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Interest in an ask-an-op thread?

Discussion in 'Q&A' started by Mack, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    I operate 14 rides at Canobie of each thrill level. Is there interest in asking me questions about what we do and what we're doing?
     
  2. gavin

    gavin Administrator Staff Member Administrator Moderator Social Media Team CF Award Winner 2016

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    Not really.
     
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  3. GuyWithAStick

    GuyWithAStick Captain Basic Staff Member Moderator Social Media Team

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    I'm a ride op as well, but we don't really need an AMA thread. If you want that, go to Reddit.

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  4. CanobieFan

    CanobieFan Well-Known Member

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    Oh me, meeeee, wait, I already work for a park.
     
  5. Howie

    Howie Well-Known Member

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    Uhm... I have a question for ride ops.
    When it comes to ride/coaster manufacturers, are they any particular ones that are 'better' to operate than others? When I say 'better' I mean, for example, are the B&M's easier, smoother and cooler to operate than, say, the boomerangs and the SLC's? We know that B&M put a lot of effort into rider comfort, do they do the same for the guy sitting in the booth pushing buttons all day?
    I have this (probably wrong) image of B&M control booths being all space-agey and Starship Enterprise like - touch screen panels, 3D displays and a captain's armchair, while crappy Vekomas have a bloke sitting on a bar stool, operating a tin box with a big, green 'Go' button and a big, red 'Stop' button on the top.

    Just how misinformed am I?
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017 at 9:41 AM
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  6. caffeine_demon

    caffeine_demon Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean my kid can't ride? he's only 2cm too short!
     
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  7. Joey

    Joey Well-Known Member

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    Most of operating coasters is procedure and less about what physically makes it actually move, so every park will differ massively in how "difficult" the exact same model, or even clone, is for the team to run. The hardest part of working any ride is having a team in sync that can prevent and assist guest related problems - almost all issues are guests being a problem and not the ride being difficult or having errors, etc. as procedure will cover what to do in any situation thrown up by the ride hardware, where as a guest will always find a way to do something no one has ever encountered before and have to deal with. Smaller rides are in theory harder to operate because some have manual elements to them - for example, some powered coasters have speed dial and the train doesn't automatically come to a stop but must be parked in an accurate place, else the restraints won't unlock, or some coasters have station blocks and the operator must move the cars individually along in the station. Most coasters, and even many flat rides, have multiple dispatch points manned by multiple individuals in different locations to reduce the risk of sending a ride when there are potential hazards, and I believe B&Ms have the most. I would personally say that the larger and more complicated a ride is, the easier and better it is to work with because then you have a larger team to full back on when unusual situations crop up and more going on to keep you engaged through what is - when all is going to plan - a very repetitive job. Most operators barely have to touch any of the buttons on their sometimes elaborate control pannels and won't even know what half of them do. All control panels kinda look the same and have some kind of error display screen. It's always pretty low tech looking.

    Hope this helps?
     
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  8. andrus

    andrus Well-Known Member

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    ^Interesting information Joey!

    But I have the same question as Howie: which ride manufacturer is the easiest/smoothest to operate? I know that the biggest factor behind a good capacity is staff/routines. But there must be some difference between rides as well. And what rides do you prefer (topic creator and other ride operators) to operate?
     
  9. GuyWithAStick

    GuyWithAStick Captain Basic Staff Member Moderator Social Media Team

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    @Joey , you're half right. The actual dispatch sequence for each ride is pretty similar; get the old guests off, get the new ones on, make sure their loose articles are put away, check restraints, and dispatch. But the sub-processes for each ride vary greatly. Also, the whole team thing isn't necessarily true. For example, let's take two rides I work at SFGAm: Dark Knight and Superman. Superman usually has anywhere from 4-7 people working the ride. The attendants have to manually check each of the(fairly heavy) restraints, and the operator has to open and close all the restraints using some 10 different buttons. The whole process for Superman takes about 2-3 minutes. Whereas Dark Knight only has about 3(4 if we're overstaffed) team members are able to dispatch trains in 20 seconds. Although saying this, the ride is very automatic. The operator really just waits until something comes up that needs a reset, the restraint checker checks 4 restraints at a time(go figure), and the grouper just counts to 4, and has next to no part in dispatching trains. So even though Superman has the larger team, it takes longer to dispatch due to the more complex tasks each team member must do. And guess what? Dark Knight actually gets more riders than Superman because of it(can't disclose actual numbers, just trust me).

    As for how each panel looks/operates, they all have a similar layout(Automatic Section with Ride Start, Horn, open/close restraints, etc., an 'emergency' section with all the stop buttons, and then the Maintenance Section with all the manual buttons). However, each of the boards have different looks. A simple example is that B&M boards use a slightly bolded font compared to HUSS or Intamin. The actual buttons and switches are also usually different. So all in all, the overall process and layout for everything is the same- it's just the specifics that are different.

