Steel Coatings Articles

Roller Coaster Re-Coating Reaches New Heights at Busch Gardens, Part 2

Photos courtesy of Service Painting Corp.
Vendor Team

Safety equipment manufacturer
3M Center
St. Paul, MN 55144
(888) 364-3577

Black Beauty by Harsco Minerals
Material manufacturer
5000 Ritter Rd., Suite 205
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
(888) 733-3646

Equipment manufacturer
501 SW Jefferson Ave.
Peoria, IL 61630
(309) 675-0545

CHLOR*RID International, Inc.
Material manufacturer
P.O. Box 908
Chandler, AZ 85244
(800) 422-3217

Graco Inc.
Coatings equipment manufacturer
88 11th Ave. Northeast
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 623-6000

Grove by Manitowoc
Equipment manufacturer
2401 South 30 St.
Manitowoc, WI 54220
(920) 684-6621

International Paint
Coatings manufacturer
6001 Antoine Dr.
Houston, TX 77091
(800) 525-6824

Miller by Honeywell
Safety equipment manufacturer
1345 15th St.
P.O. Box 271
Franklin, PA 16323
(800) 873-5242

Tyvek by DuPont
Safety equipment manufacturer
P.O. Box 80728
Wilmington, DE 19880
(800) 448-9835

To read how the crew started this ride, check out the first half of the project here.


For Paul Weigel, president of Service Painting Corporation (SPC), choosing the right coatings was a major portion of this roller coaster project. And, in the case of the Busch Garden’s SheiKra project, the SPC crew had to strap in and hold on; they were going to try some new coatings from a trusted manufacturer.

“I have worked with International Paint for many years and have always appreciated the performance integrity of their coatings systems. I knew I could count on a solid recommendation for a high-performance coatings system that would meet the park’s needs. I had also heard my sales rep talk about a new low VOC [volatile organic compound] single-pack acrylic polysiloxane topcoat that was under development, and I was extremely interested in what the Interfine 1080 product might be able to do for this project.”

International Paint’s territory manager, Benny Carter, immediately went to work to pull recommendations together for an advanced polysiloxane coatings system that would meet the owner’s strict requirements. Although the new Interfine 1080 topcoat was nearing the final stages of testing, it was not yet ready for a formal market launch. Nevertheless, Weigel’s enthusiasm about the product helped push the research and development production schedule up in time to submit product mock-ups to Weigel and park owners for review. In addition to Interfine 1080, Carter recommended seven other International Paint coatings including Interzone 954, for use in the ride’s run out area.

“We knew Interzone 954 wasn’t the primary coating focus on this job, but given the previous system’s blistering, peeling, and delamination issues, we wanted to ensure the roller coaster’s long-term protection from corrosion with a coating that’s rugged enough for use in offshore and chemical environments,” said Carter. “The low VOC, high solids single-coat product would also help cut down application time and materials costs, allowing painters to spend more time on the high visible areas of the roller coaster.”

Using a Graco Bull Dog airless sprayer and wearing Tyvek suits, 3M respirators, and Miller harnesses and lanyards, workers spray-applied the prepared surfaces with Interplus 356 epoxy-based primer at an average dry film thickness (DFT) of 5 mils (127 microns). Interzone 954, the epoxy intermediate barrier coat, was then spray-applied at 16–20 mils (406–508 microns) DFT. The crew followed with the Interthane 990 finish coat at an average thickness of 3 mils (76 microns) DFT, which was tinted to the ride’s notable red and blue colors.

Before they finished, Weigel learned that park owners had submitted a Change Order to the contract to address corrosion found inside SheiKra’s sheet pile tunnel. Because the tunnel was not exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light and was painted black, workers were able to apply the same cleaning, surface preparation, and coatings steps as the run out area, minus the topcoat. Apart from the challenge of navigating the systems around the complex network of steel track sections inside the 350-foot (107 m) tunnel, crews continued to work in two, 12-hour shifts to complete the recoating work in about two-and-a-half weeks.

With approximately 10 percent of the project completed, Weigel organized a work force of 20–25 crew members to finish the largest part of the project: ShieKra’s massive structure of tube columns, girders, piping, and rails — complete with loops, drops, and turns. What’s a roller coaster without some excitement, after all?

And what’s a ride without some death-defying drops from higher-than-the-treetops heights? For this coatings project, that meant the crews had to work up high, too.

Accessibility to some of the highest points in the ride required an army of man-lifts, including a Grove hydraulic 225-ton (204 metric tons) crane with a two-man work basket attached at the end of the head boom. With 250 feet (76 m) of boom reach, a two-man crew was able to access the roller coaster’s harrowing 200-foot (107 m) pinnacle, which is equal to the height of a 20-story building. In all, three 40-foot (12 m) lifts, two 60-foot (18 m) lifts, two 80-foot (24 m) lifts, four 120-foot (37 m) lifts, four 136-foot (42 m) lifts, and six 150-foot (46 m) lifts with man baskets were used to restore SkeiKra’s mesmerizing shine.

The crews continued on various lifts to pre-clean the ride with Man Size citrus bio-degradable degreaser, followed by a pressure wash at 3,500 psi (24 mPa). To soften the existing polysiloxane system for better adhesion with Interfine 1080, International Paint’s 950 Cleaner was spray-applied and followed by another power wash. Small areas of rust were identified and repaired with an SP-3 Power Tool Clean and bare metal areas were then spot primed with Interplus 356.

Positive Gs

“Having solid test data about a product is one thing, but seeing that product perform to specification during the application process is another,” said Carter. “This was the first North American project to put Interfine 1080 into service, and it was very gratifying to see this topcoat set a new standard of protection and aesthetics for theme parks.”

Service Painting Corporation crews hand-rolled and brushed 275,000 square feet (25,548 m²) of surface area with the single-component acrylic polysiloxane topcoat in SheiKra’s colors, using wet film gauges to ensure the coating’s dry film thickness average of 3 mils (76 microns). It took 7,000 man hours to complete the job on schedule, and once everything was done, quality control coating inspections were conducted by Carter and Pope, who are both NACE Level 3 inspectors. But the end product was up to Weigel, who was responsible for the overall quality control.

“The products were easy to apply and even helped me save approximately 15 percent in labor and materials costs in comparison to similar projects,” said Weigel. The topcoat’s rich glossy colors were stunning…I am extremely pleased with the results and so are the park owners.”

As theme parks continually seek new ways to attract visitors and expand service hours, owners will increasingly look to their vendor relationships for innovative ways to minimize maintenance downtime and maximize the park’s aesthetic appeal to keep visitors “shrieking” for more.

Science Behind It

Painting a theme park roller coaster is a painstaking work of art.  The owner of the roller coaster wants the complex metal structure to look colorful and awe-inspiring, leaving patrons with breathless anticipation and excitement. However, the painting of this masterpiece is a major undertaking that involves many hours of preparation and hands-on attention. How do they find the balance?
Continue Reading

comments powered by Disqus