Thursday, September 17, 2009

Scott And Carol Present - A Look Back At The Beast, Pt 2

Editor's Note: This post is the second of a two-part series. Don't miss Part 1!

On Tuesday we start telling the epic tale of the world's longest wooden roller coaster, 30 years in the making mind you. Are you ready to hear the rest of the story?

On July 10th 1978, Public Relations Director Ruth Voss sent out a news release stating, “Kings Island family entertainment center will open America’s champion roller coaster in the spring of 1979.” General Manager William Price announced that construction had begun on the single track coaster that would break all existing records as the longest and fastest, and which also included the two greatest vertical drops. Price was quoted as saying, “Not only are the statistics of the ride awesome, but its use of the rugged natural terrain ensures no other roller coaster tops these thrills, weaving along steep cliffs, down ravines, into four spectacular tunnels through nine sharply banked turns among a forest of trees and often at tree-top heights.”

Price also stated, “This champion of coasters would be different from any other coaster because of its use of tunnels (three of the four are underground) in the natural terrain on which it is being built. And it was designed and constructed in-house.” He concluded his comments stating that the name and theming of the new attraction would be announced at a later date.

According to Jeff Gramke, “The standard that John Allen used for his banking his curves was to have about one quarter of the turn angle as the bank angle. This was not for any G-force considerations, but merely to make it exciting.” Well, this turned out to be a little too exciting for The Beast, especially the left turn out of the first tunnel following the first drop. The velocity of the train was too great for this formula so they increased the bank angle to reduce the side forces. This was actually done early in the 1979 season, as an overnight project and was relatively easy to do, and because of the track’s closeness to the ground no cranes were required. Some check brakes were also installed with buckets of lead ingots to check the trains of excess speed. These brakes were later removed as the banking angles were increased on some of the problem curves. Anti-rollbacks were installed on the exit to the helix, which was reprofiled the next off-season to ensure the trains made it to the long final brake run.

Jim Kiosky, an independent structural engineer was brought in to do all the underground tunnels early in the design phase. The two tunnels were connected either one or two years after the opening of the ride, mainly to keep the deer out of them. An added benefit was that it made it darker, so the tunnel effect would last longer. The second tunnel was 69 feet long and the third was 71 feet long. The design of the above ground tunnels was copied from the Shooting Star design at Coney Island in Cincinnati.

Curtis Summers did the foundations and the deadman cable system for the helix. Normal batter bracing techniques could not be used due to the location on top of the hill. Because the slope drooped away at t0o abrupt an angle to use traditional wooden batter supports, Summers was brought in to resolve the issue.

Charles Dinn was director of maintenance and construction at Kings Island when The Beast was built. Collins and Dinn visited Old Coney Island to look at the Shooting Star before it was removed. They were inspired by the tunnel section and other details. Dinn’s involvement was solely in the construction of the ride. He was involved in scheduling, purchasing building materials, installing footers and similar work. He attended all the project meetings and was critical to getting the ride open on schedule. He later joined Curtis Summers as an independent builder of rides and they designed and built some of the most noteworthy coasters of the 1980s, as well as doing two relocations.

The original cars were PTC four benchers that came with fixed lap or “buzz” bars. The cars, which were 134 inches in length, always had seat dividers. The original color scheme was a bright cherry red, with gold-flake strips along the trim. A single headlight was mounted on the center of the lead car, similar to a mining car. One car was made for display at the 1978 IAPPA trade show in Atlanta Georgia. The original upholstery was tucked and rolled, complete with buttons, but it was totally redone during the early weekend operation of The Beast because the buttons were being removed by riders.

A minor issue relating to the original paint scheme not fitting with the name or theming that Kings Island had chosen had to be remedied. So, the cars were shipped to Kings Island primed and without lap bars. It appears that the North Carolina company that was molding the foam around the lap bars made a mistake in the mold, and the workers had to cut the foam off with a band saw: the bars then had to be peeled and dipped in acid to prep them for recoating. Philadelphia Toboggan Company sent Tom Rebbie on his first field trip to Kings Island to re-install the bars on the cars after they were recoated.

Kings Island’s marketing staff designed a whole new paint scheme for the trains and want to start painting them in a blend of colors, beginning with red on the front of the lead car with the last part of the third seat starting to blend to orange. The second car was orange, blending to yellow at the middle seat. The blending continued to the end of the train, with the last car fading from lime green to dark green.

Although Tom Rebbie had only worked at PTC for approximately one year, he was asked to be the foreman for the Kings Island project. A total of four trains had been ordered and due to the size of the project, Tom requested additional shop space. Some extra space was obtained and Tom ran back and forth from one side of the building to the other tending to the details of completing the cars. The roller coaster trains of that vintage were not articulated, which meant that they had to flex in order to make the turns. They would normally flex about three quarters of an inch per foot – but only after they had been running for a while and had loosened up. The extreme length of The Beast‘s original trains caused the cars to bind in some of the turns along the course, resulting in excessive wheel wear and velocity loss. John Allen liked to “straighten” at least half of the train following a turn before having that part of the train go in the opposite direction.

