Every few years, Cedar Point — which is renowned for its roller coasters being the tallest, fastest, etc. — launches a new ground-breaking ride. As an editor on different engineering magazines, I’ve had several opportunities to visit the park, which is less than an hour from my home, to learn more about the technology that powers and controls the rides.
Throughout the years I’ve learned about the hydraulics that gave the power density to The Top Thrill Dragster; the pneumatics that gave the Skyhawk its lift; and the linear synchronous motors that drive the Maverick roller coaster. So it was a no-brainer for me to touch base with the amusement park’s Corporate Vice President, Safety and Engineering Monty Jasper, to learn what type of technology was used on Cedar Point’s newest record breaker — the GateKeeper.
According to Cedar Point, the GateKeeper is the tallest, faster and longest wing coaster in the world, with its first hill climbing to 170 ft, then flying through two giant keyhole towers.
I was a little disappointed that the ride didn’t use fluid power to propel it up its hills as I’d hoped, but did learn something new: I found that like most coasters, it uses pneumatic brakes to safely stop the ride. When I asked Jasper why, he said it’s because pneumatics are “inexpensive, proven and reliable.”
These words are pretty standard when it comes to users of pneumatics. As long as you maintain your compressed air systems, ensuring they are leak-free and running at their highest levels of efficiency, they are truly cost-effective, reliable systems that have proven their usefulness over many decades.
Although some roller coasters at Cedar Point use magnetic brakes, pneumatic brakes are still popular on the tracks. Simply engaging a pneumatic cylinder raises the brake, which in turn slows down the train. Having more than one set of pneumatic actuator brakes makes the braking fail-safe and redundant. And each set of brakes has its own air supply system in case of power supply failure. Check out Cedar Point’s video on their YouTube channel to see the coaster being tested, with the smooth braking action seen at the end.
Simple, effective and safe. That’s the power of pneumatics.
Filed Under: News