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Rocky Mountain Construction Explained
Rocky Mountain Construction, commonly referred to as RMC, is a fabricator and manufacturer of amusement rides and roller coasters. The company, based in Hayden, Idaho, USA, has become synonymous with the transformation of old wooden roller coasters into new hybrid attractions.
Over the years their portfolio has expanded, ranging from upgrading older rides to producingunique steel roller coaster models. As a result of the innovative nature of their attractions, the company has become one of the most sought-after in the industry. But it hasn’t always been this way.
RMC was founded in 2001 by Fred Grubb and his wife Suanne Dedmon; though its full story begins decades earlier. From a young age, Fred was welding pipe collars onto irrigation pipe in his home town of Debois, Wyoming. Following high school, he began a local home
construction company with his older brother. Sadly, the business saw a decline in the mid-1980s, causing Fred to move to Seattle Washington, in which he found work constructing zoo exhibits.
It wasn’t until 1995 that his involvement within the amusements industry began. Fred was hired by Silverwood Theme Park, in Idaho, to construct some artificial rock work. Impressed, the owner of Silverwood, Gary Norton, offered him the position of construction/maintenance director at the park. And, it was at Silverwood where Fred met his wife, Suanne, who was the park’s finance director at the time.
Gary went on to express an interest in building a wooden roller coaster at Silverwood, and asked whether Fred was up to the challenge. A year later, he led the construction of a new roller coaster, Timber Terror, designed by Custom Coasters International, also known as CCI.
This was followed by a second ride by the company, Tremors, in 1999. Both were constructed entirely in-house by Fred and the rest of the park’s team. CCI were impressed, ultimately offering him a job managing construction projects for their company. Instead, Fred and Suanne took a leap of faith, and decided to start their own business in 2000. And thus a year later, RMC was born.
Initially, the pair worked from their home, employing roughly 10 members of staff. To get their name out there, the company attended the annual International Association of Amusement
Parks and Attractions expo, IAAPA for short. Though, due to their new presence and small nature, their attempt to network with others in the industry wasn’t always well received. But fortunately, RMC’s persistence did pay off.
They began to receive contracts to refurbish small wooden roller coasters, and install skycoasters, at various parks across the nation. In 2003, the company was hired by Silverwood theme park to construct Boulder Beach, their new water park. During this, RMC was responsible for constructing the various pools and slides, as well as the supporting infrastructure.
In the same year, the firm also constructed Timberhawk, an S&S wooden roller coaster, at Wild Waves theme park. From here, more large scale amusement projects began to roll in. 2005 saw the firm build El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure, an Intamin prefabricated wooden roller coaster.
The following year RMC began the construction of their first work-shop, erected entirely in-house. This served as a multi-purpose building, home to all of the company’s equipment and offices. 2 years after the debut of El Toro, the american business were once again approached by Intamin, this time to construct T-Express, another prefabricated roller coaster, in South Korea. The company’s crew aided in the erection of the new attraction. But things weren’t all plain sailing. During the financial crash of 2008, jobs were scarce.
RMC made a point to diversify their company, enabling them to take on a range of work. During the depression, they installed ziplines in Park City, Utah; built a water feature for Spokane International Airport, constructed a miniature golf course, erected airplane hangars, polished concrete floors and even shoveled snow.
Though widely different to constructing amusement rides, the company did this to ensure their employees had a stable income. As time passed, this remained very much a core part of Rocky Mountain Construction as a workplace. It has always been a family owned business, one which shys away from the traditional corporate structure to provide a more intimate working experience.
Though this is somewhat unique within the industry, it hasn’t held the manufacturer back, but instead has propelled them into new and exciting opportunities, such as the development of RMC’s notable Ibox track: After rebuilding dozens of traditional wooden roller coaster tracks, Fred thought that there had to be a better way. By nature, wooden attractions require a lot of maintenance.
