Why do Wooden Coasters generally run rougher?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:51 AM
LostKause's avatar

That might have something to do with every ride on a wooden coaster being different. Woodies have a personality, and can change moods easily. The weather seems to have something to do with how they ride sometimes.

The best ride on a wooden coaster was on the beast at Kings Island about 20 years ago. It was a very hot day, and just as the train pulled out of the station, it started to rain. The rain immediately brought out the oil on the tracks, and the train slid through the layout instead of rolled. As you can imagine, it was insane.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:54 AM
rollergator's avatar

I've never been a huge fan of Legend's layout (see: mid-ride helix), but to call it "rough" doesn't really seem accurate to me. I've ridden when it was better, and not as good, and honestly, this was one of the better years for the ride IMO.

As far as maintenance of wooden coasters (see: delan and KG's Twister) - the 2 PA K'parks do the best job of any parks I've visited. HW does do a good job IMO, especially considering the length of trackage and aggressiveness of design. But there's no way the loss of Jeff Hammersly didn't have a negative effect for some period of time...there are few individuals on the planet with such a "feel" and understanding of wooden coasters.

Mike G. - sorry about the HC5 confusion. I just now found it there was ANY other name for the ride, it's *always* been Hurricane: Category 5 from my experience. Not sure why Duane updated the ride's name....weird.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012 11:36 AM
Bakeman31092's avatar

I think RideMan would agree that wooden coaster roughness has quite a bit to do with the trains. Many wooden coasters use PTC trains or some other "box car" style cars, which just don't track well. There's an inherent amount of skidding and shuffling with those trains, as opposed to GCI flyers or GG's new trains which have greater articulation and can therefore hug the track a little tighter.

Also, there's a difference between a forceful ride, due to the curvature of the track, and genuine roughness. A ride like The Voyage, even if it's running smoothly, can still feel rough because it is loaded with strong vertical and lateral G's. I think of roughness as the result of the car shaking and vibrating as it runs along the track.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012 6:58 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

DantheCoasterman said:

I'm an 18 year old with a high pain tolerance and an appreciation for rough coasters. If you want to argue that Legend isn't rough, I have to assume:

1. You only rode in the front seat.
2. You have very low expectation for comfort on wooden coasters. Or...

3. You're kidding yourself. ;)

I'm a 31 year old with a high pain tolerance. Whats your point?

1. I rode all over the train, including twice with my buddy Rob in the back of the train, by ourselves, 2 rides straight, in the dark, and it was amazing.

2. El Toro is my favorite wooden coaster, so, no. It has nothing to do with my comfort expectations.

3. Everyone I was with (all in all, around 50 people) during HWN the last 2 times I've been (The most recent was back in June of this year) has raved about how Legend is running better and better. It was out of this world this year, and I was far from the only person that couldn't get enough.

I think many people confuse intensity and roughness. Legend is an intense lateral coaster. I've rode it numerous times in 2008, 2010, and 2012. I never found it to be rough. Voyage had some rough spots in 2010, but was fantastic this year.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:30 PM

To add my two-cents on the issue of wooden coasters and their ride comfort...

A rough ride tracks miserably in which the train shuffles, vibrates excessively, and hits bumps or potholes. Examples include the former Son of Beast, Mean Streak before 2011, and Blue Streak (CLP). Roughness is usually associated with severe pain and discomfort.

An intense ride has moments where the rider is physically forced one direction or the other which is caused by the dynamics of the ride itself. Examples include the lateral g's on Thunderbolt, or the s-curve on Ravine Flyer II after the bridge. When unexpected, these elements can cause a surprising jolt or forcing on the body. However, for the most part, pain is not the term I would use to describe this sensation.

Of course, if one doesn't like an "intense" ride by my definition, then they may describe the coaster as rough.

Why so rough? From what I deduced from speaking with the mechanics and higher level managers at my work, roughness comes from both the trains and the track. On Ravine Flyer II, both PTC trains need practically an overhaul every couple seasons (more than the basic strip down) in which the cost of that comes close to a brand-new train. Some may say that the trains beat the crap out of the track as well since we use the 2-bench "box" style. Mostly true, but the elements also take a huge toll on the track. The best treated wood can be worn out fast with the harsh winters as well as the steamy humid summers. As track ages, it is less and less friendly to a train. Although, lighter, better articulated trains like Timberliners may reduce the wear on the track, concerns center around their rigidness and durability. Maintaining a wooden coaster is a delicate, constant process.

On a side note, I can confirm that a significant amount of re-tracking is scheduled for Ravine Flyer II this offseason. Also, there aren't any existing plans to change trains on that coaster.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 9:30 AM

PTC trains normally are 'torn apart' every off season, or after 'x' amount of time on a year round operation. Its the easiest way to NDT them, and give them the check, and its the only way to replace certain parts. Our woodie is 16 years old, and they have gone back to PTC 3 times for some type of rebuild.

One nice thing about the GCI Flyer trains, they are accessible. You can pop the seats up (do not try this in the station, thats how you get tossed out of the park) and check a ton of moving parts from the overhead vantage point.

What designers still have to deal with after a century of buidling is that the larger coasters are problematic. Mean Streak was pretty darn good the first year. Then it got away from them. I have seen their guys keep adding brackets, watering the track, whatever. Rattler, what a great concept, now in limbo. Same with Son of Beast, Hercules. All great large coasters, yet, always issues. Even the Beast has been slowed down several times.

Yet, the mid sized coasters keep chugging along, as they are not too aggressive, and are re-rideable. GL's Big Dipper, Kennywood's Racer, HP's Comet, Lakeside Cyclone, Knoebel's Phoenix, all great examples.

