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Terex T-550-1 truck crane helps to revitalize Coney Island

Digger Blogger | 10:34, Mon August 29 2011

Long a part of treasured Americana, historic Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y. was once an iconic amusement park that attracted visitors from around the world. Yet a lack of park investment in recent decades eroded its nostalgic luster, resulting in fewer visitors each year.

To counteract this trend, New York City officials rezoned adjoining property to the amusement park and leased it to New Jersey-based Central Amusement International, a subsidiary of Italian amusement park-ride manufacturer Zamperla. Plans immediately began for the construction of two new theme parks within Coney Island – Luna Park and Scream Zone – over two off-seasons stretching from 2009 to 2011.

Extremely tight timelines to construct more than 20 new rides meant long days for many dedicated contractors working on the project like Norwood, N.J.-based crane operator Superior Crane Rental, Inc. to ensure the theme parks opened on schedule. “We were at the site 7 days a week, 12 to 20 hours per day,” says Brian Marcason, vice president of Superior Crane Rental, Inc. “The parks had to be complete in just 100 days, and we had our cranes on site for 1.5 months to construct Luna Park and about 2.5 months for Scream Zone.”

To meet these tight deadlines, Superior used three cranes for the construction of Luna Park and two for assembling Scream Zone’s four rides, which included the first new rollercoasters at Coney Island since 1927. The company relied on the Terex T-550-1 truck crane to bear the burden of the heavy lifting.

Ride components originated from Zamperla’s factory in Italy, which meant a lot of container traffic during the first part of construction. “The T-550-1 was running continuously,” comments Marcason. “For the roller coasters alone, we unloaded 26 sea containers and other heavy components.”

Like a jigsaw puzzle, each new rollercoaster came with numerous track sections that had to be put together. The T-550-1 lifted and held in place hundreds of track pieces, ranging in size from 5,000- to 15,000-lb., while crew members secured each segment.

Powering the park’s new Steeplechase rollercoaster, named after an older theme park at Coney Island that no longer exists, a 41,000 lb. motor was picked and set into place by the T-550-1 truck crane. Marginal ground conditions and extremely tight jobsite conditions made this a complex lift.

Trenches completely surrounded the T-550-1, limiting the cranes mobility, and crews had to set the crane on steel plates for solid footing. However, the machine’s 110’ main boom and 50-ton capacity proved to be a great asset in positioning the 18.6-ton motor in place. “The T-550 has a superior lift chart throughout its range and out-picks other crane designs by up to 4,000 lb. in some instances,” adds Marcason. 

Towering over the Scream Zone, the Turbo Force ride spins thrill-seekers head over heels at heights reaching 132 ft. Constructing the ride also created a buzz among workers, as the T-550-1 was called on to lift a 32,000 lb. main component 70 ft. in the air.

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Marcason reports that this and other complex lifts went smoothly. “The boom of the T-550-1 extends quickly, and the operator can quickly change from one to six lines. The computer is easy to work, even for operators not familiar with running a Terex crane.”

While Steeplechase and Turbo Force tested the crane’s strength, constructing Scream Zone’s Sling Shot ride tested the machine and operator’s finesse. While the ride’s anchors weighed a mere 4,000 lb. each, they topped out at 140 ft. high. The winter’s seashore winds made a difficult lift even more of a challenge.

“We were dealing with winds during the worst winter in recent history, and many of the guys were betting against us positioning the anchors,” recalls Marcason. However, the T-550-1 gave operators up to 170 ft. height to work with. “The crane set both with no problem,” he adds.

Much of the heavy lifting took place during the short winter days of the off-season, so as not to deter crowds from visiting Coney Island during the summer months. This resulted in many of the picks being done at night and in sub-freezing temperatures.

The crane’s features such as quick performance and cab design were a welcome pleasure for Superior’s operators. Its ability to travel at highway speeds meant quick transport to the jobsite, and, once on site, “the crane set up fast and our crews could quickly install the jib,” mentions Marcason. When picks were made at night, Superior’s operators and the crews working with the crane appreciated the boom lights, which helped to light up the work area.

Probably the most important crane creature comfort on the Coney Island project was found inside the cab. “The cab’s heating system worked extremely well to keep our guys warm during those frigid winter days,” concludes Marcason.

Throughout the last two seasons, Superior’s crews performed hundreds of heavy and intricate lifts with the T-550-1, so Scream Zone and Luna Park could be completed on schedule. With both theme parks now in operation, Coney Island is once again attracting hundreds-of-thousands of new thrill seekers, restoring some of the luster to this famed American attraction.

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