Instead of investing to keep their older rides open, many parks were starting to tear them down instead. One day, Fred came up with an innovative solution. He proposed the Ibox track, a concept which used steel I-beams to replace the layered wooden track design. The aim of this was to reduce maintenance costs and increase the longevity of the attraction. Fred approached various engineers within the industry about his idea and they all came to the same conclusion – it couldn’t be done.
Fortunately, this didn’t put him off. At roughly the same point in time, roller coaster designer Alan Schilke was employed as an associate at Ride Centerline. The company had worked with Six Flags in the past to prolong the life of their aging wooden attraction, the Texas Giant.
Instead of just replacing the track, they wanted something completely different, something that would be easier to maintain. As a result, Six Flags suggested that Alan work with Fred to find a solution. Fred went on to explain the Ibox concept to Alan, who was instantly on board with the idea. Together, the duo spent a prolonged length of time developing their new track design, overcoming many challenges along the way. And finally, in 2008, the Ibox track was born!
The duo approached Six Flags with their newly formed solution. Six Flags Over Texas took a gamble, hiring RMC to completely rebuild and re-engineer the Texas Giant, the park’s iconic Dinn wooden roller coaster. From here the hard work began. Despite having their own shop, it wasn’t large enough, or even designed to manufacture roller coasters. On top of this, the company needed to purchase a large amount of new equipment to complete the job, and had only 15 employees at the time.
Over the course of a few weeks the shop was transformed, allowing for the track to be welded and produced on-site. Throughout the entire development of the New Texas Giant, RMC kept to their morals of integrity and honesty, which in turn led to a very strong relationship being forged with Six Flags as a whole. And, after years of research, testing and construction, the Ibox track finally saw its debut in the form of the New Texas Giant on the 22nd of April 2011.
Costing 10 Million USD, the new ride opened to the public as the world’s tallest, fastest and steepest hybrid roller coaster. But what changed, how did Rocky Mountain Construction change the original Texas Giant? For starters, the company didn’t completely remove the ride, but used the existing structure to their advantage. They took the supports and adapted them, increasing or lowering the height where necessary. The old wooden track was replaced with the steel I-Box design.
Not only did this reduce maintenance costs, but allowed the re-designer of the roller coaster, Alan Schilke, to be more creative with the layout. Alan emphasized the ride’s current elements, making them bigger, bolder and more snappy. Slow turns became fast overbanked turns, airtime hills were amplified, and the general pace of the attraction was vastly improved. The result, a ride which was smoother and more thrilling than before.
Fortunately for RMC, the New Texas Giant instantly received incredible praise. In fact, many went on to vote it as one of the world’s best roller coasters. In short, the I-Box conversion, which came to be known as the Iron Horse treatment, was a fantastic success. Though Fred and Alan’s job wasn’t finished. The pair continued to innovate, coming up with a range of new ideas during the construction of their first roller coaster.
On the job they dreamt of their next development – another unique form of track design. Traditional wooden roller coaster track features flattened steel strips for running rails, mounted onto layers of wood. Instead of this, RMC’s new design features a thin flattened steel running rail, on a thick steel box, atop six layers of laminated wood.
The idea was to use the new track design to replace conventional track found in high stress areas of a ride, areas which would normally require constant maintenance. On top of this, the duo were keen to allow parks to maintain the aesthetic and general feel of a wooden roller coaster, while making the ride more sustainable.
The name for this new track design? The topper track! Initially, the company tested their concept on a small section of Tremors at Silverwood. From here, it was then installed, in small sections, on numerous roller coasters across the nation’s Six Flags parks. But RMC had bigger projects to contend with. The success of the New Texas Giant hadn’t gone unnoticed, causing the manufacturer’s reputation within the industry to increase dramatically.
Six Flags commissioned the company to complete the iron horse treatment of the Rattler, the aging wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. At roughly the same time, Rocky Mountain Construction also learnt that Silver Dollar City were looking for their new big ride.
RMC proposed an attraction utilising their new topper track and were delighted to be awarded the project. However, after being awarded two large scale Projects, the company found their facility just wasn’t big enough.They purchased the land across the street and built a second shop, 2.5 times larger than the first. The new building was used to weld and fabricate track, while the original was converted into a machine shop.
