Great Coasters International readies to offer steel track flexibility

ATDavid Fake

ORLANDO — In early October Great Coasters International, Inc. (GCII) wrapped up a several-day, practical test of its new steel track design after retrofitting it onto a section of Fun Spot America Orlando’s White Lightning, GCII’s 19th coaster. It opened in 2013. This test came less than a year after the 2019 IAAPA Expo, during which GCII’s president and cofounder, Clair Hain, Jr., unveiled the steel track prototype as part of the company’s 25th anniversary celebration (also at Fun Spot America Orlando). 

It was during this surprise unveiling, that Hain announced that a steel track option would be added to the GCII’s portfolio. At the time of the announcement, however, it was not made known the full scope and vision of their design. It is only now that the breadth of flexible options for parks that this new steel track presents. Those options are presented on three fronts: 1) Parks looking for a completely new, exciting and smooth coaster; 2) Parks with existing coasters seeking new thrills (including elements and inversions), but not the investment of an entirely new coaster; and 3) Parks looking to make adjustments, or reprofile a current coaster, but desiring a long-term solution that requires minimal ongoing maintenance.

The entire process of installation and testing was able to be completed within a remarkably short, four-day period, which was minimally invasive to Fun Spot America. In fact, GCII installed the 55-foot section of steel track on White Lightning in less than two-and-a-half days. 

AT caught up with Hain to talk about the testing and inquire about what makes GCII’s steel track different from their competition’s, and he was quick to say that GCII’s steel track is far more than just an alternative to other steel coaster track manufacturers. 

In response to testing results, Hain expressed he was “very pleased” with the extremely positive findings. He said, “[The track] did everything it was designed to do. It’s working like a champ.”

As far as what sets the steel track apart from the competition, “It is superior,” Hain stated. He went on to explain that he can say this confidently because of GCII’s patent pending process of fabrication and installation.

The biggest reason Hain believes GCII’s steel track is better than others in the market is their patent pending no-weld process of fabrication, which gives the track added durability and strength. Unlike wood, which changes dramatically and deteriorates over time with exposure to the elements, or welded steel, CGII’s riveted steel track can maintain its shape and strength without heat-affected/compromised zones created by welding. The process also creates less warppage during fabrication, resulting in less misalignment on site. This no-weld process also means there are no complicated NDT requirements for the life of the track, and repairs can be done by any competent technician without requirement of advanced certifications. Riveted construction also makes visual checks and repairs easier and less complicated.

Another plus to the steel track is that it can be precisely manufactured off-site and delivered to a park, ready-to-install on either a wood or steel structure, greatly reducing the install time on-site, and therefore, reducing the installation cost.

Another unique aspect of CGII’s steel track is the ability to install only a segment of steel track on a wood coaster, as was done with White Lightning. This is made possible by a section that creates a virtually seamless transition from wood to steel and back again. “Hot-swappable,” is the term Hain uses. This allows for quick, long-lasting repairs to problematic track sections, and the possibility of adding elements or inversions to existing coasters without retrofitting or re-tracking the entire coaster. 

In addition to the practical test of the steel track performed on White Lightning, a three-foot section of track was galvanized and sent to a test lab for a long-term weather and erosion analysis to determine how the track will hold up over a 20-30 year period. This testing process can be performed in only a 10-15-day period in a lab. The results of the erosion tests will be returned to GCII at the end of October or early November. Hain expressed his certainty that these results will also yield positive proof that the track weathers just as it was designed.

Up next will be a test of the steel track on a coaster built by a manufacturer other than GCII. “Come spring we will be installing and testing on a coaster in New York to see how the track performs when installed on a coaster manufactured by a company other than us,” Hain explained. “Unfortunately, this test was previously delayed due to park closure and restrictions related to the pandemic.” 

As should be expected, the overall cost of GCII’s steel track is more expensive than that of traditional wood, but when factoring in the added durability, longevity, and reduced maintenance, there is a significant savings that a park can expect over time,” Hain said. “We have already received multiple inquiries about the steel track for both installations and conversions. We are excited about the new opportunities that have been created due to the steel track.“

This article appears in the 
NOVEMBER 2020 Pre-IAAPA issue
of Amusement Today.
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