In 1995, after eddy-current magnetic braking was proven as a functional and effective way to stop amusement ride vehicles, Intamin launched a new freefall. Originally known as the “Second Generation Freefall” and sold through the Intamin Ride Trade division, this was a very compact thrill ride that effectively put individual 4 passenger cars on tracks around a tower. The first ones to open were the “Hellevator” at Kentucky Kingdom (Louisville, KY) in October 1995 and the Space Probe 7 at Sydney Wonderland (Sydney, Australia) in November. Due to height restrictions at Kentucky Kingdom, the tower stood 177 feet tall while at Sydney Wonderland, Space Probe 7 stood 220 feet tall. Capacity wise, it is an extremely flexible ride system, since two to six cars can be mounted around the tower.
Hellevator was located right behind the park entrance. Picture appears courtesy of http://www.negative-g.com/
Four of the ride’s cars. This picture also appears courtesy of http://www.negative-g.com/
Hellevator opened with 6, while Space Probe 7 featured 3. 1996 brought more towers, as Premier Parks and Paramount Parks saw the incredible potential of the ride and started installing them in as many of their parks as possible. The flexibility also meant that a park like Adventure World (now known as Six Flags America in Largo, MD) could install an effective 140 feet tall tower that still could get approved. On the other hand, Canada’s Wonderland (Vaughan, ON) and California Great America added 227 feet tall towers with 6 cars since they had no such height restrictions at the time.
The ride car on Canada’s Wonderland Drop Tower. Notice the retrofitted seatbelts.
Canada’s Wonderland Drop Tower.
Mechanically, the rides are very simple as Intamin took their expertise with observation towers and applied it to the new ride. Each car rest on hydraulic plungers that smoothly catch the car and provide it with a stable platform for loading. The catch car (each car has one) come down during loading and for safety, it only attach to the car once everyone is seated and restraints are checked. The catch car has an easy release hook that attach to the car and take it up at a high pace. Interestingly, the power generated by the motors is constant, but the presence of the metal fins at the bottom mean the car goes slowly and then suddenly speeds up once it clears those. At the top, after a few seconds pause, the cars hooks are pushed to the side and the cars then drops. It is a pure freefall as it is not attached to any cable at that point. The metal fins get closer as it gets nearer to the ground and it slows the cars at a gradual and smooth rate. Those fins interact with eddy current rare earth magnetic brakes mounted on the back of each car. The braking is calculated so that when it reach the bottom, the plungers smoothly catch the car and bring it down for unloading.
Flex provided this picture of Anubis: The Ride, the first Intamin Giant Drop in Europe. It is located at Holiday Park in Hassloch, Germany.
Each seat originally was equipped with an ergonomic seat and a padded shoulder restraint. After an incident in 1999, seatbelts were retrofitted and the belt buckle is mounted on the front of the shoulder bar. The belt is attached to the front of the seat and goes between the riders legs and it is a go/no go device to make sure riders will be restrained and also to prevent riders from sliding under the bar.
This picture shows the original theming of the Dalton Terror at Six Flags Belgium (Wavre, Belgium). This was shot in 2001 and the park has since been renamed to Walibi Belgium and the tower repainted to brown with silver rings. The cars are now yellow and while the Dalton Terror signs was preserved, the 4 Dalton figures were removed.
Newton is a 131 feet tall Giant Drop located at Kijima Kogen (Beppu, Japan).
Giant Drop Meteo is a 174 feet tall Giant Drop with 4 cars located at Hirakata Park, near Osaka, Japan.
The name was appropriate on the day we visited as it was pouring rain, yet the ride was still going strong. As you can, the park did not install additional seat belts on the restraints.
Intamin always brought innovations to the “Giant Drop 4” (as it is currently known) with 3 new kind of cars and adding brakes to different parts of the tower. It started in 1998 when Hakkeijima Sea Paradise (Yokohama, Japan) introduced the “Blue Fall”, the world’s tallest Freefall tower in the world. It was a record that stood until “Giant Drop” at Dreamworld (Gold Coast, Australia) opened later that year. But, Blue Fall still held the record for tallest stand-alone freefall tower until 2002 since Giant Drop is built on an existing ride.
