Rocky Mountain Construction’s IBox Track steel technology cuts down on maintenance costs while also
extending its life.
THRILL ‘EM WITH KINDNESS
Mean Streak reached a top speed of 65 mph and had
a 22% shorter first drop—with a relatively mild vertical
slope of 52 degrees. One man, “Mean Streak Henry”
Sievers, rode it 16,000 times, though I, like many, rode
it mostly out of some unwritten masochistic obligation.
After cresting the first hill and completing the Steel
Vengeance experience, fraught with furiously frantic twists
and turns (four inversions and a world-record holding 27
seconds of airtime), I would feel obliged to wait even four
hours to go another round.
“Steel vengeance is the one people are going to want to
start on and finish on,” says Tim Baldwin, editor of
Roller-Coaster!, a magazine for members of the group American
Coaster Enthusiasts. He estimates he’s notched more than
1,000 different rides in his life.
After his June trip to Sandusky, Ohio, Steel Vengeance instantly became his favorite ride in one of his favorite parks.
He has been to Europa-Park and does love that one, too.
“It’s just all over the place,” Baldwin says of Steel Ven-
geance. “I love the direction changes. But it’s done com-
fortably and is very fluid. It’s like watching ballet while
riding a bucking bronco.”
Personally, I agree with the bucking aspect of it.
But instead of a run of the mill bucking bronco, it’s
like trying to break a Pegasus on PCP. And even while
bulleting through abrupt wooden tunnels and then
turned upside down, I felt completely comfortable
going hands up through the entire ride, as my legs
were locked down by cushiony braces, along with a
lap bar. I felt safe and secure the whole time, free to
absorb the gratuitous airtime.
“Rides are bigger, wilder, faster, but I think they’re
safer than they’ve ever been, just because technology
and computers can just do more,” Baldwin says.
That’s because of the designers, engineers and
builders who made Steel Vengeance—who in Baldwin
and other coaster enthusiasts’ adrenaline-packed uni-
verse are as highly regarded as superstar athletes or
award-winning artists. Teams’ and musicians’ quality
will inevitably decline; Steel Vengeance may drop pre-
cipitously, but uses that momentum to get right back up.
LESSONS FOR THE FACTORY
Besides admiring the daredevil geniuses who sculpted
this monument to unadulterated joy, why not steal from
them? There’s much manufacturing wisdom snuck
into the maze of beams and rails.
First, there’s the matter of design time. Rocky Moun-
tain’s engineering experts, much like the noble hermit
crab, know a good shell when they see it. And have
since they started building hybrid coasters nearly a
decade ago. Instead of starting from nothing, they sim-
ply built off of what exists to make it better. Even the
most brilliant automotive minds of today stands on the
shoulders of a century’s worth of innovative giants, from
Henry Ford to Elon Musk.
It’s also incredibly economical. Tearing down more
than a mile of track and removing tons and tons wooden
support beams would be incredibly expensive. No new
construction could be completed until it was all clear,
meaning less guests through the turnstiles to buy marked
up soft drinks and Dippin’ Dots. Similarly, any manufacturer wants to get new production lines up and running
as quickly as possible. As John Kawola, Ultimaker’s North
American president, recently told me, if you’re a month
late to launch, you don’t make that revenue back.
Traditional wooden coasters require more main-
tenance and the entire length of the track has to be
checked daily. In regards to manufacturing equipment,
the total cost of ownership (TCO) represents a fraction
of overall costs, while much is eaten up by maintenance.
Upgrading may seem more expensive, but money can
be saved in the long run by fewer stoppages that cost
man hours and impede production.
Rocky Mountain’s patented IBox track eliminates the
need for wood stacks, allowing for the previously impossible inversions. This is the same as adding Io T sensors
to teach an old CNC machine new tricks, or installing
a collaborative robot on the line to assist workers for
faster assembly times.
Unlike Steel Vengeance here, the original all-wooden
Mean Streak offered zero inversions and plenty of
aches and pains.