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Material Handling Vacation: Cedar Point

Conveying excitement at America’s Roller Coast.

In Sandusky, Ohio, there is a conveying system capable of moving a massive load of 19 tons more than 30 stories high at an angle of 45 degrees in less than half of a minute. What’s even more impressive is that this system is then able to move its load down that same 30 story incline at an 80 degree angle in mere seconds, reaching a top speed of 92 miles per hour without damaging its precious cargo. What is that cargo you ask? It’s people. What is this system? It’s the Millennium Force roller coaster, the crown jewel of Cedar Point, one of the country’s highest-rated amusement parks.

A Massive Undertaking

This giant coaster is something Edgers have to see to believe. It measures in at 6,595 ft. from start to finish, and as anyone who has ever installed a large conveyor project knows, systems of this size don’t get put together quickly or easily. In fact from planning to grand opening, the Millennium Force project took almost 3 years, $25 million and a staff of 120 to complete.

Every installation has to be built on a solid foundation, and the Millennium Force was certainly no exception. The ride’s 226 footers are comprised of 9,400 yards of concrete, or the equivalent of 262,000 feet of sidewalk. Driven into these footers are 226 large silver support columns. These columns are then reinforced by 2,413 smaller steel pipe supports. While that may seem like an awful lot of support, every last column and pipe is necessary to hold up the ride’s 229 pieces of track—each weighing between 11,000 and 17,000 pounds.

A New Kind of Lift

Since the Millennium Force was the first of its kind—breaking the 300 foot barrier— it stands to reason that it would need a first-of-its-kind lift system to carry the ride’s 19-ton trains over the top. Sure, a standard chain-loop lift system would have the power to pull the trains, but it would also weigh in excess of 10 tons—a weight far too high to be practical in this application. Instead the ride’s developers, AG of Wollerau, Switzerland, used an elevator cable system. The elevator cable is attached to a massive drum and gear system that runs all the way to the peak of the hill and then down its incline. Driving the whole thing—a massive 800 horsepower motor.

What this means for riders is that as they pull out of the station a hook of sorts will attach to the front of their train. Then the 800 horsepower motor will engage and the elevator lift will rocket them to the top of the hill at a speed in excess of 12 mph. Once the peak is breached and the descent begins, gravity takes care of the rest. What Edgers will be left with is two-plus minutes of breathtaking thrills and an appreciation for engineered systems work done on an absolutely massive scale.


Not the Whole Point

Now of course, MHEDA Edge would never lead its readers on an odyssey to northeastern Ohio just for a two-minute ride—no matter how intense those two minutes might be. Cedar Point is nicknamed “America’s Roller Coast” for a reason, it’s known to roller coaster enthusiasts worldwide as the country’s premier amusement park. In fact, in 2008 Amusement Today magazine had five of Cedar Point’s roller coasters in its top 20.  Some highlights include:

Magnum XL-200 – This coaster, constructed in 1989, was the first of the mega-coasters. It’s 205 foot drop was  a record breaker at the time and it has been ranked among the top 10 roller coasters in the country  each year since its opening.  2008 World Ranking: 7

Top Thrill Dragster – If it’s pure break-neck speed and jaw-dropping height you’re looking for, Top Thrill Dragster is right up your alley. The hydraulically launched ride, which debuted in 2003 sends guests on a 17-second thrill ride that includes a 400 foot drop and speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour. The only drawback is that, much like the drag races it was modeled after, the ride is over in a flash. 2008 World Ranking: 9

Maverick – This linear synchronous motor-launched steel complete-circuit roller coaster is one of Cedar Point’s newest and most popular rides. Launched in 2007, this coaster differs from many of its counterparts in that it is more about wicked twists and turns than blistering speed and steep drops. In fact Maverick features the world’s first ever twisted horseshoe roll and an inverted drop at a mind-numbing 95 degree angle. 2008 World Ranking: 12

Raptor – When you walk through the park’s main entrance, this purple and green behemoth will be the first thing to greet you. The Raptor is an inverted steel coaster that measures in at just over 3,700 feet and is known for its signature “cobra loop.” 2008 World Ranking : 19

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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