Alton Towers Secret Weapon 7: Revealed

JAN
7

The UK has a funny way of making parks go very public with their future additions long before they are announced to the public.  Thorpe Park was forced to released plans for The Swarm a full 8 months before it would officially be announced to the public. Fortunately for coaster fans, Alton Towers has followed suite and begun the permit filing process for their new 2013 addition, codename: Secret Weapon 7 (SW7).  And along with the usual permit technicalities is a plethora of details about the coaster. Let’s take a look:

Source: publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

SW7 will be built on the site of the old Black Hole enclosed coaster, just across from Oblivion, extending the X-Sector themed area. The coaster will have a range of about 98 feet between highest and lowest points on the coaster, allowed via heavy ground excavation.  Along with the coaster will be a 9,000+ sq ft station with some “minor theming elements” throughout the surrounding area.  The total investment in the new attraction is around 20 million euros ($25 million US dollars).

Source: publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

The same layout diagram but with arrows signifying the path the train will take. Red is the first half, blue is the second half (post vertical section). Source: publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

Wow.  The layout is nuts.  Alton Towers is often criticized for having too-few inversions and this coaster appears to take care of that minor issue.  There are 8 visible inversions shown in the diagrams: back to back imelmanns, a batwing, roll over, and cobra roll.  I suspect there also may be a barrel roll inside the main building to start of the ride, similar to Saw at Thorpe Park.  However its doubtful that there would be any more inversions as it would then take (or at least tie for) the title as most inversions of any coaster in the world; defeating the entire purpose of Colossus at Alton’s sister park; Thorpe Park.

Source: publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

Other note worthy features include a moderately sized airtime hill just before cobra roll, several s-bends, and a long straightaway, followed by a vertical section of track (we’ll get to this later) dividing the ride in half.  The coaster’s height, is equal to that of the neighboring Oblivion, and the ride’s colors will be black and grey (surprise!)

Included in the planning documents is a noise report, detailing the noise impact it will have on the surrounding neighbors.  A lot of commotion has been stirred up over this comment inside that document:

Is it a Euro-Fighter? Source: publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

So with that, its now confirmed that SW7 is a Euro-Fighter right?  The park explicitly says it will be based on SAW: The Ride at Thorpe Park and will be the same type (Euro-Fighter) and manufacturer (Gerstlauer).  Its also completely reasonable as the layout resembles the recently opened Takabisha. So its safe to assume that Alton Towers is in fact building a Euro-Fighter right?

I think not. 

In fact, I’m almost 100% convinced that this absolutely is not a Euro-Fighter.  That short and allegedly, “revealing”  couple of sentences also state that there will be a beyond vertical drop on the ride, when there obviously isn’t such an element shown in the diagrams.  Its understandable why the park would draw the comparison however; Alton Towers is notorious for having incredibly difficult neighbors.  Thus saying it will be reminiscent of one of the company’s other coasters allows for easy (and cheap) noise level testing to gather data that will appease the neighbors.

The more I think about it, the less a Euro-Fighter makes sense.  Alton Towers is striving for strong growth in the current decade, yet, why would the invest so much in such a low capacity style of coaster?  A Euro-Fighter has just 1-train capable of either 6 or 8 passengers.  And with no mid-course brake runs like other large-park Euro-Fighters, the capacity of this would suck.  And by suck, I’m guessing it wouldn’t exceed 500-600 people per an hour. Not what you want for a high profile ride as this will be.

Then just what exactly is Alton Towers building?

Well to be completely frank, I don’t know.  No one does, except for the lucky few who are involved in the design of this future masterpiece.  However, with the clues provided, I’ve made some educated guesses as to just what we might see from Alton Towers’ Secret Weapon 7.

The track shown in the diagrams resembles that of Maurer Sohne X-Coasters. Photo of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Universal Studios Florida

Far too often, concept art is in no way based on the final product.  The artist typically is not fully aware of what the track looks like, and even if they are, they skew the perception of the real thing by adding their own “artistic flavor”.  However, these planning documents and their schematics of the rides are very accurate.

Taking a look back at The Swarm’s plans, B&M’s signature box track can obviously be made out in the diagrams.  The track in SW7′s plans is not B&M, and is most definitely not Gerstlauer’s 3-spine track used on Euro-Fighters.  Instead, the track most resembles that of Maurer Sohne’s X-Coaster (as shown above of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit).

An X-Coaster system actually makes the most sense with the layout.  X-Coasters are known to have twisted layouts, such as the one shown, and also have a much higher capacity than Euro-Fighters; while they have only been built with 1-2 cars per train so far, Mauerer Sohne advertises that they can accompany up to 3-cars per a train, making for 18-passengers.  3-cars per a train would make plenty of sense considering the long stretches of track between blocks.

The vertical track section for SW7 is reminiscent of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit's. Source of diagram: publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

The most illusive aspect of the ride is the vertical track section.  All that is really known is that this section is that the coaster goes up this segment, and not down it.  Luckily, the diagrams also give a detailed look at the support system for this vertical section.  And supporting the track claim, the support structure exactly matches that of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, and look nothing like the euroFighter vertical supports.

