Deconstruction of Schwarzkopf's Looping Star Introduction An idea becomes reality

The history of Gerstlauer Elektro GmbH

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.


Jetline and Vilda Musen - The dynamic duo of Gröna Lund: Two projects, Gerstlauer has been involved


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.

Some 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.


Vild Svinet - Gerstlauer's Euro-Fighter premiere at Bonbon Land (German only)


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.

Preview: Construction Typhoon

Visit Gerstlauer's official website

Tripsdrill - Home of Gerstlauer's first roller coaster G'sengte Sau

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 of sales.

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.

View around the huge Gerstlauer facility - On the right hand: Typhoon / on the left in background: Inverted Coaster Eurostar in refurbishment

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 forbidden.

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