This allowed Fred to move towards his next developmental goal for the company, RMC built trains. Up to this point, Rocky Mountain Construction had been using trains manufactured and supplied by Gerstlauer on their rides. Though this worked fine, Fred believed his firm needed to offer the entire package. The machine shop meant they could produce over 90% of their own parts, a natural requirement for the fabrication of in-house trains.
During the years after the debut of the New Texas Giant, RMC developed their new train and topper track concepts further. And, on the 15th of March 2013, Outlaw Run opened to guests. Made entirely from wood, the ride wasn’t only the company’s first wooden roller coaster, but also the first they’d built entirely from the ground up.
On top of this, Outlaw Run also featured the first successful inversion on a wooden roller coaster, utilizing three during the layout. 2 months later, Iron Rattler, also opened to guests. Similar to the New Texas Giant, the ride stood taller and steeper than before, often exaggerating the previous elements of the layout. But, unlike their first hybrid coaster, Iron Rattler featured an inversion, a zero-g roll. Even though both Iron Rattler and Outlaw Run debuted in the same year, they each had different trains. Like the New Texas Giant, Iron Rattler used Gerstlauer’s trains; while Outlaw Run saw the successful launch of RMC’s very own train design. Featuring a somewhat traditional box-like shape, the company’s train utilised a hydraulic lap bar with ankle restraints and a seat belt.
Each car sat guests in two rows of two, with a total of six cars per train. The creation of in-house trains at RMC was definitely a step in the right direction, but many consider their design to be restrictive and overly tight. As other roller coaster manufacturers have produced trains featuring open and exposed designs, RMC continue to utilise their more boxy style. Nevertheless, the company looked to continue their success.
In 2013, they signed an agreement with Dutch amusement ride manufacturer Vekoma, allowing them to sell RMC products outside of the North American market. As a result, from this point onwards, and with help from Vekoma, RMC roller coasters could be built worldwide. And thanks to their new additions, the firm continued to gain exciting projects. 2014 saw the debut of Goliath at Six Flags Great America, and Medusa Steel Coaster at Six Flags Mexico. Goliath became the world’s steepest and fastest wooden roller coaster, and the first to feature a zero-g stall, an element now prevalent on many RMC attractions.
While Medusa Steel coaster became the manufacturer’s first hybrid Ibox track conversion to utilise their new trains. By this point in time, the company had grown massively. RMC now employed nearly 90 full time members of staff, and still managed to maintain a non-corporate structure. At the end of the year, they also constructed a third shop, 4.5 times larger than their original. 2015 saw the construction of a further two roller coasters, both again at Six Flags parks. Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain became Twisted Colossus; while Six Flags New England’s Cyclone became Wicked Cyclone.
Twisted Colossus opened as the company’s longest conversion, converting two previous racing roller coasters into a single new attraction. Because of this, it now features two lift hills and a distinctive dueling element, in which the two trains interact at multiple points during the layout. Wicked Cyclone on the other hand became Rocky Mountain Construction’s first roller coaster to feature large outward banked airtime hills, another element now common on their newer attractions. Several years prior, American company S&S unveiled the Free Spin, an all new compact 4D roller coaster model.
S&S partnered with RMC, who would produce the track for these attractions, as they all utilized the company’s signature I-Box design. In 2015, Batman The Ride at Six Flags Fiesta Texas became the world’s first S&S free spin. But 2015 offered a lot more than just 2 new roller coasters. During the IAAPA expo of the same year, RMC unveiled brand new products in the form of two new types of roller coaster track. Since the debut of the topper track, Fred and Alan had been working hard to expand the company’s product portfolio.
Their idea; an all-steel single-rail track design. There were two main benefits to the concept. The first – the track is stronger by nature, requiring fewer supports to handle the force of the train. The second – it is easier to install. During construction, all 2 or 3 rails of conventional track must line up throughout the layout; this is reduced to only a single rail for their new design. And thus, the Raptor track and T-Rex track were born.