Another one of the wild rumors about SW7 before these plans were released was that it would be a launch coaster.  This actually proved to be another big aspect fueling the Euro-Fighter fire; Takabisha has both a launched section and vertical lift, as shown in SW7.  Yet all other evidence points to Maurer Sohne coaster, with a Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit style vertical lift.  And the initial incline segment at the beginning of the ride certainly does not look like a launch either.  So the whole launch rumor is bogus, right?

Not so fast. Alton Towers’ Secret Weapons have a history of being “firsts” for either Europe or the world.  Nemesis (SW3) was Europe’s first inverted coaster, Oblivion (SW4) was the world’s first dive machine, AIR (SW5) was the world’s first flying coaster, and Th13teen (SW6) was the world’s first vertical drop coaster.  So it makes sense that SW7 would have some noteworthy and gimmicky fact about it as well.

A Zierer vertical launch coaster was once planned for Alton Towers. Could SW7 feature one? Source: Mandi Coleman on Flickr.

The Towers Times has a great article about the planning of Dark Forest (the area surrounding Th13teen, SW6), including concepts of headliner attraction.  RCTLounge member ‘DJMean‘ pointed out that one of the old SW6 concepts was a Zierer tower launch coaster.  For those unfamiliar with the model, it is reminiscent of a Euro-Fighter (go figure), with a vertical LSM launch, simulating a space-shuttle like take off.

Which made me wonder, what happens if the they dusted off the old vertical launch concept?  After all, it would be a European first (only one Tower launch exists in the world) making it a likely candidate for a Secret Weapon.  However, its obvious that this isn’t a Zierer Launch Tower coaster either.  So could it be a vertical launch?

Maurer Sohne's concept art for the advertised vertical launch SkyLoop Source: www.maurer-rides.com

Coincidentally, Maurer Sohne actually does make vertical launch coasters, or at least advertises that they are capable of doing so.  The manufacturer states that they are capable of building a 1-g, 27 mph, 151 foot vertical launch.  And with SW7 standing at  just 100 feet, these statistics more than meet the qualifications.  While they are only shown for the SkyLoop model, I see no reason why it couldn’t be used on a more standard X-Coaster.

I’m no engineer but the transition from the long straight away to the vertical segment does not look passenger friendly if it was taken immediately after a launch.  Instead, I would guess that it is actual a 2-block brake run.  1 block slowing the coaster down, the other a waiting section before slowly going up the transition vertical and then launching towards the sky.  Sounds like the icing on this glorious cake to me.

So to conclude, here is my prediction for Secret Weapon 7:

  • A Maurer Sohne X-Coaster
  • 3, 6 passenger X-Cars per train
  • 8-9 inversions
  • Begins with a standard incline lift hill
  • Europe’s first vertical launch coaster

What an awfully long and drawn out post, when the above bullet points outline the entire purpose of this write-up.  However, I know there will be a lot of nay-sayers and I just wanted to lay down the evidence.  None the less, I am very excited to see Alton Towers obviously putting so much thought and effort into what looks to be an amazing secret weapon, especially after the incredibly disappointing Secret Weapon 6.  With construction not scheduled to begin until September 2012, it may be a long time before we get all the details on the new attraction, but at least we have an idea of what to expect.

All SW7 related diagrams and documents from publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk;  Wicked image by Mandi Coleman on Flickr; Launched SkyLoop coaster art from Maurer Sohne  

 

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  • Ian Gillan

    Sorry, but there’s no chance of this having such a low capacity and it will also certainly be a Gerstlauer.

  • Dfdg

    The article writer makes a point… NO MCBR. So how can this be a eurofighter?

  • http://twitter.com/tvotw_public Tom M

    I’d just like to point out that by 2013, Collosus at Thorpe will have lost the inversion record – there’s a coaster being built in China with 11 – http://www.rcdb.com/9821.htm

    That does beg the question if there might be more inside to reclaim that record

  • http://parkthoughts.com/ Justice

    Ehhh…I could totally see this China project falling through.  I wouldn’t call these Chinese knock-offs reliable.  And considering this was most likely planned before that was announced, it doesn’t make sense for Merlin to plan to take the record away from their own ride. 

  • http://parkthoughts.com/ Justice

    Perhaps you know something I don’t, but with all of the presented information, nothing is pointing to a Euro-Fighter (except those 2 sentences which also say there is a beyond vertical drop, when there obviously isn’t).

    And if this were to us either a 6 or 8 passenger trains (as typical Euro-Fighters) the capacity would indeed be awful.  The distance between blocks on this seem significantly longer than that of SAW or any other Euro-Fighter.  The supports and track style all point to an X-Coaster.  I suggest you take another look at the article as the evidence is very compelling to support that.

    But again, please feel free to share something more, to support your argument. 

  • Darkon

    You should check out “Freischütz” at Bayern Park in Germany ( http://www.rcdb.com/9100.htm ). This coaster proves that Maurer Söhne are capable of building very twisted tracks with lots of inversions in a small amount of space. 

