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5am - System check and brake tests Overview 7am - Check of the cars and the vertical lifts


6:00 Now it is time to check the special effects. In complete darkness there are hitherto unkown elements waiting for the two cars: For the blue one it is a see-saw element, for the red one a piece of retractable track. While the cars of the blue coaster are tilted around the lateral axis, the cabins of the red one are inclined sideways around the longitudinal axis.

Views of the car

Drawing: Phantasialand

There is a elaborate technology behind those unexpected effects that leaves nothing to chance. Next to the complex mechanics that rests on a giant steel frame once again the control unit cares for a smooth function. The track segments are moved from one position to the other up to six times per minute: First with the full cars that weighs up to 1.2 tons, and then back to the starting position without passengers. Simone Fassbender grabs the control panel, reports the manual operation of the see-saw element by voice radio and finally moves the heavy track from one position to the other. An electric motor delivers the power that is necessary for that. Unhasty, just like in slow motion, the track tilts into the final position. Only the car is missing, which would dive down the following drop in regular operation. "With this reference run we convince us and the computer of the error-free operation", Simone Fassbender says.

Afterwards the wearing parts undergo a strict visual control. The technical effort is enormous: Brakes can fix the see-saw element in any position, an optical measurement system reports the location of the track element to the control unit and attenuators provide that the final positions are taken smoothly. There an additional locking takes place. Werner Kuhl joins us and checks the mechanical fixing components of the car. It has to be securely locked to the track while the see-saw element moves. One trim and two safety brakes care for that, and limit stops are pneumatically extended at the two open ends of the track. Finally a sawtooth profile like the ones used at standard lift hills prevents the car from rolling back while it runs into the element. "You can't go any safer", Werner Kuhl tells us. "During operation the computer monitors all mechanical components within a strict time frame. If the measured states don't match the predetermined timing, then there is a safety shutdown." We throw a glance at the track and see a line-up of proximity switches. The answer comes promptly: "With those switches the position of the car can be determined to just a few centimeters.

Reset device

6:20 After the see-saw element and the retractable track, respectively, the cars rush through a dimly illuminated vault. But right now strong flood lights shine onto the scenery. We leave the platform using a ladder and discover a device that looks like an oversized, snapped-off beam that can be pivoted by a spring mechanism. We recall that the cars are equipped with a mechanic that lets them spin around their own axis, up to 20 times per minute. The lower part of the car with the chassis is firmly attached to the track while the upper part can almost rotate freely. Before entering the station it has to be aligned in driving direction again. This task is fulfilled by this device that looks like a beam. It is designed in a way that no impulsive turning moment occurs when the cabins are reset and that the car is properly aligned no matter what position it had.

At the end of this mechanism we see a kind of guide plate that is arranged tilted towards the track. "That's a so-called crank. It locks the car in its position", Simone Fassbender explains. "There is a lever attached to the car with a rubber roll at the end. As the car passes the guide plate, the lever is either pushed in or pulled out, depending on the design of the crank. A mechanism inside the car actuates a fixing brake. The brake is open or closed according to the position of the lever." The cars are locked on the lift and during the first drop, but the brake opens before the slalom segment or the mouse bends, respectively. The cabin can spin while the car negotiates the track with up to 60 kilometers per hour. While passing the see-saw element and the retractable track segment the cabins are locked temporarily, too. The guide plates can also be found there.

One of the bagging segments

6:30 We are getting closer to the station and have a look at the last special effects of the track, the two bagging segments: A electric motor together with a gear unit lets the rear end of the track segment bag around 50 centimeters while the car passes it at walking speed. It swings back into position before first time riders even realize what happened.

This mechanical effect is secured just like the see-saw element, even though the mechanical complexity is far less. One of the devices once again is a sawtooth profile. A hook attached to the underside of the car engages with this profile while passing the segment to prevent the car from rolling back. A reference run of the two bagging segments then finishes their inspection.

Western door and friction device
Friction device check-up 1
Friction device check-up 2
Western door

6:45 Now we are less than five meters away from the station which is usually separated from the vault by a huge gate. A narrow catwalk runs parallel to the track. We follow it and are surprised by the sudden warmth that meets our faces. "That's for the infrared CCTV", we are told. The dim light in the vault wouldn't be enough for ordinary cameras. So infrared cameras using light of invisible wavelength are installed to monitor the track and to observe the passengers. In case of an emergency stop the operator can then contact the riders via loudspeakers.

Simone Fassbender fetches a nearly one meter long, U-shaped profile: "Now I'm going to check the friction gear." We already saw those solid rubber wheels at the block brakes.

Friction device check-up

"The wheels undergo an abrasion, so their size is checked every morning. The impetus transmission isn't ensured if they are worn off too much", Simone Fassbender explains. She places the U-shaped profile onto the wheel and checks whether the two edges touch the track. "There must be a fetch of about two or three millimeters. Otherwise the friction wheels are worn out too much and can't push the car back into the station." In this case the car that weighs more than a ton must be manually pushed into the station. Finally Simone Fassbender checks the toothed drive belt that transfers the rotation of the motor to the friction wheels before she turns towards the next device.

Not far from the friction gear, a few centimeters away from the track and just a little above it, there are pivoting bars. "We call that the western door", Simone Fassbender tells us. "The computer system uses it to determine whether the cars are aligned properly, just in case that the beam mechanism fails. Otherwise the car would bump into the platform of the station and jam up." This check is absolutely necessary for automatic operation. If the car differs from the expected position just a few degrees, the western door opens, actuates a contact and the control unit stops the friction gear that pushes the car into the station.

5am - System check and brake tests Overview 7am - Check of the cars and the vertical lifts
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