I recently had the opportunity to talk with Brad Borgman, an engineering consultant and director of project engineering for the TWT Group. Brad has over twenty years of experience in the entertainment industry and has worked on a variety of projects for parks around the globe.
I’d like to thank Brad for taking the time to answer our questions about themed ride design!
I had to smile when I saw your website’s name: Coaster101. When a ride shuts down for whatever reason, a variety of messages are immediately communicated between Operations Staff, Maintenance & Tech Support, etc. This used to be done via Motorola Radio contact and sometimes the guests would ‘overhear’ the details of a broken ride. It was common practice to use a code number 101 rather than announce “the ride is down” to everyone within earshot. Nowadays, radios are being replaced with headsets and texting to blackberrys, so it’s no longer as critical. I’m sure the vast majority of your audience is more familiar with the academic definition of 101, so this is not meant to be viewed as critical in any way. I just enjoyed the coincidence.
That’s great information! I’m sure the vast majority of our readers have no clue about the dual definition. First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in the industry?
I was a ‘Ride Engineer’ with Imagineering from 1988-1995. Ride Consultant starting in 1995, and currently a Director with TheTWTgroup.com.
What companies have you worked for and what projects have you been involved with?
Disney Imagineering: Indiana Jones Ride, Animal Kingdom, EuroDisney (Paris Disneyland), Walt Disney World, MGM Studio Tour, D/L, etc
Universal: Spiderman, Jurassic Park, Men In Black, Back to the Future, Universal Studios Japan (USJ), Universal’s Island of Adventure (UIOA), Universal Studios Florida (USF), Universal Studios Singapore (USS).
Looks like you’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on some of the best rides in the world. Once a project is conceptualized, where do you go from there?
Performance requirements, THRC (theoretical hourly ride capacity), number of vehicles, track length, ride duration, load zones, track switch requirements, maintenance bay storage, preliminary facility interface, etc. Defining these values allows higher accuracy for budgeting and scheduling, then a bid package can be distributed to those vendors with specific expertise in design &/or manufacturing.
Could you further explain to our readers a few of the requirements you mentioned, such as track switches and preliminary facility interface?
Almost all roller coasters require track switches to direct a vehicle from one set of pipe rails to another. The most common need for a switch is to guide a vehicle into a maintenance bay and off the main track. This allows technicians to make repairs without shutting down the entire track. Some rides may have several track switches.
If you want more guests per hour (shorter wait in line), one solution is to have dual load zones. Dual load zones require more track switches in order to direct traffic Left/Right and then back onto the main track again. These switches have to respond extemely fast in order to open/close before the next vehicle can enter.
During the initial design phase, decisions must occur: the maintenance bay location & how many vehicles must be stored there. The quantity of switches, length of track, load/unload zone layout must be communicated via Preliminary Facility Interface documents so that the Facility Engineers can start designing the building.
Steve Alcorn has done an excellent job explaining the entire process in an easy to understand book: Theme Park Design available on Amazon.com. I highly recommend it, since he has a great sense of humor and makes it fun to read without any technical formulas.
The TWT Group is one of the world’s most unique design and engineering service firms, offering a broad range of technical management and consulting services for industry projects spanning themed entertainment, space tourism, prototype vehicles, and modern art engineering. For additional details, see: TheTWTgroup.com
What’s the single most important thing you learned in school that applies directly to your job?
Physics. But now it’s like getting paid to do your math homework.
That makes sense as physics seems to be the basis for many other engineering-related courses. Quick story: I was at Universal’s Island of Adventure a few weeks ago. We were walking in the express queue for the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman looking at all of the detailed theming when something caught my eye, a plaque labeled “Employee Roster” hanging on the wall. I quickly scanned the list and two names caught my eye: Brad Borgman and Phil Bloom (an earlier interviewee). I thought that was pretty cool!
I have to confess, I never knew it was there! Thanks so much for sending the photo.
No problem Brad, and thanks again to you for taking the time to enlighten us about themed ride design and development.