Hubert Gerstlauer was an employee of legendary ride designer Anton Schwarzkopf ride’s company in Munsterhausen, Germany. He founded his own company, Gerstlauer Elektro GmbH, in 1982 and kept supplying electrical and pneumatic components to Schwarzkopf. After the dissolution of Schwarzkopf rides, Hubert Gerstlauer purchased part of the Schwarzkopf factory and started designing rides on their name. They provided components for a transportable roller coaster in Germany and produced some spinning attractions, like the Polyp and Dancing Pavilion.
Dancing Pavilion at Holiday Park in Germany.
Hydre de Lerne at the Parc Asterix in Plailly, France.
Our friend Flex provided us with this picture of Hollenblitz, the current name of the transportable spinning coaster Gerstlauer worked on.
In 1998, Gerstlauer premiered their first stand-alone roller coaster, G’Sengte Sau. Located at Erlebnispark Tripsdrill in Cleebronn, Germany, this was a new style of roller coaster which used four passenger cars, and the layout combined steep drops, wild mouse style hairpin turns and smooth spirals. The car style was revolutionary with an open front and comfortable individual U-shaped lap bars. The model line was called the “Bobsled,” and it attracted a lot of interests, and amazingly, 20 years after the debut of G’Sengte Sau, two new Bobsled coasters will open in 2018.
G’Sengte Sau at Tripsdrill.
Using the momentum of Bobsled Coaster and Junior Coaster, Gerstlauer created the Eurofighter. The Eurofighter would use a steep 90-degree lift hill, and the original models started with a 97 degrees drop. This was the first time a roller coaster drop went beyond vertical and unique cars were require to navigate the tight lift hill and first drop structure. This then allowed compact layouts and rapid-fire pacing.
For the lift hill, Gerstlauer went back to an original Schwarzkopf invention. Starting in 1978 for the Looping Star and then the Doppel Looping and Silver Arrow models, to eliminate the pusher tires or lift chain inside the station, Schwarzkopf invented a new lift method. Instead of using chain dogs mounted on the train that then engage a chain, a wheeled sled is mounted on the chain. Two sleds are attached at opposite ends of the chain, and one of those engages an adaptor mounted on the train and pushed the train up the lift hill. One benefit is that even if the chain extends into the station, you can still have a train enter the station while it is running since the other pusher sled can’t engage it.
Using the Schwarzkopf lift as an inspiration, Gerstlauer designed a T-shaped piece that went under the Eurofighter car. When the train approaches the lift hill, pusher tires push it into the base of the lift hill, and you can hear the anti-rollbacks engaging. This in turns holds the car in place as the chain slowly rotates and the pusher smoothly engages the T-shaped attachment. The lift hill accelerates and takes the train up at a 90 ninety degrees angle. Once at the top, it pushes the vehicle into the beyond vertical drop.
The lift hill is equipped with a small elevator, and this is used by both maintenance personnel to inspect the lift and operational staff to evacuate a stalled train.
The drop has a very tight shape as Vild Svinet is 72 feet tall and that was not a lot of height to design a traditional drop. This ended up becoming the signature element of the ride.
The lift hill on Vild Svinet courtesy of Flex.
The unique ride vehicle appears to consist of two rows in a solid fiberglass frame. In reality, it consists of two individual rows that are capable of twisting and pitching. Gerstlauer design team is quite imaginative and has come up with incredible fiberglass designs for each client. A hydraulic shoulder restraint initially restrained guests; Equipped with a position sensor to make sure it was lowered to a safe point to restrain riders. In 2012, Iron Shark at the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (Texas) premiered a new style of car. Using the same four abreast vehicles that previous Eurofighter featured, the hydraulic restraint system was moved under the car and new comfortable T-shaped lap bars restraint riders. This gave passengers an additional feeling of liberty.
One of the highly themed train on Untamed at Canobie Lake Park. That ride will be featured in a future article.
Flex shot this picture of the new open lap bar car on Iron Shark.
Vild Svinet at BonBon-Land (Holme-Olstrup, Denmark) featured an out, and back layout and Gerstlauer experimented with many styles of designs. Speed: No Limit at Oakwood Theme Park (Narberth, Pembrokeshire, Wales) opened in 2006 and like Vild Svinet, feature an out and back layout with a taller lift hill at 115 feet tall. The 97° drop follows and immediately leads into an intense airtime hill and banked curve. A large vertical loop stands out, and the train then goes up into the block brakes. A Heartline Roll immediately follows, and the ride concludes with a series of spirals.
The loop and most of the layout on Vild Svinet.
The second Eurofighter to open did so in 2004 at Bobbejaanaland in Lichtaart, Belgium. It was a replacement for a classic Schwarzkopf Looping Star, and thus, the ride had to fit in a small compact area. The result is entirely different as the layout features three block brakes, a slow double Heartline Roll element and a faster Heartline Roll at the end. All pictures of Typhoon are courtesy of Flex.
The lift hill on Typhoon.
The 97° drop on Typhoon.
The lift hill and other inversions in the background.
The train in the second Heartline Roll.
One of the ride vehicle.
In 2007, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN opened the Wilderness Pass to connect the two dead ends in the park. Guests could see the Thunderhead wooden roller coaster from the Tennessee Tornado but had to backtrack down the hill, through the entrance area and then up to Thunderhead to reach it. The headliner attraction of Wilderness Pass is Mystery Mine, the first Eurofighter in the United States. The idea here was to have a thrilling dark ride/roller coaster hybrid attraction similar to the existing Blazing Fury at the park. The Eurofighter ride system was flexible enough to do everything the park wanted, and it became the signature thrill ride at the park at the time.