This incredible picture show the upper portion of Blue Fall. The unique trick can be seen near the top of the right ride track. http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/ for the park japanese page and http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/index.html for the english language page.
Blue Fall stands 351 feet tall and the 6 cars reach 328 feet in the air. Now, Blue Fall has a unique trick: 3 of those cars are standard, like every other Giant Drop attraction in the world. For the other 3? Metal fins are also mounted at the TOP of the attraction. So, you drop 30 feet, get a sudden slowdown and before you realise what is happening, you drop another 200 feet before the standard metal fins slow it down on the bottom third of the ride.
In 1998, Grona Lund in Stockholm, Sweden converted their observation tower. Intamin came in and retrofitted 3 tracks to the existing tower and converted the motors to be able to lift each car individually. Originally, all 3 tracks had the standard sit-down cars, but in 2004, one of the car was swapped. The new car has stand-up floorless seats that tilt forward 15-17 degrees.
In 2000, Drayton Manor (Drayton Bassett, United Kingdom) premiered Apocalypse, the world’s first stand-up freefall. It is a five sided tower and 4 were in use when it opened. Two of those are the standard sit-down cars seen around the world and the other two are unique: platforms where riders stand and are restrained by a bicycle seat and shoulder restraint. The now familiar seatbelt goes between the legs and also serves as the go/no go device for the ride operators. The tower stands 177 feet tall and is themed to a science experiment gone wrong and the bottom of the ride is suitably enclosed and has a very dark theme. Mechanically, the heavier Stand-Up cars results in a longer lift period.
Drayton Manor provided this great picture of the Apocalypse. You can see the ride relative to its surroundings and two of the Stand-up cars are ready to drop. http://draytonmanor.co.uk/
Drayton Manor also provided this great picture of the unique stand-up car tilting forward, ready to drop. You can also notice that the tower topper piece is also suitably themed, a strong point of Intamin. http://draytonmanor.co.uk/
In 2002, the 5th track on the tower was put to use as the “Fifth Element”. It used the same Floorless Stand-up tilting car that had premiered in 2001 on a Gyro Drop in the USA. Like the Stand-up sides, it tilts to 15 degrees at the top before dropping riders.
In the 1998, Leofoo Village was in the middle of a large expansion and Intamin was the supplier for most of those attractions. One of the featured ride was a 174 feet tall Giant Drop with five cars and it is notewhile for its incredible integration and theming. Pagoda’s Revenge is buried in the ground and the top features a large tiki mask that covers the top of the car’s path. It is extremely effective.
The ride features one of the most themed environment for a freefall ride in the world.
The ride’s heavy theme continues to the building at the bottom of tower.
The waiting line goes around the building below grade to the bottom of the tower.
The ride cars are beautifully themed.
The metal fins are what the car mounted eddy current brakes react to. You can also the plungers to each side of the fins.
A view of the tower looking up from the bottom.
In 2005, Port Aventura (Salou) debut the Hurakan Condor. Themed to mayan ruins in the Mexico area of the park and housed inside a large temple, this Giant Drop is the second tallest of its kind in the world at 328 feet tall. Riders reach the 282 feet level of the enclosed top. Riders are then dropped to the ground and it is quite a special experience given the tall building at the bottom.
Port Aventura provided this great picture of the Floorless style car as it is about to plummet to the ground. http://www.portaventura.co.uk/
The tower has 5 sides with 3 different styles: two sit-down ride gondolas, two sit-down cars that tilt forward to 20 degrees and two Floorless Stand-Up cars that tilt to 15 degrees.
Flex provided this great picture of Hurakan Condor at night.
One last unique Giant Drop was installed in 2012 in an incredible location: near the top of the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China. The tower was the tallest in the world when it opened in 2010 and stood 1969 feet tall, counting the antenna. The tower itself is 1476 feet tall and the antenna is 492 feet tall. In 2012, the Sky Drop drop tower became operational and start from the 1489 feet level. Two cars are installed on opposite sides of the antenna and the cars go 101 feet in the air. It is the current Guinness record holder for the Tallest Thrill Ride in the world. One car has the standard sit-down seats and the other has the Floorless seats.
This information plate gives all the technical details of the Sky Drop.
The standard ride car path.
The Floorless car ready to load.
Side view of the Floorless car. All four pictures appear courtesy of Flex.