... or NO _________ DOES NOT NEED AN RMC MAKEOVER
After a well deserved break, RD is back today with another amazing article.
This one is not really so much about fans wanting an RMC makeover for their ride, but more a note to parks and a plea for them to actually take care of their woodies more than anything. - Enjoy. - Gregg
Recently, I had a great conversation with a few other people in one of the many Facebook groups about which coaster would be next to get an RMC redux. My good friends Janis & Danny Biggerstaff and I were aghast at some of the proposed rides some of the younger set had listed - namely, one ride that I feel has ZERO need for an RMC makeover: Grizzly at Kings Dominion.
Janis raised an important point, one that I fully agree with: If parks took CARE of their wooden coasters, there would be no need to convert coasters to steel track. And I repeat her sentiments too: Grizzly is a top-notch wooden coaster, one that provides an intense, out-of-control feel to it, but is not a rough coaster.
So let's take a closer look at the parks themselves to get an clearer picture of why RMC has become so popular. Kings Dominion has long been considered to have a gold-star wooden coaster team. For as many years as I've been riding coasters (now well into my third decade) KD's wooden coasters have always been spectacular rides, and treated with love, respect & devotion in a way that many parks do not understand. Their technical skill is well beyond what most parks do on a daily basis, showing great care in how they operate their four wooden coasters.
And this has been the case now for 41 years. Rebel Yell's care & upkeep has been exempliary in every respect, producing fast, smooth & repeatable rides every time. Grizzly's out-of-control feel comes from years of constant & loving care, with very few reprofiling changes required. You rarely hear the squeal of unlubricated axles or wheels, nor do you hear the sound of tracks being jackhammered with the force of a train going over it. And the ride delivers a real punch showing that size DOES NOT MATTER - but rather it is what you do with your well-maintained woodie that does. And what is more amazing: The care & love that Grizzly has been shown resulted in the trim brakes being removed - one of the few cases where a wooden coaster lost her trims. Why? Because it runs so well, that's why.
And KD isn't the only park to show such devotion to their coasters either. Kennywood Park has shown the same level of care with their three wooden classics, all of which are over 50 years old. Riding Thunderbolt reminds us that classics can be just as good as the latest Gravity Group or Great Coasters project, and in some cases, they can best those newer creations.
Editors Note: Below, two coasters at a park that knows how to best maintain their classic wood.
What distresses me most of all is the parks which just don't care enough to take care of their coasters; the ones who fail to notice or to even attempt to bring some light to their wooden coasters. I see some truly classic designs that are mistreated badly - and result in bad rides. Colossus (now Twisted Colossus) comes to mind: In her early years, Colossus was a wooden coaster not to be trifled with; beyond out of control, insane airtime, amazing double-up & double-down sequences, blistering speed & guaranteed thrills.
In the late 70's, Six Flags Magic Mountain began the systematic neutering of Colossus - starting with the Morgan trains, then adding trim brakes/mid course block (which was never used) and a constant series of reprofiling elements along the track. Colossus was shown very limited true care overall, and it showed. Ridership plunged as a result, leading to it being single-track for the most part, save for Fright Fest when one side would be backwards. Finally they gave up, electing to rip down most of the structure to produce a new steel coaster which has replaced Colossus as we know it. While Twisted Colossus is a perfectly good steel coaster, it cannot compare with the feel & design of the original from the 1970s.
Let's head to New England - specifically Riverside Cyclone. I had the experience of riding RC when it was a new coaster - barely even old enough to have the paint drying on it back in 1983. As a very young rider at the time, it was intimdating, massive & one of the most terrifying rides I've ever stepped on. Out of control? Yup. Intense? You betcha. Painful? Not really - Bill Cobb knew what he was doing with a wooden coaster design.
Over the years, the park (again, like Colossus) began to slowly change the ride for guest comfort & safety. But the biggest changes were when corporate Six Flags came in - and really began to alter the ride. Numerous elements such as the fantastic drop-turn-drop and the high-speed flyby elements were raised & altered; in the end, she was a mere shadow of what she once was. All in the name of cost savings no less: Corporate didn't care, and it showed. In the end, it too became transtracktured, going from wood to steel in the form of Wicked Cyclone - a ride that as a steel coaster has garnered much attention.
As I mentioned earlier, every year after the opening of the latest RMC 'conversion' the rumor mill explodes with who will be the next park to go from wood to steel. This is where I say: Shame on you - and shame on the parks that let their wooden coasters go to hell in the first place. RMC produces great STEEL rebuilds, an area that they are now excelling at for parks who simply give up. And this is the sad part: Parks are generating business for RMC left & right through their own miscalculations, lack of care & lack of desire to keep their wooden coasters. And these conversions are NOT cheap, either - running in the USD $12-20 million bracket, rougly twice the cost of a new wooden coaster to begin with.
At the same time, I hear the endless whining of the audience at hand, that ________ MUST HAVE AN RMC REBUILD! GRIZZLY is so rough it NEEDS an RMC REBUILD NOW! AMERICAN EAGLE is so horrible it should become TWISTED American Eagle & it needs RMC and I'll have a massive brain hemmorhage if it doesn't get converted NOW NOW NOW!!!!
Three words, kids: GET OVER YOURSELVES. No, Grizzly does NOT need an RMC rebuild. Nor does American Eagle. These rides run perfectly well on their own, and are treated well. They run as they should - fast & fun, providing a good experience to all. They don't need to be adapted into oblivion because they're rough: They're not rough - they are intense. I can say I've ridden steel coasters far rougher & with a worse ride than both AE & Grizzly. The younger generation does not understand the difference between "Rough" and "Intense" with regards to a wooden coaster. To them, it is one in the same, and that means "BRING IN RMC! CHANGE IT TO STEEL!"
Editors Note: Below, two coasters that have been high on the rumors for some RMC TLC. Both have amazing layouts and it would be a shame to lose them. Maybe some RMC Re-tracking/Topper Track is what is really needed. And a consistent rehab program. Woodies aren't meant to run year-round. CA parks need to realize this.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
In effect, every time a wooden coaster goes through 'the change' and becoming transtracktured, we lose another wooden coaster. Thus far, four in the USA alone. While that doesn't sound like quite a lot, it is a bad trend to start messing around with. And there will be others too that go from wood to metal too- which in itself is a sad thing.
Preservation & care is what is needed, not another steel coaster. Instead of flipping your coaster,invest in it. Keep up with it. Repair it with love & care. Give it the treatment it deserves. And in return, you'll be doing the world a great service: Keeping traditions alive - a part of history that is as American as Apple Pie.