Launched Wooden Coaster FTW!

19 11 2008

Okay, now I really think I’ve seen it all in the world of roller coasters. Coming soon to a park near you, a launched wooden roller coaster! Okay, so maybe not next year, and I’m going to guess not even in 2010, but thanks to the Gravity Groups new Timberliner trains we could very well see launched wooden coasters in the future. Is anyone else skeptical? I sure am! I’ll come back to that point in a little bit though, as there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the new Timberliner trains which the Gravity Group announced yesterday.

The Timberliners have a lot of new and/or interesting features to take a look at, and one that I’m sure is going to have a lot of enthusiasts riding these new trains is the shock absorption that the trains are said to feature. While wooden coasters are traditionally a little on the rough side, Intamin’s prefab wooden coasters are said to have butter-smooth rides in comparison to most other wooden coasters, and even compared to Intamin’s steel coasters. That kind of smooth ride is almost scary to even think about, since I think the roughness adds to the ride experience of a ride that is supposed to be of an older style and not as refined. There are many out there, though, that will not ride wooden roller coasters because of how rough they are. Beyond the rider experience these new trains and the shock absorption should also decrease maintenance costs for the train and track. It would make sense that a smoother ride means less play and more consistent wear, instead of spots of increased wear, which could conceivably help with maintenance.

The idea of integrating sound into a wooden roller coaster train is something that is completely new to the best of my knowledge. It has been done on steel rides for at least 10 years or more now, but as far as I am aware, has not been done with a wooden coaster. More than likely this was because of how much noise wooden coasters usually produce, along with the trains not generally being design friendly to having speakers near to the riders’ head. I would guess that the smoother ride discussed above is a contributing factor to making these trains ready for on-board audio, as the new trains probably result in a quieter ride, allowing the audio to be heard at manageable levels for everyone.

There are evidently some new restraints on these trains as well, though you can’t really see anything in the “postcard” and press release from the Gravity Group. I’m hoping to get some images from the firm, but in the worst case scenario I’ll get them from a website that has a representative down at IAAPA. Apart from that, there isn’t much else in the release to talk about, but I did say I would return to the “launch capable” bit of the trains. Part of the new trains that in my mind goes hand in hand with launch capabilities is magnetic braking, which is also capable on the Timberliners. If you really think about it, both of these could be said about most PTC and Gerstlauer trains, though it would presumably take some heavy modification to pull off. The Timberliners, however, seem to be built with both launching and magnetic braking in mind. After having the chance to stare up at the underbody of Blue Streak’s trains as they rolled into the brake run when I was sitting at entrance, I am curious as to how high above the track the benches would be compared to traditional PTC trains, and how magnetic and launching hardware would affect the underbody construction. There are a whole lot of questions that are raised in my mind by the “launch capable” line in the announcement, but a few are reigned in by the thought of magnetic braking. After thinking about it some, I would guess that the “launch” we may see on future wooden coasters would be more like the LSM lift that is used on Maverick at Cedar Point, rather than a full out speed launch like on Intamin Impulse and hydraulic launch roller coasters. Still though, my mind is still balking at the idea of a launched wooden coaster, and for the time being I am lumping it in there with the looping wooden roller coaster idea.

Press Release PDF

Postcard

If you read the title and expected an announcement about a wooden coaster finally featuring a launch, sorry. You’ll probably be just as disappointed when I put up the headline that Cedar Point breaks 500 feet. Until some equally interesting news pops up, or I get a response from Gravity Group, happy reading. Remember, the cake (and title) is a lie.