New trend at Cedar Fair parks - more single train operation?

Monday, April 30, 2012 10:39 AM

Hi all

So far this spring I've been at the opening day of two Cedar Fair parks - King's Dominion on April 7th and Dorney Park on April 28th.

In the past, one of the things I felt you could always count on at a Cedar Fair owned park was that regardless of how busy the park actually was, they would run more than one train on a coaster. (I know I'm generalizing, but I think you get the gist).

We all know it's been a big topic of discussion around here of SF vs. CF when it comes to how many trains they run, and the usual opinion was that SF was always more guilty of running single trains even at busy times, and that CF pretty much runs multiple trains whenever possible (again, a generalization, but the prevailing wisdom in these here parts).

However, after attending both of the aforementioned opening days, I noticed something - at both parks on both days, there were numerous popular coasters running only a single train - Intimidator (KD), Backlot Stunt Coaster (KD), Volcano (KD), Talon (DP), Hydra (DP), to name a few. I don't remember this being the case at these parks with these coasters.

Especially Talon. I couldn't even tell you the last time I saw it running with a single train. Even on a slow day, Talon almost ALWAYS had both trains running, and I've been going to Dorney for many years at all sorts of times and weather conditions.

So what I'm wondering is - was this all just an anomaly or is this going to be the new trend going forward with CF parks? I'd be curious if anyone else noticed the same thing at other CF parks. Have you noticed more single train operations? Was it just something for opening days? Will they use more single trains on slow days and adjust accordingly for busy days? I don't want to make any sort of judgement without more observation and data about what's going on (that's the IT/nerd/geek/scientist part of me).

So my fellow nerds, any observations or comments? Anyone else notice the same thing? Or am I just over-thinking it? The realities of the economy? New policies at the parks with the new management?

Fire away.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 11:19 AM

Talon seems to run one train every time I'm there, and frankly I don't blame them when the station is essentially empty.

That said, you might want to watch the interview with Ouimet. He's pretty serious about capacity.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 11:23 AM

I'm just guessing but I suspect it has something to do with those crews working their first "live" day and maybe making sure they understand the operation before complicating it with additional trains.

There is also the real possibility that the parks aren't at their full staffing levels.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 12:06 PM

In my experience early spring is always like that.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 12:58 PM

Doesn't it seem strange that this comes up the same year that the parks introduce fast lane? Profit above all else is what is important. Less trains = longer lines = more fast lane sales.

Just my theory. It gets disputed all the time, but even if it's not true, it appears to look that way, and that is just as bad, in my opinion.

Last edited by LostKause, Tuesday, May 1, 2012 3:12 AM
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Monday, April 30, 2012 1:39 PM

It's not strange at all. The parks just opened. Cedar Point doesn't run Millennium Force or Magnum at full capacity when they open for the season either.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 2:05 PM

Your theory is still poor conspiracy theory, Travis. It's also contrary to everything the boss said about Fastlane.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 2:44 PM

I'm curious what you mean by "in the past...", most parks I have been to in the past decade (mostly Cedar Fair but also Dollywood & SF) have had very limited train operation on limited days. Cedar Point, for example; I have not observed Gemini "racing" (only blue or red train operation) in many a season on light days. In fact, I don't know if I have ever observed both trains going on a light day.

I don't get the theory about limited train operation when a park is dead and Fast-Lane. Can you elaborate on that?

Wouldn't it be rather stupid of a park to run their rides at full capacity on a day they are making less money?

Would I like it? Of course; but I would also about the guy in charge.

Speaking of which, I can't wait to spend a glorious empty week at Cedar Point in a couple weeks. :) And come on...even with limited-train operation, it's still a teeny tiny wait to ride versus July. And I must say, with the "bigger" rides (MF, Maverick), the park has always ran more trains. Now what CP really needs improvement on are the flats. No joke; from stepping into line to getting off the ride, it took nearly 40 minutes last year to ride Witches Wheel, and we only had a 2 cycle-wait (only one person was staffed on the ride). Never again.

Want to see first hand how silly it is to run multiple trains with no crowds? Play this!

Last edited by OhioStater, Monday, April 30, 2012 2:56 PM
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Monday, April 30, 2012 4:18 PM

Everyone has to remember that the bigger picture here is about budgets and not really about denying capacity to park guests. With longer operating seasons now, it takes longer for maintenance departments to get all the work required completed but up until recently the payroll dollars weren't there to add staff. Often they focus on getting a minimum amount of vehicles completed for opening and then over the next few weeks bring others online so rides are at full capacity. The other thing is every ride has it's own operating budget for the season. At this point in the game everybody knows that October is now one of the (if not the) busiest times of the year when additional staffing and resources need to be directed. It's just smart planning not to be overstaffed at the beginning of the year when your peak crowds come in August-September-October when more payroll dollars need to be utilized.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 5:52 PM

As far as staffing is concerned isn't the cost of operating a coster basicaly the same regardless of how many trains they are running? Besides of course, racing coasters. I mean electrical use has to be fairly negligible between a one and two train operation.

I'm not saying I agree with Travis, but he could have a point with his statement about making longer lines so more people buy a fast-pass.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 6:23 PM

Generally speaking, the more units you run on a ride, the bigger the staff needs to be. Why? Because to keep up with the dispatch interval, you need to get the trains out faster. Consider Magnum, for instance. That's one of those rides where a late dispatch shuts down the ride, so in order to maintain the 75-second dispatch interval, there basically needs to be six people on the platform checking lap bars (each person checks half the bars in two cars). Remove one of the trains, and the dispatch interval can go up to about 112 seconds...well, you can probably handle that pretty easily with four people on the platform. Go down to one train, and there is no required dispatch interval, so two people can manage the whole train. Actually one can do it, but that's getting to be almost ridiculous.

