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An idea becomes reality

The first sketch of Typhoon made by Mr. Gerstlauer

"Those are ideas you get on a sunday afternoon", Hubert Gerstlauer tells us while looking at the model of Typhoon. The name-giving founder and owner of the Gerstlauer Elektro GmbH browses through a cram-full folder and picks a sheet: "This was my first sketch".

There is a neat ground plot depicted on that checkered piece of paper. "Here you can see the tower and the vertical loop". Following a line in the direction of a small arrow, doubtlessly the layout of the steel structure that is almost completely assembled on the site becomes obvious - even though it is built mirror-invertedly.

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The strategic philosophy of Hubert Gerstlauer is clear: A roller coaster should enthuse its riders and lead them to new extremes, but at the same time the construction should be manageable and with low error potential. Regarding the development of roller coasters this is a delicate venture, and many companies had to pay their tribute (see "The history of Gerstlauer").


Looking through the vertical loop, the three other inversions are viewable

So Hubert Gerstlauer already defined the construction details for the project Euro-Fighter with his first principle sketches. "I knew from the beginning that I would use a chain for the lift, because we have our experience in that field". Other technologies like a cable lift haven´t even been taken into consideration. But this is only one example among many others. Directly after he had the idea for the tower lift Gerstlauer has put it on paper. "In the beginning a retractable track segment should bring the cars in a vertical position to climb up the tower, but I soon realized that a bent transition would be the better choice", he describes his thoughts. The cars are picked up by a pusher that is connected to the chain. They are brought to the top of the tower where they negotiate the round end with its small radius and then whizz towards mother earth. The drop is constructed in a way that the cars dive down the tower steeper than vertical without the need of any brakes, making it a unique free fall experience. But why of all things in an angle of 97 degrees? The answer of our dialog partner is simple: "That´s just the way it arose!"

Comparison: The first sketch of the car and the final version at BonBon Land

The level of detail of his freehand sketches is really amazing. Up till today nothing changed in the positions of the block brakes and the outline of the layout, even the cash desk with the waiting area and the photo booth are recognizable. "My first thought was a transportable looping coaster", Gerstlauer remembers, "so the determining aspects were the footprint and the capacity." He prefers a strict and goal-oriented proceeding on the basis of elementary parameters: Single cars cruise on a rectangular and even a little square-edged layout with multiple layers. The tower and the following vertical loop are determining characteristics, afterwards the ride consists of drops, sharp bends and helices.

The fact that the coaster was originally conceived for traveling fairs can be seen in constructive details like the continuous sole, the conical plug system and the support structure. But there is another point: The visitor of a fair pays for every ride and has to be convinced and satisfied each time. So the front towards the spectators is ruled by a very open design. The dominant and at the time of the first sketches completely novel 90° tower lift draws everyone´s attention. Looking through the following vertical loop it pales two heartline rolls like a giant frame. The same holds for the fourth inversion, another heartline roll, that leads directly into a downwards helix and wasn´t included in the first sketches. Looking at the model the coaster seems to be designed a little too geometrically, but standing in front of it you exactly see the effect Hubert Gerstlauer intended.

The entrepreneur continues browsing and shows us first drafts of the supports, the installation of the track at the tower and the track profile. Like at his other coasters he wanted to use the track with the two tubes and the transverse strut. He then brings up the first sketches of the cars: "There would have been no way to negotiate the small radius at the top of the tower with a train, so I decided to use single cars." To reach the desired capacity of 1400 riders per hour he divided the 670 meters of track into a larger number of blocks and doubled the cars´ capacity by placing four riders in a row. In addition, there is a second pusher assembled to the chain to keep the rate of three cars per minute. The next car can be pushed up as soon as the first one dives down the tower.

Gerstlauer focussed on a spatious design when creating the cars, making it easy to reach the seats for the riders - a basic requirement for fast changes. Even the first sketches with the small and rounded front were exactly realized. But this doen´t only apply to the optical features, even the technical aspects were clearly defined in the early stages. Instead of using two axes, the four wheel configurations are hung independently. In addition, the cars consist of two parts like in the first specifications.


