Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide for Amusement Park Fans

The 2013 holiday shopping season is upon us and if you’re on the hunt for that special gift for a friend or family member who happens to be a fan of amusement parks and roller coasters then you’ve come to the right place! Listed below are my recommended gifts to give or receive this holiday season.

  • Coasters 101: An Engineer’s Guide to Roller Coaster Design. Learn how roller coaster designers spend hundreds of hours creating, tweaking, and re-imagining ride paths to push the exhilaration envelope while carefully maintaining the highest safety standards. Features design example problems real roller coaster engineers face in the field today as well as career advice for any aspiring theme park engineers. Available in Kindle or paperback formats from
  • American Coasters: A Thrilling Photographic Ride is a  relatively new book by photographer Thomas Crymes. The pictures are large and crisp. The colors are vivid. The book’s simple design places more emphasis on the photographs. Nothing beats seeing pictures of roller coasters printed on a physical page (sorry, internet).
  • Creating My Own Nemesis by John Wardley. The story follows John’s professional career beginning with how he got out of the boring family business and into the crazy world of theme parks If by any degree you’re into magic, illusions, theater production, theme park design, or roller coasters I highly recommend you read this thoroughly entertaining book. See the making of RCT3 with John Wardley.
  • Theme Park Design by Steve Alcorn. Take a peek behind the scenes, with a theme park engineer, and learn about the multitude of roles and skills needed to design a world class theme park attraction – a must read for all aspiring theme park designers!
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon Triple Thrill Pack Instant Download.  This compilation of RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 and expansion packs Time Twister and Wacky Worlds brings together all the rides, building tools, as well as five real-world Six Flags amusement parks and 25 of their signature coasters. My personal favorite of all the RollerCoaster Tycoon games.
  • Transport Tycoon for tablets. Chris Sawyer’s Transport Tycoon is now available on tablet devices everywhere. Reviewers say they managed to bring this classic game to mobile devices extremely well.
  • K’nex Rippin Rocket Coaster. Loaded with over 500 KNEX pieces including classic parts, this model boasts over 20 feet of twists, turns, and daring loops. A special motorized blaster launches the coaster car into its exciting journey around the track.
  • Coaster Dynamix Models. The most realistic working roller coaster models currently available. Choose from Wooden coasters, steel coasters, Tumble Bugs, and Lego coaster sets.
  • Cincy Amusement Park Shirts. From the early days of Chester Park to Americana and Kings Island, these vintage shirts will be a nice stroll down memory lane. This shop not only sells The Bat shirts, but also a few other defunct Kings Island coasters, including Son of Beast, Phantom Theater, and King Cobra!

I highly recommend joining Amazon Prime. If you order something off of Amazon on average once per month then it pays for itself, or if you're ordering a bunch of gifts this holiday season it probably will too. The FREE two day shipping is awesome and everything I've ordered really has come in two days or less. You can also stream movies, TV shows, and get a Kindle book every month. Great alternative for Netflix or Hulu and well worth the investment in my opinion. Cheers!

What's on your 2013 holiday gift list? Share in the comments below!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ultimate Coaster Design Book Updated

roller coaster wheel carrier cad model 3d rendering
Roller coaster wheel carrier
I've just released the new edition of my book, Coasters 101: An Engineer’s Guide to Roller Coaster Design. If you purchased the Kindle version previously you get free updates. If you purchased the paperback version, you can get the latest digital version for free now too! The latest edition (third) has pictures, diagrams, new content, a better layout, and other general improvements. My goal is to make this book simply the best, most complete, most detailed guide to designing roller coasters you can find. A few of the most recent reviews tend to agree:

“Very impressive! What a great resource to have..for anyone.” - John S.

“Thanks for writing a very good book. I could not put it down. Lot's of great information. I am a technology and engineering teacher and the information I found here is very helpful in trying to get students more excited about engineering.” Amazon reviewer
roller coaster track rotation diagram
Rotation about the track spine

Some of the questions about roller coaster design you will have answered after reading include:

What software do roller coaster engineers use?
What college major is best to become a coaster designer?
How many engineers does it take to design a coaster?
How do roller coasters reach their highest point?
Why don’t coaster cars roll backwards down the lift hill?
Why do wheels on steel coasters come in pairs?
Why do we see so many clones of the exact same ride built at multiple parks?
How does a 4D coaster work?
How much does a roller coaster cost?
How much time does it take to design a roller coaster?
What is the difference between LIM and LSM propulsion?
What sort of background is necessary to get into the roller coaster engineering field?
How do you calculate the amount of power needed for the lift hill?

