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Coasters having expiration dates?


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Since RMC became a household name to coaster enthusiasts, I've started seeing this notion across forums and social media that coasters have expiration dates (think milk). It's come up particularly when I read rumors about which coasters might receive RMC treatment in the future, but I've seen discussions extend to current steel coasters, too.

 

I've understood that coasters can have declining ridership, a poor ride experience, high maintenance costs, and/or occupy land that could be put to better use. I can see how a combination of these and other factors could make a park consider overhauling or removing a coaster, but now I hear things like, "That GCI is only supposed to run for 20 years -- and then it expires," or, "Well, that coaster will be 17 next year, and it wasn't designed to run much longer than that." And I think, "Huh?" What are these shelf life claims based on? There are certainly many older wooden and steel coasters that have been maintained for decades and run just fine.

 

On the other hand, a few steel coaster tracks have been replaced in recent years. Off the top of my head, Hulk's track was replaced, Phantom's Revenge eventually added more Morgan track up to its lift hill, and Python at Efteling replaced most of its track. Is there some underlying "expiration" truth, or did these coasters just have case-by-case reasons to get new track?

 

I'd love to hear from someone who can authoritatively affirm or dismiss the idea that coasters can have actual expiration dates, as opposed to multiple factors that naturally add up over time until a park feels that it needs to address a ride.

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There are so many variables involved in answering this. Simple answer: everything does have a shelf life. After so many cycles, so many welds, repairs, etc. eventually it will fail. No ride is designed with an “expiration date”, but they will “expire” on their own at some point where the cost of repair isn’t worth it to a park

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There are so many variables involved in answering this. Simple answer: everything does have a shelf life. After so many cycles, so many welds, repairs, etc. eventually it will fail. No ride is designed with an “expiration date”, but they will “expire” on their own at some point where the cost of repair isn’t worth it to a park

It also depends on how well that ride has been taken care of and how much a park feels it's worth. Obviously a ride like "Matterhorn" is worth the extensive re-habs and re-builds it has gone through to Disneyland... but then again, so was a ride like Goudurix to Parc Asterix. I mean, when you think about it, those are kinds of both ends of the spectrum when it comes to how a park perceives the value of a ride.

 

Goudurix opened in 1989. Dueling Dragons opened in 1999. Who would have EVER THOUGHT that Dueling Dragons would meet its demise while Goudurix received a new lease on life?

 

Like Joey said...there are just so may variables.

Edited by robbalvey
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From my own understanding, I also believe Joey is spot-on.

 

If a roller coaster is culturally significant to an amusement park, they'll do what they can to keep it. The Knoebels Phoenix is a coaster from 1948 that wasn't actually designed for a mid-Atlantic climate. Every season we see fresh new wood somewhere along the circuit because stuff just... wears out. I sometimes wonder how little of the Phoenix is truly "original". Even Twister, a coaster from 1999, received a new support piece in the center of the turn before the drop, in an attempt to increase its longevity.

 

Python at Efteling is a curious case. It didn't just get new track, it got new supports too - but it used the old ride's foundations. So the company that redid the layout had to get creative to ensure that the supports connected at the correct locations. It's why when you look at new photos of Python, the supports look so unusual.

 

The Incredible Hulk coaster is also curious. There was some speculation around the time the "new Hulk" was announced. People have speculated the track and supports for new Hulk were already ordered (and possibly manufactured) for the cancelled Universal Studios Dubailand, which was apparently building its own Hulk clone much like Universal Studios Beijing is doing now. Again, this is pure speculation and I don't believe that it has been truly corroborated anywhere, but it may be a plausible explanation if it were true.

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Service life of an attraction also seems to be based on the park that has to maintain that attraction into the future... There are parks that have invested heavily in restoring and sustaining classic attractions even after manufacturers like Arrow have long since gone out of business. Other parks have simply given up or conceded that the cost did not justify a return on investment.

 

Looking at examples of coasters retired while others in their class still exist:

 

  • B&M Suspended Coasters - Dueling Dragons vs. Great Bear, Montu, Alpengeist, etc...
  • Arrow Looping Coasters - Great American Scream Machine vs. Viper, BlueHawk, Loch Ness Monster, etc...
  • Arrow Suspended Coasters - Big Bad Wolf and Eagle Fortress vs. Vortex, Flight Deck, Iron Dragon
  • Arrow Launched Shuttle Loops - Revolution, Sidewinder and Diamond Back vs. Afterburner, Boomerang (Tokyo Dome City), etc...

 

The list goes on... Ultimately, the return on investment for maintaining older coasters versus putting the capital towards new attractions is a choice that park management gets to make when deciding what lives and dies in their park.

