February 26, 2003
Sandusky, OH -- What does it take to build the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster? No one has been closer to the detailed construction process of Cedar Point's new 420-foot-tall, 120-mph Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster than Monty Jasper, vice president of maintenance and construction at the popular amusement park/resort.
"More than anything, it takes a lot of patience to build a coaster of this magnitude," says Jasper. "It's a job where you don't get immediate gratification; the biggest reward will come when riders get off Top Thrill Dragster for the first time ... that's when everything you've worked so hard on really counts."
The $25 million "strata-coaster" will be Cedar Point's 16th roller coaster - more than anywhere else on Earth - and will be the first scream machine in the world to break the 400-foot-tall mark. Riders will launch out of a "starting line" position and travel from 0 to 120 mph in four seconds by use of a high-tech hydraulic acceleration system and then rocket up the vertical 420-foot-high hill, rotate 90 degrees, crest the apex and plummet straight down the 400-foot drop while spiraling 270 degrees and cross the finish line into the station.
"This has been an incredibly intricate project on so many levels, especially since we are reaching new thresholds with height and speed," notes Jasper. "It's going to be the ultimate thrill, no doubt about it."
Top Thrill Dragster's massive structure has been complete for six weeks and work is rolling along on the electrical engineering, installation of the hydraulic acceleration system, loading and unloading stations, landscape architecture, putting in the queue lines, signage and pageantry. A rigorous testing, inspection and licensing program on Top Thrill Dragster will follow its final construction stages.
Here is a sample of what Jasper and his maintenance and construction crew have labored over when building the tallest and fastest roller coaster on the planet...
- Architects and engineers prepared approximately 1,300 comprehensive blueprints to guide the project, which was on the "drawing board" for three years, from conception to completion.
- Challenging and often brutal weather conditions made it extra taxing for construction crews on Top Thrill Dragster with hurricane force winds (up to 75 mph); significant snowfall (a total of 60 inches); and frigid temperatures (a wind chill of -30 degrees) on the shores of Lake Erie.
- One hundred fifty-one bright yellow steel support columns were carefully positioned and make up Top Thrill Dragster's looming structure.
- Ninety-four individual pieces of red and white steel track were pieced together to create the portion of the coaster where its trains will race at speeds reaching 120 mph.
- Top Thrill Dragster's enormous structure is anchored by 149 footers, which required more than 9,000 cubic yards of concrete.
- A construction crew of roughly 200 workers has been assigned to varied tasks on Top Thrill Dragster such as pouring foundations and erecting steel to electrical engineering and building the coaster's station.
- Six sleek "dragster-style" trains - weighing 5 tons each - will be assembled and installed on Top Thrill Dragster's 1,150-ton structure.
- One hundred five miles of electrical cable - or enough to travel from Cedar Point to Detroit - is being installed for the complex electrical engineering of Top Thrill Dragster.
- The construction process of Top Thrill Dragster required 5,400 bolts.
- Five cranes, including two that stretched an incredible 480 feet in the air, helped position Top Thrill Dragster's track and structure into place. The 480-foot-tall cranes were two of only four in the United States that could accommodate a project of the towering 420-foot height of Top Thrill Dragster.
- Approximately 90 truckloads of steel were shipped by boats - and eventually trains and trucks - from Europe to Cedar Point, where the coaster parts were stored in a massive parking lot and later assembled at the job site.
The first opportunity for guests to "Race for the Sky" on Top Thrill Dragster is on Cedar Point's Opening Day, Sunday, May 4. Until then, roller-coaster-riders can log on to cedarpoint.com for frequent updates and top thrills.