Kings Island maintenance crews busiest in off-season

Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:31 AM | Contributed by VitaminsAndGravy

Kings Island will rely on more than 4,000 seasonal workers to operate the park when it opens April 27. But for Tom Dillingham and his crew, the real work begins when the shrieks subside, the last ride makes its way into the station and the park gates close. As the park’s manager of rides and mechanical maintenance, Dillingham, 54, oversees a crew of about 50 mechanics, carpenters and welders who conduct year-round testing and maintenance of the park’s 46 rides. The bulk of the work takes place in the park’s off-season months of November through April.

Read more and see photos from Cincinnati.com.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013 1:44 PM

That's cool to see this article here. The reporter is married to one of my good friends, and just last weekend she was telling us about the widespeard access she had to the park to write the article.

She also had obtained an original promotional packet for The Bat, which was pretty amazing to leaf through. The unbridled optimism about the project was both funny and tragic in retrospect.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013 2:24 PM

I'd love to read that. Maybe someone has thrown it online somewhere. I don't remember the Bat itself in terms of hearing buzz about it, but I've read some short bits on the independently swinging cars on the trains being the demise of the Bat.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013 6:17 PM

The trains aren't much different than the ones you find on successfully operating suspended coasters today. (however many that is) I've always heard that the problem was from lateral stress on track which wasn't banked enough. It caused periodic automatic shut downs of the ride which caused maintenance to have to give the ride the once over and reset it, which did nothing but keep crowds waiting all day. Track was altered during one of the off seasons in the spot where the ride was fastest, but in the end it wasn't enough.
Subsequent models of Arrow suspended rides included plenty of banking on the curves, you could predict the swing of the cars in any spot by looking at the track.
There's lots of myth surrounding the Bat and what a kick ass ride it was, and it makes me smile. I rode the ride many, many times and truthfully it wasn't all that great. The two lifts were clunky, and each section was kind of a slow starter. The best part was the swinging approach to the midway (about where Vortex's drop is) and the following s curve. In the end Kings Island is better off with Vortex and Top Gun/Flight Deck.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013 7:59 PM

If I had to guess, putting the brakes on the bottom of the cars was the biggest mistake. How was that not obviously a bad idea?

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Friday, April 5, 2013 1:04 AM

What brakes are you talking about, Jeff?

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Friday, April 5, 2013 2:49 AM

The break fins were located on the bottom of the train, so that the breaks would stop the ride from the bottom of the train instead of near the track. This caused a lot of unnecessary stress on the trains.

There have been a few Bat videos posted within the past few years, thanks goodness. You can clearly see the fins at the bottom of the cars in this video.

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Friday, April 5, 2013 4:07 PM

On further research, it appears the whole ride was designed badly. The brakes on the bottom of the cars were stressing the track, and the dynamics of the ride were such that the swinging independently was putting tremendous stress on the struts and the track, causing the struts to need replacing almost daily, and eventually causing damage to the track itself.

And that's as tech-y as I get. :)

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Friday, April 5, 2013 9:38 PM

The Bat is one of those coaster design disasters that I find so interesting. I learned some new stuff in this thread and hadn't seen that full video before, so thanks.

Because of the short amount of time the ride was open (and spotty operation during that time), getting rides on it were pretty rare. So, it has this crazy legacy of being this insanely awesome coaster. Especially on the Kings Island fan sites, you'll see some people claim it was one of the best coasters they'd ever ridden with its intense swinging action.

It's nice to hear a more honest perspective from RCMAC, as I always feel like I missed a gem when people brag about it. I didn't think it could be quite as good as people remember with a top speed of only 35 mph. That's not to say that it wasn't exciting and unique for the time though.

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Friday, April 5, 2013 11:13 PM

bunky666 said:

On further research, it appears the whole ride was designed badly.

Keep in mind Bunky, it was an Arrow coaster. Even one of their better (and final) rides, Tennessee Tornado has no banking on the lift approach curve - thus requiring a trim brake. They were a company that never seemed to get everything *right* at once. Don't get me wrong, I love many of their rides, I'm just speaking from a practical POV.

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Friday, April 5, 2013 11:22 PM

It's strange...I used to love their rides when I was younger (even with the roughness), but now I can't really name one that I love. I definitely believe that they had a lot of issues with design flaws. I'm actually surprised Arrow rides are still standing anywhere.

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Friday, April 5, 2013 11:28 PM

Maybe you should come to Chicago and ride the Demon at Great America. It's probably my favorite Arrow ride. It's a bit rough, but has a killer first drop and lots of caves and disco lights n stuff :) Even it's own theme!

