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The Joker Construction Tour At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

By on 02/07/2016

I just happened to be in the Bay Area for work and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom invited me over for a hard hat tour of The Joker’s construction. Of course, I couldn’t refuse such an opportunity and jumped all over it. These photos were taken on Saturday, January 6th.

If you’re not aware, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has closed its wooden roller coaster Roar and is having Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) convert it into a hybrid roller coaster, just like they did last year with Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Cyclone at Six Flags New England. These conversions make the coasters smoother, faster, and a whole lot more fun. When this coaster reopens later this year, it will be known as The Joker, themed after the infamous Batman villain.

As we approached the coaster, it was obvious that it was under construction. The new green and purple steel track on the lift hill looked awesome, but the rest of the structure looked like it was still missing something:

the joker construction tour

This was the entrance to Roar, and will likely still be The Joker’s entrance:

the joker construction tour

It was hard not to get excited as we rounded the corner and saw that shiny new track sticking out of the station:

the joker construction tour

The entrance to the construction site was very neat and orderly, with a place for everything and everything in its place:

the joker construction tour

Again, I got a little more excited as I saw new track sections sporting steel track:

the joker construction tour

Justin Whiteman, the RMC Foreman for the project, was on-hand to answer any questions I had. He said there is a full-time RMC crew of about 15 guys working on The Joker, which is a bit smaller than the crew that worked on Twisted Colossus (note his TC coaster crew t-shirt):

the joker construction tour

The area had some very heavy rains recently, leaving the entire construction site a bit muddy. Justin said he and his guys are from Idaho (RMC’s HQ), so they like working in the rain. Fortunately for me, it was absolutely gorgeous while I was there:

SFDK_JokerTour - 7

From the side, you can see the lift hill rising to the right in the background and the zero-g stall starting to form right in the middle:

the joker construction tour

Just below it, the guys were rigging the inverted pieces of the zero-g stall, which would be lifted into place right after lunch:

the joker construction tour

All the zero-g stall was missing was the track:

the joker construction tour

Here’s a closer view of where they would be connecting the next pieces:

the joker construction tour

There were coaster parts everywhere! It reminded me of when my kids had Legos:

the joker construction tour

And yes, by “coaster parts,” I also mean there was track lying around as well. There are approximately 40 track pieces on site, ready to be installed, with many more truck loads of track still to come from Idaho:

the joker construction tour

Just to the right was the back of the new “step-up under-flip” element:

the joker construction tour

Even from the back, you can see how steep the dive is coming out of the new element:

the joker construction tour

Lots of wood on-site as well, ready to be used as necessary:

the joker construction tour

Here’s the other end of the installed track, which leads into the storage shed, ready to be connected to more track:

the joker construction tour

Just like Twisted Colossus, the long stretch of pre-lift hill track will provide some warm-up thrills in the form of twists and small hills:

the joker construction tour

Track has already been installed through the storage shed, around to the station, and then down through the pre-lift section towards the lift hill:

the joker construction tour

Turning around and facing the other direction, you can now see the lift hill:

the joker construction tour

Many people have been asking me about the black stripe that now appears on the RMC track. RMC has been trying to resolve an issue they’ve had on their existing coaster installations where the trains screech and squeal as they move along the track, especially through turns. On Twisted Colossus, the paint was also coming off and building up on the coaster wheels, making it necessary for maintenance to regularly clean and/or replace the wheels.

RMC isn’t doing anything different at the factory, The track is still shipping 100% painted. However, once on-site, they are scoring and removing the paint down the center where the wheel will run. This will hopefully kill two birds with one stone. The trains will no longer squeal and the paint won’t build up on the wheels:

the joker construction tour

I asked Justin if there was any concern about corrosion on the exposed steel. He just laughed and said no, this track will outlive all of us.

Here’s a wide shot of the interior of the coaster, with the lift hill on the left and the zero-G roll on the right. The cable hanging from that crane is where they were are rigging those pieces I showed earlier:

the joker construction tour

The lift hill is now a bit taller than it was as Roar, growing from almost 95′ to 100′ tall. To accommodate a steeper drop, they had to shift the entire lift hill about 50′ forward, making for an even longer pre-lift section. This also meant that they needed a new lift hill motor table, which you can barely see under the start of the lift hill:

the joker construction tour

Here is the new home for the lift hill motor, located underneath the lift hill:

the joker construction tour

RMC is doing all of the structure construction and modifications, and all of the steel track fabrication and installation, however Six Flags will step in and install all of the mechanicals once RMC is done with their part. This includes things like the lift hill motor and chain, brakes, and sensors. Here are some of the lift hill chain components ready to be installed:

the joker construction tour

Here’s a long shot of the pre-lift section leading up to the lift hill:

the joker construction tour

“Hi, I’m Timothy Bottoms!”

