ZDT's Amusement Park opens Switchback roller coaster

Posted Tuesday, October 20, 2015 10:27 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Switchback, billed as the world's only wooden shuttle rollercoaster, opened Saturday at ZDT's Amusement Park in Seguin, Texas. Switchback uses unusually tight turns and steeply banked twists to pack 2,125 feet of intense excitement into each ride.

Read more from The Houston Chronicle.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015 11:32 AM

"Small family-owned park goes *all-in* on new wooden coaster."

Sounds like Beech Bend or Cliff's from many years ago, or HW even further back...hopefully with the same success!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 1:17 PM

It's interesting to see where Gravity Group is finding its customers. The big chains don't seem to bite, but the smaller parks around the world are getting these really great rides. I think there's still a hang up about wood coasters (especially with Cedar Fair).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 1:57 PM

I've always thought that Gilroy Gardens would be a perfect spot for a small terrain woodie. Castle Park too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 2:21 PM

Wooden coasters, esp. larger ones, have a bad reputation due to upkeep costs. I think when CCI was virtually giving them away, the maintenance costs were considered more "part of the investment." But now that new wooden coasters are priced more in line with steel coasters (massive B&Ms/Intamins notwithstanding) - I think many of the major players would just prefer to stick with more of a "known commodity" - buy it once, not have to do more than trains, lifts, etc. With wood, the costs are more frequent and less predictable...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 3:12 PM

And I think that is why so many of those CCI's were run into the ground as they aged. Look at a ride like Ghostrider or the late Villain at GL. Fantastic, highly rated rides when they opened that became almost unrideable as they aged because they were not properly maintained. The parks "got a deal" on a great wooden coaster but did not want to put in the effort and money for the long term.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 6:51 PM

Man, I loved the Villain. That was such a fantastic ride. I miss it from its first two years. Toward the end, not so much.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 9:55 PM

It's not about how they were maintained, it's about the material that CCI built the rides with. Every one was built with Southern Yellow Pine, which is pretty much the same stuff that most of the housing in the last few decades was built with. It's alright for houses, but for building tall, higher speed wood coasters it sucks. It doesn't age well. If you look at the classic old rides they were built with clear Douglas Fir. It's characteristics are superior to Southern Yellow Pine. Trouble is that it's harder to get, which means that it's more expensive per linear foot to build with. The CCI rides were great for about the first four or five seasons, tops, but after that you might as well tear it down completely and start anew.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 10:19 PM

Villain was steel. Its failure I'm pretty sure was all a lack of track maintenance. The small bit they did into the Cedar Fair era helped, but only the areas they touched.

Last edited by Jeff, Tuesday, October 20, 2015 10:19 PM
Wednesday, October 21, 2015 12:22 AM

I'm pretty sure it's all in my head, but I never liked too many steel structured wooden coasters. I always felt they rode rougher than their wooden counterparts. (And yes, that includes the almighty Voyage.) Now, obviously, this is an apples to... uh... different type of apples... situation, as it's not like they built the same ride 2 ways for a side by side comparison, but still.

Like I said, maybe it's just me.

Anyone else feel this way?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:26 AM

Me. And I'm not sure why.
A true wooden track is a wooden track no matter what it rests on, right? Steel structures are built similarly to 100% wooden rides and are bolted together for the kind of flexibility that we see in a wooden ride. So on paper it shouldn't make that much of a difference if any.
I've ridden a few of the older steel structure rides, like C.I. Cyclone and Crystal Beach Comet (way back in the day) and they seemed fine. However, I haven't been to Coney to see what the "new and improved" version rides like and I've never been to Lake George- my understanding is that ride has gone to hell.

Steel structured wooden rides began again with what, Hoosier Hurricane? Wasn't it the first of the modern steel rides? Then along came other examples like Moreys, Geauga, Kentucky Kingdom, Holiday World and Fun Spot, and some of those ride (rode) better than others. Should we blame poor maintenance? Well, that certainly wouldn't be the case with Voyage, a ride with a well known maintenance program. We like to harp on Six Flags with their "set it and forget it" attitude toward wooden rides, which might be why they are currently RMC's best customer and conversions are popping up across the country. (and it will be interesting to see how those rides age over time, won't it?)

