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Little Amerricka


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Hi there TPR, long time lurker, finally decided to join in on the fun. I work at everyone's favorite amusement park located directly next to a cemetery, aka Little Amerricka, in Wisconsin. We have some ambitious plans for the future, and since it's been a while since anyone's heard from our little operation, I figure I could fill in on what's in the works.

 

Quick backstory - I was wrapping up my degree a couple of years ago and heard that my local childhood haunt was undertaking an expansion involving the park's 16" gauge railway. I contacted the park about volunteering during my search for a full-time job, one thing led to another, and I was the new lead track maintainer for the railroad.

I have another full-time job now, but I still help around the park when I get a chance, which gives me and the owner time to exchange ideas, one of which involves building a new, larger wooden coaster.

 

As some of you know, several years ago, Little Amerricka purchased the Lincoln Park Comet's NAD trains with the intention of building a replica of the ride in the future. That idea has since been shelved - the Comet would be a rather extreme ride for the park's target audience, not to mention a massive undertaking for the park. To say our operation is small-time is being kind - we don't exactly pull in Great America-sized crowds, and keeping a collection of old and rare rides running requires a Herculean effort from the park staff (our Tilt-o-Whirl dates from prior to WW2 and may be the oldest one in existence - it had to grandfathered into state laws to be allowed to run).

 

Since I'm the one with the Civil Engineering degree and the resident roller coaster nut, I've been tasked with coming up with roller coaster ideas. The fun part about that is the land situation at the park: the highway is directly north of the park, there aren't any utilities to the south of the park, the parking lot is to the west, and the cemetery is to the east.

Not to mention the entire park and railroad is located in a floodplain (a huge pain the behind) with protected wetlands everywhere. So not only do we not have any money to build a new ride, we don't have land either. Neat! Maybe I'll have to take a trip to Grona Lund and get some ideas for roller coasters in impossible spaces.

 

Not deterred, I have some ideas for a mid-sized ride. In addition to the NAD trains in storage, the owner bought the lift motor and chain from the Whalom Park Comet. He's also in talks with a gentleman about trading the Kiddieland log flume currently sitting in our staging yard for a junior PTC coaster train. My vision is to use the PTC train to add a couple cars onto the Meteor to boost capacity and save the NAD trains for a new, larger ride. The condition of the NAD trains was described to me as "one step above scrap", but if there any shop forces that could refurbish the cars, it's this one. Plus, with NAD trains being so rare, I think it would be a perfect fit for a park that strives to preserve classic rides.

 

For the actual ride, the one I would love to build is a copy of the Phoenix at Knoebels, but that would be a LOT of ride for the small workforce there to build. I wanted to build a ride around twice as high as the Meteor - maybe around 55 ft (~17 m) high. I'd love to design my own ride from the ground up, but the owner and I agree that an existing design would probably be cheaper and easier to build. One design that caught my eye was the Rocky Glen Comet, which lives on as the Stricker's Grove Tornado. It sounds exactly what I'm looking for: 55 ft high, no curved, spiraling drops (easier construction and maintenence), a lot of low to the ground straight hills (more expensive to build up than out), and just a generally fun-looking ride. A plus is that it's designed in the same vein as the Phoenix, just not as intense.

 

Speaking of the log flume, that's a ride the owner really wants to build. It's one I would like to see too, especially with log flume rides seemingly going the way of the dinosaur (like at Timber Falls), but we agree it's most likely just not feasible at this time. Log flume rides require a tremendous amount of infrastructure (~$1 million for just concrete work), the pumps must be run constantly (even on slow days - just running the little pump on the mini golf course adds up), and they just don't have the same marketability as a roller coaster. Not to mention the protected wetlands issue.

 

If anyone has any interest in train stuff, the park has a very impressive grand scale (roughly 1/3 full size) railroad, which now measures over 3 miles long thanks to the mile of track laid with yours truly in charge. In addition, the park forces build and work on small-scale train equipment during the off-season, and they do some very high-quality work. For example, they built the air compressors for the steam locomotives at Silver Dollar City and an entirely new locomotive for the Wildcat Railroad in Los Gatos, CA.

 

The current project in the shop is a real behemoth - a massive 4-12-2 steam locomotive that will be the largest grand scale locomotive in the world when completed. The engine itself will weigh 24,000 lbs, will measure over 40 ft with the tender attached, and will cost a cool $2 million. If you're looking for a really big toy train for Christmas in a couple of years, start pinching your pennies.

Will need a pretty big Christmas tree to run this one around...