Though the design of the two track types were the same, one was larger than the other. The T-Rex track was created to support a 2 seat-wide train, while the Raptor track could only handle a single file train design. The idea was that the Raptor track would be a cheaper alternative, suitable for smaller parks requiring less throughput intensive Rides. Bigger theme parks would invest in the T-Rex model, which would be host to a larger number of guests per hour. 2015 had ended strongly, but 2016 was set to be the busiest year for the company so far with four new projects opening around the world.
Firstly, Storm Chaser at Kentucky Kingdom, became the company’s first roller coaster to be made entirely from steel; utilising both steel Ibox track and steel lattice supports. Secondly, Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom opened to the public as the first RMC to feature a step-up underflip, a unique combination of inversion and turn. This was followed by the construction and
debut of a widely anticipated attraction, Lightning Rod at Dollywood. Lightning Rod opened to guests as the world’s first launched wooden roller coaster! At the start of their ride, visitors are launched directly up the park’s hillside, before plummeting over 50m (165ft) towards the ground.
As a result of this, it also became the world’s fastest wooden coaster, reaching speeds of up to 117kmh (73mph). RMC used LSMs, linear synchronous motors, arguably the most common modern propulsion system, to launch guests up the hill – . But it’s implementation wasn’t simple.
The company encountered a whole host of issues constructing and sustaining the record breaking launch. RMC and Dollywood both struggled to keep the ride open for prolonged periods of time; even reducing the acceleration of the launch at one point in an attempt to improve the attraction’s reliability.
Though the ride is more reliable now, its initial struggles were noticed. Perhaps this has affected the likelihood of other theme parks wanting a similar launched ride. Nevertheless, the company went on to open their final roller coaster of 2016. In partnership with Vekoma, the firm’s debuted Wildfire, Europe’s tallest, steepest and fastest wooden roller coaster!
Located at Kolmarden in Sweden, the ride became the first of its kind outside of North America. The following year didn’t see the debut of a new ride by the company, but a whole host of preparations were underway. However, during the 2017 IAAPA expo, Skyline Attractions announced a partnership with Rocky Mountain Construction.
RMC would be fabricating the single rail track used on Skyline’s newest attraction, the Skywarp. A year later, Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster opened to guests at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. To continue the development of their new design, RMC built a prototype section of the raptor track at their factory, allowing them to test the new concept.
Less than 12 months later, in 2018, two new roller coasters with raptor track opened to the public. Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Railblazer at California’s Great America, became the first of the ‘Raptor’ models. Both featured an identical, but mirrored, compact layout, full of tight twists, steep drops and inversions. Riders board small 8 person trains, which seem to effortlessly fly through the course. And, like their other attractions, the new model was instantly loved by guests. RMC had recreated the same fun, thrill and excitement found in their previous models, in a smaller and more affordable form-factor.
However, due to the narrow design of the trains, each ride has a low theoretical maximum capacity of roughly 600 riders per hour. This is only marginally higher than a large flat ride for example. Though, RMC knew that their upcoming T-Rex track would solve this problem of capacity. Fortunately, the two new Raptor’s weren’t the only rides the company built in 2018.
Twisted Cyclone opened to guests at Six Flags Over Georgia as the redevelopment of the park’s former wooden coaster, the Georgia Cyclone. In March of the same year, Twisted Timbers, at Kings Dominion, opened to become the first roller coaster to utilise RMC’s second generation train.
The overall look of the cars stayed the same, except for the addition of a steering wheel axle. This allowed the trains to navigate elements with more ease and less friction, helping them to maintain their speed throughout the layout. Twisted Timbers was directly followed by the debut one of the world’s most anticipated rides at the time.
In May of 2018, Cedar Point unveiled the tallest, fastest and steepest hybrid roller coaster – Steel Vengeance. Built from the park’s old wooden ride, Mean Streak, Steel Vengeance opened to outstanding reviews. It’s lengthy layout; full of airtime, inversions and other exciting elements, caused it to be named the world’s single best roller coaster by many. It seemed that with Steel Vengeance, RMC had perfectly nailed the formula for producing a ride which ticks all of the boxes.
