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New Titan coaster track is riveting
GCI steels itself for smoother, more durable rides
Thrilling riders since the earliest days of the amusement industry, wooden coasters have stood the test of time. But time is generally not kind to the track on traditional wooden coasters.
The groaning stress of passenger-filled trains can shift and misalign the lumber, thereby creating rough ride experiences–sometimes excruciatingly so. Parks have to replace sections of wooden track in order to make them viable. In some cases, the re-tracked sections quickly deteriorate, and guests once again have to endure bone-crunching, teeth-rattling rides–or avoid the punishing experience altogether. Faced with a never-ending cycle of costly repairs, parks sometimes put problematic coasters out of their misery and tear them down.
Skyline Attractions, in partnership with Great Coasters International, one of the world’s leading wooden coaster manufacturers, figured out a way to break the Sisyphean task of maintaining the classic rides by developing Titan Track. Made of steel, it can replace high-stress sections of wood. According to GCI, Titan Track not only solves an age-old maintenance dilemma, it delivers a glass-smooth ride as a bonus.
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Wooden coaster track has a stack of eight thin layers of wood topped with a narrow strip of steel on which the trains wheels run. GCI’s replacement Titan Track is entirely steel. But unlike the tubular steel pipe that is used on most steel coasters, it is flat on top and mimics the shape of wooden coaster track. According to GCI, the durable track can withstand a high amount of force and maintain its integrity.
But wait, coaster freaks in the know must be wondering: How is Titan Track different from I-Box (also known as Iron Horse) track, which is the brainchild of Rocky Mountain Construction? The company rocked the park industry with its groundbreaking all-steel track that has resuscitated past-their-prime coasters and created incredible hybrid wooden-steel rides such as Iron Gwazi. The two wooden coaster track replacement products are similar, but there are differences that distinguish them.
The major distinction is that Titan Track is a rivet-based system and has no welds. That makes it comparatively simple to maintain, which is appealing to parks (and to park fans, since it can help keep their favorite coasters up and running).
“If a rivet pops out, parks just need to replace it,” says Ryan Felty, procurement manager for GCI, who notes that there are 2,000 rivets every 40 feet of Titan Track. “They could also temporarily replace it with a bolt. That really cuts down on maintenance.”
Also, while Titan Track could be used to entirely replace an existing wooden coaster’s track (which is what RMC typically does with with its I-Box track) or be used entirely on a coaster that’s built from the ground up, it is designed to also replace sections. For the coasters on which it has been used thus far, less than 10% of the track is Titan. It seamlessly integrates with the existing wooden track, says Olivia Hain, GCI’s director of public relations.
“You know how you’re driving on a bumpy, pothole-filled road and you hit a brand new stretch of asphalt? That’s exactly how it feels,” she says about the transition from wooden track to Titan. “You can hear the difference too. It’s a steady ‘whoosh’ with the Titan Track.”
As a proof of concept, GCI installed Titan Track a couple of years ago on the bottom of the first drop on White Lightning, a GCI coaster at Fun Spot America in Orlando. Earlier this year, Wolverine Wildcat at Michigan’s Adventure and Predator at Six Flags Darien Lake in New York also got sections of Titan Track.
I rode Predator a number of years ago and can attest that it was one of the worst ride experiences I’ve ever had. It was beyond rough and uncomfortable and veered into being downright painful. I haven’t been back to Darien Lake to check out the updated Predator, but I am curious to discover Titan Track’s impact.
GCI will be including Titan Track on sections of Zambezi Zinger coming to Worlds of Fun in 2023. I’ll be writing about the new coaster soon.
Like RMC’s I-Box track (as well as its Topper track, which keeps the stack of wood on wooden coaster track, but is entirely covered with steel), coasters with Titan Track can include inversions (although none do to date). Traditional wooden coasters generally do not send passengers upside down. GCI says its steel track could also allow wooden coasters to incorporate launches.
“We still classify [Titan Track-enhanced rides] as wooden coasters,” says Felty, addressing the issue of how to designate the hybrid rides. “They still have that wooden flavor.”
Coaster purists may cast a wary eye at Titan Track. But if it allows parks to save older wooden coasters from the wrecking ball and gives GCI the ability to create coasters with new features, I’m all for it. And if, as promised, it delivers an ultra-smooth ride, I’m really down for it.
How about you? What are your thoughts about Titan Track? Have you had the chance to experience a coaster that includes the Skyline Attractions/GCI innovation?