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Alton Towers Discussion Thread


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Most trains have "bumpers" in the front and / or back correct? I'm guessing those aren't designed to absorb this kind of high speed collision? It looks like the train with passengers deformed upon impact.

 

Correct.

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The scary part of this isn't that there was an accident, but it was an an accident that shouldn't have been possible.

 

Exactly - kinda shakes up the faith we put into safety measures, that nothings going to go wrong. Hope all the injured are OK.

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^I'm not sure I totally understand the reasoning behind that, other than maybe they just don't want a lot of "lookyloos".

 

It reminds me of this history tidbit: Kennywood closed once like this in its 100+ year history in 1991. During its first full week of the season, the (new) Steel Phantom was going too fast and was shut down, (neck injuries,) the Enterprise was not in operation at all, and then a major accident on it's Raging Rapids when a raft capsized. (The second time it happened in as many years.) At the time, the park was already closed on Mondays, they decided to be closed that Tuesday to recover from a rough start to the season and lay on the PR machine quite heavily. It ended up being a record year for them once the Phantom reopened with trim breaks, and the Rapids reopened with retrofitted guide rails in the waterway.

 

OK, I'm done with my flashbacks... OY!

 

This really is a sad story, hope all recover quickly!

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(This is another person's speculation, not mine)

 

After the ride broke down, they must have sent an empty car through the layout, and re-started the computer program that manages the blocks assuming the car would return to the station (which they aren't supposed to do). By the way, the computer doesn't know where a train is on a block, only that it has entered/left it. The computer re-started, and since the knowledge that the empty train had entered the block had been erased, it assumed that the "ghost train" wasn't there, and sent out the loaded train as usual, thus allowing two trains on the same block. Manufactures have different means of preventing the program from being restarted in this manner, for example putting the switch/control panel in clear site of the layout. Again, just speculation. I'll wait for the investigation to be sure

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OK, due to TPR being down then having class (and other errands) I've not been on the net for 8 hours now.

 

Any more word? How is everyone involved, and any more word on what exactly happened?

Was there human error or was it a breakdown?

 

 

Not to overhype, we all know accidents happen, but given its short life so far, it's had quite a few incidents many seeming to be breakdown/mechanical and I heard how rough its transitions are, and something about how bolts were seen coming out.

I wonder if this just wasn't the best designed coaster... and no dont freak out, not saying OMG they're dangerous and regulate rides and all that, just my two cents and maybe Smiler wasn't well designed.

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You just don't expect an accident like this at a REAL park and a REAL ride. Truly scary. I hope they find out exactly what led to this quickly. Trying to avoid speculation as I really want to believe that if the ride was in normal operating mode this couldn't have happened which leads me to think it was in manual but we'll have to wait and see.
Perfectly said. I agree with not expecting an accident like this at a REAL park and on a REAL ride. I mean... this is something I would expect to hear about smaller at a China park.
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Valleys happen, but are rare. It's crazy to thing something failed at the same time a Valley occurred. I also haven't seen anything on the news, but I do only get cnn since I use the Apple TV as my entertainment system. Usually they are on top of every single wild mouse that doesn't make it to the lift hill.

 

Do any coasters have a way for the computer to know exactly where on the tracks it is? Seems like it shouldn't be too hard to have a sensor every hundred feet or so.

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^TTD has too many sensors on the track to count. I forgot how many, or how they are distributed (according to some interview), but that ride has more than enough of them. It seems Gerst is now getting their fair share of accidents (and not Intamin for once). First NTG, now this. I hope something else doesn't happen.

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The way I see it after the last few years Gerstlauer just seems to have too many issues with their products. If I were a park, I would not invest another penny in anything from them. The liability is just too great. This is going to cost Merlin/Alton Towers a PR nightmare, potentially a massive insurance payout, likely a major hit to this attractions popularity/attendance and possibly the entire park. This looks like (speculation) SOMETHING LIKE a situation of multiple backups failing including a blocking system breakdown.

 

This is coming from someone who regularly skydives, it's very important that machines and systems work right every time when there is potentially life on the line. Of course this doesn't happens in reality but I've seen WAY too many Gerstlauer-involved incidents. I personally would still feel totally safe on the ride but from an investment POV, you'd have a hard time convincing me to make that decision. One could argue "Intamin", and I'd counter with their rides are in an entirely different league if one wants them to be- they can make a top 5 coaster if they have the budget, I don't think Gerstlauer can.

 

Didn't the Smiler also chuck a wheel ala Steel Dragon not that long ago, or does my memory fail me?

 

Positive vibes to those on the train, and their friends and families.

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I heard about this earlier today and luckily the condition of the riders didn't take a turn for the worse. I wonder if this will make manufacturers come up with new safety features or add more redundant features.

