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Buzz Bars (Questions/Opinions/Rants)


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Let me just warn you that this will probably turn out to be an extension of my anti ride neutering rants that I started in the Scandi Trip thread. I also want this to be a thread for discussing this endangered species of lap bar (refers to the classic single-position lap bar, not necessarily any bar that makes a buzzing noise while locking.) I also have some questions. If you could, number the answers-

 

1.When was the ubiquitous PTC-style ratchet bar/seatbelt combo invented?

2. When did new coasters start getting ratchet bars?

3. When did old "buzz bars" start getting replaced?

4. Also, when did existing "buzz bar" coasters get seatbelts?

5. Were "buzz bar" coasters around the world affected or was it a North American "lawsuit prevention" tactic?

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^When I worked on the ride, we busted standing riders about once every 2 weeks. The bigger issue with Blue Streak was the unload/load dispatch situation. People would occasionally complain about bei

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As cool as buzz bars can be from the guest/enthusiast perspective, any maintenance personnel would beg to differ. They are tricky to keep them running reliably, and in the end, individual restraints are simply safer. Times have changed and rides have modernized in the name of safety and reliability.

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^The solenoids that lock/unlock them burn out all the time. Tom Rebbie told me he purchased hundreds from the company that supplies the one they used, when that company stopped making them.

 

Either way, I LOVE buzz bars. There are other ways they can be locked, hopefully PTC will come up with something new.

 

1.When was the ubiquitous PTC-style ratchet bar/seatbelt combo invented?

2. When did new coasters start getting ratchet bars?

 

As far as I can remember, the first coasters to have ratchet bars were Georgia Cyclone, Texas Giant, Thunder Run and Predator (the 1990 woodies). The new bars were pretty bad at first, falling down and stapling you during the ride. They later beefed up the return springs so they wouldn't come down so easily.

 

And as far as ranting about those ratchet bars... I can tell you as a ride operator on the CP Blue Streak for 2 years with buzz bars, that the ratchet bars have changed the ride. The lap bars and assemblies are much heavier. The ride is still very well maintained and popular, but it rides completely different than it did with simple buzz bar trains. You can look at all the extra supports that had to be added to the ride after the conversion to compensate for all that extra force. (Adding the metal-core "high backs" and seat dividers probably add to the odd weight distribution as well.)

 

As far as ratchet bars being safer, that's debatable.

 

Also note, some PTC trains with buzz bars have locking mechanisms on BOTH sides of the lap bar. Take for example the Great American Scream Machine at SFOG:

175648631_gasmdoublelocking.jpg.24699c161aeba3441f799902a9eb5757.jpg

The GASMs trains came from Colossus, so it makes sense they wanted extra locking on those buzz bars. Rolling Thunder at Great Adventure also had double locking buzz bars. As did American Eagle, and maybe a couple others.

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How could a single position lap bar possibly have maintenance issues? It seems like should be about as complicated as the lock on a washing machine lid.

 

Because it relies very heavily on a small spring behaving. And they're susceptible to dirt based on the openings to grease them. They also rely on a small solenoid that doesn't like too much pressure or it won't open. Basically, because they lock up or down they are more complicated than a mechanical ratcheting system. Although a mechanical single position lap bar would be easy to engineer.

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^The solenoids that lock/unlock them burn out all the time. Tom Rebbie told me he purchased hundreds from the company that supplies the one they used, when that company stopped making them.

 

Either way, I LOVE buzz bars. There are other ways they can be locked, hopefully PTC will come up with something new.

 

1.When was the ubiquitous PTC-style ratchet bar/seatbelt combo invented?

2. When did new coasters start getting ratchet bars?

 

As far as I can remember, the first coasters to have ratchet bars were Georgia Cyclone, Texas Giant and Thunder Run. They were pretty bad at first, falling down and stapling you during the ride. They later beefed up the return springs so they wouldn't come down so easily.

 

And as far as ranting about those ratchet bars... I can tell you as a ride operator on the CP Blue Streak for 2 years with buzzbars, that the ratchet bars have changed the ride. The lap bars and assemblies are much heavier. The ride is still very well maintained and popular, but it rides completely different than it did with simple buzz bar trains. You can look at all the extra supports that had to be added to the ride after the conversion to compensate for all that extra force. (Adding the metal-core "high backs" and seat dividers probably add to the odd weight distribution as well.)

 

So they went through all that trouble to worsen the ride experience and increase loading times for a "safety" upgrade on a coaster that had never ejected a single person? When the old restraint system had worked for decades reliably on not just the subject coaster, but dozens of old woodies? Blech.

 

 

As for solenoids and springs, did anybody ever figure out a simpler system? Or were buzz bars obsolete by the time that somebody decided to re-engineer them? A mechanical buzz bar (I know it wouldn't buzz, but buzz bar is a simpler term than single-position lap bar) would be simple to make with a manual lock-unlock system. To atuo lock-unlock could be a pain, however. Maybe take a hint from Arrow and mechanically connect all the bars on one train a la old mine trains? I don't think having the bars pop up would be a problem, especially if one push released them all.