The Beast trains were over 55 feet long, so luckily the design of The Beast as the “World’s Longest Wooden Roller Coaster” meant that straightening the train was not a problem. Unlike many coasters designed today, the Beast does not have any curves where the ends of the trains go in different directions; so this made the problem of not having enough open bank angle tolerable because riders were not being slammed from one side of the car in to the other. But this did not always solve the problem of getting the cars to go around the curves. The cars forced the structure to flex due to their length, which increased the wear on the wheels and caused premature wear on the track; therefore, in either the second or third year; the cars were altered to three-bench models.

From the planning stage The Beast was designed to run four trains. It has six blocks, the dispatch to the top of lift number one, the top of lift number one to one third the way up lift, number two is one third up the to the top of lift number three is from the top of the lift number to the end of brake run. Number four, from brake run to the top of the second lift, number five over the second lift to the ready spot outside the station to the sidetrack; and number six runs from two thirds the way into the station to one third one third the way up lift number one. Block six overlaps block five and block one. Over the years the braking system has been updated for safety reasons. The most recent change was to add fin and magnetic brakes in 2003.

In 1979, the length of the track from the brake shed to the second lift caused the next train to stop on the first lift hill when Kings Island tried to run four trains. The capacity of the ride actually increased when Kings Island reduced the trains from four to three just before the opening in 1979. This meant the park had many spare parts. Around two years into the coasters life, in order to help the trains run better, new z-rails were ordered from PTC and the trains were torn apart on reassembled as three-bench models. All the running gear was reused; it was just bolted on in a different location.

The ACE “walk back” tradition of riding The Beast began in1979 with the late Ruth Voss, Kings Island’s original Public Relations Manager. Many of the long-time members of ACE had the pleasure of knowing her. Although she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, Voss soon discovered that a morning ride on The Beast helped loosen up her joints, making it a perfect way to start her day. The immense popularity of The Beast drew coaster fans from all around, and many of them became “regulars” who became friends with Voss while out hanging at Guest Relations. She started inviting the regulars to join her on her morning ride and soon issued an official invitation to all ACE members to join her when visiting Kings Island. When Ruth retired in 1994, a special Beast facsimile car was constructed and installed in her home by the park. She passed away November 15, 1998. To this day the park continues the morning “walk back” and it is open to all Cedar Fair season pass holders.

In 1989 Chris Baynum, owner of Baynum Painting, painted The Beast for its tenth anniversary celebration. Chris had previously painted the Sunlite Pool at Coney Island in Cincinnati, which was the largest recirculating pool in the world at that time. He was very proud of that job and had a picture enlarged showing the crew standing in the completed pool. Chris said,” A friend of mine came by, saw the picture and started talking about my painting the world’s largest anything. I had heard a rumor that Kings Island planned to hire a company to paint The Beast, so I paid the park a visit to see if I could get the job.

The park gave me the opportunity and thus changed the direction of my company. When I gave a bid for the job, I had only six employees, but it took a total of thirty to paint The Beast. The entire coaster was brushed and rolled – not sprayed. We were on site for four months and Kings Island supplied the paint, all 4,500 gallons of it.” These days Baynum Painting is the official coaster painter for Six Flags as well as many unrecognized parks

Chris had ridden The Beast as a child and was thrilled to be walking the terrain of the coaster in nonpublic areas. All the employees had to take a crash course in using safety restraints and in learning exactly how to climb around on a wooden roller coaster. The fact that the track was relatively close to ground level made the job easier. Baynum Painting has also painted the Eiffel Tower and now paints structures and rides for amusement parks all over the country. The employees of Baynum begin their projects in the south each winter, continuing north as the weather improves.

Over the last quarter of a century, The Beast has undergone many changes, some due to safety issues, and others to improve the quality of the ride, and still others to reduce maintenance. We would have enjoyed being able to chronicle all those changes, but an “official” record has never been recorded. Some obvious changes are that the lake is long gone, as is the in-line concession stand; a new exit and additional queues have been added. The trains have changed; the paw prints have gone and come back again. For the 2003 season, a new braking system was installed. Track work in an ongoing concern, with Kings Island becoming the leader in the industry of maintaining wooden roller coasters. The first structural replacements on the Beast began in 2006, after Cedar Fair took over the park.

The four 20th Anniversary logos above were all concepts, none of them were ever used. Instead the park used the logo below, adding in the "20th.

But, three things have remained constant in The Beast’s 30 years the logo has only changed three times and all were temporary changes for special anniversaries (the tenth, twentieth and twenty-fifth.) The Beast still holds the record for the longest wooden coaster, and every morning of every operating day three or four maintenance crews are out before sunrise inspecting all 7,359 feet of The Beast’s track so that it’s ready for each day of operation

The Beast still remains a favorite of many people, from the die-hard enthusiast to the family who visits Kings Island once every two or three years. The Beast is considered the epitome of fun. Many riders still clap upon returning to the station, quite a complement concerning how many rides it has given over the years. Happy 30th Anniversary, Papa Beast and here’s to many, many more!

We would like to thank Don Helbig and Jeff Gramke of Kings Island, Tom Rebbie of Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, ACE member Chris Baynum of Baynum Painting and Chuck Nungester for their time and assistance with this story. All on ride photos were used with the permission of Kings Island. All Beast concept art, constructions photos, etc are courtesy of Kings Island.