them out, we get to the point of ejecting people from the park, and we have done that. It is a challenge that Operations face every day. They have a process of dealing with it and will adapt moving forward.

I had the extreme pleasure of riding Soaring Timbers during its first week of operations. What happened to it and can we fix it to go back to that?

Soaring Timbers had a different ride cycle that it does now. The original cycle ended up destroying the gearbox that was on it. To go back to the original cycle, we have to put a larger gearbox in. The problem is that the frame size of the gearbox is limited. Without re-engineering the ride and building a larger housing for the gearbox, we can’t get a larger gearbox in there. To prevent that gearbox from self-destructing again, we had to tone the ride down.

Were the wheel heaters at Yukon Striker and Leviathan Wonderland’s idea or from B&M?

B&M provides them and was asked for in the contract for Yukon Striker.

What model of ride is Beagle Brigade Airfield?

It’ll be a Zamperla Flying Tigers ride.

Is it possible for an upgrade to Action Theatre similar to Carowinds?

Anything is possible. I can’t speak for future projects. People always ask me what we’re doing next year and I always say you’ll have to wait and see. So it is possible. There will be something in Action Theatre in the next couple years.

(Question unclear) Wilde Beast ride quality?

It does get winter work done on it. It’s tough because a group like yours goes and rides a hybrid coaster and then comes back and rides our wooden coasters. They’re not the same. Both of the rides are rough, and when you’re spoiled on rides like Yukon Striker, Leviathan, and Behemoth, you think wow this is extreme but it’s not that much different than it was 25 years ago. We do accelerometer tests every year. We compare the accelerations in every axis and look for those spikes and eliminate those spikes. It’s personal opinion on how rough it is but we base our work on science than opinion.

Why is Backlot Stunt Coaster so rough?

I go back to we do accelerator test on all of our coasters. We base our work on science than opinion.

How much input do you get to put into ride selection for the future?

We get a lot of say on what we get to do. Cedar Fair asks for our suggestions and typically they agree. Sometimes there’s some pull and tug but we typically get what we suggest.

What kinds of checks were done on Yukon Striker to make sure the issue at Valravn wasn’t going to happen here?

Valravn had an issue this summer and it was closed for a period of time. They are very similar. They are not the same coaster. They were built by the same company and the control system was supplied by the same company as well. When the issue happened on Valravn, we stopped operation of our ride until we could definitively determine what the issue was on Valravn. Once that issue was determined, we found that possibility did not exist on our ride.

We take safety very seriously in this park and in this industry. Everyone thinks that our brand is fun but at the bottom of our business, our motto or approach is safety. If we cannot provide a safe environment for our guests, we won’t do it. If we have to stop a ride or shut it down to make it right, that’s what we do. Some people don’t like that. If I can’t put my kids on it, weren’t not going to run it, and we won’t put your kids on it either.

What is one ride that is no longer here that you personally wish you could bring back?

One ride that was very popular and did a great capacity was the Zumba Flume. It was not the highest thrill ride but kids loved that ride and it did a high capacity. We could do 1500 an hour on that ride. It was a tough ride mechanically and electrically to keep going and that was one of the reasons why it was removed. Modern flumes have their place in the parks and one day we may see one.

How much harder is it to maintain a steel coaster vs a wooden coaster?

A wood coaster, a lot of the work goes into the track. On a steel coaster, you don’t spend a lot of time on the track depending on the coaster. Modern coasters, the fabrication methods are much better than it used to be. As far as the brakes, coaches, lift chains, motors, they’re about the same. The track is where it’s different.

On Leviathan regarding the lift stops, does it put a strain on the gearbox or motor?

It doesn’t put a strain on the motor. There’s something called a sprag clutch on the gearbox. It’s a non-return clutch and that is what prevents the strain from going back into the gearbox. It’s a one-way clutch on the side of the box and that takes all of the abuse for the gearbox. It’s a sacrificial part. We replaced the sprag clutch on Leviathan this past summer. It failed and the train was sitting on the anti-rollback rack. We replaced it. It was down for about 4 hours to make the change.

What do you do to protect the rides for winter?

