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Justice | Park Thoughts

Posts by Justice

Silver Dollar City’s 2013 Project: Is it an inversion?

Posted on July 8, 2012 in Thoughts, Updates by

Image via ACE

When construction images of Silver Dollar City’s “its-not-really-there” Rocky Mountain wooden coaster emerged, it was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular projects we’ve seen in a long time.  Never before has wood been twisted in such extreme ways, from the immensely steep drop to the immediately following twist.  As more bents went up, the track appeared to be going into a zero-g roll.  It would be the only inversion on any wooden coaster in the world, since Son of Beasts had its removed in 2006.

But when the above image surfaced on ACE’s Facebook page, users were even more surprised to see that it was in fact not a zero-g roll.  Right when the ride is about to invert, the track swings back in the direction in came from flattening out.  Without a doubt it is a first of its kind element.  Things got even more “twisted” when Theme Park Review posted this image earlier this morning:

Image via Theme Park Review

Now the element appears to function the same as an overbank, but at the crest of the turn, reverses its banking before return back to its original entry direction.  Rocky Mountain Construction Co. clearly wants to push the boundaries of coaster design, especially with this element.  But it does leave one questioning:

Is it an inversion?

The element clearly does not reach 180 degrees, but many of today’s inversions don’t either.  Nearly all modern imelmanns, dive loops, and cobra rolls do not achieve exactly 180 degrees on all axises.  But is the ride banked significantly enough that is more than just an extreme, quasi-overbanked turn.  With that, is there even a way to quantify an inversion?  Lets do a few quick measurements on the above two photos:

Images via Theme Park Review and ACE

After measuring each image, multiple times, it was clear from those two images, the angle of the highest bent is 33 degrees.  Meaning, that according to these measurements, the track is inverted at 147 degrees.  Now, obviously we can’t achieve that degree of accuracy with the images provide, so we’ll round and assume a range of 140-150 degrees.

Before anyone cries fowl over these measurements I’ll share with you exactly how these were taken: I created a horizontal guide in photoshop and then aligned it to the wooden cross beam directly below the metal bent.  As a whole, the image was tilted about a degree or so.  Then, I used another, parallel guide and moved it up so it was clearly intersecting the bent.  With the ruler tool, I drew two lines, one exactly on the guide the other following the edge of the metal bent.  After doing this 2-3 times on each image, I always got an angle between 33.0-33.9 degrees.  The lines drawn above are simply mock ups, not the actual method of measurement.

So does that qualify as an inversion?  Well my first thought would be “Not really…” as its a full 30+ degrees off from being truly inverted.  The vast majority of inversions are more banked than this element.  However, there are certain examples that make me question the conclusion, most notably, the inclined loop.

Image via Flickr user CoasterMadMatt

This element is the inbetween of a vertical loop and horizontal helix.  As far as the question of inverting goes, I would say its difficult to argue for the older models that the element isn’t an inversion.  But nowadays, B&M seems to use the term very loosely, as The Swarm advertises having 5 inversions, with one of them being an inclined loop.  But as CoasterMadMatt’s photo clearly shows, the trains barely crack 90 degrees, let alone 150.  Additionally, Hydra’s “inclined dive loop,” which is also considered an inversion by the park and RCDB does not come anywhere close to inverting.

Image via RCDB

So where does that leave us?  While RCDB is a great resource, I question its classification of inversions.  Even Bolliger & Mabillard a manufacturer seems to very loosely define them. From the message boards, it is clear there is a large following that believes its an inversion. So, will I consider this an inversion? No.

The reason is rather simple.  If Rocky Mountain Construction wanted an inversion, they would have clearly made an inversion.  Between the rapidly change banking and the general directional changes of this element, its far more complex than had they just built a traditional zero-g roll with a straight entrance and exit.  The marketability of the “World’s Only Wooden Coaster” is huge and having this “questionable” element would not cut it.  Silver Dollar City would have ordered a clear inversion if they wanted to market it that way.

But does it really matter?  Inversions don’t make or break rides.  Many of the world’s top coasters are inversion-less, and its not as if classifying this element as an inversion or not an inversion will change the overall experience.  Its a matter of words on paper (or webpage), and nothing more than that. Discussing whether or not this is an inversion is turning into the new, “Is El Toro a wooden coaster?” topic.

Who knows what the park will call it? I’ve been dead wrong about coaster construction in the past, and Rocky Mountain has continued to blow peoples minds time and time again with construction of this wooden behemoth.  Perhaps the ride will have 3 corkscrews, a vertical loop, and drop section.  Who knows.  Either way, the rumored name Outlaw seems very fitting as this ride is certainly breaking all the laws of current wooden coaster design.

So what do you think? Is it an inversion? Does it even matter? Leave a comment with your Park Thoughts below.

Alton Towers Secret Weapon 7: Revealed

Posted on January 7, 2012 in News, Thoughts by

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:


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).


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:

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.