So, once again, I'm not sure if steel supports should take the blame or just general lack of track maintenance on rides that happen to be of the steel/wooden hybrid type. I know some of the roughest rides I've taken have been on steel structured woodies.

(edit to correct Crystal Beach Cyclone to Comet. I may be old, but I ain't THAT old...)

Last edited by RCMAC, Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:29 AM
Wednesday, October 21, 2015 2:00 PM

You are absolutely correct about steel supported wood coasters riding rougher over time. I had a pretty in depth discussion with a maintenance person at a park I cannot name. What is being found is that the steel structure is not as flexible as a wood structure so there isn't as much 'give' when the track needs to flex under forces when a train passes by. The result is the track takes the beating. A few things can be done about it, either shorten the train, reduce the speed of the train to limit forces, reduce the number of cycles the train runs, or modify the steel structure underneath it.

It's unfortunate, it also is unfortunate that enthusiasts who may gripe about any ride experience being tamed because they have no idea what they are talking about. A rough ride will still ride rough, trimless or not.

I'm hopeful that we will continue to see an evolution in wood coaster construction that still gives us that ride experience that are enjoyed on the more historical wood coasters. The biggest change we've seen recently is the rolling stock. Now there needs to be more attention to the actual construction of the track.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015 2:28 PM

Keep in mind that the rolling stock sure makes a huge difference as well. Big heavy PTC trains that don't steer and have barely changed in a hundred years aren't exactly state-of-the-art. I've heard a number of maintenance people indicate that the GCI trains are more gentle for their ability to steer alone, and I can only assume that the TGG Timberliners are even better for track wear.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 3:45 PM

I'm certain there's a good explanation behind it, and one we'll probably never know, but I always wonder why Holiday World backed out of the deal with Gravity Group for new Timberliners. There was what, a four or so year delay on those? And in the end there was something that HW didn't like about em. But in the meantime they've appeared at Gröna Lund, Quassy, Mt Olympus, and lord knows how many in China, and as far as I know it's a good product.

I like PTC trains, but on a good ole out n back, particularly if they still have the buzz bars.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 4:08 PM

As friendly as I am with the parties involved, I have no idea what happened (and if I did, I obviously wouldn't say anything). The parks that have them seem to really like them and believe the track maintenance is reduced. (More anecdotes, I know, but it's all I've got!) Voyage is a special beast, to say the least, though I understand the shorter trains have made a pretty big difference on that ride and how much it gets beat up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 8:14 PM

Not speaking from any sort of insider knowledge here or anything, but I wonder if the PTC's had done enough "damage" to the track to make the Timberliners a cost-prohibitive upgrade? I know tolerances are required for PTC trains that aren't for Timberliners - maybe it was going to take an entire retrack or something?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 8:38 PM

rollergator said:

Sounds like Beech Bend or Cliff's from many years ago, or HW even further back...hopefully with the same success!

I mean, I hope so too, but at the same time, this tiny park takes up a square block in the center of a village. Not much room for expansion, not much gravitas to attract a larger base of tourists.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 2:39 PM

During my one trip to Holiday World in August 2011, Voyage was a fantastic ride, but it definitely was showing some roughness. I would have loved to have had an opening year ride.

I need to get back to Fun Spot to ride their wooden coaster, I rode it a few times the first few months it opened and it tracked wonderfully. I am curious to see how it is running after two years of Florida heat and year round operation.

Saturday, October 24, 2015 12:55 PM

Yeah, we stopped by the location when we were in TX for spring break. This park is tiny, and the neighborhood is a complete dump. I hope they are able to be successful with this. Would not want to see this become the next Dania Beach Hurricane.

Saturday, October 24, 2015 4:36 PM

^Tommy - DBH had a far more convoluted ownership situation that IMO helped lead to its early demise.

bjames, Cliff's is undoubtedly much bigger, but is also very restricted space-wise.


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