Footage by Kristin DeJonge
LAYOUT - Click to view the model centerline layout
Raptor remains one of the world's largest inverted coasters featuring 6 inversions and was the first of this type to feature a cobra roll. Raptor also included popular elements introduced on the Batman inverts before it, such as a heartline roll and corkscrews. It runs along the west side of the main midway and dominates the front of the park. The station and lift area replaced the Mill Race flume.
2004 marked the ride's 10th anniversary, and appropriately, the debut of a revolutionary model coaster system called CoasterDynamix (the brainchild of coaster designer Mike Graham and RC hobby guru Jack Rimer). To help launch CoasterDynamix and celebrate the ride's anniversary, I was asked to build a working model for CoasterCon, held June 20-25, 2004 at Cedar Point and Geauga Lake in Ohio. Due to the kits (called Dragon at the time) still in the development phase, some of Raptor was built with early prototype materials, many of which were perfected and upgraded by the time The Dragon kits were released as Scorpion (a smaller kit which continues to be released every few years with different themes). It was cool to see many of the parts in their developmental stages, where different plastics were tested for trains, rails, supports etc.
Inspired by B&M inverted coasters like Raptor, this highly detailed operating kit offers endless configurations. The lift is motorized, and molded trains feature road, guide & upstop metal wheels for accurate tracking and flawless performance. Minimal friction also allows for layouts that are more proportionate to the real thing. CoasterDynamix collectors will enjoy looking through the following photos at the early days of these popular kits. Subtle differences in materials and component design can be seen, such as crossties that originally had an angle to them, pulling the lift catch too close and would often cause parts to scrape.
How's this for a teaser! You would think all the die-hard coaster fans would gather to speculate on the new attraction. :)
Early April, 2004: Some parts have finally arrived. Ride dynamics were worked out as more track pieces were approved and shipped. Shown is an early inverted train and solid molded base pieces to get started with. I would eventually receive the hollow gray bases everyone is now familiar with when they became available.
Here's what I had to work with for the first 3 weeks........not much but it was a start. This was well before CoasterDynamix came out with their STATIX train line you can get at the parks, so I had to paint my own Raptor train. The Tamiya surface primer is excellent for painting the trains. It adheres well and keeps an amazing amount of detail. This was long before parks started carrying the STATIX line, which includes fully detailed Raptor trains :)
In mid May I found myself short on space (a problem with A: living with 76 other people, and B: trying to build a coaster the size of your garage). The solution, my garage! After some fine tuning to get the model running well, here is the end result. I still need to make the supports more accurate by adding angles, but I'm out of joints! It's a lot longer than it looks......nearly 14'. The lift is 7 1/2' long at the base and stands 4' high. My Trans Am still managed to fit. :)
Approved parts continue to trickle in for the structure. Here I've created the loop stress braces from styrene. They are contoured to fit and were CA glued in place. This helps eliminate shaking as the train screams through the first inversion. The more rigid the track is on these kits, the faster the train will go. (Right) Steel rod was used to keep the track perfectly straight through the approach brakes and station.
The night before transporting it, I was up til the wee hours painting as much as I could. Reminds me of those all-nighters in college! The park was gracious enough to offer the exact color codes for the structure and track. I went with a semigloss acrylic enamel, which I was able to spray on fairly quickly. The aerosol sprayers (with the glass jars) are OK, but you'll go through a lot of them! I recommend an air sprayer if you have one or an airbrush. Acrylics are great due to their water wash-up characteristics. Obviously, the spine is flexible, and you'll need something that won't chip off when you make adjustments. Most hobby paints stick well, but remember that enamels take longer to dry.
6/19/04: 1 day and a cargo truck later, it's time to fly! Train #1 ascends the lift during day 1 of the event. A lot of work went into recreating the striking scheme found on Raptor's trains. The seats were primed and sprayed black, followed by the reds and pinks by hand. Yellow tape separates them along the sides and rear car. The wheel covers were also sprayed black, dark red applied to the trailing end, and the main pink/yellow design was added as a printed decal. The harnesses, upstop covers and "wing" connectors were handpainted a yellow/green, slightly brighter than the green found on the track. NOTE: Do not get paint in or near the balljoint connectors or axle housings. A simple solution is to wrap tape around the very end of the "wing" balljoint connectors so they remain as loose as possible. I also cut small squares of tape and placed them over the axle housings inside the wheel covers, as well as the upstop housings. This way you can prime them, let them dry, apply the actual color, and let it dry as well. then simply remove the tape and you're ready to snap the wheels back in. This process takes a bit of time, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep the axles and joints free of paint and dirt. You may even wish to handpaint the areas around the axle housings......just be careful. Bumpers were made from .00000000006" dia. dowel rod, give or take a few thousands of a centimeter lol
Raptor is protected with the same ICI enamel paints found on the ride. The structure consists of Taos Teal on the supports, and Shamrock Green and Crayon (lime) Green on the track and spine. Time was nonexistant the week before the event so I chose to simply spray the entire track Shamrock, then come back later and brush the sides with the lighter green (which will be seen on the final model). Due to the complex surface created by the ties, masking any kind of paintline would take years. Unlike real B&M ties which slightly overlap the sides, these fit all the way around in order to snap on.
A visitor tries to follow the ghostly blur. Mike got creative with the "tame" straightaway before the last corkscrew, adding a wooden-esque double up!
Many of the supports were quickly assembled to meet deadline....not to mention running out of joints! I'll come back and make the helix more accurate later, but for now it seems to have attracted a seagull! Imagine that....
What a cool sign they made.....thanks guys!
And here's a look at the original Dragon kit CoasterDynamix made its debut with. It took about 2 1/2 of these original Dragon kits to bring Raptor to life. Originally offered at $500 (considering the design advancements and amount of time you'll save from not having to fabricate your own trains and track, it's a steal), they have since offered smaller sets for less called Scorpion, as well as other popular train designs and wooden coasters too.
Once the model returned home (in no less than 8,000 pieces I'm sure), I began making it even more accurate. Now that the Dragon kits were finally out, an updated train was used for testing. The new trains run much faster than the one initially used, so this allowed me to get everything a bit closer to scale, including the lift. The model is now very proportionate to the real thing.
This was the beginning to Raptor's complex station. I started building a simple one in case the model were to be displayed or bought by a collector thought it remains unfinished. A shell was made from 1/8" matboard, with basswood pieces glued to help keep corners square. Both "ends" were carefully cut using part of the train and track to help judge proportions. The ends are identical except for the load (right) side having a wider platform than unload, and the operator's booth seen at left. The squares are platform end walls, and will be widened or shortened accordingly. Simply add the floors, walls and roof (made from styrene sheets and I beams) and......(as Madden would say) BOOM! instant station. The truss lines at the peak show where the overlapping support will line up when viewed straight on.
A big thanks to: The guys at CoasterDynamix for creating an awesome kit, the staff in charge of the event, and also to Bob Miller at Cedar Point for the paint information.