10/06/2011

 

Silver Star

Love it or hate it, you will never forget it.1,620m long and 73m high for a three-minute adrenaline-filled ride!

If you have ever wondered what the acceleration and G-force of a Formula One car feels like, then you should take a trip on Europa-Park’s hypercoaster, the Silver Star. But it is not just the performance that is hair- raising so are the heights. And it is all done by gravity, 130km/h and over four G’s!

Hypercoasters are steel constructions that are super-tuned for maximum speed and airtime that is negative G for that flying feeling. The enormous forces call for the highest standards of engineering and maintenance. The Silver Star meets all Germany’s stringent TÜV safety requirements.

The Silver Star feels reassuringly solid. The seats could be out of the latest rally car, but it is the safety bar that impresses the most. It is a heavy steel construction with a futuristic handlebar unit clad in black padding that fits snugly and shuts with a satisfying clunk to hold you firmly in position.

Extreme performance, extreme thrills
The ride begins with a slow, nerve-wracking climb that presses you deep into your seat. As the train reaches its 73m peak, it almost stops but then shrieks of terror and delight break out as the Silver Star suddenly goes into free fall, accelerating to 130km/h, thundering through a series of turns and drops designed for maximum airtime. The more timid hang on to their handlebars, while the daredevils hold up their arms to make the most of the negative G secured by their safety bar, of course. Just as you begin to think it must be all over, the train suddenly rockets into a horseshoe with a 120° bend for the thrilling grand finale. Then the screams of exhilaration become cries of joy and relief as the riders feel the train decelerate and realise they are still in one piece. How do they do it? Truly mind-blowing performance equalling the acceleration and G-force of a Grand Prix car but without an engine! How do they make sure it runs smoothly and safely?

High tech and traditional values
Rollercoasters have come a long way since the old Russian mountain days they were originally ice runs on wooden supports, up to 25m high, dating back to the fifteenth century from St Petersburg. Now the latest like the Silver Star are computer controlled. The speed and passenger load are constantly calculated to apply just the right amount of magnetic braking, but just like the Russian mountain times, vibrations and safety are still issues. To ensure that the safety bars do their job, they must be vibration- proof.

Hans Volz, the chief engineer in charge of Silver Star maintenance, relies on Loctite 243: “We check all 108 bars every day and annually strip the units down completely for detailed inspection. For reassembling them we use it to threadlock the bolts that connect the ratchet parts to the main bar. Because Loctite 243 is medium strength, it is strong enough to withstand the loads and vibrations, but can be disassembled for maintenance. It is perfect for us.”

Keeping the wheels rolling
The guide wheels are crucial to providing a fast but safe ride and keep the train locked to the track from above, below and from the side. Like the safety bars, the wheel units are checked daily – and stripped down, examined and reassembled every year. The steel ball- bearing cages must be completely removed from the aluminium wheels for a full inspection, and when there are 120 wheels to check altogether, efficiency is important.

Chief mechanic Volz has a useful trick: “Because aluminium expands faster than steel, we warm up the wheels to 70°C, which allows us to simply push out the steel ball-bearing cage. We then clean all surfaces with Loctite 7063. We use Loctite 638 for fixing the cage it’s a high-strength retainer, ideal for dealing with cylindrical metal parts.” Loctite 243 is used to threadlock the bolts that secure the ball-bearing cage casings and also to threadlock the bolts that fasten the wheels to the train.

“Loctite 243 saves us a lot of time, but doesn’t compromise reliability in any way,” adds Achim Stoss, the engineer responsible, amongst other things, for Silver Star maintenance. “It holds tight for as long as we need, but we can still dismantle parts with hand tools.”

Despite being Germany’s largest theme park and the biggest seasonal park in the world, Europa-Park is still a family business. “The Mack family have been in the rollercoaster business since the 1920s. The traditional family values still continue you see that in the pride people take in their work here,” says Alfred Kaltenbach, Loctite’s sales area manager.




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