kurt dahlin the joker construction tour

This entire project was designed to use the existing footers. While there will be some old footers that are no longer needed, there was no need to pour any new footers:

the joker construction tour

This is the first drop, which starts to bank to the right:

the joker construction tour

After banking to the right after the first drop, the track starts to climb again, leading up into a brand new element called a “step-up under-flip.” The track rolls to the right, like you’re entering a zero-g roll, but it quickly exits the inversion right into a diving helix:

the joker construction tour

From the back, you can see the track enter from the left and quickly invert:

the joker construction tour

Here is the twist into the inversion from the front:

the joker construction tour

Right after the inversion, you quickly dive right into a helix:

the joker construction tour

Here is a better shot of the dive into the helix:

the joker construction tour

Here is a good shot of the entire “step-up under-flip” element:

the joker construction tour

The helix crosses back underneath the track towards the center of the coaster:

the joker construction tour

Here’s me standing next to the helix for perspective on how steep the banking is through here. Any steeper and it’d be half of a high-five element:

the joker construction tour

After the helix, the track banks right and up into the zero-g stall:

the joker construction tour

The zero-g stall track is what they will be installing today. You can see the cable from the crane I showed earlier, which drops down to where those guys were rigging the track to be lifted into place:

the joker construction tour

Here’s a POV shot leading into the zero-g stall:

the joker construction tour

It looks like a jumbled mess, but you can see the framed steel structure on the top left that will house the track as it goes through the zero-g stall:

the joker construction tour

The track will come thought he zero-g stall at the top and drop down into a hard bank to the right, as seen by the prepped bents here:

the joker construction tour

Here’s a side profile of the previous photo. You can see how fast the track will drop from the zero-g stall at the top-left into the turn at the bottom-right:

the joker construction tour

It seems like just yesterday that these trucks were all over Six Flags Magic Mountain:

the joker construction tour

Justin said that roughly 95% of the demolition work was already done, however there is still a bit to do, like this section that will soon be removed:

the joker construction tour

Despite what you hear, not every piece of track fits like it should, especially on these old wooden conversions. Fortunately, the RMC guys are mechanical geniuses and can make everything fit. For example, here are two pieces of track there were a smidge too long, so they just cutoff what they didn’t need:

the joker construction tour

If you’re worried that might affect the structural integrity, don’t be. The pieces are still bolted and welded on just like any other track connection, so there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Once they put the cap plate over the top of the seam, you won’t be able to tell this connection from any other connection on the coaster:

the joker construction tour

By the time we made our way all the way around the coaster, the guys were done rigging the track pieces and were ready to lift it into place. They were just waiting for us to clear the construction zone:

the joker construction tour

I came back by about an hour later and they had already lifted the green piece into place and were in the process of securing it:

the joker construction tour

A short while later, they lifted the purple piece into place:

the joker construction tour

This guy was busy hammering the bolts into place to secure the purple piece:

the joker construction tour

These RMC guys sure know what they’re doing and make it look easy:

the joker construction tour

I’d like to thank Marc (seen here), Nancy, and everyone at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for allowing me this opportunity. I’d also like to thank Justin and the entire RMC crew for letting me interrupt their work day to poke around their project. This roller coaster looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to ride it:

the joker construction tour six flags discovery kingdom

How many of you are excited to ride this? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

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5 Comments

  1. Katie

    02/08/2016 at 1:41 pm

    I have a dumb question. How did they move the lift hill 50 feet? I’m having trouble picturing this. thanks for the great pics especially of the new element!

    • The Coaster Guy

      02/08/2016 at 2:32 pm

      Not a dumb question at all. I should have said they shifted the “start of the lift hill” about 50′. The climb up the hill now starts about 50-60′ farther than it did before. Since I know they didn’t add new structure on the drop side, logic tells me that the angle of the hill is now steeper than it was before.

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  4. Steve Austin

    02/15/2016 at 8:09 pm

    Ok kurt now i see your post about the center of the track paint removal…..i wonder who gets stuck with that job…..the guy that shows up late that day? LOL as much as i would love to work for that company…i must say that particular job detail would be last on my list of favorites. 🙂

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