Whizzer Blocks

All about the rides at Marriott's GREAT AMERICA and post-Marriott rides, too
Post Reply
User avatar
WhizzerSFGAm
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 89
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2005 3:09 pm
Location: SFGAm's Whizzer
Contact:

Whizzer Blocks

Post by WhizzerSFGAm » Sun Jul 24, 2005 2:11 pm

This is something that has had me stumped for quite some time. When Whizzer opened, it could run up to 5 trains.

http://www.greatamericaparks.com/sg/rid ... zer008.jpg

As seen in this picture, the lift obviously must have been 2 blocks. Exactly how did the lift hill work when 5 trains were running? How many blocks did the ride originally have and where were they located?
It's Whizzer time!

User avatar
BrianPlencner
Tidal Wave
Posts: 209
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 8:07 pm
Location: Carpentersville, IL
Contact:

Post by BrianPlencner » Sun Jul 24, 2005 6:51 pm

This page gives you a good overall shot of Whizzer, before all the trees grew in at the Gurnee Park.

http://www.greatamericaparks.com/sg/rid ... zer007.jpg

As you can see, there is one train at the top of the lift hill, one on the course (going up the 4th hill), one on the transfer track, and one going into the station.

I did not remember the lift hill being able to have 2 trains on it at the same time. I do, however, remember where the breaks out on the course were located.

Break #1 was at the top of the 2nd hill. For reference, here is a picture of that part of the ride. The train is right over where the breaks were located. This picture was taken May of 2005 from the Sky Trek Tower.

Image

Break #2 is still on the ride today. It is right before you make the turn around the lift hill. For reference again, here is a picture of that part of the ride. This picture was taken in May of 2005 from Sky Trek Tower.

Image

Break #3 was located at the top of the hill after you made the curving drop that was next to the water. If you look at the first picture, you can kind of see that part of the ride near the top left.

Finally, you have the many sets of breaks coming into the station, and the ones in the station itself.

Now, as you can see in the arieal shot of the ride, there was actually 2 stations. The one on the left side was the load area, and the other was the unload area. The train that is either stopped or coming into the station is at the front part of the unload area.

So, using all that, and adding in the lift as two blocks, the blocks would then be

Block One: Load station to midway up the lift hill
Block Two: Midway up the lift hill to top of lift hill
Block Three: Top of the lift to the top of the 2nd hill
Block Four: Top of the 2nd hill to top of the 3rd hill
Block Five: Top of the 3rd hill to top of the 4th hill
Block Six: Top of the 4th Hill to first set of Station Breaks
Block Seven ... Block ?: Station
Last edited by BrianPlencner on Sun Sep 18, 2005 8:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
===========================================
Mr. Brian Plencner
SFGAm Employee: 1988-1992

User avatar
ewilson
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2005 5:20 pm
Location: Las Vegas
Contact:

Whizzer trains

Post by ewilson » Sun Jul 24, 2005 7:29 pm

So we are aware here we are treading on some sensitve ground as there was a death involved with the Whizzer that had to do with number of trains and breaking systems. There is what was brought up in court how it operates, and how it really operates.

This is the information I got from an experieced Whizzer ride operator who had worked for the park for many years from the beginning as we discussed it following the incident.

The ride itself can handle 7 trains, but in this situation it must be run in manual mode. When 5 trains were run it could be run by the computer. Most of the time, unless it was a busy day, 5 trains were run as it was preferred to be run by the computer (lesser chance for error).

User avatar
BrianPlencner
Tidal Wave
Posts: 209
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 8:07 pm
Location: Carpentersville, IL
Contact:

Post by BrianPlencner » Sun Jul 24, 2005 7:43 pm

I do now that the computer in the Gurnee park has been modified, and only 3 trains can be run at any given time. I believe the park still has all 5 trains, but they never put more then three on (even on the transfer track).

My understanding is the park does a rotation with the 5 trains. For a given year, 3 will be in service, while the other 2 will be in rehab. Then, the next season, one or both of the rehad trains will be added, and 2 more will be put into rehab. This way, the park gets 12 months to rehab a train, allowing them more time to do a full and complete job.

By the way, I belive the same is true with Eagle, which had 3 trains per side when it opened in 1981. It now only runs with 2, with the 3rd train in rotation for rehab.
===========================================
Mr. Brian Plencner
SFGAm Employee: 1988-1992

User avatar
WhizzerSFGAm
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 89
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2005 3:09 pm
Location: SFGAm's Whizzer
Contact:

Post by WhizzerSFGAm » Sun Jul 24, 2005 8:02 pm

Regarding the rotation of trains on SFGAm's Whizzer, they rehab a train every two years. In 2002, Train 4 got a rehab and Train 5 was rehabbed for 2004. Next year, Train 1 should be done.
It's Whizzer time!