 

Dueling Dragons and the re-tracking of The Incredible Hulk at Universal (which for all intents and purposes was practically a new coaster from a build standpoint) are rare examples of a park cutting the proven shelf life of an operating attraction short. With several B&M coasters of similar sorts within 1.5 hours driving distance (Kumba, Montu and Kraken) all close in age to the coasters above that were removed, there is no reason to believe that they were in need of dire, costly support that would have justified the effort from a maintenance standpoint... I think particularly in the case of Dueling Dragons, the "end of service life" was the best justification they could try to come up with in order to remove two perfectly good (let's be real, exceptional) high thrill attractions to be replaced with one seemingly solid family attraction. I see no reason why you couldn't have seen Dueling Dragons disassembled and rebuilt elsewhere to have the coasters operate for several decades more if given the chance. The decision to pull them seemed motivated by the need for the space... Not to mention the fact that it was always highly rumored that JK Rowling hated this coaster existing in her land.

Edited by jedimaster1227
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That GCI is only supposed to run for 20 years -- and then it expires

 

All you have to do to keep a wood coaster running until the end of time is keep buying wood and slowly rebuild it over time which is what most parks do anyway. Like A.J said, there's probably not much of Phoenix (for example) that's actually from 1948. It's cool to say that it's a 70 year old coaster but it's basically a bullsh*t, meaningless number when you're talking about a wood coaster.

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Another factor I believe applies to “expiring” of a coaster is when a manufacturer goes out of business and other companies don’t buy off their assets. If a critical part that only the manufacturer can make fails, a cheaper option for parks is to tear down the coaster instead of spending a lot of money creating a custom part.

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I think particularly in the case of Dueling Dragons, the "end of service life" was the best justification they could try to come up with in order to remove two perfectly good (let's be real, exceptional) high thrill attractions

Agreed. Every time I heard someone say "Oh, Dueling Dragons is at the end of its service life" I wanted to punch them because they were either:

 

1. Lying.

 

2. Took such bad care of Dueling Dragons, to the tune of the WORST maintenance of any B&M in existence.

 

Or even....

 

3. Had been lied to so many times that they now believe the lies they were told as fact.

 

There is simply *NO WAY* that Dueling Dragons was the end of its service life unless #2 was actually the case, and even still, a park IF THEY WANTED TO KEEP the ride, could give it a nice rehab.

 

But the park couldn't publicly say "Oh, yeah, we simply just want to get rid of it because this British woman now controls our decisions, so... yeah... BRING IN THE BULLDOZERS!!!"

 

So "end of service life" was the bullshit terminology that was used.

Edited by robbalvey
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I wonder what category Volcano falls in. The park clearly took good care of the ride and tried their best to keep it running as long as they could. Didn't they even revamp the controls and load/unload system in... 2015-ish? Then they just suddenly closed it (albeit after a season of being SBNO). I suppose it reached the end of its service life of only 20 years?

 

The ride was extremely iconic for the park and the industry in general, and I'm sure removing it wasn't an easy decision, but I wonder what ultimately lead to that decision beyond general maintenance stuff. I mean, Cedar Fair pours loads of money into rides like Xcelerator, Dragster, I305, and their other problematic Intamins. I really wonder what pushed them over the edge for Volcano.

 

Interesting topic!

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Are we at a point to where many rides built in the 90s or later aren't reaching "iconic" status like their predecessors would have achieved?

 

I'm sure that is a driving factor in how a park formulates a ride's "value" (Does it bring people through the gate?). We have more variation in coaster types now than ever before, so unless you have a "1st" or a "record breaker" that stands out, why would you want to invest in a ride as the upkeep bill increases?

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I think particularly in the case of Dueling Dragons, the "end of service life" was the best justification they could try to come up with in order to remove two perfectly good (let's be real, exceptional) high thrill attractions

Agreed. Every time I heard someone say "Oh, Dueling Dragons is at the end of its service life" I wanted to punch them because they were either:

 

1. Lying.

 

2. Took such bad care of Dueling Dragons, to the tune of the WORST maintenance of any B&M in existence.

 

Or even....

 

3. Had been lied to so many times that they now believe the lies they were told as fact.

 

There is simply *NO WAY* that Dueling Dragons was the end of its service life unless #2 was actually the case, and even still, a park IF THEY WANTED TO KEEP the ride, could give it a nice rehab.

 

But the park couldn't publicly say "Oh, yeah, we simply just want to get rid of it because this British woman now controls our decisions, so... yeah... BRING IN THE BULLDOZERS!!!"

 

So "end of service life" was the bullshit terminology that was used.

I love this!!! I mean, you can't tell me a modern steel coaster wasn't built with the anticipation and expectation that it would be in constant operation for at least 40 years! The ridiculousness of Dueling Dragons "having reached the end of it's Service Life" when claimed was truly dumbfounding to say the least and totally BS as you said.