  • B Rusk48

    Oh dear, a three-car X Coaster.  Have any of you ever ridden in the last two rows of the Rip Ride Rockit?  It’s ROUGH, and gets rougher the further back you go.  The very back is wooden coaster rough.  I shudder to think what sort of vibrations and roughness a third car would provide.

  • http://twitter.com/coastertouring Marcus Gaines

    Given all the hassle the park has with noise complaints, and given the rides proximity to Oblivion, a known issue for the Ropers, would they risk miss-stating the manufacturer of the coaster. If someone was to complain about nosie from the new ride and an investigation found the manufacturer was different to Saw, by which a decision on noise was made, then surely the planning consent would be invalid and the park liable to a law suit.

    For this simple reason and the potential fall out of giving false information in the planning application I feel it will indeed be a Gerstlauer built ride.

    With regards comments on capacity. The standard model Euro Fighters are in the region of 800pph. Given the size of the track, If the vertical launch section was a block brake, and your arrow labelled plan shows and indoor section that could also be a block brake, I don’t think a capacity close to 1100 is unrealistic. I’m told for larger parks 1100pph is the target.

    Also helping capacity is that Gerstlauer have talked about multicar trains using the new arrow layout trains. So 12 passengers per car rather than the 8 of a traditional Euro Fighter car, ie. a 50% increase.

    But I’m not entirely convinced this ride will be built. What ever happened to the Log Flume replacement and the signs posted in that area saying a new Swiss machine was coming. Is planning permission needed for this area of the park? Could this planning application merely be to throw enthusiasts off the scent?

  • Anonymous

    I believe they could lay claim to the World’s First True Vertical Launch Coaster, as the above article states, the ride may be launched in the vertical state. The Zierer Tower Launch is in two stages and doesn’t really replicate a rocket take-off, the trains are already travelling at 25mph+ before it hits the vertical section.

    The track running up to the vertical section on SW7 does not look as if its designed for trains travelling at any great speed. My bet is that the train will hit a block brake prior to making the vertical ascent. It will then make a slow climb to the vertical launch position. The only difficulty will be creating a vertical launch from a stationary start. This rules out an LSM launch in my opinion, unless combined with a fast chain hill. remember, we’re only taking 28mph and 1g. However if this utilises 3 X-Car trains like the above article states, that will be one very long train and will probably fill halve the vertical launch track. Why wouldn’t they consider the X-Train design that Maurer Sohne are waiting use. As shown here http://www.maurer-rides.com/x-coaster/x-train/? This will provide greater capacity in a shorter train design.

    Has the X-Train been used anywhere yet?
     
    Any thoughts?

  • http://parkthoughts.com/ Justice

    Excellent points!

    I agree that Alton Towers would be able to market this as “World’s First Vertical Launch” if it actually paused in the vertical position before the launch.  

    And I’ve completely forgotten about the X-Train design.  It does make sense especially with the shorter trains.  They’d also be lighter than X-Cars as well (or so I presume).  The three trains prediction was made out of maximum capacity.  However I could easily see a 4-5 car X-Train as well.

    One point that does bring up is that, as we’ve seen from Intimidator 305 to SkyRush, when trains increase in width, the track does as well.  Its hard to get a sense of scale of this track from the diagrams, but I would imagine that introducing the 4-across X-Train will require some modification to the track design as well.  And perhaps this would cause some major changes to the launch as well.

    None the less, great investigating yourself! Perhaps we should be on the look for the world’s first X-Train. 

  • http://parkthoughts.com/ Justice

    This is definitely legit.  The park has applied for similar applications most all major additions in recent years.  Not to mention, the exact same application process was conducted for Thorpe Park earlier last year for “LC12″.  LC12 was later announced as The Swarm with all the exact same thematic elements shown in the plans currently being built.

  • Joseph Fells

    You echo my thoughts, but one minor criticism.

    Someone pointed this out to me the other day on a forum… The track style in the plans looks more like MS than Gerstlauer, but it’s actually Schwarzkopf track. Schwarzkopf being the default track style in no limits, and this being an export from No Limits. 

    So, track style is pretty irrelevant, I guess. But that begs the question, why isn’t this accurate when all previous planning applications have had accurate plans? I have no idea.

    I believe that the noise report is simply making a comparison to Saw, because it is the most similar thing in the country. I don’t think it’s an intentional lie, I think it’s an elaboration compiled by someone who was simply told “it’s similar to Saw”. It’s fishy regardless, but it’s carelessness that probably doesn’t matter. 

    If it is a Gerstlauer, I’d not be surprised, but I’m placing bets on Maurer.

  • http://parkthoughts.com/ Justice

    Perhaps I’m totally wrong, but isn’t this done by an architect, not No Limits?  If you look at The Swarm, there is no way No Limits is capable of doing half of the schematic elements demonstrated.  I can tell you for sure that the program used to generate these renderings is far more advanced than No Limits.  However, I suppose it is plausible, this was run through No Limits before here.  However, I find that doubtful.

  • Dawski

    SW7 Could be like Oblivion but Backwards the car falls into a revolving tube at top of lifthill as you fall backward vertical drop….you are looking up as the tube spins around the cars…. you see U.V spirals Twisting as you fall…… SW7 First backward freefall coaster in the dark ….