User avatar
SFGAmLover
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 54
Joined: Mon Jul 11, 2005 11:10 pm
Location: Midwest

Post by SFGAmLover » Mon Jul 25, 2005 4:21 pm

How do the non-fin brakes work on a Speed Racer/Jumbo Jet/Jet Star? There are the standard fin brakes (fins are parallel to the ground on the sides of the train) on the block brake just before the right-hand turn around the lift... and at the end... but how do the other brakes work? Can anyone elaborate? Thanks.
WARNING: This message was composed on a computer in a household where peanuts and peanut products are served.

User avatar
twixmix0303
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 10:47 pm
Contact:

Post by twixmix0303 » Sun Aug 07, 2005 10:50 pm

Going back to 5 trains, what would happen if there was a hold up in the station, and trains got backed up? Obviously, there were no seatbelts so load times were much less, but if there was a hold up, would trains be stranded out on the course? Also, about how often were trains dispatched? (It only takes about 15 seconds for a train to reach the middle of the lift, but what is the longest you could go without trains getting stuck in the middle of the course?)

User avatar
steven
Site Admin
Posts: 553
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2005 9:12 pm
Contact:

Post by steven » Sun Aug 07, 2005 11:26 pm

Someone who worked on Whizzer with five-train operation could better answer these questions. In Gurnee, I do remember that each morning before the park opened, crew members from other rides in Hometown Square and County Fair went as "volunteers" to ride Whizzer for a brake test. I rode several times for the brake tests. For the test, they stopped us at each brake along the course.

Steven

User avatar
redfishpaw
Tidal Wave
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 9:58 am
Location: Milwaukee
Contact:

Post by redfishpaw » Mon Aug 08, 2005 6:02 am

steven wrote: In Gurnee, I do remember that each morning before the park opened, crew members from other rides in Hometown Square and County Fair went as "volunteers" to ride Whizzer for a brake test. Steven
One thing that I recall from working in rides was that each morning ''Lead'' person had to go on the ride (usually alone) before the ride could be opened. I believe that this was the case for all of rides

ImagineerFan
Gulf Coaster
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2005 5:47 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Contact:

Post by ImagineerFan » Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:38 pm

This is an interesting topic and one that I can definitely hang my hat upon. My engineers hat that is. A quick resume', I am an electrical engineer and I specialize in control systems and motion control. Are there any oher engineers up here?

I recalled the early days of the park and Willard's Whizzer was one of my favorites to watch in operation. When the park opened I was 10, but already had a deep passion for the engineering and technical aspects of park operations. In my hometown was an old trolley park with a terriifc woodie and a maintenance man with whom i made good friends, but I digress.

5 train operation and how it would have been accomplished using 1976 technology.

For starters, I have serious doubts that the rides at MGA had computers or more corrctly PLC's (prgrammable logic controllers); if anyone would like a description of what a PLC is and how it works I would be happy to provide one. There were indeed PLC's in the 70's, though they were nothing more than a glorified relay panel that was somewhat programmable.

About 10 years back I was fortunate enough to take a day long tour of many of the rides and their controls. This was hosted by two of the electrical engineers at the park. If my memory serves me correctly, we were shown the first fully automated system installed on the Demon and it was just a few years old at the time. It wa beautiful system that consisted of a single Allen-Bradley PLC5 with redundant I/O, the lift hill now had a speed controller, which could be ramped up and down between cycles.

This is about the Whizzer and that was part of the tour as well. There was a lengthy discussion about the original relay panel that was used to control the ride system. About how there were two Operator's Stations, one at dispatch and the other on the brake run. I do not recall that separate unload and load were utilized. Instead with two trains on the lift hill, one in load/unload, one on the hold/ready brakes and the other in the gravity zone there could easily be five train operation. This would allow the train in gravity to safely stop on the first set of hold/ready brakes. The next train off of the lift would have stop at mid-course and the train still on the lift would be prevented from clearing the lift.

Now for the brakes within the gravity zone. I am proetty positive that there is only one mid-course brake that is capable of stopping a train. The other brakes appear to be manually set trim brakes. There are also anti-rollbacks on the upslopes of the bigger hills.

What was explained to us on the tour was that the Brakeman was responsible for all of the brakes along the circuit. The Dispatch operator would jog trains into and out of the station. Recall that there are booster wheels not only in the station, but approaching the lift and on the second set of hold/ready brakes.

Incidentally, one of our guides who has been at the park for a number of years, but did not work for Marriott's, mentioned how jealous they were of the advanced ride controllers that Disney had implemented. That particular day I was wearing a Walt Disney Imagineering jacket, though I do not work for them, and that started a discussion. There was comparisons as to how Big Thunder Mountain is controlled as compared to the Whizzer. If you did not know, BTMRR is designed for 5 train operation. Did you know that Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom typically runs with 12 trains per side. Sorry I digressed again. Back to the topic. Anyways, BTMRR's PLC's were orignally designed to assist, but not totally operate the attraction and the operators were famous for being able to safely juggle 5 trains, plus add and subtract trains from the circuit while the ride was live. The SF engineers were quite jealous of these abilities. Presently all of Six Flags Great America's coasters are controlled by PLC's.

