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Fun Ride: Coating an Amusement Park

Photos courtesy of PennCoat, Inc.
Vendor Team

Capital Safety
Safety equipment manufacturer
3833 Sala Way
Red Wing, MN 55066
(651) 388-8282

Coatings manufacturer
2150 Schuetz Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63146
(314) 644-1000

Gateway Safety
Equipment manufacturer
P.O. Box 97030
Redmond, WA 98073
(800) 536-1800

Genie Telescopic
Equipment manufacturer
P.O. Box 97030
Redmond, WA 98073
(800) 536-1800

PennCoat, Inc.
Coatings contractor
1921 McFarland Dr.
Landisville, PA 17538
(888) 660-5220

The Sherwin-Williams Company
Coatings manufacturer
101 W Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 566-2244

When you think of amusement parks, you may think of a variety of images: roller coasters, Ferris wheels, popcorn, cotton candy, long lines, hot summers, the list probably goes on. But for a coatings contractor, that list may expand to the many, many different substrates with different kinds of coatings.

That is now true for Jeff Neal, the project manager at PennCoat, Inc., a Landisville, Pa.-based coatings contractor.

It started with a cold call. Neal was looking for new clients and was calling local businesses that might be in need of coatings services. He called one of the largest amusement parks in the United States, which wishes to remain unnamed, and Neal was thrilled to land the job.

In fact, he was familiar with the location. “I have been before; it’s a fun place to go,” Neal said. “It’s one of the better amusement parks in the country.” With new coatings, Neal and his crew just might help it be even better!

On a Ride
The job started in March 2015. When Neal and his crew of four arrived on site, they saw what they would be in for. The entire park was more than 100 acres (404,685.6 m²), and the team would be working on rides throughout the park. 

“That was one of the biggest issues because what we didn’t account for in the initial bid was how much time it would take to go from one ride to another to another,” Neal said. “Usually when we’re working everything is in walking distance from one another.” But if you think of your own visits to amusement parks and how much time it takes to get from ride to ride, you will understand how that could be a problem.

“Three, four guys walking, carrying all this equipment and paint can become taxing,” Neal said. “We had our company vans inside the park, so that made it a lot better.” The vans decreased the travel time from 20 to 5 minutes, which saved a lot of lost time from the budget. 

But distance was not the only big thing about this job. Neal and his crew were not just coating one ride or one substrate. They were applying coating to several different rides, which meant different substrates, different coatings, and different procedures for each ride. 

One of the jobs was the waiting deck for one of the roller coasters, which is the overhang that the line of riders winds underneath to stay out of the sun. The job also involved the hand railings that keep the line orderly. The deck was made out of 1,500 square feet (139.4 m²) of T1-11 siding and wood trim. Neal’s crew assessed the job and got to work. 

“Because it was a wood substrate, we gently rinsed it with a pressure washer,” Neal said. “We didn’t want to go too strong to prevent splintering.” Then they put down two coats of light gray Sherwin-Williams Duration for a total average thickness of 8 mils (203.2 microns). They rolled the coating onto the siding. “It’s really absorbent, so we would really have to roll it on and work it into the material,” Neal said. “Otherwise you’ll get picture framing where some of the substrate is more absorbent than others, so it would soak in more and look like an uneven finish.”

All of this extra coating meant the job was “eating up more materials than anticipated,” Neal said. “We kept rolling on more until we had a nice even finish.”

For the trim work, they put down a safety red Sherwin-Williams Sher-Cryl coating in two coats for a total average thickness of eight mils (203.2 microns). They covered 700 feet (213.4 m) of trim.

“The trim was more time consuming because it was more detailed work,” Neal said. “We did that work with a brush, and we would have to cut it in and make sure we don’t get any on the T1-11. That was more finesse, so it required couple more hours to complete.” 

The total roller coaster deck job took about nine hours. Because the building was about 30-feet (9.1 m) tall, the crew used a boom lift to reach the top.

Then they moved on to a railroad track that was 110-feet (33.5 m) long. The crew had to coat the safety rails and hand rails, which were made of metal.

“It was difficult to get access because the part of track with safety rails was in an area that was on the side of a hill,” Neal said. For that section of the job, the crew wore harnesses and tied off to those safety rails.

To recoat them, first they pressure washed the substrate using a turbo tip pressure washer and took a hand tool wire wheel to “any place that looked like it had excessive rust,” Neal said. “Once it was prepped we painted it.” 

They used Carboline Carboguard 690 as a primer and put down one coat in approximately two mils (50.8 microns), then they topped that off with two coats of Carboline Carboguard 134 HG for an average total thickness of eight mils (203.2 microns).

Waterpark Nightmare
Just when Neal and his crew were getting the hang of being inside the park, they saw their next task. It was a giant funhouse waterpark, but it looked anything but fun for a coatings applicator. 

“It was made of fiberglass and had wood in it, steel in it. There were so many different substrates and colors involved, there was no efficient way to estimate how many hours we would need to complete the entire project,” Neal said. “It involved a lot of close discussion with the maintenance manager on site — what he wanted us to focus on and what we could turn the other way on.” 

The manager understood Neal’s pain. “He referred to the funhouse as a maintenance nightmare because all the water going through it caused peeling paint,” Neal said.

The owner provided all the paint for that job, which involved about 50 different colors and products to use. “It was really challenging to know what his expectations were,” Neal said. “We walked through it and excluded all of the fiberglass. There was a lot of wood paneling on there that needed coating and corrugated steel decking that was starting to show rust.”

The crew used a hand tool on the steel decking, then put down orange and blue Sherwin-Williams Corothane in two coats for a total approximate thickness of eight mils (203.2 microns).

Fun House
Five weeks later all of the work was done, and, despite the challenges, Neal was glad he took the job. “It was really neat to get behind the scenes,” he said. “And it was fun to be able to say you were working at the amusement park.” Neal said his crew did such a great job working with the client that they’re now pricing out projects for next year as well. That means more time spent at the amusement park.

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