Amuse works to refurbish classic Bobsleds coaster at Seabreeze

Historic ride receives renewed life

AT: Tim Baldwin

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Some rides have a dramatic claim to fame; others have their history quietly nestled into a few articles. Seabreeze’s Bobsleds roller coaster is just such a ride.

Roller coasters have long combined wood and steel. Many famous wooden roller coasters used steel structure, even dating back to the 1920s. In the past decade, the term “hybrid” has become heavily used in the amusement industry. Typically, this refers to a blend of wood and steel, most often the case of transforming an aging wooden track roller coaster into a dynamically redesigned steel track coaster. While this certainly qualifies as a hot trend, most industry professionals don’t know of the relatively obscure history behind Rochester’s humble gem.

Bobsleds was built with a wooden structure in 1954 as the Junior Coaster. It is believed the track at the time used was angle iron, a hybrid configuration predating the early mine trains and later tubular steel coasters that featured wooden structure. After a fateful trip to Disneyland and a ride aboard the park’s new Matterhorn Bobsleds, park management immediately had the desire to own something similar. As many ideas do, it all started with some doodling, this time on Disneyland Hotel stationery.

“Designed and built in 1962 by our grandfather, George Long, after he visited Disneyland to see the newly built Matterhorn, our Bobsleds was the second tubular steel track coaster and one of the first hybrid with its wood support structure,” said Park President and Owner Rob Norris.  

Fast forward to today. With more than 55 years of operation under its belt, Bobsleds was reaching a crossroads.

We looked at the possibility of replacing the ride, but we were able to assemble a great team to undertake this large renovation,” said Norris. “Hodgson Steel from Canada supplied the tube steel rolled to the various radius we specified. Our in-house coaster carpenters strengthened the structure. Our mechanics undertook a complete overhaul and strengthening of the ride vehicles. This included new lap bar restraint cylinders and added seat belts.”

Bobsleds feature single cars that reach a speed of 23 mph on the 31-foot-tall course.

“The key to the project was our partnering with Amuse from Idaho,” Norris told Amusement Today. “They did a fantastic job in replacing the steel track in all the high load areas. We really liked their ability to adapt the tubing and profile to provide a significantly smoother ride. They did the work in tough Rochester winter weather, but that hardly slowed the progress.  We are very pleased with the quality of their workmanship.”

“Seabreeze contacted us after the IAAPA Expo. It was December of 2018,” said Brandon Paul, president of Amuse. “They met with a friend of mine regarding the restraints cylinders and mentioned they were looking at retracking the ride. He referred the park to us. We were scheduled to work on The Comet at The Great Escape in New York, so I went out to take a look at it. After showing me the Disneyland stationery and hearing the history, I said we’d be honored to do it.”

Amuse is a relatively new company that has been successfully doing ride repair and erection for three years. Its recent projects include Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom, Apocalypse at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Phoenix at Knoebels Amusement Resort and numerous others.

“It was darn cold this year — it was subzero — but we were used to it; we found a way to make it work,” said Paul. “We made a lot of tunnels to make it warm enough so that we could weld. The wind made it a challenge to keep the tenting up. We didn’t have to do a lot of on-site bending. They had that ready to go.”

The project took about six weeks in the harsh conditions.

“We didn’t have to do any of the wood,” said Paul. “We checked the ledgers like we do with wood track, but most of it was done by their team. We showed them some tricks which they were happy to receive. Everything looked beautiful.”

Paul said the park had a couple of inventions to work with the gauging of the track, and Amuse created a few custom ones to ensure the right profile.

“They said it has never run this good before,” said Paul. “As he was riding, Norris said, ‘I’ve never felt it run this smooth.’ After debating whether to keep the ride to keep the nostalgia of the park, they felt it was a very worthwhile venture. I think it has another 60 years of life.” 

After all the work was completed the ride was sandblasted and given a fresh coat of paint. 

This article appears in the SEPTEMBER 2019 issue of Amusement Today.
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