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The way I see it after the last few years Gerstlauer just seems to have too many issues with their products. If I were a park, I would not invest another penny in anything from them. The liability is just too great. This is going to cost Merlin/Alton Towers a PR nightmare, potentially a massive insurance payout, likely a major hit to this attractions popularity/attendance and possibly the entire park. This looks like (speculation) SOMETHING LIKE a situation of multiple backups failing including a blocking system breakdown.

 

This is coming from someone who regularly skydives, it's very important that machines and systems work right every time when there is potentially life on the line. Of course this doesn't happens in reality but I've seen WAY too many Gerstlauer-involved incidents. I personally would still feel totally safe on the ride but from an investment POV, you'd have a hard time convincing me to make that decision. One could argue "Intamin", and I'd counter with their rides are in an entirely different league if one wants them to be- they can make a top 5 coaster if they have the budget, I don't think Gerstlauer can.

 

Didn't the Smiler also chuck a wheel ala Steel Dragon not that long ago, or does my memory fail me?

 

Positive vibes to those on the train, and their friends and families.

 

Yeah, I am never one to get too over thinky about accidents, they will happen, but this one seems too unusual. IF what we are hearing is true, this is a bit beyond the realm of "accidents happen" and sounds like legit poor design. Which given Smiler's already long list of incidents, + the companies previous incidents you mention, it does not bode well.

As it's been said, it's the wait and see game, but if this turns out to be a bad a malfunction as it seems, it's not good. We get mad when the media/GP over hypes standard accidents/human error ones but we shouldn't be quick to dismiss poor design either.

 

I don't know about the wheel but someone on CF said people have seen bolts coming out, a tad bit scary!

 

Last line says it, I pray the rumors I heard about loss of leg and etc are false. Best to them all.

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The way I see it after the last few years Gerstlauer just seems to have too many issues with their products. If I were a park, I would not invest another penny in anything from them. The liability is just too great. This is going to cost Merlin/Alton Towers a PR nightmare, potentially a massive insurance payout, likely a major hit to this attractions popularity/attendance and possibly the entire park. This looks like (speculation) SOMETHING LIKE a situation of multiple backups failing including a blocking system breakdown.

 

This is coming from someone who regularly skydives, it's very important that machines and systems work right every time when there is potentially life on the line. Of course this doesn't happens in reality but I've seen WAY too many Gerstlauer-involved incidents. I personally would still feel totally safe on the ride but from an investment POV, you'd have a hard time convincing me to make that decision. One could argue "Intamin", and I'd counter with their rides are in an entirely different league if one wants them to be- they can make a top 5 coaster if they have the budget, I don't think Gerstlauer can.

NTaG isn't Gerstlauer's fault, loose bolt on Smiler is more likely a construction error. Gerstlauer just happened to be the victims as well. They make high quality rides with the most advanced safety devices on the market. It's just superstitios to shut them off because they were involved with a few accidents lately.

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Didn't the Smiler also chuck a wheel ala Steel Dragon not that long ago, or does my memory fail me?

The press keep saying that wheels fell off, but it was only tiny little wheels on the lift chain like these: http://i441.photobucket.com/albums/qq133/roodlesnouter/SW7%2025-04-13/FirstHillLiftChain-5_zpsf64168a1.jpg

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100% human error. This is the only conceivable scenario considering the amount of safety systems and redundancies that are involved in modern ride control systems:

 

(Assume train 1 = train dispatched first, train 2 = train dispatched next)

 

Assumptions:

  • Ride control system allows train 2 to be dispatched (to lift, let's call it Block A) before train 1 has cleared the block immediately following lift (let's call this Block B). This dispatch is allowed because it is assumed that train 1 will clear Block B (reach the next brake or lift) in time for train 2 to be allowed to continue into the block.
  • If train 1 has not cleared Block B by the time that train 2 reaches a certain point on the lift, the lift stops and is not allowed to restart until that block is clear. (The lift may automatically restart when the block is clear, or the operators may need to manually restart the lift; which of these is the case varies from ride to ride)

 

Alton Towers incident

In this incident, we can deduce the following:

 

There are reports that the loaded train (train 2) was sitting idle on the lift for a while (I think I read 5 minutes somewhere). We also know from the collision that there was a train (train 1) that became stuck in a valley in the next block (which we called Block B). Putting 2 and 2 together, we can assume that the ride's safety systems acted as designed and stopped the lift, holding train 2 in Block A until Block B cleared.

