Behind the Scenes at Alton Towers

TH13TEEN Preview Weekend Visit

As many of you will know, the Alton Towers TH13TEEN preview weekend was cancelled due to technical difficulties.

Alton Towers, being who they are didn’t want to leave anyone disappointed and refunded everyone their tickets. Then they re-booked the entire event, although this time with free admission to the park and a fast track ticket for TH13TEEN. Also, guests were allowed to bring people with them, which is how I managed to attend the event.

The event started at 4pm in the hospitality suite located in the main park. The suite had been themed in a similar style to that of the ride itself, inclusive of the Rath actors.

Drinks were provided whilst we waited for our host to arrive, whom spoke a little then allowed us to enjoy our food. The food supplied by the resort was extremely tasty and of a much higher quality than I was admittedly expecting.

At 5pm, whilst we were all enjoying our food, John Wardley appeared on stage to talk about the development and history to TH13TEEN. His talk was very informative, well laid out and very enjoyable! After his talk about TH13TEEN he dropped the hint that SW7 was in the works by explaining how the SW naming convention came about.

Following on from this was some information about using Nolimits roller coaster simulation and some history to NEMESIS, and some very interesting facts about it too.

After the talk we started our behind the scenes tour of both HEX and TH13TEEN.

HEX

Our tour behind the scenes at Alton towers started with Hex, Being the first group we had a small wait as the ride crew set everything up and opened the gates.

As can be seen in the photos below, the entrance hall doesn’t look too different with the lights on, other than the fact you can see things as you walk on by!

Inside the Hall of hex with the lights on Inside the Hall of hex with the lights on

During the day the queue for hex was right out of the door, so to see it this quiet was a nice contrast. You can see much more detail on the walls compared to normal operating conditions.

These photos are of the section called the octagon, due to its 8 sides. In this room you can see the witch from the Hex legend and the generator which is powering the lights in the room.

Here you can see inside the main ride section. Hex is in fact a Vekoma Mad house ride. The photo in the middle shows the ceiling whilst the room is rotating. Before being shown further we were allowed to ride Hex with the lights on.

On the right is the main control room for Hex. It contains a few screens of various parts of the attraction, a touch screen control system and a standard control board. The ride is fully automatic, other than the lowering of restraints. There is also a viewing window to the rotating drum that is part of the illusion to the ride. The blue machine is a hydraulic pump that swings the seats from side to side by +/-15 degrees.

We were then led into the room that holds the rotating room of Hex. The Room is massive as it needs to hold the entire 6 sided rotating room inside of it. In the left picture you can see the viewing photo from the control room. In the right you can see the two motors that are moving the room. There are a total of 8 motors in operating to move the room. When the room is rotating (which we got to see!) you can see all the wires for the lights trailing all over the place. Even though we weren’t on the ride, it made us feel weird just the same.

TH13TEEN

After the Hex tour our group headed to TH13TEEN, where we were to be shown round the ride and drop mechanism. John Wardley was also onsite to answer questions.

By the time we started heading towards TH13TEEN the park was completely empty, except a few remaining staff members tidying away bits and bobs, and over the ride staff whom were showing us around. When we arrived at TH13TEEN we were once again greeted by raths which was a nice touch.

The first thing to see was the control room for TH13TEEN, which is located on the offload platform in the station. The Control Room contains the master power switch, which is the large red control with a pad lock on in the middle photo. The usual things, such as an PA system and ride control were present, and two LCD screens hooked up to enough cameras to see every important part of the ride and queue line.

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After the control room we were walked across the train, (Its so depressing walking over the train and not being allowed to ride) and out to the front of the ride were the lift hill and entrance to where the work shop and drop mechanism are located.

The first part of the drop that we saw was the lower section. There is a further 3 stories of machinery below that holds the hydraulics and magnetic braking systems for the drop. You can see in the photo on the right that there is nothing between us and the track, and that between the wooden theming and track is a three story drop!

Having seen the internal drop section of TH13TEEN, we were then taken to view the work shop, but first we had a quick glance at the lift hill section again. The lift hill works by using a series of electric motors with rubber wheels that push the train up. The only exception to this is the wheels used on the drop inside the tomb, which use hydraulics. They used hydraulics to reduce weight, as there was already hydraulic systems on board, where as to use electric would require more control circuitry and increase the weight.

Entering the work shop the first thing that greets you is the working area track, which has a train on for storage. The work shop is large, bright an very very clean considering. We were allowed to touch anything and so everyone got stuck in touching all the running wheels.

In front of the train is the main transfer switch track from workshop to main track. There is a control panel next to it that moves the trains about.

From the workshop we were moved to the fast switch, which is the switch track situated at the end of the reverse section of the track. Again another control box is available for the technical support team to use when moving and testing trains. You can also see the exit to the reverse helix from here.

After seeing the technical aspects of the ride, we were shown the track in the woods. You can see in the first two photos the variable speed brakes. These are used to ensure there are no negative forces felt on the camel backs. This is because the ride is aimed at families and the designers didn’t want to use over the shoulder restraints.

After this we made our way back to the suite to pick up some T-shirts and other freebees.

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