Some rides get fully dismantled. Some of the children’s rides depending on where they are on their cycle of rebuilds will get fully dismantled. Like Swing of the Century, it gets taken down every 5 years, right down to the ground and every component comes apart. Other rides depending where they are in their cycle, may just get the passenger units inspected, the motors will get inspected, electrical cabinets will be looked at, connectors tightened, things get lubricated and cleaned, worn parts replaced. Coaster trains will come back to the shop. Once all that work is done, they will get put back onto the track and get covered until it’s time to open them.

Once we get ready to open, we put the ride through its paces before we load people on. We want to see a minimum number of cycles before we put a person on. The reason we do that is to shake it up. A mechanic may have forgotten to tighten a bolt or he may have left a wrench inside or we don’t know. That’s why we run it, run it, run it, and then inspect it again, and then run it, run it, run it, and then inspect it again. After that’s done, then we’re ready to ride it. We ride it with staff and they’re listening and feeling and making sure everything feels right. Once that’s done, then we’re ready to open to our guests. We want to make sure it’s right. We want to make sure it’s going to run safe and going to run reliably.

Was Yukon Striker delayed?

We started planning for Yukon Striker in 2014. We took out Skyrider in the fall of 2014. The ride was scheduled to be put in in 2016. The ride was put on hold at that point and Valravn was built.

RMC or GCI at the park?

No plans at this time.

Are the gates at Behemoth going to be swapped out with hoop frame barriers?

That’s something we’re working towards. Obviously we operate the park in Ontario where we’re governed by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority. There were some challenges in getting this change made with the TSSA. If we can work through those hurdles, we’ll install them. If we can’t, then we won’t install them.

Paint job on Behemoth?

Our intention is to paint it at some point. I would have liked to this past winter. I’m allocated a certain amount of money for non-regular maintenance work and other projects on the list ride faster than others. That’s not a small job. It’s a very big job and if I have to do something that improves the reliability or safety, I’ll do that before a paint job.

If a child is under the height limit to ride a ride, could a parent sign a waiver to allow them to?

Our position is no. The ride manufacturer says we have to follow that. It’s not our rule that we’ve established. For the parent to sign a waiver, we wouldn’t entertain it. We’d say come back next year. Eat your vegetables.

What is most challenging about maintaining Vortex?

Vortex is a coaster where trackwork is ongoing. The forces on that ride are extreme and the track is not as heavy as it could have been. I think if it were built today, it would be more stout and would take the forces. We are constantly in that pond welding and repairing that track, and will continue to do so. We have no plans to take it out. I think it’s a great piece in our park.

Why was Orbiter removed?

We have a tough balance in balancing our expenses and passing them off to our customers. We continue to add rides and limit our costs that we pass on to the customers. We cannot continue to add equipment to this park that takes maintenance and operations expenses without passing those expenses on so at some point we have to say we have to take something out. It provided a benefit of putting in that new pathway through that area.

You’ll find that in any business. You can’t continue to grow and not grow your expenses without taking something out.

Would you prefer RMC modifying one of the existing coasters or starting from scratch?

It’s hard to know. I think if we were going to invest that type of money in a coaster, we’d want to market it as a new coaster and make a new coaster with a new profile and layout, etc, etc. We’re not heading in that direction. If we ‘re going to do that, that’s the way we’d do it. We wouldn’t invest that kind of money and not be able to market it.

What is the extra brake sitting at Vortex’s brake run for?

That’s a spare brake that we keep up there. Those Arrow brakes use an air bladder in them and they’re brass-lined brakes. Sometimes the brass wears thin or the bags fail so we need to replace them. We have spare brakes pre-assembled at Bat, Dragon, and Vortex. If we have a brake stop working, we can quickly replace it and get the ride back in service.

Has Orbiter been sold?

Orbiter is going to be scrapped. It’s being responsibly disposed of.

What is the purpose of the additional bracing at Yukon Striker?

There was that foundation in the pond that was moving. We put temporary braces in place just to shore up that footing until we can get into the pond in the winter to repair that foundation.

Why aren’t there loose articles bins at Vortex?

We used to have loose article bins on the platform. If you ever watched that operation, it really slowed the operation. Having people take their articles with them speeds up the cycle and shortens the wait time.


Thank you to Peter and Colin for another fascinating and informative Q&A session!

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