Thorpe Park opened the UK?s biggest attraction back in March just as term was ending; at 205ft tall it certainly is big! Stealth is Europe?s tallest and fastest coaster and can be found at the Surrey based amusement park. It will launch you from the station to 80mph in just 2.3 seconds before you head vertically up and straight down over its 205ft hump! The whole experience lasts just 20 seconds and 15 Imperial students got the chance to see the scale of the engineering behind this.
After meeting at 6am, we arrived at 7am at a somewhat deserted theme park to be met by a contact. We were taken over to meet the head of engineering who led us into the maintenance sheds. Here, every morning, the team of engineers would go over every single nut and bolt of all three carts ensuring nothing had gone astray the previous day. The wheels would be re-aligned to ensure a smooth ride too. Indoor heating lamps warm the carts before they leave the sheds aiding the lubricant on the wheels to work as it should. If it's below 5 degrees Celsius many of the rides will not function. It was 6 degrees when we were there?
As we left the shed we passed the ride's first passengers: the water dummies. Each dummy, weighing the same as a person, gets to have a ride before anyone else. They were all intact, which was taken to be a good sign.
The hardcore engineering lies under the large hump in a bunker. It contains a very expensive motor, or a matrix of 42 to be precise. Oil and Nitrogen are pumped constantly to store energy from the National Grid between ride launches (to stop Staines having blackouts every minute or so...). This stored energy is then released causing a cable to be reeled with an impressive force. This cable is attached to the cart via a catch-car shortly after everyone is secured (FYI ? this is the bit of the ride when it judders forward and back before you shoot off!). The force stored in the pipes in here could slice you in half if the cable buckled. Furthermore if the oil in the system leaked the whole bunker would be filled in seconds. This helped explain the rather secure door which is sealed before operation!
We finished the tour with a look at the launch track and the controls. Every day engineers run the catch car at a snails pace along the 80m launch track feeling by hand any vibrations which indicate damage in the track. The control system is simple to operate but pretty complex in the background. In order to make sure you get over the top, the launch force must automatically reconfigure itself based on the weight of people and weather conditions. Every 5 runs averages are made with a target that you get over the top at 12m/s. If you balance at the top (this happened once on a similar ride in the US called Top Thrill Dragster - People were stuck for 35 minutes at 400 ft) there is a rope for a rescuer to climb to give you a nudge ? but this will never happen...
When the park opened we got a chance to experience the ride... it's awesome! Very fast, very smooth and you get a great view for the second or so you are at the top. Get down to Thorpe Park and give it a go!!
Volunteer now to help The CGCU Internship Centre run more trips like this; Virgin Radio and Siemens next year ? email [email protected] now!