Building Thrills: The Link Between Rollercoasters and Lumber

S.I. Storey Lumber Company has supplied lumber to theme parks in over 10 countries for over two decades.

Weerwolf in Walibi Belgium. – Photo courtesy Justin Garvanovic via S.I. Storey

What we know as rollercoasters today probably began as a simple winter activity in Russia in the 1400s, when local townspeople created artificial hills out of elevated wood towers with stairs. For a small fee, children could climb the steps and ride these “coasters” on a snowy day.

Fast forward to the early 1800s in Pennsylvania coal country, the Mauch Chunk incline railroad was built to haul coal down a mountain, while mules brought the empty cars back up the hill. This railroad continued as a tourist attraction and sparked inspiration for amusement park rides across the country.

Modern day rollercoasters are a far stretch from snowy wooden towers and railroads built for coal, but they do share one characteristic – lumber. Once made primarily from oak due to its strength, most modern coasters are generally made from construction grade Douglas Fir or Southern Yellow Pine that is treated to withstand the elements. To hold the weight, tracks are typically made of multiple layers of lumber and are anchored by concrete foundations joined with bolts and nails.

S.I. Storey Lumber Company based in Georgia has specialized in high quality treated Southern Yellow Pine for over four decades, supplying theme parks around the world with the lumber needed to build rollercoasters. In fact, S.I. Storey lumber has been used to build rollercoasters in over 10 countries including China, Australia, Germany, and Spain.

Hal Storey, Vice President and Co-Owner of S.I. Storey Lumber, started supplying wood to theme parks in the 70’s, beginning with the Scream Machine at Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta. Hal says that after this first project one of the lead engineers for U.S. rollercoasters went around the country telling parks, “you need to buy your lumber from Storey!”

Hal, along with lumber manufacturers across the country, have been able to grow by 11 billion board feet from 2016 – 2021 and support their communities through hard work, innovation, and fair-trade laws. Supporting U.S. manufacturing infrastructure competing against subsidized and unfairly traded imports by enforcing fair trade is critical to the growth and prosperity of the U.S. lumber industry and local communities nationwide.

Hal went on to say, “The Georgia lumber industry is important to our state and I’m proud to be the third-generation sawmill owner in my family, providing jobs for hardworking Americans. It gives me great pride to know that our lumber is used to build projects and theme parks in the United States and across the world, but this is only possible through the enforcement of fair trade.”