The Gravity Group unveils new trains

Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008 2:48 PM | Contributed by Rob Ascough

The engineers at The Gravity Group started with a blank sheet of paper and ended up with the next generation of trains for wooden roller coasters."

"Timberliners incorporate new technology - such as magnetic braking and restraint monitoring - that wasn't even imagined when wooden coaster cars were first developed," says Michael Graham, lead engineer for the project. "When it comes to wooden coasters, The Gravity Group has more experience designing rides than anyone. We've applied that expertise in designing trains that addresses every facet of roller coaster performance and function - from maintenance and safety to rider enjoyment and capacity."

Timberliners are designed to be compatible with existing wooden coasters, allowing a park to upgrade their roller coasters with Timberliner trains.

Read more from The Gravity Group.

Thursday, November 20, 2008 11:39 PM

Right; the most significant mechanical difference between the Millennium Flyer and the Prior & Church trains is that the Millennium Flyer uses a three-wheel truck assembly, with a road wheel, a guide wheel and an underwheel, while the Prior & Church trains used on the Puyallup Coaster and the Walker LeRoy copies running on the Vancouver Coaster have only a single flanged road wheel and a flat bar used as an up-stop.

The Prior & Church cars do not have underwheels because the track design doesn't include enough clearance for underwheels. GCI. on the other hand, build their track to accommodate Philadelphia Toboggan cars...at least that's what they did with Roar West. One of the requirements on that ride was supposedly that the ride had to be built to accommodate PTC trains in case the Millennium Flyers didn't work out. (source: Vague memory from a Rollercoaster! article about the GCI trains).

There are some other variations between the GCI cars and the old Prior & Church or Harry Traver cars. Another is the hitch design, where GCI uses a modern spherical bearing while Traver used a ball and socket coupler. Also, perhaps the most interesting feature of the GCI car has to do with the wheel truck assembly, but I don't think I can describe it accurately here.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Friday, November 21, 2008 9:09 AM

Your memory is correct, Dave. That Rollercoaster! article did mention that the SFMW/SFDK manager requested that the coaster be designed to accomodate PTC trains with minimal modification in the event the Millennium Flyers didn't work out. I'm not sure why Gwazi didn't get them. Did that ride open before Roar, and before the MFs were ready? Did Busch not want to take the risk? Or maybe GCII couldn't come up with four trains that quickly?

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Friday, November 21, 2008 10:28 AM
rollergator's avatar

Wildcat and Roar East were prior to Roar West - I think those coasters are what led GCI to build their own trains, their layouts being very twisted in comparison to most "modern" woodies. But if you've been in their shop, you can see what a small operation they have, and I'm sure just building those first trains for Roar West was at least as much as they could handle at the time.


You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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Friday, November 21, 2008 6:12 PM

At least we have GGII and Gwazi to thank for the ONE innovation in PTC train design that has made it into all of the Gravity Group coasters: I understand Gwazi was the first coaster to get the extra inch under the back seat of each car to give the axle a little more room.

So thanks to Gwazi, we get PTC trains with a slightly higher roll rate that still can't track a flat curve.

Yes, GCI's first coasters, I think, were Wildcat, Gwazi and Roar East. And two of those three are the only GCI coasters still running PTC trains.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Friday, November 21, 2008 7:39 PM
rollergator's avatar

^ After riding the third of that trio, I'm no longer campaigning for the other two to get MFlyers... ;)


You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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Saturday, November 22, 2008 1:14 AM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

What Gator said. Changing the trains drastically decreased the thrills of WIldcat. It's certainly smoother now, but I would rather have the intensity. I absolutely love Gwazi the way it is (my definite favorite GCI of the seven (or 9) I've ridden and Roar East is pretty darn good too. I've heard Roar West was once fantastic, but it was really boring last year at Spring Con and since it's essentially the same layout as Roar East, I think it's a pretty good comparison for what the two different train styles can provide.

I'm fine with the MF trains on the coasters that have always had them and were designed with them in mind though. It makes for zippy, smooth rides, but assuming PTC's could theoretically navigate those layouts, I bet they would make for a more exciting ride until they beat the track up and then most people would say the ride is too rough to enjoy. ;)


AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

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Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:17 PM

I don't think I've been on very many GCI coasters that have the Millennium Flier trains. However, several people I have talked to seem to agree that the MF trains lack some of the intensity of the PTC trains. At the same time, the MF trains don't "chew" up the track as much as the PTC trains.