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Edited by ButteredToast
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Awesome to hear from you man, sounds like you are living the dream. I'm also a civil engineer and got into the profession dreaming of working for a park in some way some day. Small places like Little Amerricka just absolutely fascinate me. I love seeing cool, heart-felt projects come to fruition.

 

Sounds like you guys are on the right track and thinking things through the right way. A medium sized woodie would be perfect for the place and really help expand the audience.

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Have you looked into Chance? Lightning Run for Kentucky Kingdom gives a world class experience in a small footprint for a relatively low cost that's great for thrill-seekers and.. most ... members of the family. They're mostly a kiddie coaster and flat ride company, so I'm sure they could scale it down and do something between Lightning Run and their normal kiddie fare.

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While a Lincoln Park Comet clone may be 20 - 50% longer than (and thus probably roughly that much more expensive than) a Stricker's Tornado clone, Comet was only 10 feet taller than Tornado. And additionally, it's been my impression that kids have increased their thrill level threshold compared to decades past. For example, Jack Rabbit at Seabreeze, which although it is 10 feet taller than even the Lincoln Park Comet, it definitely appears to be a family ride for the area as I've seen many a six year old get in line. Heck, some inverting coasters (e.g. Sooperdooperlooper) are considered family coasters nowadays. So while that doesn't change the amount of money needed for a Lincoln Park Comet clone and would be larger than anything you have now, is it really outside the park's demographic range? And you guys are only an hour and 49 minutes away from SFGAM, so I wonder if it's possible you could tap into and advertise in the Chicago or even WI Dells markets a bit more.

 

I won't lie, I'd love to see the Lincoln Park Comet get rebuilt, and part of me is hoping that maybe, just MAYBE, it could be done, and I can't help the coaster-loving mechanical engineer in me go into problem-solving mode to see if it would be feasible somehow. Now I want to make it clear, I'm not saying "You guys have no idea how to run your own park at all", not even in the slightest. But I'm still curious, might you be able to provide some more insight as to how you guys came to that conclusion? What would you have to say about the points that I brought up?

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Is there a timetable on any of this? It's good to hear that the closest park to me has some big plans for the future. I don't know how much you would know about this, but what kind of shape is the toboggan in? Last time I as at the park a few years ago, I remember it being pretty sad looking. Loving your wealth of information though!

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This is one of the coolest things I've seen! If you're looking for ideas for a great, small woodie, you should build a wooden Wild Mouse. Many enthusiasts sorely miss the Blackpool Wild Mouse, so the park would get a lot of attention. Just an idea.

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^ That would be awesome, but Little Amerricka already has a mouse, a vintage one at that.

 

If you want a fun vintage style coaster, maybe you could look into a blend of Phoenix and Big Dipper at Camden Park.

 

If you want something unique, it would be pretty cool to have a small coaster with wild-mouse sized cars that navigate a super tight layout with PAX-style airtime. Think lost coaster of superstition mountain, but more air/intensity

 

I have heard the Knoebles family is open to giving advice and help with vintage maintenance to other parks that ask, but I don't know to what extent that is true.

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^Agreed. Both fun and family friendly.

 

No offense, but is this day dreaming or are you guys actually working on something? What I mean is that it doesn't sound like you have much of a budget. Have you tried looking into a nice swing set? (joking kinda...)

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Hey again all, thanks for the responses. A bit cold to go to work today (-55* F), so it gave me some time to catch up with everyone.

 

A new roller coaster would almost absolutely be wood. The owner wants to keep everything as in-house as possible to keep costs down, and the up-front costs for a steel roller coaster would be rather steep. Plus a wooden coaster would fit the old-school theme of the park a little more. Chatting with the boss man a short time ago, he mentioned he contacted GCI about how much one of their Big Fun models would cost - just materials, all in-house labor. (No one's ever built one of those... Weird) The bill came out to $1 million for one build-it-yourself coaster. Considering the Meteor ended up only costing $100,000 total, he decided to pass. I would think someone would buy a Chance Hyper again at some point (seriously a great looking ride), but it most likely won't be Little Amerricka, especially for $7 million. Maybe waaaaaaay down the road if Cedar Fair or Herschend buys the park. Or long lost Uncle Moneybags wills me his offshore Swiss bank account.

 

Several things play into the Lincoln Park Comet situation. Just the height of the ride isn't the main concern - pretty much all of the hills on the Comet are high off the ground with steep drops. These larger drops require longer pullouts (giggity) and exert forces on the structure on the ride for longer periods of time. I could design something really wild like a clone of the Crystal Beach Cyclone, but the more wild the ride, the more maintenance required. It's my guess that shallow speed hills exert less force on the structure, since the pullouts are shorter and forces are exerted over a shorter time.

In addition, the tracks on the Tornado share the structure with each other (less supports necessary).

