Hubert Gerstlauer, owner of Gerstlauer Elektro GmbH, came in
touch with roller coasters for the first time at the well-known
company Schwarzkopf. Among other rides this company was
responsible for the first modern steel coaster with a vertical
loop and the Looping Star that was already presented in an earlier
article of this series.
In the early 80s he left Schwarzkopf at his own option,
earned his title as a foreman and founded his own company in 1981.
He started building electrical cabinets for many different
industry applications, but roller coasters were not an issue.
In 1983 Schwarzkopf had to declare bancruptcy after a
hard fight for the leading position in roller coaster business.
Gerstlauer entered the business by producing lighting bars
for the rescue company. During the following years he also
delivered the electric components for quite a few coaster projects
of the German manufacturer Zierer. Among those rides were
Lisebergbanan in Gothenburg and Jetline in
Stockholm, two real Scandinavian classics.
of Gerstlauer's rides
Installation of electrical cabinets
The lead management for those projects was in the hands of Anton
Schwarzkopf, Gerstlauer´s former boss, who was a
contractor with his past competitors after his own companies´
bankruptcies. One of them was Zierer, the other one the
Bayerische Hütten Stahl (BHS, Bavarian Smeltery
Steel) located in Peissenberg, for the time being the company that
delivered the steel components for those two Scandinavian
coasters. Shortly after that, BHS appeared as an
independent company and manufactured the Olympia Looping
with its five vertical loops, stylized as five rings. 1989
Gerstlauer delivered the control and pneumatic systems for
this gigantic transportable coaster.
After this project was finished Hubert Gerstlauer began
building smaller flat rides like The Waltz, Bavarian
Express or the Dancing Pavilion. He never thought of
realizing a roller coaster even though his company resides on a
former Schwarzkopf production site since 1983 and some of
his employees worked for Schwarzkopf in the past. But making this
step would have meant to take a huge risk. The multiple
bankruptcies of Schwarzkopf and other companies in the roller
coaster business advised caution, because building coasters is
connected with extensive and incalculable risks. Especially with
innovative product lines problems can´t be fully anticipated
in advance, and some implementations tend to fail in practice.
Rectification of defects usually have to be paid for by the
manufacturer, and small runs additionally increase the risk.
Finishing brake sections
Instead Gerstlauer extended his knowledge in electrical
and electronical control systems. In addition, he has built some
rolling stock for the steel building company Maurer Söhne
from Munich, who continued the coaster division of BHS.
Some of these coaster cars can be found at a large looping coaster
in the Japanese Space World, later some others followed
for two indoor coasters in American Paramount's parks.
It was pure coincidence that the first coaster under Gerstlauer´s
lead management was opened in 1997 in the amusement park Tripsdrill
near Stuttgart. Suddenly the company was engaged in the business.
The G´sengte Sau, a compact coaster with single cars
and some elements in the style of a wild mouse, was almost
completely delivered from one source. Only the steel components
like the supports and the track came from the external
manufacturer Maurer Söhne, and the static and dynamic
calculations have been made by the world-famous engineering
company Stengel. The debut ride was an instant success, and
the elaborate combination with a log flume, forming a large castle
complex, became a real eye-catcher.
Another big project was a contract with the American company
CCI, a large order of 102 cars for their wooden
coasters, before own layouts were increasingly presented on
trade shows in the years 2001 and 2002. Among them was a model of
the Euro Fighter, a ride that debuted 2003 in a completely
customized version in BonBon Land, Denmark.
This was the first looping coaster for Hubert Gerstlauer
who abides by his strategic principles despite the new
creation. The manufacturer from Münsterhausen builds rides of
the middle segment that don´t aim for records in speed or
height, but focus on diverting airtime, interesting combinations
of elements and fast changes in g-forces. This consequent
strategy pays off at present, because after the arms race of the
American parks just before the millennium and a significant loss
in attendance the sector has to put up with a serious stagnation
At the same time the middle segment virtually booms, leading to
a very good market position for Gerstlauer. Especially the
fast and uncompromising realization of concepts ensures the actual
head start towards the competitors: "While other companies
design one car, we develop three in the same time", Hubert
Gerstlauer comments the present situation. Around half a dozen
rides will be rolled out in 2004. Two of them are coasters with
spinning cars that were designed from scratch. In addition,
Gerstlauer built a new generation of trains for the wooden
coasters of the American company S&S.
The actual wave of innovations is accomplished by not more than
30 employees within the construction and production departments,
an indicator that the entrepreneur Gerstlauer still sticks
to his conservative attitude. Production orders have to be given
to external companies, but this reduces the risk in times when his
own order books aren´t entirely filled. But those times seem
to be very far away, the demand for coasters built by Gerstlauer
has reach a new record high. One of the most important reasons
for this is the development of a spectacular ride that is
attractive and affordable to many parks. The next article of this
series will deal more closely with the idea and the conception of
this looping coaster with its extreme drop.
Many thanks to Gerstlauer Elektro GmbH, especially Hubert
Gerstlauer, for the friendly support on realizing this article.
The copyright for the pictures belongs to the photographers and
the Gerstlauer Elektro GmbH, respectively. Publishing,
distribution and copying without written permission is strictly