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.
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
Jew wrote: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.
Last edited by robbalvey on Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:53 pm.
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.
Samuel wrote: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.
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.
jedimaster1227 wrote: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:
2. Took such bad care of Dueling Dragons, to the tune of the WORST maintenance of any B&M in existence.
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.
Last edited by robbalvey on Mon Jun 17, 2019 11:14 am.
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.
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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