 

Now, these complex control systems don't just "forget" which blocks are occupied. A power failure or "system reset", as someone in this thread suggested, of a modern ride control system would result in all of the ride's blocks being set, not the opposite. Otherwise the unthinkable would occur if a ride were to lose and regain power in a short amount of time. Blocks are also not accidentally cleared by anomalies, such as a bird flying in front of a photoeye. Safety-critical control systems are designed to fail to a safe state, and they are very redundant. For example, a bird flying in front of a photoeye may result in an additional block being set, not in a block being cleared. There are all sorts of sensors and components that can have a say in whether or not a block is occupied: proximity sensors, photoeyes, brakes, and even motors. If even the smallest anomaly is detected with any of them, the block will be set, just to be safe. "We don't know what caused X, but it could be a train. We'd rather assume that it is a train than assume otherwise and cause a collision." This is what causes "ghost trains."

 

With that in mind, let's go back to the above scenario. A ride technician responds to a breakdown, and sees that train 2 has been sitting on the lift (in Block A) for 5 minutes or so. He looks at the logs and sees that the control system is holding it there because Block B is still occupied, meaning by extension that Block B has been occupied for at least 5 minutes. A valley certainly is far from a normal occurrence, so it was not likely anywhere near the front of his mind. Additionally, judging from the picture, it appears that this ride is low-capacity, which means that it likely runs at least 4 or 5 trains at all times. It seems very likely that one could easily mis-judge the number of units on the track, pair that with the fact that a free-running block has been occupied for at least 5 minutes, and assume that some anomaly has resulted in a ghost train (as mentioned above). (In reality, however, we now know that Block B actually still is occupied.) The technician in this situation then likely cleared Block B, allowing train 2 to continue, where it then collided with train 1.

 

The technician should have at least verified visually that there was not a train in the block that he was clearing, but he really should not have been clearing a block with a loaded unit on the course, anyway. (Doing so is actually in violation of an ANSI standard.) However, clearing a block without even verifying that it was indeed clear would certainly be the most horrendous portion of this violation.

 

I hope that didn't come off as rambling, but I'm trying to make the point that modern control systems--especially safety-critical ones--are redundant, fail to a safe state, and were not the cause of this accident. This is simply the only reasonable chain of events that could've led to this collision. "Glitches" don't cause this. "Bad design" doesn't cause this. Human error does.

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Accidents have a much bigger impact on you when it's much closer to home. Hard to imagine what was going through the heads of those on the train when they saw that train. Or perhaps worse still the impact came from nowhere.

 

Really hope the injuries aren't too serious.

 

And despite the incidents I am still desperate to try it out!

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Of course this doesn't happens in reality but I've seen WAY too many Gerstlauer-involved incidents. I personally would still feel totally safe on the ride but from an investment POV, you'd have a hard time convincing me to make that decision. One could argue "Intamin", and I'd counter with their rides are in an entirely different league if one wants them to be- they can make a top 5 coaster if they have the budget, I don't think Gerstlauer can.

 

Aside from Smiler & the alleged design flaws with the Texas Giant train, what other major Gerstlauer incidents have occurred?

 

If I am reading this right, it's OK for a company to be responsible for multiple deaths if the ride is voted a top 5 ride by enthusiasts? And that's the only reason you would invest in a ride if you had the ability to do so? Pretty sure Gerstlauer isn't in the hyper coaster market, so that's kind of a moot point.

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Aside from Smiler & the alleged design flaws with the Texas Giant train, what other major Gerstlauer incidents have occurred?.

 

Agreed, if we compare another coaster from Gerstlauer, in the same country, owned by the same company... Saw the Ride in Thorpe. As far as I know it's been pretty problem free and hopefully it will stay that way. I think also The Big One in Blackpool has had two station break failures in the past causing serious injury but it's still running.

 

Being an engineer myself (although not of coasters) I've seen that some times designs just don't work and are plagued with issues. Take cars for example, the same manufacturer can be know for making super reliable cars yet now and again may sell a car which has got awful reliability. The same also goes for maintenance, you can have the parts for the most reliable car in the world but if you don't put it together property or maintain it well then it still will have issues.

 

However I'm not making any assumptions, what caused this could have been a variety of reasons. Poor design, human error, poor maintenance, poor assembly... who knows until the investigation is complete.

Edited by Bag_O_Laughs
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Pretty sure Gerstlauer isn't in the hyper coaster market, so that's kind of a moot point.

They just built their first one

 

As with everyone else my thoughts go out to those injured. In let's face it is an accident that just shouldn't be even possible.

 

its certainly going to be an interesting investigation.

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Awful, awful. I just hope everyone is OK.

 

Perhaps the block was clear, and a train rolled back from the second lift? That would make it more of a mechanical issue. In any event, Alton and Gerstlauer will figure it out, and hopefully the victims will have a speedy recoveries.

 

The Smilers lift hill is designed to roll back down the lift hill.

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That's just in case if a chain breaks, the train would slowly descend to the base of the lift. But if a chain stops, the train would stay in a same position.
The train does slowly rollback if the lift stops, it doesnt stay in place.
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