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Saturday, April 6, 2013 12:13 AM

The Bat looks awesome. The swinging action looks like it would have been a lot of fun. I got to see it standing but not operating when I was a little kid, and have always been mystified by the ride.

The bat was notorious for a whole train swinging off the track and killing everyone; a false rumor that people held as truth. People swore up and down that they saw it on the news, or that they knew one of the people who died on it, or that they were at the park the day it happened. I was shocked to find out about five years ago here on CoasterBuzz that the accident did not in fact happen.

The ride that replaced The Bat is still there and still very popular. Rumor has it that it will be removed within the next five or so years, so get your Vortex rides in before it is too late.

When the park built Top Gun (now Flight Deck), I was very excited to see the Bat story come full circle. I consider that a suitable, yet long awaited replacement.

We should see a new coaster at Kings Island next year or the year after that built in the old SOB spot. I wish they would hurry up and announce it already. People are speculating that it will be an inverted coaster. Wouldn't it be awesome if they called it The Bat?

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Saturday, April 6, 2013 12:47 AM

lol When I was young, my friend's parents very seriously told me one of those crazy Bat rumors (which I did not even believe then). They said that The Bat killed a whole train of people at Kings Island, so they tore it down, rebuilt it at Cedar Point, added brakes to slow it down, and renamed it Iron Dragon...that it was the exact same ride, repainted and renamed. That story always makes me smile, thinking back.

As for the Vortex soon being removed rumor, Don Helbig recently stepped in to extinguish it:

"The Vortex is one of the most popular rides in the park. There are no plans to retire the ride in the foreseeable future."

And yes, now is an exciting time. The two main parks I frequent are getting new coasters. There's GateKeeper at CP, and I'd bet on something just as good at Kings Island next year.

Last edited by Jeph, Saturday, April 6, 2013 12:49 AM
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Saturday, April 6, 2013 7:07 AM

I think the second suspended coaster was XLR8 at Astroworld in Houston. It was also a two lift ride. And in spite of it being a total snoozefest, it was at least successful in that it actually worked.

So, the brakes on the Bat were below the train, like in the catch trough, with the fins below the cars? I swear, I must have forgotten all about that. But it kind of makes sense that Arrow would conceive that, their other rides had fins on the cars. Plus having the brakes below, away from the actual track, might have been good for access, maintenance, etc. There would have been brakes before the 2nd lift, and at the end, and in the station, of course. At least, I guess, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

Oh, and Travis, that should be Son of Bat.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013 10:28 AM

Thanks for relaying Helbig's comment about Vortex, Jeph. I'm happy to hear it. Although, I wouldn't mind it if Morgan stepped in to redesign the banking on some of the turns like they did with Phantom at Kennywood. I can dream...

Son of Bat? Hmmmm... I don't know if anyone under thirty years old or not a coaster enthusiast would understand that, but it's a good name.

Upon writing that last sentence, I just realized that The Bat closed THIRTY YEARS AGO. Haha!

Last edited by LostKause, Saturday, April 6, 2013 10:29 AM
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Saturday, April 6, 2013 10:54 AM

Those old Arrow rides have two types of track, banked and not. They also very thoughtfully allow 2 or 3 feet of track for transitions. Love em.

I like the idea of a Phantom-like redo, but even that ride has some weird transitions. Oh, I have all kinds of "should'ves" in mind for Vortex. First of all, why they didn't take that first drop all the way to the ground in that little valley, I don't know. I've heard, though, that the drop is the exact profile and duplicate of the one on Loch Ness Monster - no pesky re-engineering required. After the second hill they shouldve designed a "vortex" feature, simply a wide, downward spiral back to the ground, swing to the left, then up up up into the tall first loop like the rides in Valencia, Chicago, and Jackson.

Kings Island is lucky to have Vortex. IMO, the best of the early series of giant Arrow loopers. Dolly's ride is amazing fun, albeit way too short.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013 8:59 PM

Sorry, but I HATE Vortex. It bumps your head around so much.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013 11:29 PM

Tyler, Vortex was designed way before computers were cool. Ride designers had to make all the calculations be hand. Arrow is notorious for rides with poor transitions and banking, and if you look at most loops and other inversions and elements from different Arrow coasters, they are all the same size. This is probably the main reason that Vortex is a headbanger.

That just about does it for the knowledge that I have about Arrow though.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013 6:43 AM

LostKause said:

Vortex is a headbanger.

So is Suzy.

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