FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, wooden roller coasters have stood as one of the quintessential experiences found at attractions around the world. Over time, aging, weather conditions, and wear and tear can take their toll on these icons. Keeping a wooden roller coaster in safe operating condition can often involve retracking.
How do parks decide when it’s time to invest in a wooden coaster’s longevity, what the process will involve, and who does the work?
This season, Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, completed a three-year retracking project of “The Voyage,” one of the park’s signature attractions. Aaron Berg, the park’s director of maintenance and development, shares insights gleaned from the project for keeping “The Voyage” running like new.
Funworld: How did you come to the decision to replace the coaster’s track during the past three offseasons?
Aaron Berg: Holiday World decided three years ago to retrack the entire return track of “The Voyage.” This offseason was the final year of that project. With The Gravity Group’s improvements in smoothing the ride, and advancements such as Ipe lumber (an exotic hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot and decay), we knew we could take one of the most exciting finales on any coaster and make it even better. This year we celebrated the “Relentless Return ReTracked” with the completion of the three‑year project.
FW: Who makes the call that it’s time to replace track on your wooden coasters?
AB: We listen closely to guest feedback and look at dynamic testing data. We heard from our guests that work on the finale of the coaster would make a ride that was already their favorite even better. Within the park, the maintenance division partners with Holiday World’s fourth‑generation family owners on the long‑term plans for the park’s beloved wooden coasters.
FW: Who was involved in the retracking this past winter?
AB: We’re proud and appreciative of our full‑time employees who performed this work themselves. A job 720 feet long takes the entire offseason and many overtime hours, but the job is worth it. A few local carpenters supplemented the Holiday World team, and we partnered with The Gravity Group to assist with surveying and engineering on the attraction.
FW: Why was Ipe lumber used in this track replacement and the previous two offseason retrackings?
AB: The Ipe lumber is a harder wood than pine. As a result, the installation takes longer and is more expensive, but the long‑term benefits make it worth the hard work. It results in a smoother ride and will last longer before the next track replacement is required.
FW: Do both ardent coaster enthusiasts and regular guests notice a difference in the ride on the retracked section?
AB: Longtime fans of “The Voyage” have already complimented us that the return run feels smoother and makes them eager to get back in line and ride again. We are excited for all our guests to experience the results of the completion of this three‑year project.