And fortunately, there were many more attractions to come. In 2019, the company went completely international. All three of their new roller coasters were installed at different parks around the world, all outside of North America.
First, Hakugei, a hybrid roller coaster located at Nagashima Spa Land opened to guests as the first of its kind in Japan. The original ride, White Cyclone, was reborn, featuring a whole host of inversions, airtime hills and wave turns.
Then, several months later, Walibi Holland’s Untamed debuted to the public as the first RMC in the Netherlands. Built as an upgrade to Robin Hood, the park’s old Vekoma wooden coaster, Untamed features 5 inversions, the most on any hybrid roller coaster around the globe.
And finally, Zadra, located at Energylandia in Poland, became the company’s first Ibox track roller coaster to be built entirely from the ground up, not as an enhancement of a former attraction. Zadra currently stands as the world’s tallest hybrid roller coaster, towering a huge 62.8m (206ft) high.
Finally, in 2020, the company will debut a further two roller coasters. Iron Gwazi, located at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, will become the world’s fastest and steepest hybrid roller coaster, reaching speeds of up to 122kmh (76mph) as guests plummet down a 91 degree drop! While Six Flags Great Adventures’ Jersey Devil Coaster will become the world’s tallest, fastest and longest raptor roller coaster. Featuring an out-and-back layout, the ride experience has a particular airtime focus, unlike the compact design of the original pair.
Now that we’ve explored the history of their rides, how do we actually go about spotting a Rocky Mountain Construction roller coaster? Most RMC’s take the appearance of a traditional wooden coaster, but instead of traditional wooden running rails, they feature distinct steel Ibox shaped rails instead. Most of the rides built by the company also feature inversions and other highly twisted track shapes, making their attractions stand out further. As for the Raptor track, look out for a single thin box shaped rail which lines the entire course.
Having glanced through RMC’s entire history, it’s incredible to see their rapid progression. Just under 10 years ago the company produced their first ever roller coaster. Now, a decade later, they’re building multiple world record breaking rides each year, in various countries across the globe.
Through this success story, Fred has always been keen to express how he sells their product. Rocky Mountain Construction don’t heavily advertise their rides. Instead their reputation, based on integrity, service and quality sells the attractions for them. So far, theme parks around the globe have been flocking to RMC for one of their stand-out roller coasters.
Most of these attractions being built are the company’s hybrid roller coaster model, featuring the steel Ibox track. But is this a sustainable business model? By the end of 2020, 11 of these rides will have been built in North America alone. Though located in different parts of the country, they all offer a similar, but loved, ride experience. We’ve seen other models become common rides at theme parks throughout the industry – just take the B&M inverted coaster for example; a similar ride experience available in over 30 parks across the world.
Could RMC’s flagship ride suffer the same fate and become oversaturated? Perhaps the introduction of the Raptor track and Trex track will help to diversify the company’s portfolio and delay this problem. Though, despite being announced at the same time as the Raptor, the larger T-Rex track is yet to be fully developed. RMC have said they intend to develop the Raptor track further before offering the full capabilities of the larger Trex option to theme parks. The exact potential of the alternative track type is unknown.
However, Alan Schilike has previously stated in interviews that the model is capable of reaching heights of up to 500ft, 152m; a limit currently taller than every other roller coaster in the world. Despite all this, it’s extremely clear that RMC will continue to be a large force within the industry for years to come. Parks both large and small are lining up to purchase one of their attractions, due to their unique nature and the satisfying ride experiences. Rocky Mountain Construction’s innovation within both the steel and wooden roller coaster industries has allowed them to sky-rocket in popularity and construct rides with record breaking natures. With RMC it seems there’s only ever one question: What’s next?
Thank you for watching, and, we’ll see you all next time. If you enjoyed this one please do subscribe as it took a while to make. I have to give a big thanks to Andrew, Joel, Aron and Sam for helping to make this video, as well as Taylor from Coaster Studios too for providing at least 80% of the footage you’ve just seen, I’ll link his fantastic channel