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Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

The Waldameer Park Ravine Flyer II technician describes how attractions remain open

By Vaseline May30,2024
The Waldameer Park Ravine Flyer II technician describes how attractions remain open

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  • Jacob Griffith is one of nine full-time ride mechanics at Waldameer Park & ​​Water World, who work year-round.
  • Griffith and the other ride technicians inspect, install, maintain and repair rides. In winter, most of the work is done in the park’s maintenance building.
  • The most hectic is when the park suddenly loses power due to a storm or some other reason.

a Day in the Life is a monthly series where we showcase some of the more interesting jobs in the region and how these people interact with the community.

Jacob Griffith usually arrives at Waldameer Park & ​​Water World around sunrise this time of year, five hours or more before the theme park opens.

It’s so quiet in the early morning, before the rides open and the crowds arrive, that Griffith can hear birds chirping as he walks past Thunder River and Rainbow Gardens on his way to the maintenance building.

But 37-year-old Griffith, one of Waldameer’s nine full-time mechanics, doesn’t have time for bird watching. He still has work to finish before the gates open.

“Patrick Morey and I are the ones who usually do the daily inspection of the Ravine Flyer II, which can take up to two hours,” Griffith said, referring to the park’s largest wooden roller coaster. “I also help with the Steel Dragon’s daily inspection… which can also take up to two hours.”

Inspecting, installing, maintaining and repairing rides is a full-time job for Griffith and the other ride technicians, even though Waldameer is only open from May to early September.

In the winter, Griffith spends most of his time in the park’s maintenance building. He and the other mechanics work 40 hours a week repairing, repainting or refurbishing all of the removable ride seats and other parts of the park’s attractions.

“One of the questions people ask me is, ‘How many months do I work?’” Griffith said as he walked from the Ravine Flyer to the Steel Dragon. “Winter is a busy time for us. We prepare everything for the summer. All that preventive care really makes a difference.”

Most Waldameer ride mechanics start in a different job

Like many other Waldameer ride mechanics, Griffith started another job in the park. More than fifteen years ago he was hired as a seasonal member of the grounds staff.

Others started their careers as ride operators, said Steve Gorman, president of Waldameer.

“You won’t find many people with previous experience repairing amusement park rides,” Gorman said with a smile. “We’re looking for people with mechanical or electrical experience. But I think at least half of our ride mechanics here started other jobs, and we liked what we saw and trained them ourselves.”

Each ride technician is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Ride & Measurement Standards.

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The rides are inspected every day the park is open

Part of Griffith’s duties on Thursday was to assist other ride technicians in conducting a mandatory monthly inspection of the park’s Skyride. He helped them attach a special maintenance car to the ride’s main cable, in which two other mechanics rode to check the wheels and other equipment atop all of the ride’s support towers.

Meanwhile, Griffith inspected the locks and bolts of each car as it returned to the station.

“This ride is also inspected every day the park is open,” Griffith said. “But this inspection is for the state and there is more paperwork involved, and some more detail.”

Because the park was not open Thursday, Griffith Ravine did not have to inspect Flyer II. Instead, he showed how the roller coaster is maintained even while the ride is in operation.

When only one of the roller coaster’s two trains is in use, the other is usually stored in a shed built above the storage track, just a few feet from the ride’s entrance.

“Mr. (Paul) Nelson (the former owner of Waldameer, who passed away in May 2023) really planned it well,” Griffith said. “It’s designed so you can work on one train while the other is moving,” Griffith said as he climbed under the roller coaster tracks and stood directly under the train in the barn. “From here you can access everything below.”

Griffith describes the most unusual find along the Ravine Flyer track

The Ravine Flyer II daily inspection includes a walk around the entire trail. Ride technicians look for damage, fallen tree limbs or anything else that could hinder the trains.

They also grab items that have fallen from the guests’ pockets on the track during the ride. Usually it’s sunglasses or cell phones, but Griffith once found something unusual.

“I found three (partial) dentures a few years ago,” Griffith said. “We got a cloth and picked it up. A lady called that day and was able to get them back.”

Ride operators all stay in the park for a few hours after it opens, and some of them stay until it closes, which is at 9 p.m. most of the summer. Those who stay late are usually allowed to leave early the next day, Gorman said.

‘What is the oldest ride in Waldameer?’

Griffith said he enjoys working while the park is open. He enjoys answering guests’ questions, such as “What is the park’s oldest ride?”

The answer, according to Gorman, is a pony cart ride. It dates from about 1940.

“Every now and then you get a call for a ride that they had to temporarily close because of an issue,” Griffith said. “You get there and when you get it running again, especially if it’s the Ravine Flyer, the people in line will show their approval by clapping.”

The most hectic is when the park suddenly loses power due to a storm or some other reason. The attraction technicians do their utmost to safely guide guests off the attractions and then work to get everything operational again.

“Luckily that doesn’t happen that often,” Griffith said.

As the park prepares to be open six days a week in the summer, Griffith says the changing seasons are one of the reasons he loves his job.

“It’s always something different. Nothing is stagnant,” Griffith said. “You spend the winter in the maintenance building, then it’s spring and it’s time to prepare the park. Then it’s summer and the park is open. The track is always changing.”

One of the advantages of working at Waldameer? Once or twice a week, after the daily inspection, Griffith takes the Ravine Flyer for a ride.

Contact David Bruce at [email protected]. Follow him on X @ETNBruce.

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