How Old is Too Old?

Thursday, July 24, 2003 5:52 AM
I was thinking about my home park, Kennywood, and the fact that three of the coasters at KP are significantly older coasters.

Jack Rabbit, Since 1921
Thunderbolt, 1924
Racer, 1927

Is there a point when a coaster is too old? As with everything else in this world, the older something is the more unreliable it is. Especially mechanical items. Now I realize that these coasters undergo (sp?) daily inspections and routine maintenance, but an older coaster has a much greater potential of failure. Is this a risk parks should be taking?


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I like roller coasters.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 5:56 AM
Sure. There's no reason that those things shouldn't still be in operation. What's going to fail? The wood is inspected every day for cracks and I'm sure that each coaster has been rebuilt 3 or 4 times over the years just from replacing individual boards. If they were just left there without maintenance, sure there's a greater potential of failure, but when they're updated daily and checked, I'd say none of KP's coasters are "older" than about 15 years, and no one's saying anything about say the Beast being too old ...

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Formerly PittDesigner (graduating soon!)
Lifelong fan of all Impulses!
--Brett

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 5:57 AM
There probably isn't a piece of timber older than five years in any of thoses coasters. Everywinter a section is totally replaced. That's about right, isn't kpjb?
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Thursday, July 24, 2003 6:25 AM
For a properly maintained coaster, age should have little to do with reliabiltiy. I don't think that coasters are really subject to a classic bathtub curve. There are likely to be reliability problems early on, but they then level out to a low level with maintenance cost increasing gradually as time goes on, but eventually leveling out.

Kennywood does an excellent job of maintaining and updating their older coasters. For example, Jack Rabbit recently received magnetic brakes. Kennywood's older coasters are probably more reliable than many much newer coasters
*** This post was edited by Jim Fisher 7/24/2003 10:26:20 AM ***

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 6:37 AM
I am no engineer or mechanical genious or anything like that... but to my uneducated brain I would think that it may be possible that a wood coaster may have a longer life span than a steel coaster. As stated by all previous responses, old wooden coasters are "constantly" having sections replaced so that after a time, basically there is nothing original left. With a steel coaster, how easy / feasable is this to do? I would expect that it is easier to replace sections of a wood coaster than a steel coaster. Is it? Or doesn't this make a difference?

Speaking of replacing sections of wood coasters and their "reliability"... I read that Hersheypark's first coaster, Wildcat, met its demise when it did because of just this issue. With wood being in short supply during World War II, major repairs and replacement on this coaster stopped during the early 1940's. As the war came to a close and the supply of wood was no longer being diverted to the war effort, Hershey evaluated the situation and realized that after a few years of this "neglect", it would have cost just as much to rebuild the coaster as it would cost to replace it, so, after the 1945 season the Wildcat was leveled and the Comet built.

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"This is the best ax I ever had... only replaced the head once and the handle twice. G** d***** good ax."

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 6:44 AM
Replacement of pieces on a steel coaster would be next to impossible since a lot of them are welded. Perhaps Arrows and Morgans could since they have a lot of bolt connections, but the other thing about steel is that it isn't nearly as easy to evaluate as wood. You can tell when a piece of wood is going bad, but steel can bend and warp imperceptibly (sp?) only to fail when you least expect it - especially with something as dynamic as a coaster.

I think Steel Phantom and Drachen Fire had a lot of stress fractures in their supports and that was one of the many reasons they were removed, although this is just something I heard from a couple of spotty sources. For this reason, I think that a lot of the steel scream machines we have these days are going to have to be replaced every ten years or so (at least the loopers/twisters).

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Formerly PittDesigner (graduating soon!)
Lifelong fan of all Impulses!
--Brett

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 7:09 AM
There's absolutely no extra inherent "risk" in a wooden coaster that's that "old". As Dutchman said, there isn't a piece of original wood left on them, especially the ones at Kennywood. They're no more likely to "fail" than a shiny new steelie...

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--Greg, aka Oat Boy
My page
"Another visitor. Stay a while. Stay FOREVER!"

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 7:15 AM
Age isn't important...maintenance is. The oldest lighthouse in America is in Boston and it was built in 1716. Still operational today.
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Thursday, July 24, 2003 8:22 AM
The condition of a steel coaster can be evaluated by use of several non-destructive testing methods. In essence, X-rays and other technologies allow you to see throught the steel.

Welding in replacement sections on a steel coaster is not a particularly difficult problem. You just need a welder who doesn't have a fear of heights. They weren't welded, but the loops were replaced on several Arrows such as GASM at SFGAdv. Does anyone know if it has ever been necessary to do major replacements of track on other steel coasters. (Steel Phantom doesn't count since that was really building a new coaster.)

In general, the maintenance for a steel coaster is much less than for a woodie.

Drachen Fire was removed because no one rode it.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003 8:27 AM
Half of Raptor's cobra roll was replaced a few years back.
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If given the choice I'd choose a hamburger over a hotdog anyday of the week.
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