There are some bad ones too, but with regular effective maintanence, they can jump the fence and become great rides.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:06 AM

Tekwardo said:

DantheCoasterman said:

I'm an 18 year old with a high pain tolerance and an appreciation for rough coasters. If you want to argue that Legend isn't rough, I have to assume:

1. You only rode in the front seat.
2. You have very low expectation for comfort on wooden coasters. Or...

3. You're kidding yourself. ;)

I'm a 31 year old with a high pain tolerance. Whats your point?

1. I rode all over the train, including twice with my buddy Rob in the back of the train, by ourselves, 2 rides straight, in the dark, and it was amazing.

2. El Toro is my favorite wooden coaster, so, no. It has nothing to do with my comfort expectations.

3. Everyone I was with (all in all, around 50 people) during HWN the last 2 times I've been (The most recent was back in June of this year) has raved about how Legend is running better and better. It was out of this world this year, and I was far from the only person that couldn't get enough.

I think many people confuse intensity and roughness. Legend is an intense lateral coaster. I've rode it numerous times in 2008, 2010, and 2012. I never found it to be rough. Voyage had some rough spots in 2010, but was fantastic this year.

To add to what Clint said. I'm a, lets just say 10+ years older than him, WITHOUT a high tolerance for pain. I'm small and get tossed around easily by aggressive coasters. I too love El Toro, and Ravine Flyer II (love, love, love).

I would choose to ride Legend over Voyage any day of the week. Both are intense, aggressive coasters (with Voyage leaning towards rough at certain times, not all the time) but Legend is over when Voyage keeps going on too long for me. I don't find Legend rough at all, just downright intense. In all honesty, I hated Legend when it ran G-Trains, but since the PTCs have been on it, it's been my favorite at the park and I thought Raven would always hold my heart at HW.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:18 AM
delan's avatar

^^You have a point about the midsize coasters. There is just a sweet spot for good wood. I rode Colossus at Heide Park this year and it was a vibrating mess.....almost like the wheels were oval. I felt a similar vibration on El Toro, but to a much lesser degree. I could see how the same could happen if Great Adventure does not take care of it. What worries me is the sad state of the woodie next to it.

Last edited by delan, Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:19 AM
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Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:32 PM

Great Adventure has one of those midsized coasters I mentioned earlier, in Rolling Thunder. It could be a great racing coaster, instead its a single train squealing rumble over a farm road.

With the proper tlc, they could have a 2-4 train operation, high capacity, and a super ride without a major height restriction. There was no need to build El Toro. They had a beautiful ride that needed some love.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:40 PM
sirloindude's avatar

Perhaps they didn't need to build El Toro, but I hardly think that the possibility of a rehabilitated Rolling Thunder would be the reason.

Also, do you really think that Rolling Thunder, even running in peak condition, would in any way compare the insanity that is El Toro?


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Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:48 PM
eightdotthree's avatar

No, but he didn't say that.

they could have a 2-4 train operation, high capacity, and a super ride without a major height restriction

Never rode it in its prime but I would assume it would be a fun ride if it were maintained.

Last edited by eightdotthree, Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:49 PM
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Thursday, August 2, 2012 1:37 PM

Looks like we could have a full discussion on RT. I have only rode it 3 times in a racing format since I started in 1996. It would have been cheaper to re-track and paint it vs. El Toro. This year, the trains look great, but the rest of the ride, eehh.

They should at least put the baboons on it in the winter with brushes and see what happens.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 1:58 PM

I remember power riding Rolling Thunder circa 1983 and it not being rough at all.

Wood coasters are tempermental. I've had terrible rides on Great White at moreys where I felt like I was being shaken apart, and other rides where it is buttery smooth. Same with Twister.

That little woodie back by Steel Force at Dorney damn near killed me (Thunderhawk I think) that thing was rough.

Last edited by billb7581, Thursday, August 2, 2012 2:01 PM
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Thursday, August 2, 2012 2:08 PM

The Great White had about 1/3rd of its track replaced from GCI this spring. Very much improved it is.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 4:46 PM

I liked Great White from front seat last summer.

Thunderhawk at Dorney can be brilliant, but usually when people insist on riding it, I'm like, "son of a..." because I don't wanna find out if I'm gonna get that once in a while great ride.

Oh, Rolling Thunder used to be great when I rode it in 1994/1995...whenever Viper was built.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Thursday, August 2, 2012 5:22 PM
janfrederick's avatar

Anybody been on Ghostrider this year? I had one of the worst rides in terms of roughness a couple of years back. Seems like they have it running better now (and no complete stop in the mid-course).


"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
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Thursday, August 2, 2012 6:57 PM

My original topic sure got side stepped big-time here. If the friction was cut down in higher stress areas of a wooden coaster in general.......would the flat steel track stay smoother for longer periods of time (years) without being replaced? It is only common sense that "friction" causes wear on any roller coaster for both wood or steel.

Last edited by talon1189, Thursday, August 2, 2012 7:03 PM
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Thursday, August 2, 2012 10:56 PM

Agent Johnson said:

Yet, the mid sized coasters keep chugging along, as they are not too aggressive, and are re-rideable. GL's Big Dipper, Kennywood's Racer, HP's Comet, Lakeside Cyclone, Knoebel's Phoenix, all great examples.

Big Dipper's chugging days are long behind it.


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Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:43 PM

Yeah, Big Dipper is an endangered species. I was preparing for pain when I rode Ghost Rider in January of 2011, but it was actually pretty good. Its a oversized coaster, but without severe high speed turns, etc.

Another good mid sized coaster...the Wild One at SF America. Solid performer.

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Friday, August 3, 2012 12:07 AM

Big Dipper is all but extinct. Wonder if there's room to relocate it to Dino Island?


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