Georgia teen builds custom backyard roller coaster over 5 years
"I approach things like, ‘Just go out there and do it,'" said Jackson Crosskno.
— -- This innovative Georgia teen is definitely going to be the coolest kid in the neighborhood this summer.
Jackson Crosskno, 19, of Canton, built a custom roller coaster in his backyard over the course of five years.
“I’ve always been into roller coasters and I used to go on YouTube all the time and I came across some people who had built some in their backyard but they were all really small and didn’t have a theme to them so I went and tried it,” Crosskno told ABC News of how the project began. “My dad helped me a little bit back in 2012. I got the main platform and the drop built and I got kind of distracted for a few years and then I came back to it.”
His elaborate “White Mountain Railroad” even has a complex themed backstory, which Crosskno said he created to mimic the Walt Disney Imagineering process.
“The way Imagineering approaches things, everything is story driven,” he said. “I’d like to get into that so I wrote a whole backstory around a logging company that’s been turned into a tourist attraction. Everything about the ride was driven to that. The trains are actual steam engines, the front ends of them. It’s a whole story-driven experience. That’s how the best theme park attractions are built. It immerses you in the whole experience."
Crosskno described the unique story behind his “White Mountain Railroad” on his YouTube video, which featured the completed ride in all of its glory.
“The story of White Mountain Railroad begins in the late 1800s with the White Mountain Logging Co., which operated until the 1940s,” he began. “The rail lines had been built without blasting through the mountain to create tunnels, as it was cheaper for the money hoarding management. Two tracks were created, one was the longer but slower route, and the other was a faster more direct route to the bottom. As the years went by the operation began to decline, and the mill closed sometime in the 1940s.
“The management decided to leave everything where it was since most of the equipment was too outdated to be sold and it was cheaper to leave the rotting railroad tracks than to remove them,” he continued. “The operation sat abandoned for many years until a couple of urban explorers caught wind of the railroad and decided to have a look for themselves. What they found was a railroad that resembled the twists and drops of a roller coaster, and a light bulb went off. About a year later the ‘White Mountain Switchback Railroad’ officially opened, allowing riders to ride along the slower and more scenic route of the railroad.”
The ride is a pride point for the Georgia State sophomore, who said he had never taken an engineering class until he entered college.
“Not one engineering class,” said a proud Crosskno. “There’s a little bit of math involved, like the width of the track ties, but most of it was trial and error. I approach things like, ‘Just go out there and do it.’”
"I had only seen it online through videos and when I saw it in person it was one thousand times more than I could ever had expected," his aunt, Jacki Wickersham, said. "It was really like walking onto a Walt Disney World ride or a Dollywood ride. To think he built this from the ground up with no training is amazing. We’re just so proud of him for making a model and watching it come to life."
He tried to keep his 10-and-a-half-foot roller coaster’s props as authentic to the railroad theme as possible, scouring for antiques to strategically place around the ride as fun “Easter eggs.”
“I tried to find railroad artifacts, like actual props like railroad lanterns,” he said. “I found a few deals on them and I have a few fake ones, but they look real. I walked along railroad tracks and picked up railroad spikes that they had tossed aside. They left a bunch of old metal stuff on our hill when they built our house and I dug some of that up.”
The hardest part of the build?
“Getting the actual frame of the roller coaster to work,” he said. “The best way to do it is to weld something and I didn’t have any access to anything like that so I built it out of wood. It took quite a few crashes and redesigns to get that to work. Probably around 15.”
Now it’s all smooth sailing, and Crosskno can’t wait to continue sharing his locomotive masterpiece with the rest of his friends and neighbors.
“People always ask to come over and ride it,” he said. “Our neighbors have two grandkids and they always come over, and every time they come they bring a new friend. It’s nice to see people enjoy all the work I’ve done and see it all paid off. It’s very gratifying. To see people ride it and say ‘that’s awesome’ – it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever felt.”
Disney is the parent company of ABC News.
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