LOS ANGELES --  A wooden roller coaster dating to 1978 slated for an upgrade to a wood-steel hybrid  was damaged by a fire at a California theme-park.

Giant Wooden Coaster Damaged by Fire as It Awaits UpgradeThe Los Angeles Times reports the fire was sparked by welders working on the ride, which has been slated to being converted to a 4,990-fot-long steel and wood hybrid called Twisted Colossus. The new ride, being designed by Rocky Mountain Construction, has a planned opening of 2015. The fire is not expected to cause a delay in opening Twisted Colossus.

Woodworking Network reported recently on the to ever more elaborate roller coasters of Douglas fir and southern yellow pine. Wooden coasters incorporate massive wooden trestle-style structures to support the track above the ground. Once made primarily from oak due to its strength, the lumber used today is generally a construction grade such as Douglas fir or southern yellow pine and is painted or otherwise treated to prevent deterioration.

The wooden components are supported on concrete foundations and are joined with bolts and nails. Steel plates are used to reinforce critical joints. The tracks are typically made of multiple layers of lumber, with the thickness depending on the designer's specification. Magic Mountain’s 4,325-foot-long wooden Colossus, designed by Ohio-based International Amusement Devices, was the world’s largest roller coaster when it opened. It was originally built for $7 million.

Wooden roller coasters have a long history, with thousands once dotting the American landscape. Wooden coasters may be making a comeback with new industry innovations, such as using prefabricated wood trusses and laminate beams which allow the rides to feature inversions and loops.

Wooden roller coasters are designed to sway with the force of the cars, lending to a psychological thrill of uncertainty, that the structure, which is quite sound, could give way at any moment. Wooden roller coasters often lack corkscrews, loops, over banked turns, but that is changing with prefabricated wood and new technologies.

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