Behind the Scenes of Carowinds' Ride Maintenance
Carowinds may be closed for the season, but the park maintenance is well underway.
There is no such thing as an ‘off-season’ in the amusement park industry. As soon as the gate closed for WinterFest, the hard work and preparation has begun for the Carowinds’ season opening on Saturday, March 12.
“Annual maintenance is our opportunity to dive deep into the health of ride components that cannot be seen on a frequent basis,” Shawn Hopkins, Carowinds’ mechanical maintenance manager, said. “Ride manufacturers design attractions to operate safely. Daily, weekly, monthly, and annual maintenance checks are completed to ensure the health of the ride.”
The first step of off-season ride maintenance is removing the cars or trains from their rides. Once removed, the cars and trains are transported to the Carowinds maintenance shop. The removal process for larger rides like Fury 325 and the Intimidator is completed in the few days between SCarowinds and WinterFest. For other rides, the removal process takes place within the first three weeks after WinterFest.
Train Inspection, Testing and Storage
The highly trained team of ride technicians begin by disassembling, inspecting, testing, and rebuilding each attraction’s cars or trains. This process is carefully conducted annually to prolong the life of Carowinds’ attractions, to assure normal operation, and to ensure the safety of each guest. Parts from each ride are tested according to elevated industry standards, as well as to the specifications of the rides’ manufacturers. Some testing protocols include x-ray, ultrasonic and accelerometer testing, and magnetic particle testing.
“The process can take up to 1,600 manhours for large rides like Fury 325,” Hopkins said.
Rides’ cars and trains remain in the maintenance shop throughout the off-season, safeguarding them from the weather elements.
Ride Testing and State Inspections
As the Saturday, March 12 opening day gets closer, the trains and cars return to their respective attractions so that proper ride safety testing can be thoroughly completed before guests visit the park. Carowinds’ mechanics and electricians cycle the rides while empty, and then with water-filled test dummies, to ensure the ride’s systems are functioning properly, followed by state inspections.
“We pay close attention to train speed and look for unusual wear during the ‘break-in’ period,” Hopkins said. “We will aggressively lubricate wheel bearings and other sliding bearings as needed.”
Each ride in the park is inspected and licensed by the North Carolina or South Carolina Department of Labor prior to opening. Since Carowinds is located on the state line for North Carolina and South Carolina, a ride’s state inspection is conducted by the state where the ride’s station is located. For example, Fury 325 travels through both Carolinas, but North Carolina completes the ride’s inspection and testing because Fury 325’s station is in North Carolina.
At Carowinds, the safety of our associates and guests is our top priority. Ensuring that rides are properly maintained and cared for is just one way to show this commitment. For more off-season maintenance coverage, follow @Carowinds on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.