Well that should do it for now. Look forward to more discussion.

Justin

User avatar
twixmix0303
Yankee Clipper
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 10:47 pm
Contact:

Post by twixmix0303 » Thu Aug 25, 2005 5:25 pm

It's amazing how far we've come in terms of how much the computer controls. Rides like American Eagle and Whizzer had brakemen, you don't see those anymore. Then again, I'm sure it's much safer (far less chance of error) to have everything conrolled by computer rather than humans. Do you know where the brakeman was positioned? There's no obvious booth like there is on American Eagle.

ImagineerFan
Gulf Coaster
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2005 5:47 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Contact:

Post by ImagineerFan » Thu Aug 25, 2005 5:37 pm

The brakeman position for the Whizzer was located in the tower situated along the brake run. From there it was possible to see the midcourse brakes, most of the rest of the circuit and of course the brake run itself.

Yes the addition of more advanced PLC's and PC-based control systems has greatly improved safety, reliability and efficiency. No ride system designer, controls engineer, operator or even rider whould become complacent by automation. For it is designed by humans, implemented by humans and run by humans and as such we are still a very falable creature.

User avatar
steven
Site Admin
Posts: 553
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2005 9:12 pm
Contact:

Post by steven » Sat Aug 27, 2005 12:16 am

Thanks, ImagineerFan, for the behind-the-scenes info on Willard's Whizzer. What was the trolley park and woodie in your home town?

Steven

ImagineerFan
Gulf Coaster
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2005 5:47 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Contact:

Post by ImagineerFan » Sat Aug 27, 2005 7:55 am

Thanks, ImagineerFan, for the behind-the-scenes info on Willard's Whizzer. What was the trolley park and woodie in your home town?

Steven
First off I grew and still live in Muskego, WI, which is about 10 miles as the crow flies southwest of Milwaukee. Muskego was home to a small trolley-style amusement park originally known as Muskego Beach, as it was on the shore of Little Muskego Lake. When I was grwoing up this park went by the name Dandelion Park.

The park was orignally built by The Milwaukee Electric Railway Company and was intended as way to draw ridership to the park on weekends. If you study your amusement park history, you will find that this practice was common all over the US durng that period.

Dandelion Park had a nice collection of rides including a beautiful merry-go-round, a giant slide, a train, a sky glider, a handful of flat rides and a wooden coaster known as the Tail Spin.

The Tail Spin dated back to the 1930's and in its early years was considered to have the tallest and steepest first drop in the country. Well that is what documents at the Muskego Historical Society claim. Then again, my neighbors, who ran the park, claimed that as well. Anyways, it was Cyclone style double figure eight. It was a beauty to look at and watch run. Sadly I never rode it, for at the time I was too chicken to ride; the Demon was my first girl.

A little more history about my love affair with amusement parks and inparticular ride systems. My neighbors ran the park and we frequently got free passes. Plus they always had a garage full of games prizes and soda, lots and lots of soda. All we could drink, too. The elementary school I attended was right next door to the park. The Tail Spin was right out of the window of my 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade classrooms.

Then right behind the school was a little white house, where lived a man with whom I made friends. He was the head of maintenance at the park and I would see him walking the track each and every morning the park was operating. During recess he would be back home, often times working in his yard. I would strike up conversations with him and ask about his park. He knew about the connection with my neighbors too, so he was more than friendly with the information. The one thing I wish I could recall was his name. It was these connections that stoked the fire of my passion for the parks and also towards my future as a controls engineer. It also did not hurt that along the way I discovered an amazing group of people known as Disney Imagineers.

Dandelion Parks last season was 1975. Its demise was written by the soon to be opened super regional park that we all love simply known as MGA. The park stood idle for seven years before being torn down. Most of the rides were sold, all but the Tail Spin. It would eventually pulled down and scrapped. The land where the park once stood is now condo's. Another nearby neigbor owned the Tail Spin's sign for many years and recently sold it to another couple.

Thanks for indulging my ramblings.

Justin

Free registration may be required for this article:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/wauk/jul04/240672.asp

Here's a link to No-Limits model of the Tail SPin (scroll down the page):
http://www.negative-g.com/NoLimits/No%2 ... asters.htm

User avatar
steven
Site Admin
Posts: 553
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2005 9:12 pm
Contact:

Post by steven » Sat Aug 27, 2005 2:44 pm

Thanks, Justin, for sharing your story about Dandelion Park. I suspected that it might have been the trolley park you mentioned. It must have been very cool to grow up having that kind of access to a traditional amusement park. Great stuff!

Additional info and many newspaper articles about the park are available at rcdb.com:
http://www.rcdb.com/pd944.htm

Browsing the information on rcdb.com, I'm sorry to see that the park had its share of tragedy. :-(

Steven

Post Reply