Currently, there are three options to purchase: 

Paperback - $11.99
Kindle - $9.99
Digital PDF - $5.99

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dollywood's FireChaser Express Layout

Dollywood recently released the full layout of their new family roller coaster debuting in 2014, FireChaser Express. The layout includes a foward launch, a chain lift, and a backwards launch out of an exploding fireworks factory. Here's the complete ride animation:

The very cool and unique Adventure Mountain climbing structure and ropes course had to be partially removed but it looks like a lot of the towers are going to be reused in the theming for FireChaser. I've taken a overhead image of the site and drew the layout on it based on the renderings available and the POV video.
firechaser express layout
I think FireChaser Express looks like a fun little ride and and a great addition to Dollywood. Dare I say it might even be better than Wild Eagle (due to potentially more airtime)?! What say you?


Friday, August 23, 2013

Read John Wardley's Book

john wardley's bookIf you're a fan of theme parks and want to know more about how attractions are designed then you must read John Wardley's book, Creating My Own Nemesis. John Wardley is the designer of several world class roller coasters including Vampire at Chessinton World of Adventures and Nemesis, Oblivion, and Air at Alton Towers. He talks about his early beginnings in the theatre, circus and magical cabaret, his time working on some of the most incredible special effects in the James Bond films (including the famous bus crash scene in Live and Let Die), and how he became associated with Madame Tussauds, the world's most famous wax museum.
If you're a fan of magic, illusions, theater production, theme park design, or roller coaster design then you simply must read this book.
Purchase the paperback or Kindle Edition of John Wardley's book, Creating My Own Nemesis, from

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kings Island 2014 Roller Coaster Layout

Kings Island 2014 Roller Coaster Layout

Blueprints of the Kings Island 2014 roller coaster layout have made their way onto the internet a full week before the official announcement from the park. Spoiler alert: Kings Island has already started construction on their new B&M inverted coaster, likely named "Banshee." The roller coaster is being teased as a world-record breaker, meaning it will probably be the tallest, fastest, or longest inverted coaster and possibly even have eight inversions, the most in North America. The color scheme will most likely be blue and silver. Some of the Kings Island 2014 blueprints are pictured below. Banshee's layout looks something like this:

  1. Lift hill threaded through the vertical loop
  2. Right side curving drop
  3. Dive loop
  4. Vertical loop around the lift hill
  5. Zero-g roll
  6. Overbanked turn
  7. Batwing element (2 inversions)
  8. Vertical loop number two
  9. Turnaround
  10. Another barrel roll
  11. Helix
  12. Flatspin/corksrew into the final brakes

2014 kings island roller coaster

If you look closely at the blueprints you can see the footers of two defunct roller coasters: Son of Beast, where Banshee is being built, and the old stand-up coaster King Cobra. As an added bonus, here's an overhead picture of Adventure Express' layout.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Observation Wheels Book Released

I've just released my latest book - Observation Wheels: Guide to the World's Largest Ferris Wheels. The race to build the largest observation wheel is on! Ferris wheels have been around for over one hundred years but have only just recently begun climbing to new heights. The classic Ferris wheel can be found towering over almost every amusement park and carnival midway. Today, these giant, high tech observation wheels are becoming status symbols for cities around the world. The race to build the biggest is heating up. Who invented the Ferris wheel? How do they work? Where are the most unique Ferris wheels found? Observation Wheels: Guide to the World’s Largest Ferris Wheels answers all of these questions and more, including details on more than 60 of the world's most unique giant wheels.
This is the "sort-of" sequel to Coasters 101: An Engineer's Guide to Roller Coaster Design (which will hopefully be getting updated this fall). I've compiled statistics on almost seventy of the world's biggest Ferris wheelsm including the most unique ones in the world. Did you know there are eccentric Ferris wheels that combine the classic Ferris wheel with a car that rolls on a track like a roller coaster? Learn about it and more in my new book.
You can learn more about observation wheels by visiting my latest website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why did I choose Disney Cruise Line?

This past April my wife and I sailed on a three night cruise to the Bahamas. It was our first cruise experience. So how did I come to choose going on a cruise over visiting a theme park for my precious vacation time? To be honest, I had never really even considered going on a cruise until recently when a few friends went on a Disney cruise and highly recommended it. There are other reasons why we decided to go on a cruise.

First, why did I choose to go on a Disney ship versus other cruise lines like Carnival or Royal Caribbean or Norweigan? To be honest, I never really even seriously considered any other cruise line. I knew for sure I definitely did NOT want to go on a Carnival ship or affiliate after all the recent problems they’ve been having (and in fact the Ecstasy did experience a 12 minute power outage at sea on the day we sailed!).

I expected the same level of quality, customer service, and cleanliness on a Disney boat that I have experienced at Disney parks and resorts. Not to mention that extra touch of magic. To our delight, the customer service on the boat was even BETTER than in the parks!

Our recent coaster trips have involved lots of driving so one of the appealing factors of going on a cruise for me was I wouldn’t have to do any driving or even rent a car! Disney transportation all the way!

