Welcome To The Coaster Kingdom

 

 

Because Life Is A Roller Coaster

 

Heads Back Hold Tight Here We Goooooo!

I'll never forget my first experience riding a roller coaster!  I went on the Tower of Terror with my Dad on a cold, miserable, rainy day at Camelot theme park.  I think I was about 12 at the time and I was totally terrified!  The old castle ruins theme and the massive loop the loop looked very menacing to me.  But I conquered my fears and went on it.  I absolutely loved it - the drop was awesome and the 360 loop was a new experience for me, which completely disorientated me.  The rain was a bit painful though, hitting my face like thousands of needles as the train raced around the track.  But from that day onwards my passion for roller coasters had begun.

Griffin

The second coaster I went on was about six months later at Alton Towers, whilst on a school trip with my cousin Gerard.  The Corkscrew featured a double helix and is sadly no longer in operation, being withdrawn from operation at the close of the 2008 season.  I remember feeling quite nervous and having serious doubts as we were being dragged up the Corky's lift hill, but once again I loved the experience and that was when my coaster obsession really accelerated up a few gears.

Viva and I on RITA - Queen Of Speed

Roller Coasters have always been regarded as the 'big daddy' of all fun fairs and theme parks.  They originated from the Russian Mountains in the 17th centaury.  The earliest coasters were actually giant ice slides, which were specially constructed hills of ice, built to a height of 70-80 feet and featuring a 50 degree drop.  They became very popular with the rich and wealthy of the time. 

Saw The Ride & Jigsaw

Life is a bit like a rollercoaster with its highs and lows, but it's also about having fun and making great memories.  I love the feeling of not being in control but safe at the same time.  I also love the massive adrenalin rush I get, which leaves me buzzing for ages afterwards.  My best friend and I are both adrenaline junkies and regularly visit theme parks each year.

Kraken

The best experience of a roller coaster is definitely the first time you ride it as you literally don't know what to expect.  The build up of nerves and the psychology all enhance your overall experience of the ride, and it's never as bad as you think it's going to be!  Coasters are specially designed and themed to look scary, but they're an amazing experience.  Most of my favourite roller coasters are located in Florida, however, we still have some good ones here in the UK, such as Nemesis, Air and the Big One.  So heads back and hold on tight for a white knuckle experience.  It's gonna be a bumpy ride...

This rides double-helix looks really cool! 

Wood or Steel?

Wooden coasters are the more traditional, older type of coaster and are usually rickety, jerky and bumpy.  The Grand National at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a good, classic wooden roller coaster and the only duelling one of its kind in EuropeWhilst wooden coasters give a rougher experience than their steel counterparts, coaster fans across the world love them and they have increased in popularity again over the last decade with theme parks building newer, more extreme types.  Please check out the 'Wooden Coasters' webpage for further information, located in the sub-menu on the top left of this page. 

Manta

Steel coasters are the newer type and are a lot smoother than their wooden counterparts.  Due to the nature of the material used steel coasters feature more unique and complex elements such as different types of inversions, powered launches, near misses and vertical drops - some even beyond vertical, such as Saw The Ride at Thorpe Park.  Steel coasters are also taller and faster than wooden ones.  There are currently several different types of steel coasters; inverted, flying, dive, launch, hyper and even giga-coasters to name but a few!  A hyper-coaster means that it is taller than 200 feet, whilst a gigacoaster is over 300 feet.  Most of the coasters built today are steel.  Personally I prefer steel coasters as they are more intense, smoother and usually feature many different types of inversions - I love going upside down and especially love coasters that feature a cobra roll!

Kumba

Front or Back?

For me the very back row is by far the best place to sit as it's the fastest part of a rollercoaster, pulling the biggest G's.  At the very back row the momentum from the other cars drag you around the track and the g-force around inversions and helixes is noticeably more intense.  Next time you visit Alton Towers try sitting on the very back row of Nemesis and experience for yourself just how much more intense the ride is.  You will feel it the most as you are pulled through the helix and around the loop, as the back row cars don't slow down unlike the front row.

Incredible Hulk Coaster

However, the front row gives you the best viewing perspective of the ride.  When sitting at the front on Nemesis you can see all the near misses with strategically placed rocks and an old buss, which adds to the overall thrill of the ride as it looks like your feet are going to smash into them!  On Dueling Dragons coaster you experience three near misses with the other coaster, which is insane but an amazing experience!  For a split second it really does look like your feet are going to hit the other train and passengers!  Of course these nearer misses are all done deliberately to enhance your ride experience and they are executed to perfection.  My advice is go on the coaster at least twice; once at the front and then at the back for the best possible ride experience!

