Texas Giant sports steel track in $10 million upgrade

Posted Wednesday, March 3, 2010 8:46 PM | Contributed by kpjb

The new track on the refurbished Texas Giant will feature I-beam style welded track, dubbed "Iron Horse" by its manufacturer, Rocky Mountain Construction.

Read more from WBAP/Arlington.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010 8:22 PM

It just seems to me like there has to be better value for $10 million somewhere other than this upgrade. Heck, you could pretty much install a brand new GCI for that much.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010 8:32 PM

The only I-Beam steel track ride I ever rode was Hypersonic XLC and I remember thinking that if they didn't have the pneumatic tires that the ride would have been pretty rough.

But with that being said, the only thing we can do is imagine and guess. Sooner or later it will open and we can all judge for ourselves then.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010 8:35 PM

Jeffrey Seifert remarked...

I think a major part of the problem with the mega-woodies of the 80s and 90s was that they were not constructed very well. Texas Giant isn't just getting new track, there will be some structural changes as well.

...Although over the years, Rocky Mountain, Martin & Vlemincx, CCI, GCI, Gravity Group, Six Flags, Cedar Fair, Paramount/KECO, RCCA, John Pierce, and quite frankly anybody who knows anything at all about wood coasters have poured immense quantities of time, money and effort into these big coasters in an effort to correct the problems. For the most part, I think most of them are past the "not constructed very well" point. Take a look at Mean Streak, for instance, and notice how much that structure has been beefed up over the years, most notably with the installation of the short stompers on the drops and the steel plates added on most of the ledger boards.

At least as much of the problem, I think, is that when the rides were designed, there wasn't a whole lot of consideration for what the train is really doing. Consider for a moment the signature element of the giant Summers/Dinn coasters: that long climb into a steeply banked curve, as the second and third hills on Mean Streak, for example. It's such a good looking element, and if you are doing simplified dynamic calculations based on a single car or on the middle of the train, I'm sure it looks great. But when you put a seven-car train up there, you learn the hard way that the last three cars won't be going fast enough to stay on the outside rail through the curve. Instead, they will literally slide sideways and fall to the inside rail. Park maintenance will blame the problem on the track gauge, but the gauge has to be a little bit open there in order to allow the cars to go through the curve without binding, since the guide wheels on opposite corners are at fixed relationships to one another.

The interesting thing is that if there is any tracking error on a ride, that error can set the whole train bouncing, and the bounce will be magnified through the train along the whole ride until the train stops. This explains why most of the big coasters are set to bring the train to almost a full stop on the brakes, because by the time the train gets there it's going every possible direction *except* inline with the track. Bill Dauphinee (then of PTC) explained this in a class on wood coasters that he gave a few years ago for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and I was a bit of a skeptic until I visited Cypress Gardens and rode the Starliner. Starliner was immaculately retracked when it was moved, except for one little error on the turnaround. In the photo you can see from the wear line on the rail that partway through the turn, there is a sudden shift to the left (direction of travel is towards the camera) because of a bump in the trim on the outside rail. Unfortunately, because of the way the ride was sited, I don't have any good shots of the outbound part of the ride. But from the train you can easily see that the wear line is just as clean on the outbound section as it is on the turnaround. But after the turnaround, on the very next hill, you can see that the road wheels start to chatter, through the valley following the turnaround and over the next hill and on for the remainder of the ride. Now you see what a very slight error on a curve can do, think what happens if the error is a couple of inches, and is repeated on two or three curves.

You see that happening, and when you realize what is causing it, you begin to understand why slowing the ride down...the usual "fix" for these big rides...actually makes the problem *worse*. Of course, sliding off the curves isn't the only problem. There are other issues that tend to cause these rides to bounce (perhaps you remember my illustration of what the Coney Island Cyclone was doing to deliver an insanely rough ride).

Well, switching to steel track should solve some of the problem, making the track extremely stiff and perhaps eliminating the trackbed bounce, assuming there is any. But if the trains are still rooted in the wood coaster way of doing things, it won't fix the problem of getting through the curves smoothly. Of course, on Texas Giant, they are reprofiling most of the ride, and increasing the overall speed, so that may solve some of those issues. But who would have ever thought that someone might actually admit that part of the problem with the old Summers/Dinn rides was that they weren't going fast enough? :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.
(Added quote to accommodate the page break)

Last edited by RideMan, Saturday, March 6, 2010 8:37 PM
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Sunday, March 7, 2010 10:41 AM

^as always Dave, very helpful and educational. The photos really help explain the problem. Thanks.

Now I am wondering if this new product/design is why we haven't seen anything done on SOB. I can imagine that the rollercoaster retrofit industry is pretty small, so I would think that CF has probably already gotten wind of this design. I wonder if they are thinking about this for SOB.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 11:07 AM

I will try to remain open minded about it. But, for the moment, I don't like the idea of the upgrade.