Despite their high level of detail the first sketches disappeared in the drawer, no-one thought of realizing this ride. But three years ago some drafts of an Italian company were printed in a German magazine for fairs and theme parks, showing a similar concept for the traveling market. There was even a showman mentioned who wanted to buy the attraction, so Gerstlauer became alert and pushed the project Euro-Fighter. Without regarding the exact statics and dynamics, his nephew finalized the designs in January 2001. He created a sheer plan using the CAD system Auto CAD to shape the pallet and the sole. They carry the the track of the station, the tower, the vertical loop and the other supports of the ride. In addition, a developed view was made. These two graphs together describe the layout in a way that a three-dimensional model could be produced. It was presented on the world´s largest tradeshow for the amusement business, the IAAPA, in November 2001, and two months later during the European counterpart Interschau in Düsseldorf.

The mirror-invertedly model of Typhoon

Das filigrane, aus dünnen Stahlstreben gelötete Modell sorgte bei den Parkverantwortlichen für einige Aufmerksamkeit, aber nicht beim favorisierten Schaustellerpublikum. "Zwar gab es einen Schausteller, der an einer Realisierung sehr interessiert war", erinnert sich Hubert Gerstlauer, "doch dieser wollte für einen gewissen Zeitraum die Exklusivrechte am Euro-Fighter für sich beanspruchen." Für den Unternehmer eine völlig indiskutable Forderung, schließlich zeigten diverse Parks intensives Interesse. Unter ihnen war auch Jacky Schoepen, Juniorchef des Bobbejaanlandes, der eher zufällig am Stand vorbeilief und auf den Hersteller und das Modell aufmerksam wurde. Für Gerstlauer war die Präsentation ein voller Erfolg: Im Juni 2001 stand die Vertragsunterzeichnung für den Prototypen an.

Looking from the top

This filigree, made of thin steel wire, hasn´t aroused the intended attention among the showmen, but very well among the park managers: "There is a showman who was really interested in this attraction", Hubert Gerstlauer remembers, "but he wanted the exclusive rights of Euro-Fighter for a specific period." This demand was absolutely out of the question for the entrepreneur, because some amusement park managers also showed interest in the ride. One of them was Jacky Schoepen, junior director of Bobbejaanland, who coincidentally passed the booth and became aware of the model and the manufacturer. For Gerstlauer this presentation was a huge success: In June 2001 the contract for the prototype was signed. A family park in Denmark decided to buy this concept with the new vertical lift and drop, and in the first season the park could announce a boost in attendance of 18 percent. But for this coaster the layout was completely redefined, the ride would have been to wild for the visitors. That won´t be the case at Bobbejaanland: Jacky Schoepen´s demands on a new looping coaster were fully satisfied by this layout (see "Looping Star´s last ride"). So the contract was signed in November 2002.

This was the chance to implement the initial designs. The ride exactly fitted into the space the Looping Star occupied in the Belgian park, and the provided sole turned out to be a big advantage for Bobbejaanland. The park is built on a former swamp area, so the ground is very soft and casting a foundation for every support beam would be very laborious and costly. The sole, a mesh of steel profiles, spreads the load continuously on the baseplate which is far cheaper to build. This ground plane as well as the station building are self dependently built by Bobbejaanland. The rest of the ride, which will have a space theme, will be delivered by Gerstlauer turnkey ready.

By the way: The announcement of the portable looping coaster that let Gerstlauer push the project was realized indeed. Exacly five months after Vild Svinet, the prototype in BonBon Land, the idiosyncratic construction "Cool & Fresh" debuted on October 2003 on a fair in Eastern Germany with a delay of two years. Hubert Gerstlauer was faster once again...

Typhoon - A roller coaster emerges will be continued. Read more on the construction, production and assembly of this looping coaster in our next articles.

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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