As for running fewer trains when it's busy, for example running two trains on Diamondback with a full queue...I think that was because of the rain. Later in the day it was up to three trains. I also noticed that when running with two trains, they parked the second train two brakes back from the station instead of immediately uptrack.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 6:56 PM

Yeah, I wasn't thinking in terms of electrical power...I was thinking of staffing. Fewer trains = fewer people = less cost.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 7:05 PM

Not sure how Cedar Fair does things, but at Six Flags parks, there is no difference in staffing for one or two trains. Only the 3rd train (or more where applicable) requires an increase in staffing.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 8:33 PM

On an unrelated note, TiggerMan, how does "Stinger" look at Dorney? I have not been there since the year before "possessed" arrived.

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Monday, April 30, 2012 8:39 PM

SFGAm Shock Wave said:

Not sure how Cedar Fair does things, but at Six Flags parks, there is no difference in staffing for one or two trains. Only the 3rd train (or more where applicable) requires an increase in staffing.

Before I even managed to ask.....thanks!

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Monday, April 30, 2012 8:45 PM

Talon and Hydra were also running 1 train yesterday. I have been going to Dorney around 15 times a year on average since 2006 and not counting weather related reasons, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen both of those coasters running 1 train. Closing night last year, Steel Force, Talon and Hydra also ran 1 train but it was very cold that night so I figured that was why.

I didn't mind the 1 train operations yesterday since the park was basically empty, Talon had a 2 train wait, Hydra was a 1 train wait and Steel Force had no wait with 2 trains running. Stinger was only 10 minutes (not good for the 2nd day the coaster was open with it in the mid 60's and sunny out) but I hope that once it gets a little more crowded, 2 trains will be running on Talon and Hydra.

Thunder Canyon also no longer opens with the park and is supposedly following Wildwater Kingdom's schedule. I can understand that though since White Water Landing was running empty boats almost the entire time I was there.

Last edited by YoshiFan, Monday, April 30, 2012 8:49 PM
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Tuesday, May 1, 2012 2:25 AM

Cedar Fair has definitely cut capacity on rides and done more 1-train operation in the last couple seasons, no doubt. This has been frustrating for me at Cedar Point in particular, as I was used to easy walk-on rides for a couple decades.

I personally think this has nothing to do with Fast Lane. We have a business that is trying to cost cut to make themselves more profitable on low attendance days. While I agree with the thought, they need better procedures to match capacity with ridership. There were times last season I almost dreaded seeing an empty lot, as barely moving in 1-train operation felt even worse than a moderate attendance day.

Also, there are clearly stricter operations when the weather is even threatening rain. For example, on a day last season, the skies were solid clouds the whole day, with a very brief misting every few hours. Most of the rides were 1-train operation or closed. The park was busy enough that it made the day miserable waiting in line, and I never even noticed rain the whole day. This was nothing like how Cedar Point used to be, and it was getting ridiculous.

In conclusion, on low attendance days, I think we need to see more of what Cedar Fair used to do. Instead of reducing (Blue Streak) to 1-train operation, close half the train off. If riders are starting to wait more than a cycle or two, open up another car until a good balance is found. This way the park still can reduce staffing and keep dispatch times up. Additionally, guests won't have to wait through the frustrating process of the park removing or adding trains, which require test cycles.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012 8:05 AM

I guess I haven't visited Cedar Point outside of Halloween in the last few years, but even then, on a dead Friday they run their coasters to full capacity. I had ride after ride on Millenium Force at night because they were still running three trains. With Magnum they run three trains and rope off half of the train. All of our experiences are anecdotal however.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012 11:56 AM

One of the things to remember is that coasters are like cars. the more they run, the more they wear, and to some extent, the more they cost to keep going. And just like a car, that cost tends to be fixed whether one is carrying one person or 6 people in the vehicle. Your car tires wear out at roughly 50000 miles.

For example, lets take Blue Streak. Lets assume that it is running 1 train on a given day. That means the other train is sitting on the storage track. That means: the wheels are not wearing, the bearings are not wearing, the brake fins are not wearing, the ratchet mechanisms in the restrains are not being sued and wearing, etc. It's probably a small amount, but each time a coaster takes a loop, it wears a bit. Maybe the difference is changing wheels out twice over the course of the summer instead of 3 times (I'm not certain what the real maintenance on a coaster is), but that does result in a cost difference.

At one time, I recall being told that Cedar Fair kept two trains running even if one was completely blocked off because they needed an extra person on the crew to switch trains in and out. (Not sure if that was true or not.) That thinking may have shifted as the cost of steel wheels, and other manufactured items has gone up. Or, as the parts have gotten harder to obtain due to age (think of the cars on Cedar Creek Mine Ride, now more than 42 years old and from a manufacturer that has been out of business for nearly 15 years.)

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012 3:27 PM

Now and in the future, I would think it more likely we see less 3 train op due to how long it takes to load trains. People bring more and more crap to the platform. It would not surprise me that you simply can't run at capacity the majority of the time due to how slow people are at getting loaded. If that is the case, why take wear and tear on 3 trains when you constantly stack?

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