Track surveys – the secret to the ideal ride experience

 

“200 percent” smiles Nicole Fitz through the whirr of the tracks from the new Taron roller coaster as she calls over to the engineers on the supports. Any less and she would be unhappy. Nicole Fitz is a qualified surveying technician from the company Geosys-Eber and has travelled all the way from Bavaria to survey the Taron track in the new themed world of Klugheim. The Munich-based specialists have already completed countless successful surveys, including the whole of Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. In the heat of this desert city, Nicole Fitz and her colleagues surveyed the track of the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa – which makes them the ideal team to survey Taron’s tracks. The task requires ultimate precision and sound accuracy, even under the toughest conditions.

An extra step for ultimate enjoyment

The track survey is the final, but very important, cog that we can adjust to make sure Taron offers an amazing ride experience. It allows us to once again check whether the multi-launch coaster’s train rattles unevenly or glides smoothly over the tracks.

However, track surveys are not a standard procedure when building roller coasters. This extra step is seldom used as it requires a great deal of extra time, meaning that quality is often sacrificed under time pressure. And this is despite the fact that the track connections being moved by a distance no thicker than a piece of paper can have an enormous effect: Instead of the looser ride feeling full of comfort and adrenaline that we are so passionate about, Taron’s journey through Klugheim would become a jerky, unenjoyable trip. If the tracks were to deviate from the calculated value by even the tiniest 0.2 millimetres, ride enjoyment would be lost.

That is why we have to take a particularly thorough look at the track to make sure that all of the effort that has gone into developing the innovative multi-launch coaster is reflected by the perfect ride. After all, we didn’t spend countless hours talking to our manufacturers Intamin for nothing, turning each and every “screw” and passionately discussing each detail until we got the perfect result. Be it the drama of the track layout, the quality of the track structure or the complete redevelopment of the train – we designed each element of the roller coaster with a single goal in mind: Creating a unique overall experience with the best possible ride for our guests. Perfectly surveyed tracks are more than just the icing on the cake, they are the final factor that determines whether Taron’s ride enjoyment succeeds or fails.

Ultimate precision packed tight against the mighty rocks

Faced with the adventurous building conditions, Taron’s track could not simply be built from start to finish; it had to grow piece by piece out of the themed world. The intricate track layout winds through the landscape of mighty rocks; many of the struts are embedded fully into the rocky formations or hidden away in ravines. Sometimes, there was just enough space for one hand as the engineers carefully manoeuvred these huge sections of track into position. A great deal of precision was required to make sure the connections between each of the track elements fit together perfectly.
A complex construction adventure that resulted in some impressive feats of engineering – and also demanded even greater skill from Nicole Fitz during the track survey. That is because displacement not visible to the bare eye could have slipped into the track (despite the most precise construction process) as the engineers were required to work closely against the rocks. The survey expert is well aware of the task at hand. Her aim is to uncover and rectify even the tiniest inaccuracy on the track of the new multi-launch coaster.

Today, she is standing in the centre of Klugheim with her tachymeter (a device used to take precise measurements between points) and spotting each tiny deviation with detective-like accuracy. So that she could conduct her survey, lots of tiny reflective films (invisible at first glance) have been attached to the track intersections. These are the points where inaccuracies could slip into a track connection. Nicole Fitz now has one of these reflectors in her sights and guides the laser beam from her six-foot measuring device accurately towards the measuring point.  With a keen eye and a calm hand, she measures just how accurate the engineers had been. And she is extremely strict. When it comes to issuing final approval, she will allow only the tiniest of deviations from the calculated coordinates: “Lower it by another five millimetres, another three, now two lower” Nicole Fitz is completely focused as she looks through her measuring device. Using a radio, she also manages every movement of the engineers who are making the corrections to the struts. With an incredible level of detail and a huge amount care, the strong men use hydraulic pumps to carefully raise and lower the powerful steel constructions until they get the thumbs up from Nicole Fitz. Then the track is correct, accurate to the nearest millimetre, and ready to be fixed in place.

A very special form of instinct

The job in Klugheim is no easy task for the experienced expert: “It is a pretty big challenge here” says Nicole Fitz as she uses the tachymeter to set her sights on the next coordinates. When you are conducting a survey, accuracy is one thing. “But the fact that Taron is packed in so tightly and the tracks run so closely alongside the rocks takes it up to a whole new level” she explains.

And then there is another factor caused by Taron’s characteristic layout: Instead of just one track per strut, Taron has up to four different tracks on a single support column. This was the only way the designers could create such a dynamic track with all of the different ride elements within the tightly-packed rocky landscape of Klugheim. This large, labyrinthine “knot of tracks” is anything but an ordinary experience and requires the surveying technician to use her very special form of instinct. A single inaccuracy on a support like this will result in deviations on several sections of track. Making sure as many as four tracks are in line with one another (in the truest sense of the phrase) is what transforms the track survey for Taron into an exceptionally fiddly task for Nicole Fitz. And once again it shows just how important precise measurements are for this extraordinary roller coaster.

Because that is what Taron is: Anything but ordinary. This applies to the track survey, too. Nicole Fitz has to give her best in order to get the best out of Taron. 200% concentration, instinct and precision– for 100% pure riding enjoyment.

Author

Christina Herrmann