Our last visit to Walt Disney World was very hectic and we crammed a lot into a short period of time. While still very fun, it was not very relaxing. The cruise looked to be a lot less stressful.

In the end, I’m so glad we went on a cruise and glad we choose Disney! The Carnival ships we were docked next to just looked like crap while the Disney Dream was totally awesome and the crew was unbelievable. The only segment of the population I would recommend NOT going on a Disney cruise are those going purely to hook  with someone. Probably not the cruise for you. Everyone else can find plenty of things to do. Below is a montage video I shot on our Disney cruise and largely features our day adventure at the incredible Atlantis Resort:


Sunday, May 12, 2013

GateKeeper Media Day Video

I was lucky enough to be able to attend GateKeeper's media day at Cedar Point. Here is some off-ride video of GateKeeper I took. If you've been on any other wing coaster then know Gatekeeper feels exactly the same, only longer. I like airtime above everything else so I rank rides like Leviathan and SkyRush over GateKeeper. However, I will say GateKeeper is one of the, if not, the most visually stunning ride in the world today (followed by Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Orlando which I think is one of the coolest looking rides out there). I also have to hand it to Cedar Point for putting on an outstanding media day event. The weather was perfect too, unlike the past couple of days that have seen three coasters valley: Maverick, Millennium Force, and Woodstock Express.

gatekeeper media day map
Cedar Fair CEO, Matt Ouimet, hinted at a new attraction, saying that he had given his team a new "challenge." I believe that challenge is creating a family dark ride attraction not tied to an existing Intellectual Property. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dollywood 2013 Preview

Dolly Parton was at Dollywood on Friday, March 22nd to preview the upcoming 2013 season. Embedded below is a video shot during the media preview in which she tells us what to expect from Dollywood in 2013.

One of the highlights I'm most looking forward to is the park staying open later allowing us to ride Thunderhead and Wild Eagle roller coasters in the dark!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Coaster Photography Book


As a coaster enthusiast we are always searching for that ultimate thrill. There are always things getting in the way, such as jobs, family, money, so that many of us aren't able to travel, extensively. Well, Tom Crymes, the author of American Coasters (a brand new book) did the travelling for you!

“Amazing” is the best term I can find in order to describe Crymes’ excellent picture taking. The book contains images of over one hundred numerous roller coasters from 21 amusement parks. Also included in the book are 40 coaster pages full of need-to-know research. A handful of of the amusement parks featured include Cedar Point, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Kings Dominion and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Here are a few of my favorite images coming from the guide.

The pictures are huge as well as crisp. The colors are vivid. The book’s straightforward design locations much more emphasis on the photographs. Nothing beats seeing pictures of roller coasters published on a physical sheet of paper.

The book additionally includes spectacular breathtaking photographs, some of which cover a full page (or more). The clarity of the photos allows for detailed analysis.

Crymes took many of the photos from unfamiliar angles. Never having been to some of the parks featured, I found the brand new angles refreshing. I also valued Crymes’ inclusion of a handful of roller coasters that don’t exist anymore. They were a nice surprise to see as I was reading the book. I won’t spoil which ones those are.

The photographs are not the work of an amateur. They are professional photos that will impress even the most seasoned photographer (coaster enthusiast or not).

American Coasters: A Thrilling Photographic Ride is perfect for anyone who enjoys roller coasters. A first-time roller coaster rider will love this book. A 50-year-old roller coaster enthusiast who knows everything about every roller coaster that ever existed will love this book as well. The hardcover book spans 176 pages.

You can order American Coasters: A Thrilling Photographic Ride here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Constructing the CoasterDynamix Comet

As a Christmas gift for myself I bought the CoasterDynamix Comet model roller coaster. It's an HO scale detailed replica of a classic wooden roller coaster. I attempted to make a short time lapse video of it under construction.

I also put together a short slideshow of my late grandfather's model train set. The display was taken apart years ago and this was just a small way to be able to remember it by.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Observation Wheel Pictures Wanted

I recently launched a brand new website called Observation Wheel Directory, that features a comprehensive list of the world’s largest observation wheels. The site contains numerous information and statistics on Ferris wheels around the globe including an interactive map to find an observation wheel near you.

One thing the site is currently lacking is pictures, and that’s where you come in! If you have a picture of an observation (and it is a picture you took and hold the copyright for) please submit it to the site. We will of course give you credit for the picture and link back to your website or blog if you have one. At this time we are only accepting large Ferris wheels, those over 150 feet in diameter ( we may make exceptions in the future). Or we will also accept pictures of unique Ferris wheels, like the Big O centerless Ferris wheel or the eccentric wheels like the ones at Coney Island and Disney California Adventure.
Submit your pictures by emailing me here:
Thanks, and I can't wait to see your photos.