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Thread: The Smiler @ Alton Towers

  1. #1

    The Smiler @ Alton Towers

    I'm starting this thread based on after today's tragic incident. This is the roller coaster's seventh incident with the last two having multiple injured passengers. It's too early to say now but I have a feeling its fate is an unfortunate one.

    My question is, why does it continue to malfunction so much? I've seen the basic details and heard ideas on how to fix the ride, but nothing being done. I really hope they don't have to shut down this ride but at this rate, it'll be inevitable.

    I heard something about changing its bolt to fix the ride and other ideas. What exactly would be a definitive fix for the ride?

  2. #2
    Super Member magicart87's Avatar
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    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-32980354

    Per the article:

    History of problems
    A group of 16 journalists were left dangling on it at a steep angle as they tried out the rollercoaster before it opened to the public.
    The ride shut for four days in July 2013 after a piece fell off the track, and 48 people had to be rescued.
    It closed again in August 2013 for five days due to a "technical issue".
    In November 2013 it closed for five days after wheels fell off and hit four people in the front carriage. The injured people were looked after by park staff and did not need treatment by the ambulance service, a spokeswoman said at the time.
    Riders were also left stranded in the air when the ride ground to a halt at the top of a near vertical section 14 months ago.


    Hmm? I'd say it's time to dismantle.
    Last edited by magicart87; 06-02-2015 at 04:34 PM.

  3. #3
    I was shocked to hear this, mainly because the ride has been running for about a year now with the same number of breakdowns as other coasters. But will they shut it down after this incident? No. When you've invested £18 million in a new ride, you can't just shut it down after the first few seasons, even if it suffers a major accident. What will happen is the ride will go under maintenance for two or three months, everyone will avoid it for another few months once it's open again, and the majority of the public will be riding again in no time. The Big Dipper at Blackpool has had many serious accidents, yet it remains running despite the obvious cost.

    As for what caused the accident, I have a fair idea. The first train stalled after an inversion; right before the inversion was a set of trim brakes. The first train stalling was most likely caused by the trims being left up for too long. The reason why the second train was allowed to continue over the lift hill is still up for debate. The second train should have stayed at the bottom of the lift hill until the first had reached the second lift. This leads me to believe this accident was caused by the ride's computer which is actually an issue a lot more troubling than a once of mechanical failure. Many rides from gerstlauer could be using the same control system, meaning there's a real possibility that other rides could run the risk or running two trains within the same block segment.

    To give The Smiler credit, it's done well since the end of the 2013 season. All coasters break down, it just seems that Gerstlauer's rides have a habit of doing it a lot more than others. Remember when Saw opened? The ride spent most of the first few months with someone, somewhere on the ride with a spanner and a multimeter. I think the press has latched onto this idea that The Smiler was the coaster of doom; so if you understand the industry and understand the engineering side of roller coasters, it's best to just ignore the press and only use them for minor updates.
    Should they dismantle the ride? No, this at the moment appears to be an issue with the ride's computer.
    Should they overhaul all the ride's safety features and improve them? Yes.
    Last edited by Cigfu; 06-02-2015 at 05:02 PM.

  4. #4
    I have ridden The Smiller quite a lot of times, having used to have a merlin annual pass. I remember being there for the opening day too on one of the first trains.

    I really, really did like the ride to say the least.

    I cannot express truly how disappointed and sad I am. I'm sure many of us are thinking "what if this happened to you when you rode?"

    As a person who relies on my wheelchair a lot, who was used to being active (I loved to run competitively), I know what it feels like to have your life changed physically. (Mine is by an illness) The difference being, I know there's still a chance of me getting well again and not having to rely on my wheelchair.

    Just think of them people with these serious injuries how that must have felt to have their legs rammed into that car. I'm sure they're very happy that they still have their lives.

    The Smiler, the great ride it has been at times, has had it's major problems. Like Cigfu pointed out, Gerstlauer's rides do seem to have a habit of tripping up. I assume Gerstlauer was very sad to hear the news.

    I do not think that many people will be put off from riding in say, 5 months time. I'm sure all this will blow over eventually.