 

With how much attention the other rides in the park require to keep running (can't count how many times the owner has said "Well, have to go weld the Mad Mouse before the park opens in 2 hours"), I'd like to keep maintenance as low as possible for a new ride. Also because anything I help design and build I'm going to have to help fix. The LP Comet would also require a larger plot of land, which in our situation might be a deciding factor. The plot of land that was originally chosen as a possible spot now has a train track expansion running across it.

 

It's more the owner's decision to aim more towards family-friendly than thrilling. I'm always surprised seeing some very young kids on Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster, so I know they can handle it, but it's not really the vision the owner has for the park. He wants to focus on rides that parents and even grandparents can enjoy with their children and grandchildren, and his thinking is that something inspired by the Coney Island Cyclone may be a bit much for Grandma Claribel. Plus, from the money side of things, family-friendly rides = typically less intense = less maintenance costs. I can come up with plenty of traumatizing ride ideas, but the boss man has the final say. He's also the elite welder and mechanical whiz, so we'll just have to meet in the middle somewhere.

 

If Fido can handle it, then it should fine for families, right?

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Wow, thanks for the read! I'm super excited to see this whole project unfold

Heck, I'm always surprised when people say they traveled more than 3 hours just to come to our park. I have resist asking them why would do something crazy like that.

At this point in time, the park has the only Herschell Mad Mouse left in the world (R.I.P. the one at Joyland) and the only permanent installation of a Chance Toboggan, so there are some super rare coaster types here! I hope they stay at the park for a long time.

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I think Williams Grove's Cyclone might fit the bill, if you can figure out how to recreate it. It's a small, thrilling but family friendly classic PTC woodie with a short train that looks like it would have provided a fun ride had it been maintained well. Not sure what sort of space you have or how expensive this would be to make, but this seems to be somewhat along the lines of what you're looking for.

 

EDIT: Apparently as a cost saving trick, most of the return leg was built directly underneath the outward leg, which eliminated the need to build a whole new section of support, keeping the building price low. Quite interesting, and also another point toward this coming to Little Amerricka

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  • 1 month later...

Hey there TPR, we have a bit of a coaster update. You know, if anyone is interested in that kind of stuff around here.

 

I was able to take a peek inside our off-site storage building a couple of weeks ago. Lots of goodies in there - extra ride parts, several pallets of wooden coaster lift chain, various odds and ends. The log flume boats are all accounted for, waiting for someone to put them to good use.

 

Both the trains from the Lincoln Park Comet were there as well. The story goes, when the Comet derailed on its last run ever, the train was simply left there on the brake run, where it sat for nearly 20 years. The train that wasn't in use was stored under a shelter in the ride structure. Considering how long it was left outside, it's in fairly decent condition. The same can't be said for the derailed train.

 

From what I was told, NAD trains are mostly wooden frames with tin metalwork, so between the 8 cars we have on hand and the expertise of the workforce in restoring lost causes, I figure we should be able to scrounge together a 5 or so car train. Maybe.

 

So far lots of emails and phone calls with different people. Things are progressing well and we have some good ideas forming, so naturally now it's time to talk to the state and have everything grind to a halt.

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Kiddieland log flume boats. If the flooding gets too bad again this year, we could always throw them on the train tracks and market it as a marine railway

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Train from storage track. Hey, that doesn't look all that bad! They obviously need extensive work, but they could be a lot worse

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Like the derailed train is. Yeah, pretty rough shape. You can't tell from this angle, but there basically is no other side of the car

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With the cars having sat out for so long, there were heavily picked over by urban spelunkers. The headlights and decorative NAD fronts are long gone, among other bits and parts. Not totally irreplaceable, just more work and time required. When there's already so much to work on, what's just a little more?

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Great thread. Question for you: I recall the guys from House of David in Benton Harbor, MI having a PTC train (or at least part of one) and talking about how they got blueprints from Little Amerricka yeeaaaaaaars ago when they were early into the process of rebuilding the park. Did you ever have any conversations with them?

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  • 4 months later...
Great thread. Question for you: I recall the guys from House of David in Benton Harbor, MI having a PTC train (or at least part of one) and talking about how they got blueprints from Little Amerricka yeeaaaaaaars ago when they were early into the process of rebuilding the park. Did you ever have any conversations with them?

 

My bad, how did I never respond to this? I haven't been in contact with anyone from the House of David. I'm wondering if the train in question was the one we just traded for from Chicago. As you can see from the recent Little Amerricka trip report and from the photos below, the cars are a bit on the rough side. Still, they're better than nothing, and there are some parts we can salvage off them. One plan is to also fabricate two more cars while rebuilding them so both coasters could run 5 car trains.