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:

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:

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:

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;  Wicked image by Mandi Coleman on Flickr; Launched SkyLoop coaster art from Maurer Sohne  


Poll Results: Most Anticipated Wing-Rider

Posted on January 4, 2012 in Polls by

The last poll asked which under-construction B&M Wing-Rider you are most excited for in 2012.  The three competitors of this global showdown included The Swarm at  Thorpe Park, X-Flight at Six Flags Great America, and Wild Eagle at Dollywood. Each had their own merits, which was shown in the relatively close poll.  However, the winner with 45% of the votes is Wild Eagle at Dollywood.

Which 2012 B&M Wing Coaster do you think will be the best?

  • The Swarm at Thorpe Park (23%, 22 Votes)
  • X-Flight at Six Flags Great America (32%, 30 Votes)
  • Wild Eagle at Dollywood (45%, 43 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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Its understandable why Wild Eagle has so much appeal; it is the largest of the three wing-riders and features a breathtaking view from the top of the lift hill.  However, it can be argued that the other two will be more successful in different aspects; X-Flight is expected to have the most intense layout, and The Swarm’s elaborate theming is more impressive than anything we have seen before from Thorpe Park.

It is exciting to see more of these new models show up at parks around the globe.  The cantilever style seating makes each side of the coaster (left of the track, and right) a slightly different experience with a change in forces depending on the side one rides.  Plus, as these are distinct experiences that are incomparable to any other B&M model, it could compliment every park’s coaster collection (no matter how many B&M’s they have) nicely.

For 2012, I’ve determined that since we strive to update the sidebar poll every two weeks , to make the polls about the latest trending topic in the amusement attraction industry.  With that, I’m proud to introduce the first Park Thoughts Poll of 2012 building on from yesterday’s post:

Do you agree with Universal's decision to replace JAWS with the rumored Harry Potter expansion?

  • Yes; I'm interested in seeing more Harry Potter in the parks (31%, 18 Votes)
  • Yes; It was time for JAWS to go (26%, 15 Votes)
  • No; I disagree with bring Harry Potter to the Studios park (19%, 11 Votes)
  • No; JAWS was a great attraction that shouldn't have closed (59%, 34 Votes)

Total Voters: 54

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With Universal closing JAWS just two days ago, the ride’s demise is still a fresh wound for many enthusiasts.  However, for others, the thought of a Harry Potter themed replacement is an welcomed replacement.  But, for any of the 11 million Universal Orlando visitors, it will surely have an impact on their future visits.

The soon to be demolished entrance to JAWS at Universal Studios Florida. Source: Inside the Magic

I’m obviously aware that Universal has not officially announced the Harry Potter expansion, however there is plenty, and plenty, and plenty of evidence supporting an imminent announcement of a Universal Studios Hollywood Harry  Potter addition.  So take this poll with the assumption that Harry Potter is in fact being added to the Studios park (highly probable).

Also, since there is multiple reasonings for one’s opinion towards the rather straight-forward question, I’ve added multiple “Yes” and “No” responses.  Note: All are allowed to vote for up to two options in the poll. So if you feel either “Yes” or “No” and agree with both reasonings, you can fully express this.

Poll closes January 18th.  Until then, the poll will be live on the sidebar, and embedded in this post.  Want to express your opinion with more than just a vote.  Leave a comment with your Park Thoughts below.

Header image from Dollywood’s “Wild Eagle Virtual Ride” JAWS entrance image from Inside the Magic’s Flickr stream

JAWS makes room for Harry Potter expansion at Universal Orlando

Posted on January 3, 2012 in News by

A Universal Studios Florida original attraction, JAWS, has officially closed.  Opened with the rest of the park in 1990, JAWS was a unique Intamin-conceived, water-based guided tour that reenacted some of the most iconic scenes with the giant shark.  The 5 minute tour was heavily influenced by the often crazy skipper guides who narrated the entire journey.   Although it...

“Green Lantern Coaster” debuts at Warner Bros. Movie World

Posted on December 27, 2011 in News by


S&S Worldwide’s first 8-passenger El Loco coaster is now opened at Warner Bros. Movie World on Australia’s Gold Coast. Green Lantern Coaster features a 120-degree drop, a 45-degree outward banked turn, two inversions, and all the other twists and turns of this increasingly popular model.  The first-of-their-kind trains feature, over the shoulder lap bar harnesses, an onboard soundtrack, and as...

Poll Results: Skyrush vs Leviathan

Posted on October 12, 2011 in Polls by

Since “Announcement August”, the two super coasters of 2012 have quickly been established: Canada’s Wonderland’s Leviathan and Hersheypark’s SkyRush.  Obvious comparisons make these two coasters ideal “rivals”: Bolliger & Mabillard vs Intamin, Giga-Coaster vs Mega-Coaster, giant overbanks vs airtime hills, Canada vs USA (well, perhaps not that extreme).  It is certainly possible that these two coasters could each rank in the...

Review: Halloween Haunt 2011 at California’s Great America

Posted on October 10, 2011 in Reviews, Trip Reports by


Although Cedar Fair didn’t add any new headliner coasters during their time as owners, the single greatest improvement in the park’s history did come out of their ownership.  The annual Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America has dramatically increased in popularity every year since it’s introduction in October 2008, growing to its present 3 scare zones, 6 mazes, single ride overlay, and...