Union Iron Workers erect new roller coaster at Oaks Park in record time

Ironworkers, from left: James Marble, Mike Cosgrove, Aaron Harlan, Martin Daexle, Ashton Oesterreich, John Barlean, Jens Ulven, and Kevin Reams.

A raising gang from Iron Workers Local 29 “set a world record” erecting a new roller coaster at Oaks Amusement Park in Southeast Portland. The Adrenaline Peak roller coaster opens on the midway March 24.

For those who attend the annual Labor Day Picnic at Oaks Park, the old Looping Thunder roller coaster has always been a  crowd favorite, but it closed last September after a 21-year run.

Park officials say the new roller coaster is unlike anything Portland has experienced before. It features a 72-foot vertical lift, past-vertical initial drop, a 97 degree loop, an Immelman turn and heartline roll. Maximum speed  is 45 mph.

The new ride is a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster designed and fabricated by Gerstlauer Amusement Rides of Germany. The coaster was shipped in containers to Portland, and Oaks Park hired WBF Construction Services of Seattle to erect it. WBF specializes in building amusement rides all over the world. A technician from Gerstlauer, Martin Daexle, oversaw the installation.

John Barlean, a 44-year ironworker recently retired from  Local 29, has been friends with the owners of WBF for years. Now working for WBF as a part time consultant, Barlean convinced the owners to use union ironworkers on the Oaks Park job. The company signed a one-project project labor agreement, and the move paid off big time.

“It went great,” Barlean said. “This raising gang set a world record. No other crew in the world has erected that ride and had all the bolts torqued in two weeks.”

The Local 29 crew—connectors Jens Ulven and James Marble, foreman Kevin Reams, hook-on guys Mike Cosgrove and Aaron Harlan, and apprentice Ashton Oesterreich — worked for 6 days the first week, and 5 days the second week, completing the ride on Feb. 16. Placing the 1,050 feet of track with a 100-ton Link Belt rough terrain crane was Neal Davis, a member of Operating Engineers Local 701 employed by Campbell Crane.

“It would take most crews 10 days just to erect the ride, and another week to torque the bolts,” said Barlean, citing the crews’ expert rigging skills and connecting skills in the air.

George Kolibaba, director of operations at Oaks Park, told the Labor Press that Gerstlauer and Martin “were really impressed with how fast it went up.”

Ashton Oesterreich and James Marble unfurl the union banner.

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