Montu 

 Coaster Safety

In the early years roller coasters were hand operated.  They did not have brakes and were designed to be stopped when the ride operator pulled a lever at the station.  Sometimes the operator didn't pull the lever hard enough so the train carried on and the riders got a free ride!  During these early years roller coasters had a bad reputation of being extremely rough and dangerous.  Frequent accidents occurred with trains de-railing and cars crashing into one other.  Fortunately those days are long gone and significant advances in technology have made modern day coasters incredibly safe. 

Griffin

Quite simply roller coasters are engineering masterpieces, using some of the most sophisticated technology.  They are literally run and controlled by powerful computer systems which constantly monitor the ride and have the ability to stop it and automatically shut it down in the event of a problem occurring.  All of the initial design concepts and simulations for new roller coasters are done on computers so important calculations can be made for each manoeuvre, such as calculating the g-force on an inversion or the speed the train will hit a banked turn.  This improves efficiency in the long term as the ride can be simulated to calculate the duration time, number of trains on the track and hourly throughput.

Saw The Ride
 

The Block System

As already stated roller coasters use sophisticated computer monitoring systems in order to run more than one train at a time.  When there is only one train on the active track it is impossible to have a collision with another train.  However, when there are multiple trains on the track the monitoring system really shows its true colours at keeping the ride operating both safely and efficiently.  All modern day roller coasters employ the block system in order to prevent trains from getting too close to each other.  This is achieved by dividing the track into a series of different sections, which are called blocks or block sections.  Each block section must have a means of stopping the train prior to the end of that block, which is often referred to as a block brake.  Each block must also have a motor to move the train forwards again.

  

Nemesis

A typical coaster will be divided into at least four block sections.  The principle behind a block system is that when one train occupies any given block, the computer will recognise this and will not allow a second train to enter the same block until it has been cleared.  If two trains are in the same block at any time then the computer automatically does everything it can to stop all the trains and cease ride operation.  Quite simply block systems dramatically reduce the element of human error. 

 

Griffin

The Spinball Whizzer coaster at Alton Towers has up to eight (yes 8!) cars on the active track at any one time, including the ones in the station and in the brake run.  This is achieved using the block system.  Sensors and lazers constantly monitor the position of each train on the track, and it will not allow two trains to enter the same block at any time.  Should there be a risk of a train entering an already occupied block then the computer system will automatically activate the block brakes, which will stop all the trains on the track and shut the ride down from operation.  Nemesis has two trains and also employs the block system; there is only ever one train on the active track at any time.  The second train will not be dispatched from the station until the other train has come to a complete stop and passed the brake run.

  Spinball Whizzer 

You may wonder how the coaster cars do not de-rail or fly off the track.  This is due to the three wheel system all modern day coasters employ.  Each train has a wheel on top of the rail (called the road wheel), a wheel on the bottom (up-stop wheel), and another smaller wheel on the side of the rail (guide wheel).  The three wheel system is extremely stable and prevents the cars from flying off the track in all possible directions.

3 Wheel Configuration
 

Coaster Testing & Maintenance

Roller coasters go through regular testing, preventative maintenance and vigorous safety checks to ensure they are at constant peak performance and operational to the public.  New coasters go through intense testing before they get their safety certificate and are allowed to open to the public.  The first test runs of the trains have empty seats, just to see if the coaster runs correctly.  Then the next set of tests are run with either weighted sandbags or water filled mannequins in the seats to see if the coaster can withstand the weight of passengers.  The sandbags or mannequins weigh somewhere between the minimum and maximum passenger weight limit of the roller coaster, to test coaster performance at varying weights.

Manta being tested

Many test runs are done varying the weight of the trains to see how the trains perform, including testing it under the maximum passenger weight, and running the trains with lots of weight at the front, then the middle and then at the back of the train.  Important data and recordings are collected during the test runs.  Finally, the workers who built and designed the coaster are allowed to be the very first to experience the ride in its entirety before it opens to the public.

Prototype

Throughout the testing all the restraints are checked to ensure they function properly. There are three main types of coaster restraints: shoulder restraint, lap bar and seat belt.  The shoulder restraint is mainly used on coasters that feature inversions and comes down over your shoulders to prevent riders from shaking around excessively and from falling out of the train.  Daily preventative maintenance is carried out on all roller coasters, which includes running the trains empty to test the track and block system.  Manually stopping the trains to be ensure the computer will initiate the necessary precautions, and checking all individual restraints.  The track is inspected daily to check for obstructions   Alton Towers run all of their rides empty for an hour everyday before opening them to the public.  The wheels are visually checked daily and the track checked for any obstructions.  The track is also greased and lubricated, which is achieved when the trains run around the circuit.

