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John Wardley Interview | John Wardley at the ECC 2001


John Wardley at the ECC 2001
In early 2001 John Wardley made an appearance at the European Coaster Club annual meeting at Chessington World Of Adventures. Here he talked about SW5 and Thorpe Parks new 10 looper roller coaster. Make sure you visit the European Coaster Clubs web site at http://www.coasterclub.org ! Below is what John had to say.

SW5: Secret Weapon 5 is a B&M flying roller coaster, it is the first of its kind and has taken 6 years to develop. It was initially going to follow on from Nemesis, but to make a ride with a safe, comfortable flying position, to load and unload quickly and to ensure the flight is convincing the project couldn't be completed for 1998, when Alton wanted its next big roller coaster. This is why Oblivion was created, Oblivion leap frogged SW5. You wont be disappointed in 2002, it will be one hell of a ride, a fantastic ride. 'As far as it being a World first, I wont go into the technical details of how it is a world first, but I can assure you when you ride it everything else will pale into insignificance'. The trains were tested in April on a custom built centrifuge, which John rode to test the G-Forces. This is without a doubt the most beautiful piece of roller coaster engineering in the world. It will not disappoint enthusiasts.

Thorpe Park: For convenience in any press release it is being referred to as a 10 looper, however they are not all loops, the inversions are as follows, a vertical loop, a cobra roll making two inversions, a pair of barrel rolls, 4 inline twists in a row and finally a final inline twist in the opposite direction into the brakes. The ride needed a unique selling point, we know entertainment isn't always about braking records, but we needed to put out a clear message that Thorpe Park was changing. There was a height problem, we could only go 30 metres above the ground, which is nothing in the world of roller coasters. We knew that Intamin could do 8 inversions with a 30 metre lift hill, with the ride in Rio, which is a very efficient ride. We thought there may have been the opportunity to add two more energy efficient inversions., after some double thinking we decided to approach Intamin and ask if they could put 2 more inversions in the ride. The ride is partly underground, with a tunnel before and after the cobra roll, this obviously was very expensive, mainly because Thorpe is on a gravel pit. It will have magnetic induction brakes, which when you ride them you will find are fabulous.

Why did you decide to build sw5 next to Nemesis?

It is hard to get planning permission for roller coasters, in the case of sw5 the question was where could we place another coaster with a high point? Where planning consent would be granted. Next to Nemesis is not the most logical place, we would have liked to place sw5 behind Corkscrew, there is a great site behind the Corkscrew, but we would never have got planning permission. We don't expect enthusiasts to understand what problems we face, but we are not short of ideas and we're not short of money, we are just short planning consent. The sw5 lift hill is slightly higher than Nemesis because there are a few higher trees on that side of Forbidden Valley :D.

What happened to the non looping coaster which was to be built behind Corkscrew in the 1990s?

This ride was a twin track racer, where you would leave the station and race the train that left before you and then do the track and go up a parallel lift hill and race the train after you. The idea was flawed because it assumed you could dispatch trains without any delays, however this is not always the case. When we bought Alton Towers the project was ready to go ahead and we had to choose whether to press the button or not. Thankfully we decided not to build it, it would have been an operational disaster.

Is there a main reason why a woodie hasn't been built at Alton Towers?

As the years go on we are more and more likely to do it. It is only the last few years when woodies have got street cred in the UK and that is thanks to Megaphobia. I'm as big a coaster enthusiast as everyone else and I've always loved woodies. I would love to build a Woodie at Alton Towers, but it is hard to get planning consent for such a loud ride and as soon as you try to silence a woodie with polyurethane wheels it makes it a pretty dull ride. I would like to think that in the next few years a woodie will be built at Alton, the Stampedia at Port Aventura was originally designed for where Nemesis is now.

What has been your greatest challenge?

SW5 will have been my greatest challenge, to actually make people feel as if they are flying has been difficult. Nemesis was also a challenge, Oblivion however was dead easy, we just dug a massive hole and put a great big drop in. We have designed coasters for every inch of every park! We spent hours trying to design a B&M inverted coaster for Chessington with the biggest hole you've ever seen on a coaster, we've had some major challenges which most people don't know about because they were never actually built.

What is your favourite non Tussuads/ universal coaster?

My first ride on the revolution at Magic Mountain in the 1970's was one I'll never forget, but nowadays I love the Blackpool woodies.

Do you see any major changes in roller coaster technology in the next 5 years?

New materials, hydraulic and pneumatic launching, new seating mechanisms are all likely to appear in the next few years. The technology I am keeping a close eye on is the pre-laminated beam technology on woodies.

Why did you put those RCT files on your web site?

To give various people in our organisation a rough simulation of what we were planning. We plan coasters for all over our parks, we have woodies designed for Alton and Thorpe and many others which will never appear. The files were supposed to be just for people in our organisation, but when the world decided to sneak in on the files we decided to make them public because they were never going to be built anyway.

Any chance of a Spiderman type ride at Alton Towers?

This is an amazing ride, the best simulator I've been on. It was however very expensive ($64million) and has high running costs which even Universal would find difficult. There is a company trying to make a cheaper version of this ride, but when they presented it to us it did not look that impressive.

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