I received another good question a few days ago that I would like to analyze carefully...
Can PTC survive this "new era" of wooden coasters?- Greg H. from California
That's a good question. Well, I'm sure you already know this, but PTC stopped building wooden coasters in the early 1980s. Their work since then has been limited to coaster trains, brake fins, and winter rehab projects. So in a way, they have already kind of died.
But will their other small projects one day fade away as well? Let's face it, their market is very limited. Most wooden coaster manufacturers now have their own trains that they supply with their coasters:
-GCI- Millennium Flyers
-Gravity Group- Timberliners
-RMC- RMC Trains
-Martin and Vleminckx- PTC
So only one manufacturer still utilizes PTC cars, and they are not even that big of a company. The silver lining here is that Timberliners have not yet become totally consistent. Who could ever forget that whole fiasco with Holiday World and the Voyage? After many years of attempting to switch over, Holiday World stuck with the traditional, clunky PTC cars.
But what about Millennium Flyers, and the new Gravity Group coasters that have successfully used Timberliners? PTC has lost its market with two of the largest wood coaster manufacturers in the industry. Any new wooden coasters that are built are not likely to use PTCs. Plus, many coasters now are modernizing and switching to other brands of trains. Look at Ghostrider's GCI treatment, or RMC turning wooden coasters into hybrids.
There are still many wooden coasters that receive new PTCs; ala Le Monstre or Thunderhawk at Dorney, but many parks will likely need to purchase new trains at some point, and a very small class of "historic coasters" will actually buy PTCs.
So what is PTC's answer to this dilemma? The PTC 360 train:
This train will offer many solutions to the issues that the articulated PTC cars have caused in the past.
First, it has steering wheels like MF and Timberliner trains do, which will give a smoother ride and save parks on track maintenance costs. Also, it will be a "trailered" train, which gives it better weight distribution, makes it lighter, and therefore, gives a comfortable ride. Finally, it will be able to go through more complex elements, some maybe never attempted before on a wooden coaster.
Back in the 1990s, PTC attempted to create a trailered train like this. However, a design error caused the trains not to operate effectively, and they "shuffled" along the track, causing much discomfort and stress on the track. Some of the most famous coasters to run these trains for an extended period were Texas Giant, Predator, and Raging Wolf Bobs. No PTC trailered trains are in operation anymore due to the issues they had.
Hopefully this solution can make it possible for more modern woodies to use PTC trains, but the question remains. How many manufacturers will actually use these instead of their own models? I guess we will have to wait and see if PTC gets back into the coaster production game, continues their current habits, or fizzles out after over 100 years of service.