 

Sent from my moto z3 using Tapatalk

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I wonder what category Volcano falls in. The park clearly took good care of the ride and tried their best to keep it running as long as they could. Didn't they even revamp the controls and load/unload system in... 2015-ish? Then they just suddenly closed it (albeit after a season of being SBNO). I suppose it reached the end of its service life of only 20 years?

 

The ride was extremely iconic for the park and the industry in general, and I'm sure removing it wasn't an easy decision, but I wonder what ultimately lead to that decision beyond general maintenance stuff.

If I had to guess, Volcano probably falls into the category of "A prototype that never *quite* worked the way anyone wanted it to."

 

Think about all that trouble the ride had in its opening year. It seems like it was plagued with issues ever since. I don't know if those were Intamin issues, Kings Dominion issues, or even if it really matters. I'm sure there is finger pointing in both directions.

 

Regardless, as much as I did *LOVE* Volcano, the real "feature" of the ride really was the first 15 seconds of the coaster. After those two awesome launches it did just sort of "meander" around the structure and then finally drop right into the brakes when you were expecting more.

 

I'm bummed about it gone, and I worry that whatever replaces it still won't be as good, but I'm also not surprised by this decision.

 

This is probably a perfect example of what Joey was taking about... "but they will “expire” on their own at some point where the cost of repair isn’t worth it to a park"

Edited by robbalvey
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Another factor I believe applies to “expiring” of a coaster is when a manufacturer goes out of business and other companies don’t buy off their assets. If a critical part that only the manufacturer can make fails, a cheaper option for parks is to tear down the coaster instead of spending a lot of money creating a custom part.
Let's take a look at Lagoon. As the story goes, Lagoon has never purchased parts for Jet Star 2 and Colossus The Fire Dragon from Schwarzkopf, even when they were in business, because Anton was pissed at Lagoon when they bought Jet Star 2 from the Seattle World's Fair for a steal, when Schwarzkopf was going through financial troubles. Lagoon has gotten parts for Fire Dragon through Magic Mountain, Six Flags over Georgia, and even Dorney (Lagoon has a purple Lazer Wheel Housing from 2007).

 

Lagoon has had new track fabricated by Fabriweld in the early 90s and new Wheel Housings Fabricated for it. Lagoon's rebuilt track in place on Jet Star more than once, and even on Wicked (Which now has non ZIERER Chassis and ART Bogies).

 

Lots of parks buy spare parts off of one another and vice versa. It's a very tight knit community.

 

Sent from my moto z3 using Tapatalk

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I wonder what category Volcano falls in. The park clearly took good care of the ride and tried their best to keep it running as long as they could. Didn't they even revamp the controls and load/unload system in... 2015-ish? Then they just suddenly closed it (albeit after a season of being SBNO). I suppose it reached the end of its service life of only 20 years?

 

The ride was extremely iconic for the park and the industry in general, and I'm sure removing it wasn't an easy decision, but I wonder what ultimately lead to that decision beyond general maintenance stuff. I mean, Cedar Fair pours loads of money into rides like Xcelerator, Dragster, I305, and their other problematic Intamins. I really wonder what pushed them over the edge for Volcano.

 

Interesting topic!

 

Personally, I'd think it's plausible that maintenance costs of Volcano had gotten so high that it was seriously cutting into the park's budget. Explaining why KD had such a huge gap between I305 and Twisted Timbers

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One thing that also should be mentioned about Volcano is that it was not put in by Cedar Fair in the first place, but was yet another notch in the very long string of prototypes/first/only-of-its-kind rides put in over the Paramount/Viacom era at the various parks, including...

 

Flights of Fear

Stealth

Hypersonic

Son of Beast

Tomb Raider (KI)

Drop Zone (first gyro drop)

Delirium (first Giant Frisbee)

 

As you can tell, some of these projects turned out very well, others so/so, and a few horrendous. I'd put Volcano in the "so/so" category. When you look at it from that perspective, in context of the other arguably over-ambitious concepts that Paramount was going for at this time, it wasn't a terrible investment. Despite its downtime and increasingly burdensome maintenance bill It was a very popular, iconic, and unique attraction for years and years. And besides ~20 seasons out of this thing is at least a helluva better than just seven from Hypersonic (and that ride was no stranger to issues either!), 10 from Tomb Raider/Crypt (nor was this one), or "10" (parts of ten seasons) from SOB.

 

I think the biggest thing working against perhaps was simply how far ahead of its time it was as ride. In 1998, I believe the only other company to even make LIM coasters was Premier, and they were no stranger to their issues either - The Chiller, which ironically opened the same year as Volcano, but was an absolute mechanical nightmare throughout its relatively short lifespan before being removed as early as June 2007.

 

(And on a somewhat - related note, the first complete-circuit launched invert since Volcano opened this year!

 

You won't believe what its called. Ironically enough, with all the IOA discussions happening so much right now,

)
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Youre deff right in your overall point, theres no "expiration date" like hey this has 20 years of use then its "spoiled" but with age you always start to see signs.