It has been several years since I last rode TG. I loved the ride! It was everything Mean Streak should have been.
The rambunctious nature of TG is what made it so great!

As for using Douglas Fir for the track, I think it is a bad idea. I'm not an expert on wood. But, I have been told that since fir is a harder wood, it becomes brittle much easier. I can't remember what year it was, but remember that MS was re-tracked with douglas fir. It was great at first. But, it didn't take very long to become rough and was then converted back to pine.

I think the new Giant will be a great ride. But, not the same. Like Hitler stated, why mess with a legend? :)

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 2:01 PM

I'm not too hyper about this really. Seems like a huge waste of money. Couldn't they have built a new Intamin woodie for that amount? I was really sold on the idea TG was getting a plug n play retrofit. It was actually the only solution that made sense for that cost. This seems like an expensive "fix" that is not going to work overall.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 6:51 PM

For a coaster of an equivelent size? I doubt it.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 7:54 PM

CoffinBoy said:
As for using Douglas Fir for the track, I think it is a bad idea. I'm not an expert on wood. But, I have been told that since fir is a harder wood, it becomes brittle much easier. I can't remember what year it was, but remember that MS was re-tracked with douglas fir. It was great at first. But, it didn't take very long to become rough and was then converted back to pine.

Fir gets Brittle? Mean Streak had Douglas Fir only to have it torn out a few years later? Perhaps you might not want to repeat everything you hear.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 8:30 PM

Fir was the choice of John Miller, Herb Shmeck, Prior & Church, and the rest of the builders of the past. The reason that it isn't used as much now is that getting clear Douglas fir in the quanitites needed for a coaster has become a very pricey proposition. Southern Yellow pine is grown on tree farms (as is Doug fir now also) and can be harvested much sooner than Fir, ergo there is more of it availble at a much more reasonable price per board ft. It has been shown over the years that it doesn't age as well as old growth Fir, which is what the classic rides were built with. I personally don't know of a ride that was constructed recently with the farm grown fir, so I can't compare the aging quaility between it and Southern Yellow Pine, or old growth Fir.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010 9:19 PM

They have been farming fir in the Pacific Northwest since the 1950s so it is probably safe to assume that some of the coasters built in the 70s and 80s were built with farmed Douglas Fir. Cobb continued to use Fir until he retired, and most of his coasters have aged well. Le Monstre went almost 20 years with very little track replacement, and Texas Cyclone was running superbly until the day it closed. I think one of the last major coasters to get a Douglas Fir track bed was Great Escape's Comet, and that lasted about 15 years.

Last edited by Jeffrey Seifert, Sunday, March 7, 2010 9:24 PM
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Monday, March 8, 2010 3:14 AM

Le Monstre and the T-Clone both r[u|a]n Morgan trailers, which (a) are lighter than PTC trains and (b) track better. For another data point, consider the Wildcat and Lightning Racer at Hersheypark. Even after the Lightning Racer was built, Wildcat got a lot more track repair than Lightning Racer did.

Not saying the wood doesn't make a difference , but it isn't the only factor.

Kings Island would be an interesting test case. The Racer was originally fir but gets repaired with common yellow pine. The Beast was built and maintained with yellow pine. I wonder if they still keep piles of it, already stained, out in the woods so that it will be weathered when added to the ride...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, March 8, 2010 4:05 PM

One thing I've always thought (and seems to be pretty self explanatory) is that the older PTC trains (especially the 3-benchers) give a much better ride on out and back coasters. You get the Herb P. Schmeck moment of torque spot, and there isn't much 'twisting' for the train to navigate.

But any new woodie, with twists in the track, will do much better with single bench trains. Can't wait for those Timberliners on Voyage ;)

Last edited by CoasterDemon, Monday, March 8, 2010 4:06 PM
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 2:00 PM

I'm not much of a fan of out and backs, save for Voyage, if you want to call it that. Some of them are really good, but the up/down motion just doesn't do it for me as much as changes in direction and intensity.

For example, I much prefer Twister to Phoenix at Knoebels, and Cornball Express over the Hoosier Hurricane at IB.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 2:47 PM

^LOL - intense up-and-down forces work fine for me, lazy floats not so much...if no "abrupt airtime" is to be had, I'll take strong laterals and a more eventful ride. Therefore, I prefer Phoenix to Twister....but I like Cornball better than Hurricane.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 3:10 PM

Raven-Phile said: I much prefer Twister to Phoenix at Knoebels

Blashephy! Someone take that man behind the wood shed! :)

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 5:02 PM

I'm glad not everyone prefers the same coasters. If they did, those lines would be really long.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 8:00 PM

I prefer Twister as well. It is just so insanely intense.

If everyone was the same, we would be like the Borg. lol

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1:24 PM

I am a Phoenix phan, but I'm pretty sure everyone likes Cornball better than Hurricane. :-P

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010 2:40 PM

LostKause said: I prefer Twister as well.

I remember when I used to like you.... :)

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010 8:10 PM

lol, Moosh.

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