    Also, @Howie, your description of Vekoma is scarily similar to how we operate Dark Knight(but with a few more gizmos and switches other than Go and Stop).

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  10. Joey

    Joey Well-Known Member

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    I've personally never operated, I've always preferred the idea of running around on the ground dealing with guests than being sat down pressing buttons repetitively. I also worked with a small park. So whilst I'm familiar with how a lot of stuff works and the quirks of different types of rides, I don't have a first hand preference. I could talk all day about my preferences with dealing with spatial design of station platforms or loading procedures, but I wouldn't want to give specific examples on here anyway. But for what it's worth, smaller, older rides are often harder to work with. That's down to a multitude of factors from boredom, to guest perception about not needing to be careful, to outdated hardware. I've had more issues working with antique cars than I have with medium to large roller coasters.

    But this would be a difficult question for most people to answer, as most parks only train each staff member on a couple of rides. Smaller parks tend to be different in that regard, but then those smaller parks won't have the big names in coaster manufacturing people actually want to hear about. I'd also imagine that they vary by how old they are and by model substantially. The likelihood of finding someone with a broad range of experience across the big names like B&M, Intamin, Vekoma etc. I would imagine is pretty slim?


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  11. Joey

    Joey Well-Known Member

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    That's so odd. Having worked with a different variety of wild mouse that wasn't very automatic at all and required quite a lot of operator involvement, but no more than 2 platform staff with barely anything to do. And I've seen the same kind be operated AND attended by the same 1 member of staff elsewhere, something that at my park would have broken fundamental rules, which goes to show how procedure matters In complicating things.



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    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2017 at 9:44 PM
  12. Pokemaniac

    Pokemaniac Well-Known Member

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    @The Undead Creature.

    He hasn't been on in five years, but dang this guy knew his stuff about coasters. Was a higher-up mechanic/engineer at Thorpe Park if I recall correctly.
     
  13. Joey

    Joey Well-Known Member

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    Aw I miss him! I think he came from at least one other park before that too and had experience on the ground operating.


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  14. Pink Cadillac

    Pink Cadillac Well-Known Member

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    Do you deliberately staple in guests you don't like the look of.
     
  15. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    I only staple guests if they ask me to or if the restraint isn't green lighting due to their size. If an attendant/op staples you it's probably just what that person does or how they were trained. Every one in a while you push-pull and the restraint ratchets down one more than you expected, too, haha.

    For me, I prefer operating flat rides, mostly, as coasters you're usually just loading people as fast as possible and since there's little to no personal interaction it gets more monotonous. My least favorites to operate are ones that have a high requirement of guests to behave and many ways they can misbehave (WaveSwinger...) and my favorites are the older manual flat rides that people are generally already familiar with and that have manual clutches and brakes. Those are fun. :) I think generally the more complex a manufacturer's restraint system is, the more unpleasant it is to operate. Arrow looper is hard to get wrong... pull it down and go. Same with Eurofighter. It gets old having to explain something over and over when there are multiple components. Usually my team is limited by guest speed, not team speed. We can dispatch an empty train in probably 30 seconds or less, but that isn't going to happen with people who need to secure articles, pick seats, etc.
     
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  16. Joey

    Joey Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with almost everything! Especially regarding flat rides. It's rewarding being able to see guests having a good time, something you don't really get on coasters. But they tend to have more variety of positions.

    A good time can prevent those things from becoming a problem, I'd argue. ;) Well, most of the time. No ones perfect 100% of the time which is why I like rides with bigger teams in general, so everyone looks out for one another. I would, for example, always check a larger persons restraint before I start the full checks, so if they are too big I can get rid of them before I start and thus not have to stop and start over. I would keep an eye out for bags as people load so I could direct them to out them away the second I suspected they weren't going to. I would motion for guests to pull their own restraints into place. I kept an eye on kids especially, making sure they aren't going to the wrong seats or pushing through at the wrong time. I would help those less able with bags so they could spend all the loading time sitting down, etc. It depends on the ride but there is always something you can do during loading to speed things up, which is part of why I hated the idea of operating, I liked being on the ground making a difference to operations.

    Being alert and paying attention, predicting guest behaviour, is s big part of operation speed. Sadly it's rare, because it's difficult and requires knowledge of the specific ride gained over months if not years, which is something most staff just will never attain.

    The absolute worst example of this I've ever witnessed was at Mt Olympus, where a member of staff was well aware of our group of 3 and had communicated with us, but allowed us to sit down and restraints be locked before informing us that there must be no empty seats, so she had to unlock and move people around. No empty seats is a dumb rule anyway, and given how absolutely stupid she was, it wouldn't surprise me if the rule is actually to minimise empty seats. A good rule in the hands of sensible people, but given its Mt Olympus I'm going to assume it's something stupid. Their restraint checking was boarding on dangerously moronic, with staff risking injuring themselves and doing damage to the trains. :/

    I never stapled anyone and always trained colleagues that stapling was never ok, even if the guest asked for it I would tell guests to pull the restraint to where thy want it then I will check it. Restraints should touch guests gently.