I may be naïve but isn't it basically all about maintenance?

 

When I went to SFMM apocalypse was only a few years old and it was already rough to the point of bordering on taking away the enjoyment, Phoenix still feels great. Some B&Ms the age is showing, Kumba was 25 years old and I felt it wasn't really rough at all.

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I think particularly in the case of Dueling Dragons, the "end of service life" was the best justification they could try to come up with in order to remove two perfectly good (let's be real, exceptional) high thrill attractions

Agreed. Every time I heard someone say "Oh, Dueling Dragons is at the end of its service life" I wanted to punch them because they were either:

 

1. Lying.

 

2. Took such bad care of Dueling Dragons, to the tune of the WORST maintenance of any B&M in existence.

 

Or even....

 

3. Had been lied to so many times that they now believe the lies they were told as fact.

 

There is simply *NO WAY* that Dueling Dragons was the end of its service life unless #2 was actually the case, and even still, a park IF THEY WANTED TO KEEP the ride, could give it a nice rehab.

 

But the park couldn't publicly say "Oh, yeah, we simply just want to get rid of it because this British woman now controls our decisions, so... yeah... BRING IN THE BULLDOZERS!!!"

 

So "end of service life" was the bullshit terminology that was used.

 

For what it’s worth, I know someone that was involved in the Hulk project… Years ago while talking with them, the ride was legitimately at the end of it’s life cycle, as the most highly cycled B&M on the planet (even beyond say Kumba for example, which opened many years before). Being a year-round park often running 2-3 trains every single day for relatively long hours, it accumulated quickly. I don’t recall the specific detail, if it was B&M who advised, or it was repair based or how that all went down. I do recall that Universal was often doing repair on the structure/track, due to fatigue. If you compare before/after rebuild, some supports have been beefed up and the track spine increased in depth to make the entire structure more robust in specific areas that required more upkeep/repair.

 

Once decided they were going to retrack the ride, per-say, Universal also did some other testing, such as train options, along with other things once it was decided the ride was staying/rebuilt. But eventually it was decided to just replace the ride as-is. Was quite interesting to hear the entire story at the time, though. Even some of the post-issues the ride had, such as the bogey-tracking issue when the ride re-opened with the new trains, which did get addressed shortly after with B&M.

 

At the same time this discussion occurred, I knew about Dragons as well. Dragons wasn’t as highly cycled, so it wasn’t as urgent. I was simply told to “Ride Dragons now, it won’t have the same fate as Hulk”. No other details, of course. Dragons was one of my top coasters, for sure, so it really sucks. I’m sure if JK didn’t want the ride there though, it was easy enough for Universal to just level the ride vs. trying to keep it around like they did Hulk.

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Youre deff right in your overall point, theres no "expiration date" like hey this has 20 years of use then its "spoiled" but with age you always start to see signs.

I may be naïve but isn't it basically all about maintenance?

 

Maintenance is obviously probably the biggest followed by volume usage and environment. Like indoors at NU Sponge Bob is 11 years old but doesn't look a day over 6 month's due to the controlled environment it operates in. That will certainly extend the 'expiration date'.

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^There have been many reports (even on here I believe) that BGW was having to weld spots on Big Bad Wolf frequently at the end of it's life. You can only weld spots so many times before the steel has to be replaced all together.

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For what it’s worth

Nothing.

 

I know someone that was involved in the Hulk project… blah, blah, blah, blah blah...

Trust me... we all know "that guy." We've all heard the same stories. We've all been told them by various people "who were involved..."

 

I stand by what I said in my previous post...

 

1. Lying.

 

2. Poor maintenance.

 

3. Kool-Aid.

 

B&M just doesn't make rides that need replacing in 16 years.

Edited by robbalvey
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Seriously though, is that not like the most coward move by park management ever? "Guys, we have to let this woman with no reason to have a say in our pre-existing park attractions dictate our decisions."

She didn't even show up for the opening of the new coaster...

 

I mean, George Lucas was there for the opening of Star Wars land and he probably had very little to do with it!

Edited by robbalvey
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B&M just doesn't make rides that need replacing in 16 years.

 

That. Basically says all ya need right there.

 

 

I wont lie, not super sure why theres even any debate going on lol

It seems pretty obvious (if not outright fact) what happened and yeah its a travesty. It is kind of a coward move, to borrow what an above comment said, but yeah I guess who can blame em? Imagine the reaction if they did speak the truth. And hey if that's the deal they worked out with Rowling guess it is what it is. But yeah we know what this is, lots of older rides have fallen out of popularity, require too much upkeep or simply are old and the park wants something newer, none of that applies here. Whenever I go to Universal next gunna be hard to ride the new coaster and not be a bit bummed thinking about it all

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