A look toward the ride building and part of the ride finale.
A look at the ride from the Wild Eagle lift hill. This was shot during a climb on the lift hill and done with park permission.
A look toward the finale.
Mystery Mine is themed to a cursed mine shaft, riders enter the building and make their way up to the loading platform. Two ride cars load at once, and the ride starts with a steep drop down into the mines. This lead to a black light lit dark ride portion, with notably a broken track illusion and spinning ore crusher our car dives under. After the ore crusher encounter, the train is stopped and waits at the bottom of the first vertical lift hill.
Mystery Mine features this Vulture barker outside the attraction.
A look at the ride building.
The ride car courtesy of http://www.negative-g.com/
The drop down into the mine.
Negative G did a backstage tour of the attraction and was able to shoot some photos inside the dark ride section and other areas not accessible to guests. This is the Broken Track scene in the dark ride.
At the top, the train comes out of a mine shaft and start its journey above a walkway. This section is a significant feat of engineering because no supports were placed in the path and it is supported in a bridge fashion. After a block brake, the train dives down a near vertical 85° drop into a horseshoe turn and goes around two spirals before hopping over the bridge and back toward the mine. Once inside, the crow that has been following us throughout our journey reappears and this time, things take a turn for the worst when the proverbial canary in the mine dies. The train then goes up the second 85 feet tall lift hill, and as we climb ever closer to the ceiling, we see the mine collapsing on a video screen.
The bridge section outside.
The Horseshoe, courtesy of http://www.negative-g.com/
The Horseshoe and spirals.
The curve heading back into the mine.
At the top, the train is held in place by brakes as we see a lot of packed explosives. We then see the fuse lighting up and then, three massive fire blasts shootout, and they are close enough for riders to feel the heat. The train then dives down to the right in a twisting 95° drop and the ore cart is twisted around in a rising 540° Heartline Roll that ends in a half loop. The train then goes up into the final brakes.
The second lift hill with the video screen at the top. This photo appears courtesy of http://www.negative-g.com/
The 95° drop, courtesy of http://www.negative-g.com/
Due to the tight site requirements and dark ride portion, the transfer track is a scissor elevator in the station, and the maintenance area is under the loading platform.
In 2009, Hansa Park in Sierksdorf, Germany opened Fluch Von Novgorod. This ride is quite crucial as it was the first time that a beyond vertical drop was combined with a launch. When the ride opened, the indoor portion theming was to be completed in 2010 when the dark ride portion would receive its spectacular effects. After the dark ride portion that eventually told the story of a ghost using pepper ghosts projections and an animatronic, guests then drop down into a fast 0 to 62 mph launch. Using LSM, riders are accelerated to that impressive speed in only 1.4 seconds, and it is one of the world’s most intense acceleration. The train is launched into a rising curve which turns into an airtime moment. An elevated curve leads the train toward a pretzel turnaround, and a Heartline Roll leads the train toward the 131 feet tall lift hill, housed inside its castle tower. All photos of Fluch von Novgorod are courtesy of Flex.
The airtime hill exiting the dark ride section.
The train in the middle of the Pretzel.
The Heartline Roll.
The Castle Tower with the lift hill and drop inside.
At the top, the train twists a bit on the way down, and a succession of turns conclude the gravity portion of the ride. A final scary gag ends the experience right before deboarding.
In 2009 as well, Thorpe Park (Chertsey, United Kingdom) selected Gerstlauer as the supplier for Saw: The Ride. That particular model was named the 680 model, and it featured the steepest drop in the world at the time: 100 degrees. The Saw license is a prevalent Horror theme, and for this attraction, guests are the latest victims of Jigsaw. After walking through its particular waiting line, consisting of an abandoned warehouse chainlink fence maze, guests enter the building and see one of the previous victims of the Serial Killer, trapped in the iconic barbed wire game. Guests board one of the ride eight trains and two trains leave the station at once.
Abandonned Warehouse and store housed in the container.
The first car proceeds right into the dark ride portion while the other wait and Billy, Jigsaw’s puppet, appears and tell riders that they will play a game. After that, the train dives under swinging axes and riders narrowly dodge crossbow bolts, simulated using compressed air. The train then dives down again and goes through a Heartline Roll. What makes this element surreal is that the room it is in recreates the iconic bathroom scene of the first movie, complete with the corpse in the middle. The body is located right under where the train rolls upside down and water splash up as it spins above.
The ride vehicle then exits the building and turns back toward the ride lift hill. The lift hill here is 100 feet tall, and video screens at the bottom show Billy telling us… Game Over. The train is pushed up to the top and immediately goes down the record-breaking 100° drop, narrowly avoiding rusty spinning blades placed by Jigsaw at the bottom. A large Bollinger & Mabillard style Immelmann inversion (half loop-half roll exit) take riders the other way and into a sharp diving curve. This is where a major design change happened: it was initially speculated that a Bollinger & Mabillard style Zero-G Roll was going to be placed there, but the final design features an airtime hill. The train then rises into the block brake, and a small dive loop inversion and rising curve conclude the experience.
The lift hill, drop and Immelmann.
The spinning saws at the bottom of the drop.
A car starting to drop.
The airtime hill and block brake.