Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Vekoma: Forged in steel, tempered by imagination

Vekoma opens two new intertwining roller coasters in Germany

Interview by Martin Palicki

ABOVE: Volldampf and Hals-über-Kopf coasters at Erlebnispark Tripsdrill in Germany.

Known for a variety of high-profile coaster installations around the world, Vekoma has quietly been innovating and planning their next generation of rides. We asked Vekoma’s Peter van Bilsen (Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing) and Benjamin Bloemendaal  (Unit Manager Concepts Engineering) about their latest offerings.

How is Vekoma addressing business in the pandemic?

Peter van Bilsen: Vekoma is working together with its clients preparing for the post-COVID-19 era. We are operating as normal as much as possible, following the guidelines of the authorities. Where travel and restrictions permit, the assembly and installation of new rides and attractions continues.

What rides are you working on currently?

Peter van Bilsen: We are happy to announce that two new Vekoma coasters have officially been opened to the public at Erlebnispark Tripsdrill in Germany!

“Volldampf” (“Full Steam Ahead”) is a Family Boomerang Coaster and “Hals-über-Kopf” (“Head over Heels is a Suspended Thrill Coaster. The two coasters feature a unique intertwined layout, crossing each other several times. Both rides have exclusive theming that has been created in cooperation with Erlebnispark Tripsdrill to reflect regional culture.

Tell us more about the rides.

Peter van Bilsen: The Family Boomerang is designed in the style of a 19th Century steam locomotive, inspired by the famous Swabian folk song, “Auf de Schwäbische Eisenbahne” (“On the Swabian Railway”.) The train seats 20 people. On a track length of about 500 meters and speeds up to 60 km/h, passengers are taken through a break turn, camelback and twisted camelback, s-curve and a curved stall up to a height of 22 meters.

The theming of the Suspended Thrill Coaster refers to the local heroic story of the “Sieben Schwaben” (“Seven Swabians” was one of the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm). Each individual car is designed with a shield and lance and on the back of each seat you can find a rucksack with equipment like a pan, map and blanket. This Suspended Thrill Coaster is newly developed by Vekoma. We used the latest technology with machined chassis and steering wheel bogies to create a very smooth ride with less maintenance. Two trains with ten double seats each will be running on this track, which is more than 30 meters high and features numerous inversions, airtime moments, sharp turns and twists at a top speed of 80km/hour!

One final unique feature will be the glass-domed roof in the station of Volldampf where guests in the queue will be able to see the rides above them.

How is the Suspended Thrill Coaster different from the Suspended Looping Coaster?

Peter van Bilsen: Vekoma’s Suspended Looping Coaster (SLC) has been one of our most successful coaster models, with more than 40 built all over the world since the mid-1990s. The combination of high thrill, compact footprint and great cost benefit helped make the SLC a signature coaster for many parks. As time passed, we wanted to completely overhaul the SLC and develop the next generation version of the ride, which we call the Suspended Thrill Coaster (STC).

The STC was designed to fill the gap between the SFCs (Suspended Family Coasters) and SLCs (Suspended Looping Coasters) – even though the latter model is now discontinued. Creating a thrill coaster that can be enjoyed by a wide audience was key in creating both the new vehicle and the track design.

Benjamin Bloemendaal: A major difference to the old generation design is how we develop and manufacture the ride. With our in-house design tool we are able to fully account for G-forces in the track design – resulting in a smooth symphony of turns, twists and inversions throughout the ride.

Please tell us more about the design specifics in this upgrade.

Benjamin Bloemendaal: For example, in the vehicle design process, guest containment for smaller guests was a must-have. The STC allows for different passenger heights from 1.05 m (the Tripsdrill layout) to 1.20 m depending on the layout and G-forces.

Volldampf is a family boomerang coaster based on an old German song about a goat. All photos courtesy of Vekoma

It was important for us to limit the amount of G-forces. Most turns and drops are around 3Gs with a max of 3.4Gs on the ride. A few airtime segments peak at around -0.4Gs. This force range makes the coaster very accessible outside the typical target group for thrill coasters, but still allows for a dynamic mix of aerobatics. The focus throughout the design is on speed and pacing – we don’t like to slow down — and constant changes between positive and negative forces.

The new trains for the STC meet all of the latest safety standards and are ready for decades to come. Unlike any other inverted coaster, our STC is equipped with seats that can swing slightly to the side via a double redundant hinge point connected with a specially developed tuned spring-damper system. This ensures a super smooth ride experience!

The ergonomic seats can be equipped with a lap bar or if the customer desires, with an “over-the-shoulder” lap bar especially designed to comfortably withstand both positive and negative G-forces. Additional damping on all running wheels improves the ride comfort even more.

Peter van Bilsen: As you can see, our goal was to create an unforgettably smooth and thrilling ride experience, which we are certain will be high on the bucket list of many coaster enthusiasts around the globe.

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