 

The way my boss figured, PTC junior trains are lighter than full-sized trains, which would require less materials for supports, in addition to making maintenance a bit easier with parts being interchangeable. One of my concerns, being around 6'2", is rider comfort for those of us with longer legs. Meteor is already a bit of a knee knocker for me, and I'm not sure if shattered kneecaps is covered by the insurance policy with the more intense ride. Another concern is if junior trains can stand up to the rigors of higher speeds and stronger forces on a larger ride. The matter is still up for discussion.

 

I've been talking with several different people about NAD trains and coasters and am waiting to talk to a couple of more notable coaster industry names. Currently the focus is a custom designed layout combining the Stricker's Grove Tornado and the larger Ghoster Coaster models to fit space requirements. Things are coming more into focus and hopefully we can start nailing down some design details in the near future. I'll keep TPR posted, especially if we hit the lottery and RMC Meteor becomes a thing.

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The very well-aged original train from the Waldameer Comet

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Not exaaactly ready to run, but this crew is more than capable

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  • 5 months later...

This was started nearly a year ago? Man how time flies.

 

Hello TPR, long time no talk. Well, no vertical construction pics to share or front car unveilings yet, unfortunately (part of me thought we'd get the ride built around the same time as West Coast Racers at that rate), but I've been busy contacting folks and ironing out a proposed layout. Still waiting on some emails, but I do have a 1.0 layout to share. I think it looks really promising so far.

 

After studying the blueprints for the Meteor, I set out to design a sort of hybrid ride combining the building methods for the Meteor (as we still have the track templates for the curves) and the Stricker's Grove Tornado (close to the Phoenix, fan of the layout). The result is this ride: the Screamliner (cuz Streamliner as in trains but scream as in roller coaster. Clever ain't it?). The ride has around 7 moments of airtime but keeps the forces well within reasonable limits (calculated to be around 2.8 g's max and -0.3 g's very briefly), making it an exciting ride while being great for families.

 

As for the trains, I'm still working things out, but I have a new direction that I'm hoping will work. Most likely, the NAD trains won't be used on the ride - on top of being very heavy, finding blueprints for them might be a fruitless endeavor. Plus, the owner would like to use the same building techniques they used on the Meteor, which includes flanged wheels on the cars instead of inner guide wheels (this means no steel track on the inner part of the track; instead, the flanged wheel uses the steel strip on the top of the track to turn. Less material = less cost).

 

Unfortunately, coaster cars with flanged wheels have pretty much been phased out as far as I know. The only ones I knew of were Morgan cars, which are even heavier than NAD cars and don't have the best reputation, and older PTC junior cars, like the ones on the Meteor and the original cars from the Waldameer Comet. Even as talented as the shop crews are at renovating some seriously far-gone equipment, the Comet cars are probably too far gone. There might be some parts that can be salvaged, but even this crew has its limits.

 

Then, one day while looking through random roller coaster pictures (it was for research - totally a business expense), something caught my eye - the wooden coaster at the Puyallup Fair has flanged wheels. Being curious, I checked the Coaster at the PNE. Yup, flanged wheels too. So now, the far-flung dream is to build a train of Prior and Church cars similar to the ones used on the west coast.

 

They seem to tick all the boxes I want:

 

*being articulated, they'll be less abusive on the track

*the rail structure appears to be thinner than ones using other trains (the Meteor uses 5 ply track, the least I've seen on other rides is 6 ply)

*they use flanged wheels, single position lap bars, and skid brakes, which is the same setup as the Meteor

*since the trains used now are replicas themselves and recently built, hopefully there are plans and blueprints that we could use

 

 

If that didn't pan out, another idea I had was to use GCI Mini-llenium flyer trains. It would require some modified blueprints and a few more modern bells and whistles, but I still like this option.

 

Anyhoo, let's get onto the stuff you're really interested in - stats and pictures. And I wanted to make a more professional video, but for some reason the video recorder with NoLimits didn't want to cooperate. I'll try to have one up in the near future.

 

Screamliner Ride Stats

 

Height: 51 ft

Drop: 46 ft

Top Speed: 37 mph

Length: 1730 ft

Ride Time: 100 seconds

 

I'll keep everyone posted if anything happens. Feel free to ask questions, give feedback, or comment about how Steel Vengeance has some competition.

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First drop at 51*

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Train on the double down

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One of several moments of airtime

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Ride overview

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Just saw this thread. This is all I miss in Germany (or Europe in total).

Little Parks that have visions and create Knoebel's like things.

Please go on with your dreams and keep us informed. We'll put you on our US bucket list!

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