 
Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road 

 Anti Roll Back

Other safety features of roller coasters include anti roll-backs.  These are commonly found on the lift-hills and are responsible for making that 'clunking' noise as the train slowly climbs up the hill.  Should there be a power cut then the anti-rollbacks hold the train in position and stop it from rolling back down the hill. 

Anti Roll-Back

Many coasters have multiple sets of anti-rollbacks at the crests of hills throughout the track in case a train may not have enough speed to complete the course.  All coasters have a staircase on one side of the lift hill so the ride can be safely evacuated in an emergency.  Nemesis has one on each side and is completely enclosed from underneath.

  

Air Lift Hill - Anti Roll-Back

The photograph above shows Air's anti rollback device on the lift hill at Alton Towers.  Below you can see Oblivion's anti roll back mechanism.  Both are marked in red.  Should the lift hill mechanism fail or there be a power cut then the trains will come to a stop and remain in position, held in place by the anti roll back. 

Oblivion Lift Hill - Anti Roll-Back

 Braking System

Naturally, all good things must come to an end and a roller coaster ride is no exception.  All roller coaster brakes are closed by default, meaning that it requires the use of air pressure or physical force to open the brakes.  Therefore, they are fail safe in the event of a power cut as the brakes are automatically engaged and will stop each train safely.   Today most coasters use pneumatic brakes, however, there are other braking systems including sled brakes, fin brakes, block brakes, trim brakes and even magnetic brakes, which are permanently polarised.

 

Coaster Sled Brakes
 

Sled brakes, often referred to as skid brakes, are long, flat bars positioned between the rails of the track.  They are raised to make contact with the brake shoes on the underside of the coaster train.  They work using friction to bring the train to a safe and controlled stop.

Coaster Magnetic Brakes

Fin brakes, often referred to as squeeze brakes, are the most common types of brakes on coasters today.  Long metal fins are attached either beneath or on the sides of the coaster train, and pneumatic (air pressure) clamps are used to grip them and bring the train to a halt.

Coaster Side Friction Brakes

Block brakes are used on many coasters as a safety feature along the course of the track and each coaster will have multiple block brakes.  These brakes operate the same as both sled and fin brakes and are capable of fully stopping the train in case of an emergency.  Many coasters employ trim brakes to literally trim excess speed from a coaster train as it travels along the track.  These brakes cannot completely stop a train, but they do help control the spacing of multiple trains along the track and reduce wear and tear that would ultimately increase maintenance costs and downtime.

 

Manta's Simulated Water Splash
   

Mickey's Top

Roller Coasters

My list is currently being updated following a recent trip to Thorpe Park & Chessington World of Adventures.  Expect lots of new entries into the top 10!

These are my current favourite top 20 roller coasters I have been on over the years.

  

360 Loop-The-Loop 

Mickey's Most Desired

These coasters are on my 'to do' list!

Seaworld Orlando

Bush Gardens

Kracken

Sheikra

Manta

Gwazi

Port Aventura

 

Furious Baco

 

Dragon Khan

Nemesis

  

A Coaster Legend

A Coaster Genius

Here is a real roller coaster legend!  This is John Wardley, roller coaster designer and the person directly responsible for such iconic coaster masterpieces including Nemesis, Air, Oblivion, Stealth, Colossus and Saw The Ride to name but a few!  John Wardley is a consultant who specialises in concept design and development for the Theme Park and other mass tourism and leisure industries.  He was instrumental in the master planning and detailed design of Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, the considerable success of which led to its owners, the Tussauds Group, subsequently acquiring Alton Towers in Staffordshire.  He was then involved in the Group's major development program at the Towers, which included concept work for several new attractions, such as the Runaway Mine Train and the Haunted House.  As a direct result, Alton Towers became acknowledged as Britain's number one theme park.  He has subsequently created award-winning rides and attractions for theme parks around the world.

 
Vampire

Wardley has never been short of ideas and some of them have even shocked the people he works with, never mind the thrill seekers!  When he first presented the idea for Oblivion (world first vertical drop coaster at Alton Towers) to the board, John said "I put this drawing on the table and they looked at it and said, you can't do that!  And, I said, I think we can!"

Oblivion

John Wardley's career started in the film industry where he created the special effects for five of the James Bond films.  It was this experience that equipped him with a deep understanding of what entertains the British public.  Wardley has worked with several of the top coaster engineering companies include Swiss ride manufacturers Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M), which engineered Nemesis, Oblivion and Air.  He has also worked with Intamin, who engineered Stealth, Rita, Colossus and Thirteen.

