Rocky Mountain Construction Company

Industry Future: Edition 1

February 16, 2011 - Coasterholic14

First of all, welcome to my newest blog series called Industry Future! In this new series, I will be talking about some of the most recent and up-and-coming innovations, ideas, and occurrences in the amusement industry, and where I see these things going as we move into the new decade.

© Silverwood
Timber Terror: Constructing Timber Terror was Grubb’s first foray into roller coaster construction.
For my first edition of this new blog series, I will be discussing Rocky Mountain Construction Company. As I’m sure everyone knows by now, Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) is responsible for the massive overhaul on the Texas Giant, converting the once wooden behemoth into a new breed of hybrid steel coaster…for those of you who still consider it a wooden coaster, I’m sorry, it’s definitely a steel coaster now. This overhaul is utilizing the company’s new I-Box Track, which replaces the layers of laminated wood and steel rails on top of the wooden support structure with an entirely steel “I-Beam” of the same dimensions and weight.

Virtually an unheard of company in the industry just a year ago, the company has actually been around since 2001. It was at this time that Fred Grubb and his wife Suanne Dedmon finally created the Rocky Mountain Construction Company. Grubb, who had over 30 years of construction building homes and specialty zoo exhibits while living in Seattle, was contacted in 1995 by Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho to help build its new Thunder Canyon white water ride for the new season. Satisfied with the job he did, the park then had him help the park with its construction of the wooden coaster Timber Terror in 1996, and Tremors just three years later. At this point, it was all amusement parks for him, and the formation of RMC in 2001 was the result.

© Silverwood
Tremors: Following his success with Timber Terror, Silverwood brought Grubb on board to help out with it’s next “woodie,” Tremors.
Since then, RMC has helped in the construction of Aftershock (Silverwood Theme Park), The Villian (Six Flags Worlds of Adventure), El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure), T-Express (Seoul, South Korea), and Timberhawk (Wild Waves Enchanted Village). The company has also been responsible for the repair of 10 coasters, including the woodies at Silverwood and Indiana Beach, as well as notable Six Flags (or former Six Flags) coaster like Mega Zeph, Twister II, Predator, and the Boss. But the company does more than just coasters, they also install their Sky Coaster ride, do work on waterparks (Boulder Beach @ Silverwood), build mini golf courses, construct all-steel buildings, and create go-kart tracks.

It is the company’s two newest inventions, however, which have the industry buzzing. First to come along was their Topper Track, which served to replace the top two layers and steel rail on a track with a steel box design that clamps onto the existing lower layers of wooden track. Its first use was seen this past year on the Tremors roller coaster at Silverwood Theme Park, and is meant to help replace the aging track layer on coasters with a fast, easy, and low-maintenance alternative. The second invention was the previously mentioned I-Box Track, which is used to replace the entire stack of wooden track atop the wooden structure with an equally sized, dimensioned, and weighted steel track. Doing this allows parks to continue to utilize the entire existing structure as well as the trains they already have for their existing wooden coasters.

© Six Flags Over Texas
The New Texas Giant: The companies first major project with its new Topper Track system.
This has opened a whole new world for the preservation of old coasters, but also has with it some inherent downsides. A cheap alternative to wooden track could spell the end for aging and rough wooden coasters, which may have their track torn out and replaced with all-steel Topper Track or I-Box Track, which would change the wooden coaster as we know it, even more so than Intamin’s pre-fabricated wooden track. It brings into question whether a wooden coaster would even be considered “wooden” anymore if the entirety of its track were replaced with I-Box Track.

That being said, the new systems could breathe new life into what may have otherwise been a disaster, or a pile of wooden rubble. Wooden coasters are loved by many for the out-of-control feeling they provide, but sometimes, admittedly, it can be a bit much and some are too rough to be truly enjoyable anymore. I doubt few would argue with the rough ride that was Son of Beast, even with lighter trains and no loop, perhaps wooden coasters weren’t meant to be built so big. At the same time, it would be devastating to see such an imposing structure of wood become little more than a pile of rubble. RMC has provided parks and their guests and nice potential compromise, maintain the wooden structure but replace the unbearably rough track with smooth, cheap, low-maintenance steel, providing a better ride, and somewhat “preserving” the old coaster.

Son of Beast: Success with the Texas Giant could give a viable way to “fix” Son of Beast.
Depending on the success of the “new” Texas Giant, it could pave the way for the overhaul of other wooden coasters whose future may otherwise seem uncertain, such as the SBNO and problematic Son of Beast, or the often hated Mean Streak. If this had been developed 10 years earlier would we have seen the loss of Dorney Park’s Hercules? That coaster may have been painfully rough and boring, but I would rather it be given a second chance as a “steel hybrid” than to cease existence.

The problem may lie in the temptation for parks to cheaply re-track all wooden coasters with this low-maintenance steel track, to give the general public a “new” ride and a smoother ride, but at a terrible price to preservation of wooden coasters. Could you imagine the Beast being re-tracked? It can be rough at times, sure, but it is a classic who’s defining characteristic is its out-of-control romping through the woods, would it be the same or better if it were smooth-as-glass steel?

The Bottom Line: RMC has provided us a way to truly save and preserve wooden coasters which may otherwise be lost due to maintenance and roughness, but if parks don’t use the correct judgment, could ruin other classics by needlessly going for the “cheaper” way to maintain or “re-track” a wooden coaster. In my opinion, I think most parks will use their better judgment and use RMC to help save a coaster that would otherwise be lost from maintenance issues and/or low-ridership from roughness (Hercules, Texas Giant, Son of Beast), and not just as a way to “fix” a “rough” coaster.

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