As the temperature drops and snow starts to fall, many of us focus on the upcoming holiday season and winter activities. Not the Valleyfair Maintenance team. It is full speed ahead to get the park ready for 2020.
This season added some extra work for our maintenance team with the removal of Looping Starship. Our maintenance team started by removing the counterweight on the top of the ride. Next, the support beams were individually removed. Lastly, the ship was lowered to the ground and taken away. Keep an eye out next season because you may find this hallowed out Viking ship somewhere else in the park.
One of the first steps in the overall winter maintenance process is removing all the trains from their designated coaster track. The trains are moved to Valleyfair’s maintenance building where they are completely disassembled. Each train is completely stripped down, and every individual piece is cleaned, inspected, and then reassembled.
“People would not recognize this as a coaster train once we take it completely apart,” Tom Suel, Director of Maintenance, said, “These trains are stripped down to nothing.”
Not only do the trains come off, but the brakes are also removed from the track and go through a similar process of disassembly, cleaning, inspection, and reassembly.
Steel Venom requires a healthy amount of maintenance in the offseason. Each train rests on the train in front of it, so when disassembled, all the trains have to come off in unison. “It takes a lot of labor to rebuild those seven cars,” Suel said.
He also explains that wooden roller coasters require a higher level of maintenance. Beams and parts of the track have to be replaced every year along with tightening every nut and bolt on the coaster. “The track stack takes the hardest beating throughout the year and has to be replaced frequently,” Suel said, “Wooden coasters offer a great ride experience, so it’s worth the extra work.”
Some rides, such as North Star, are built with maintenance in mind. Suel explains that these rides are built with parts that are great for outdoor use. Stainless steel does not rust and can withstand the cold temperatures that hit Minnesota. “We still go through and do complete inspections on these rides, but they do not require a major tear down that some of our other rides do,” Suel said.
When asked which ride takes the most time to get ready for the next season, Ride Maintenance Manager, Jim Boone, quickly answered “Power Tower.”
"Power Tower is three rides combined into one, and with 36 seats it takes a lot of work to get ready for the next season," Boone said. A fair amount of the work is completed at the top of the ride structure. “This time of year it may be a comfortable temperature on the ground, but you go a few hundred feet in the air, that changes,” Suel said, “Our guys will stay up there all day doing maintenance because it’s not fun climbing up and down.”
Scrambler and Tilter are a few of Valleyfair’s rides that would seem like smaller maintenance projects but require a decent amount of work. All of the cars have to be removed, disassembled, and inspected similarly to coaster trains.
Most of the smaller rides in Planet Snoopy are serviced during the weekdays of ValleySCARE. They are inspected and repaired before getting covered in shrink wrap and sealed from winter. “They are such small ride units that you can clean them and reassemble them right there on sight,” Suel said, “It allows us during the weekdays that we are closed to get those smaller projects completed.”
While we wait for Opening Day of 2020, Valleyfair’s Maintenance team will continue at full speed to make sure guests enjoy a safe and fun season.