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 [i]really[/i] 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 [b]tremendous[/b] 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. [attachment=0]4-12-2.jpg[/attachment]
Feel free to share any questions or comments. It may take some time, but some big things are on the horizon at Little Amerricka.
Will need a pretty big Christmas tree to run this one around...
Nice update! Honestly when you started to describe the wood coaster of your dreams, my two thoughts were Tornado at Stricker's or Canobie's Yankee Cannonball. Both are about twice as tall as Meteor and have layouts primarily of low hills.
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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.
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.
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?
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!
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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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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