 Colossus

Wardley says that when designing a roller coaster it has to start with the "big idea - that's what fires everyone's imagination" he says.  "In the case of Oblivion, the big idea was a vertical drop into a hole.  In the case of Air, it was flying.  If you are not innovative and you don't think of new ideas and new twists on old themes you are just producing the same old stuff.  I like to think that of all the ride designers in the country I have been at the cutting edge of different sorts of stuff."

 Air

Many factors go into the design of a roller coaster.  As well as keeping within a set budget, designers such as Wardley have to think about capacity, reliability, comfort, appeal, and safety.  Because of these factors, Wardley has to make sure his ideas are not too extreme.  "It's very important that you keep your feet on the ground," he says without irony. "You have to walk a fine line between not being too conservative but at the same time coming up with fun, novel ideas but knowing that those ideas are going to be safe, reliable, practical and cost-effective, and that people are going to like them.  It's only when the paying guests actually ride the ride when you get the real buzz," he says. "In the early days of Alton Towers, I was always lurking out of sight, round the corner, watching people, watching their reactions, listening to their comments.

Saw The Ride 

In the case of Nemesis it was fabulous.  We had gigantic queues the first year.  To see people come off the ride, having queued for two and a half or three hours, and go straight to the back of the queue, you thought, well, we must have done something right here."  Out of all the coasters he has designed and ridden around the world, Wardley says Nemesis is his favourite.  He says: "After we built Nemesis, we stood back and watched it with all the people riding it and for probably about 20 minutes we didn't say a word. We just had broad grins on our faces. I said, well, we've got ourselves a big problem here. How the hell do we top this?"  Wardley says the £10 million multi-inversion coaster, which was built in a manmade crater at the theme park in 1994, put the UK at the forefront of the world's best rides.  "It was unique," he says. "Nobody had ever dared to dig a roller coaster into the ground before.  The constraints were enormous, the geological challenges and the mechanical challenges were enormous.  It was the talking point of Britain.  We were pioneering.  We turned things around from us always having to go to America to get the ideas to America coming to us."

Nemesis

John Wardley is now semi-retired, however, he is still working as consultant to Merlin Entertainments who own most the major theme parks and attractions throughout the UK.  You can view videos of John talking about the making of Alton Towers coasters Nemesis, Air and Oblivion by clicking on the links below.

 
Manta
 

Cool Videos

 

John Wardley Vidoes

Ride The Roller Coasters At Alton Towers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCu_ejKIDDs

 

Making Of Nemesis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbIpgG0q2go  

 

Making Of Oblivion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4ojniYSI1w

 

Oblivion Open Day

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba8vo6cVrRI

 

Testing Air With Blue Peter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQD9bw3c41w

 

Roller Coaster Tycoon Game

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDDoeSTyr68

 

Kraken

 

Cool Coaster Vidoes

 

Saw The Ride

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0_Sk4uDhEo

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j3BiaEoP_w

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3zq3k8XXxo

 

Manta

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlOY6HADZa4

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BolCQDIqCFM

 

Sheikra

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZieKyOZu1c

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdBddNH_5tQ

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Axv5Op1vs2c

 

Montu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFyR0oxzwnA 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7yq34x0vCs

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OmfbJ33KlY

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw1on67mJVU

 

Colossus

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6JQnvRef_M

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV3Tkra3EXM

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjHtWX7JllU

 

Stealth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIOK73JNV3A

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G82wDW-kHIk

 

Millennium Force

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVPHGIoMdXI

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEV5MuiCbY4

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_dBBIUIECw

 

Top Thrill Dragster

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPjN7zArwiI

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBR6lB2D9rU

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL2jnfUXWVg

 

Maverick

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DptqaLG7XF0

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNVqqS6yz4M

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geL0IItMQFo

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBO6ExqKRwI 

 

Magnum

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Si_xOp_crc

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dHvIEzeLyk

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49RvoqK0-04 

 Prototype

References

 
 
                     control the music above

 

LEGAL NOTE - The Adrenalin Zone and all the pages contained within its sector are a fan site for information purposes only, and to independently promote all of the roller coasters, rides, attractions and theme parks featured.  No copyright attempt has been made for any of the images, music or text contained within this zone. 

The Adrenalin Zone was launched on Mon 4th January 2010 by MF.  The codename for this development was 'Project G-Force' and the aim was to bring a fun, niche, roller coaster themed section, to add greater diversity and an exciting new dimension to the MFW. 

Dont forget to check out the other exciting webpages in the Adrenalin Zone by using the sub-menu on the top left of this page 

Page Last Updated: 02/01/10 >>><<<