    This reminds me of when a young girl died on Hydro in Oakwood Themepark in Pembrokeshire. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...ake-risks.html)

    This really set Oakwood back, having been fined £250,000 from this incident. They are gradually recovering from it though. However, unlike Oakwood, Merlin have the money.

  5. #5
    Based off of this article: They are contemplating it.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...he-Smiler.html

  6. #6
    Super Member magicart87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneakysnake View Post
    Based off of this article: They are contemplating it.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...he-Smiler.html
    Ouch! I guess in some cases it would be easier to cut your losses But 15 million is some serious LOSS! It will be interesting to see what they decide.

  7. #7
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    A smart tycoon would keep the roller coaster running. Who cares about the park rating or injuries? It's about the money!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by OTR24 View Post
    A smart tycoon would keep the roller coaster running. Who cares about the park rating or injuries? It's about the money!
    No just no leave they wouldn't make any money if they thought that all the rides would crash. It's simple and to be honest it wasn't a forceful ride. I thought it was medium not great but not bad.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrStripy View Post
    No just no leave they wouldn't make any money if they thought that all the rides would crash. It's simple and to be honest it wasn't a forceful ride. I thought it was medium not great but not bad.
    It was dark joke. On a serious note i hope the victims of this terrible accident can recover. Prayers for them.

  10. #10
    Speed Seeker Deuce's Avatar
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    I thought you guys might find this interesting. It seems a bit dark and morbid but basically it is a recreation of the crash based on what is known, and is demonstrated using NL2 (I wonder how many other coaster crashes have been reconstructed using NL/2 behind closed doors??).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1erxP4x_ww0

    I don't believe it was a direct computer fault, as the control systems are incredibly basic and are not capable of creating a dangerous situation. If a sensor is not triggered when it should be (in this case by the first train passing the block) then the computer cannot release the second train. The systems are designed to operate only when everything runs like clockwork, the very first unexpected reading from any part of the system and it stops trains at each block and raises an alert to the operator.

    You also can't blame software bugs or issues. Even if the software tried to send out a go signal when the sensors detected an unsafe situation, the signal wouldn't make it through as the circuit would be broken by the sensor in the incorrect position. The sensors send information to the computer, but they are also hardwired to relays that break the circuit to anything that could create an unsafe situation. This is why the overide/reset buttons are always hardware, not software buttons. A Human has to visually check and decide it was a false error, and then reset the sensor positions and then, finally, physically override the reported fault so the computer starts it's program from fresh - this time with all the sensors in the correct position. I know this because I design automated systems for various types of simulator type experiences and displays at exhibitions. The theory is the computer runs the show until something isn't quite right, and that something 'not quite right' physically takes the computer out of the loop until the error is addressed and the system restarted in it's 'go' state. It's engineers refer to as a true 'fail safe'. No matter how it fails, it does so in the 'safe' position.

    In the video you see the system worked correctly and stopped the second car at the top of the lift hill (the first block after the station). This is because the first (empty) train had failed to pass through the next block, so had not tripped the sensors. At this point the system will do nothing, and run nothing, until a human has inspected the situation, remotely reset the sensors into the 'go' position and then instructed the computer to resume.

    It appears the human in question made an assumption everything was safe - no one can know why. The whole ride is covered by CCTV so visual checking should have been easy enough to do. Or simply someone on the station block confirming the carriage was back. There was also an empty car on the next block, so it's possible the operator saw that on the CCTV and assumed it was the empty car that had in fact valleyed.

    It's incredibly sad. I can't imagine what it's like being stuck in such pain and misery for over 4 hours - I don't understand why it took so long to get them out. It's also sad for the ride and for Alton Towers. They have a history of world first rides and The Smiler is a very good coaster. Especially when you consider Alton Towers has very low height limit for rides, so they had to get those 14 inversions into a crazily compact design.

    I do hope it will re-open in time. It's not a bad coaster and most coasters suffer numerous small issues in the early days. But normally these issues are forgotten, unless as in this instance, a really big issue occurs.

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