    People don't understand how restraints work, which is why stapling occurs more than spitefulness. Some parks clearly specifically train staff to staple or other bizarre practices with checks, which just goes to show how deep the misunderstanding runs. Checking restraints is more about checking that guests are in them correctly, with their limbs in the correct place, with loose articles (if allowed at all) in a safe place, etc. than it is about making sure restraints are locked. People seem to be of the opinion that restraints either need to be stapled tight or don't need checking at all because the computer won't allow dispatch if unlocked, both points of view are just wrong.




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    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017 at 11:48 AM
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  17. DelPiero

    DelPiero Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting. Certain rides more than certain parks I would think. I had no issue with the majority of the rides at Dollywood but the ops on Lightning Rod attempted to staple me most of the time, with one of the ops saying "Ya'll don't want no gap on this ride sweetie!" errrr... Yeah, I do thanks gorgeous.
    I'm yet to encounter a park where I've been stapled on most if not every ride, so there may be some which train staff to staple, but the more experienced ops may check them properly.
     
  18. Joey

    Joey Well-Known Member

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    I think with new rides parks tend to be more cautious, I had this same experience on Monster at Adventureland in Iowa... The attendant specifically warned that she was going to press down hard because it needs to be very tight, she wasn't exaggerating how tight she crushed me. She was clearly trained to do it this way.

    That implies to me that she's been trained specifically to do this and warn guests who would otherwise question being crushed to painful degrees. It's probably down to a new ride and one member of management being cautious, but a well designed restraint isn't safer when it's tighter, if anything you then end up with force constantly applied and I would imagine greater decay of the mechanism over time? That's just me guessing. That's why I hated the way Mt Olympus checked bars - they pulled on them with all their weight in such a way that if the bar did fail as they checked, the staff would injure themselves, and that level of force applied many times a day (well actually they were so slow a dispatch probably happened all of 5 times a day ) is probably damaging. But I'm not an engineer or technical person of any kind so I don't actually know, just seems common sense to me? Restraints hold you in by a bend in a limb, that's why amputees aren't safe. I wish management would teach how it works and holds you so staff were more aware of what they were doing and why it matters, then that accident at Six Flags, for example, wouldn't have happened. Rather than many procedures which will always have holes and guest situations which haven't been considered, install some common sense too!

    Regarding pinning, as a guest I shift my butt forward whenever bars are being checked to physically block pinning. This would have helped in the situation you described on lightning rod, but it's a lost cause if the ride auto pins you later on, as many do.


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  19. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    Our training is a firm but gentle push-pull with both hands simply to check that it's lowered and locked, not to force it down (and it's specifically stated that the goal is not to force the restraint down, it's to check that it's properly secured which requires a push-pull). If it's not a ratcheting system, if a guest asks me to staple them, I'll give them a harder push. Nevertheless, it's really just for their peace of mind if they asked for it, as the Eurofighter at Canobie (typically where they'll ask to be stapled) holds by the hips/legs, not by the shoulders. So generally I'm just seeing are the safety restraints correctly fastened (if multiple) and also looking for phones/cameras/bags/hats/glasses as I move through the ride/down the train.

    Anyone with an Intamin hyper experience a policy to staple shortly after the Superman: the Ride incident at SFNE? I heard that was a thing but don't know firsthand.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017 at 7:23 PM
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  20. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    So true. I always look to see where it looks like someone's gonna put that bag, does it look like they're about to get in and reach for the restraint or do they have no idea/never been on this kind of ride and I need to gesture and prompt "Reach up and pull down, guys, bags, glasses, hats, on the other side of the car!", do they look confused about what to do or do they know right where they're going, etc. Reading people's body language is key as well as providing body language for them to read (gesturing across the car if guests have bags, using your body to funnel them into the right areas, gesturing how to use the restraint), and ideally you should be alert of these cues for the next group, not just the current one.

    I have a couple tricks I use on our WaveSwinger, one, telling them we're playing "the floor is lava" (to prevent backward spinning), two, screaming "IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT CLAP YOUR HANDS" as my pre-start which causes anyone holding another swing to release it in order to clap, both things entertaining them and making them follow a rule without realizing it.

    And oh sweet Jesus about the no empty seats thing. I try so hard to drill it in on our Eurofighter IT DOESN'T MATTER THE NEXT CAR IS RIGHT FREAKING BEHIND IT, CLOSE THE RESTRAINTS AND SEND IT! With the staff that really doesn't get it there'll be 3 cars stacked and a vein in my head about to pop because they don't understand it'd be faster to send this one with 3 empty seats because there are two cars right behind this one!
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017 at 8:25 PM
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