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^At CP, we would occasionally have to shut down the ride b/c some idiot wouldn't sit down going up the lift (and it was always after 2 warnings while going up the lift). We'd have to shut it down, walk up there and give em a talking to. It was always very embarassing for the offender We never had to call security on that matter, but it was a pain and did cause shut downs once in a great while.

 

So they went through all that trouble to worsen the ride experience and increase loading times for a "safety" upgrade on a coaster that had never ejected a single person? When the old restraint system had worked for decades reliably on not just the subject coaster, but dozens of old woodies? Blech.

 

It's debatable. I think ratchet bars suck on most every coaster. I've gotten into that heavy discussion/argument before, so I'll just take a big step back now

 

The Viper at SF Great America had it's ratchet bars specially rigged by maintenance so they won't go down past a certain level... and that level is exactly the same as a buzz bar would. They knew exactly what they were doing. Love that ride!

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Slightly fun fact about Buzz Bars (at least on Timber Terror at Silverwood). They aren't actually supposed to buzz. They should only make the cur-chunk sound when locking or unlocking. The buzz comes from the operator holding the button down too long.

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^At CP, we would occasionally have to shut down the ride b/c some idiot wouldn't sit down going up the lift (and it was always after 2 warnings while going up the lift). We'd have to shut it down, walk up there and give em a talking to. It was always very embarassing for the offender We never had to call security on that matter, but it was a pain and did cause shut downs once in a great while.

 

So they went through all that trouble to worsen the ride experience and increase loading times for a "safety" upgrade on a coaster that had never ejected a single person? When the old restraint system had worked for decades reliably on not just the subject coaster, but dozens of old woodies? Blech.

 

It's debatable. I think ratchet bars suck on most every coaster. I've gotten into that heavy discussion/argument before, so I'll just take a big step back now

 

The Viper at SF Great America had it's ratchet bars specially rigged by maintenance so they won't go down past a certain level... and that level is exactly the same as a buzz bar would. They knew exactly what they were doing. Love that ride!

 

At least on GASM (given, that ride has a seatbelt) the buzz bars seemed to pretty much put your legs under a "cage" of sorts. I don't see how you could stand up.

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^Buzz bars can be adjusted. They can hang down lower and also move closer to you. Maintenance (or PTC) has to take them apart, re-weld, etc.. You will notice some rides have their buzz bars in slightly different positions.

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Prior and Chuch rolling stock with a single position lapbar with no seatbelts or seat dividers as seen on Coaster at Playland are so much better than buzz bars - entirely mechanical locking with no motors and almost no restraints.

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It'll be interesting to ride Cornball with the single-position lap bars sometime this month.

 

I know that the PTC trains on American Eagle aren't the usual "buzz bars" but I absolutely love hearing that shrill sound as you walk under the decrepit-looking station. It pumps up the apprehension and anticipation so much.

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Is there any evidence that ratcheting bars are safer? If anything, there's evidence they are less safe. Raven originally had buzz bars, without incident. After they were replaced with individual ratcheting bars, there was a fatality.

 

Although with advancements in design, many of today's wooden coasters couldn't use buzz bars. Can you imagine El Toro or Outlaw Run with buzz bars?

 

 

Also note, some PTC trains with buzz bars have locking mechanisms on BOTH sides of the lap bar. Take for example the Great American Scream Machine at SFOG:

 

That picture is from the Children's Healthcare marathon. I can see my arm in the fifth row!

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Although with advancements in design, many of today's wooden coasters couldn't use buzz bars. Can you imagine El Toro or Outlaw Run with buzz bars?

Yeah, I had thought about that. But it would still be great for the more family-friendly rides. That feeling of being floating between the seat and restraint is awesome.

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I just hate it when a ride is neutered without having had previous accidents. Blue Streak has seat dividers, headrests, and ratchet bars, This came after the ride ran for YEARS without any incident at all with the classic restraints. Why would they neuter the ride in such a way?

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I miss buzz bar type coaster trains. I remember riding the Hurricane at Boardwalk and Baseball back in the 1980's and what a more comfortable ride on a woodie it was back then. I'm not too crazy about how these seats and restraints have evolved over the years.

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Why was Blue Streak neutered? Was there really THAT many morons standing up to justify completely destroying the trains?

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^When I worked on the ride, we busted standing riders about once every 2 weeks. The bigger issue with Blue Streak was the unload/load dispatch situation. People would occasionally complain about being rushed into the train... with that old manual operation, you had to send trains out quickly or the ride would set up. If people needed help fastening their seatbelts (which were optional at the time, and we would announce that), it was preferable to shut the ride down with the train at the base of the lift, than to let the ride set up.