The Gravity Group engineers may have been able to design a train that can provide the intensity of a PTC train to the rider, while reducing the wear on the track. From looking at the engineering talent that designed some of the most thrilling wood coasters on the planet, it is very possible that they could accomplish this. We will just have to wait to see what the trains are acutally like.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:49 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

I'd like to believe that, but in my opinion the PTC's less graceful tracking is what makes for the more intense "out of control" ride, which at the same time is what "eats" the track up. It's a trade-off. But I want to believe. :)


AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

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Saturday, November 22, 2008 7:09 PM

Part of the issue, too, may have to do with the length of the cars. The PTC cars are structured so that if you are in the front seat, the road wheels are right beneath your feet. If you are in the back seat, the road wheels are right under your seat. When the car goes over a hill or through a valley, it moves as a rigid chord defined by the two axles. So you are either at the center or at the back end of a lever that is about four feet long. GCI's cars may be close to the same distance from hitch to axle, but the action is going to be different because the action of the car is defined by a single chord (from hitch to axle) instead of by the three chords of the PTC car (hitch to front axle, axle to axle, rear axle to rear hitch).

We see the same thing with the B&M Speed Coasters where because the single axle is right below the seat, when the car goes over the peak of a hill, the seat back actually whips forward and smacks you in the back of the head...something that doesn't happen on the Arrow coasters because they either have two axles per car, or (in the case of the loopers) put the axles between cars.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008 10:44 PM
Jeff's avatar

0g said:
Well, it looks like Gravity Group will no longer use PTC trains.

They'll use whatever the parks buy, and until they have a proven design, I wouldn't assume you'll see these all over the place. Who do you suppose was showing a lead car for TGG's Chinese coaster? Yep, PTC.

I would think of it this way... there has to be a prototype of this train, and I would imagine that someone is at least partially funding the R&D. The question is who is it, and for what ride? That would be interesting to learn. Speculation on my part, but it would be typical for any new product brought to market in pretty much any industry, but especially one in which lives are potentially at stake.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

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Saturday, November 22, 2008 11:09 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

Jeff, was the lead car a single-bench PTC or a two-bencher? I heard Fireball was going to be the first woodie to use PTC's new single-bench trains.


AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 9:56 AM
Jeff's avatar

I don't remember, but it was my understanding that they haven't sold any single-bench trains.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 11:15 AM

It had two benches.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 12:01 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

Funny how parks were happy to take a chance on the horrid Gerstlauer trains, but they seem to be afraid of a new product from a manufacturer who's been making them for 100 years.


AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 1:03 PM

Correct me if Im wrong but didnt most parks "pick" the G-trains because PTC would no longer sell to CCI because they were not making good on their debts?


2020 Trips: WDW, Dollywood, CP, KI, Hershey, Dorney, SFGAdv, Canada’s Wonderland, BGW, Holiday World, SDC, Universal Orlando, Sea World Orlando

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 1:26 PM
rollergator's avatar

^True, but the parks had the option of dealing with PTC independent of the purchase agreement with CCI for the coaster itself. All things considered, that would have been the smarter way to go. ;)


You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 2:31 PM

But you have to remember...

CCI offered one-stop integration. You sign one contract with CCI, you send the checks to CCI, and when CCI finishes work, you have a complete ready-to-run wooden roller coaster (unless you're Cliff's, but that's a special case). CCI promises to provide you a train or two (or three) built to run on the coaster, with certain mechanical advantages: modern bearings, lighter weight, easier maintenance, lower initial cost, lower operating cost for the train, and it comes as part of the package.

Or you can knock a few significant figures off the package price and buy your own train from PTC, perhaps even knowing that the "less train" discount will be less than the purchase price of the German train.

So, having not dealt with either train, which option do you pick, Mr. Park CEO?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 7:39 PM
OhioStater's avatar

PTC's failure to innovate and give designers what they needed is going to cost them a lot of business.

Just ask GM and Ford.

Hopefully we'll see CP give these new trains some use some year soon.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 8:50 PM

Acoustic Viscosity said:Funny how parks were happy to take a chance on the horrid Gerstlauer trains, but they seem to be afraid of a new product from a manufacturer who's been making them for 100 years.

WRONG! IN order to get the PTC durring those years on a CCI coaster, The parks had to buy them directly from PTC.The CCI quoted price was Gerstlauer only as they owed PTC a substantial amount of money.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008 10:11 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

How is that wrong, Chuck? The G-trains were still new and unproven compared to the tried and true design that the industry was already familiar with. The difference was that CCI's customers were "encouraged" to go with the "new" unfamiliar trains because they were easier to obtain instead of given two choices that were equally easy to obtain and one being a well known "tried and true" design.


AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

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