 

So, the park changed the station to a modern/computerized system with clamp brakes... a couple years after that, the trains were butchered. A few years ago I asked my former rides manager from CP why the park did that. He gave me a vaque answer something like "at a certain point, all the equipment needs to be the same" (he was referring to the equipment on the wooden coasters at the park and in the chain).

 

Another factor could have been that many of the old lap bars were still original (1964) and needed replacing. Instead of putting in new buzz bars, they went all-out with the then popular PTC overhaul which included ratcheting lap bars, seat dividers, high back headrests and seat belts (ratcheting/self-locking seat belts to boot, which is a Cedar Fair special).

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He gave me a vaque answer something like "at a certain point, all the equipment needs to be the same" (he was referring to the equipment on the wooden coasters at the park and in the chain).

 

I think this is a big part of it, considering Thunder Hawk at Dorney got the exact same treatment for its trains and I seriously doubt anyone would argue that ride was in danger of ejecting anyone. They probably just saw it as "modernizing", no different from replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs/fluorescents.

 

For what it's worth, I think Blue Streak is still a great ride, and Thunder Hawk never really was (at least in my lifetime).

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^When I worked on the ride, we busted standing riders about once every 2 weeks. The bigger issue with Blue Streak was the unload/load dispatch situation. People would occasionally complain about being rushed into the train... with that old manual operation, you had to send trains out quickly or the ride would set up. If people needed help fastening their seatbelts (which were optional at the time, and we would announce that), it was preferable to shut the ride down with the train at the base of the lift, than to let the ride set up.

 

So, the park changed the station to a modern/computerized system with clamp brakes... a couple years after that, the trains were butchered. A few years ago I asked my former rides manager from CP why the park did that. He gave me a vaque answer something like "at a certain point, all the equipment needs to be the same" (he was referring to the equipment on the wooden coasters at the park and in the chain).

 

Another factor could have been that many of the old lap bars were still original (1964) and needed replacing. Instead of putting in new buzz bars, they went all-out with the then popular PTC overhaul which included ratcheting lap bars, seat dividers, high back headrests and seat belts (ratcheting/self-locking seat belts to boot, which is a Cedar Fair special).

 

Why hasn't anybody engineered a newer buzz bar? Actually, didn't PTC show some off at an IAAPA recently?

 

By the way, the "standardizing" arguement is the same arguement used to justify upping Iron Dragon's height restriction. The "rushing complaints" arguement was the same arguement used to butcher ID's capacity by removing the third train.

 

I was going to say, how do parks like Knoebels take care of their woodies? I know they have less coasters to take care of, but how can a little park keep up buzz bars while the giants immediately switch to ratchet bars? Not all giants, actually - Six "NEUTER IT" Flags keeps many of their buzz bars!

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Is there any evidence that ratcheting bars are safer? If anything, there's evidence they are less safe. Raven originally had buzz bars, without incident. After they were replaced with individual ratcheting bars, there was a fatality.

 

This accident was due to an enthusiast during an event attempting to join the "one click club." An open buzz bar would have resulted in the same incident.

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Is there any evidence that ratcheting bars are safer? If anything, there's evidence they are less safe. Raven originally had buzz bars, without incident. After they were replaced with individual ratcheting bars, there was a fatality.

 

This accident was due to an enthusiast during an event attempting to join the "one click club." An open buzz bar would have resulted in the same incident.

 

If Raven had belts, I think what happened is she also unbuckled her belt. While dangerous, one-click rides cant turn deadly without seatbelt failure (assuming the belt is tight.) Didn't the Stark Raven Mad accident turn Holiday World into a very strict park, including forbidding riding with items in zipped cargo pockets? Anyways, that is a really sad event. It is sad for somebody to die on a ride, whether or not they are breaking the rules.

 

On another note, some PTC lapbars lock at different points. On KI's woodies, I felt that "one-click rides" couldn't possibly be that dangerous.

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  • 1 year later...
Slightly fun fact about Buzz Bars (at least on Timber Terror at Silverwood). They aren't actually supposed to buzz. They should only make the cur-chunk sound when locking or unlocking. The buzz comes from the operator holding the button down too long.

I mother****ing love those bars and that ride! I was feeling very grateful that it had single-position bars, especially after I stapled myself on Tremors. I feel like it might be a bit less safe for smaller kids, but that's why they make an adult ride if you're under 48"

 

Side note: whenever I hear that, "at least x height if riding with an adult," I wonder, are adults supposed to hold on to and make sure their kids do not fly out of the train? I never thought that was very realistic. How exactly is having an adult with them supposed to keep a kid from flying out if they are too small? (also most rides have seat belts now)

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The supervising companion is there to make sure a kid stays restrained properly (like on the lift hill/break run) and "demonstrates appropriate rider behavior" (term stolen from CP's website). The restraints can hold someone only 42" tall just fine, but we want them to be with an adult until the kid is older.

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