|According to Paul Ruben, noted coaster expert, we have entered the Rollercoaster's "Second Golden Age," and I don't see why any one among us would disagree. But for those few doubters out there, Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ) has whipped up a dual-track delight called Batman and Robin: The Chiller.
Based on this Summer's "Batman" flick, the fourth entry in the blockbuster franchise, these two linear induction coasters are another spectacular product of Phoenix Rides, the creators of the Outer Limits: Flight of Fear rides. As you may recall, the Outer Limits attraction won top honors in two categories at the November 1995 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions trade show: 1) Major Theme/Amusement Park Ride/Attraction, and 2) Technology Applied to Amusements. The Outer Limits is a pretty fine piece of work.
But The Chiller improves upon OL:FOF in three splendid ways: it offers two different courses, each blessed with uniquely devious pleasures; you travel through the wild trackwork both forwards and backwards; and, yes, it is even faster. Heroic in every sense of the word, Batman and Robin: The Chiller is the next evolutionary step up the linear induction coaster ladder.
Pity poor Gotham City(TM): once again, this fine metropolis is in the grip of a major crime wave, thanks to the sub-zero psychosis of Mr. Freeze(TM), Batman's latest cinematic nemesis. The Ice Man has set up shop in his elaborate Freeze Generator and neighboring Observatory, and it's up to us to help the Caped Crusader enter the hideout and put an end to his wicked deeds. Up to the challenge? Before you answer, take a good look at what awaits:
Stroll over to the Movietown section of the park and, facing the queue, you can eyeball the entire length of the ride. To your left, the 200-foot-high incline jutting into the heavens above the Freeze Generator is plenty interesting to look at. But turn your head to the right, moving your gaze past the incline heartline inversions, past the horizontal launch rail, past the Observatory, and you find yourself staring at the Tower. This comic-book-bright blue and red latticework of steel is enough to leave you slack-jawed with amazement. The blue Batman Track makes a vertical climb and inverts at the peak of the tower to dive straight back down towards the ground. The red Robin track curls up into an inversion, whips around to the right and pours back into another inversion, also heading back for terra firma. Here's when folks either mutter a firm "No, thank you" and walk away, or make a frantic dash for the entrance.
Standing on line, you'll be able to take in a launch or two before you enter the darkness of the Freeze Generator. First, there are three loud, industrial blasts from an air horn (kinda like you hear before they set off dynamite at a construction site). Then, there's a muffled BANG! and the instant screaming that only a linear induction launch can create. If you don't blink, you can catch a train rocketing out of the Freeze Generator; see how every skull is plastered back against the headrests? The train rips through the Observatory and makes its way up onto the tower. After completing the multi-directional nastiness there, the cars roar back behind the Observatory and up onto the incline, twist through the heartline inversion and climb up to the peak. Just when it looks like gravity will drag the train to a halt, another string of linear induction motors takes hold and pulls the train right up to the tippy top of that 200-foot-high ramp.
And then the train falls backwards. More screaming.
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Before we enter the Freezemeister's frigid den, the line splits in two and you make your choice. On your right: the Batman track takes you higher up the tower, and provides that delectable 90-degree plunge. To the left: the Robin track offers an extra inversion and more disorientation. What's your pleasure?
The two lines snake independently through the brick-walled hallways of the Freeze Generator and then meet back up on opposite sides of the dimly lit Launch Room. Inside the confines of this chamber, the full sonic assault of each launch is enough to cover your flesh with goose pimples. There's an amplified countdown, the three loud air horn blasts, a low hum as the linear induction motors juice up and that righteous BANG! as the trains are released. Oh, and of course, all that wild screaming... Are there any sounds sweeter?
The low-slung trains are dressed in the same vivid blue and red tones of the tracks. If you go for the front seat, you'll be pleased to note that the nose of the forward car is short and unobtrusive; the view down the straightaway is blissfully unimpeded. The over-the-shoulder harness is snug, but comfortable. But those earrings... sorry, they've got to go - yer noggin is in for some serious rocking and rolling.
After the harnesses are locked into position, there's a few final seconds of preparation, just enough time to squirm around in your seat and share a panicked giggle with the fellow lunatic sitting next to you. Suddenly, that air horn signals the imminent launch.
The countdown starts, and everyone whips around to face forward,
gripping the harness with white-knuckled ferocity.
You can feel the tracks coming alive with power,
the electricity flowing into those humming linear induction motors.
You are still motionless and most of the train
is already screaming.
I don't care how many times you've done it, each LIM launch is as terrifying as the last. That explosive acceleration is a horrible treat, your inner child alternately hollering "God, please make it stop!" and "Faster, faster!" You are outside the Freeze Generator, through the Observatory and at the base of the tower, traveling at 65 miles per hour, in just four seconds.
The Robin train immediately soars up and into its first inversion, 105 feet high. The cars peel up and over, twist to the right, dive down, and then twist to the right once more, entering the second inversion, again flipping over 105 feet above the ground. Down you plunge to the base of the tower, heading back towards the Freeze Generator. Delicious.
The Batman train starts heading skyward and keeps on going, straight up, 139 feet. Up and over, the train makes a vertical U-turn, and now you're poised to drop back down, facing a nice, long 90-degree fall. Sitting in the front seat, this moment is a rare thrill, indeed. That rush as you plummet straight down like dive bomber... there are few pleasures experienced while fully clothed that are finer that this, friends.
Once through the maelstrom of the tower's trackwork, both courses run parallel up the incline. You hurtle past the Observatory and into a 45-degree-angled heartline inversion. Then the trains continue up the long ramp, gradually slowing. But before you begin to slide backwards, you can feel the electromagnetic pull of another array of linear induction motors and the trains climb even higher, nearly to the peak of the 200-foot high structure.
While you're at this vantage point, scope out the rest of the park in the distance; there's the Parachute Drop, the Great American Scream Machine, the Batman inverted coaster, all looking much smaller from this perspective.
Then the motors let go, and you slide back down the incline.
If you think the journey facing forward is unnerving, I think you can imagine what it's like doing it all over again, backwards. And it's worse than you imagine... When you step away from the train back in the station, feel no shame if you need help walking down the exit corridor. Weak-kneed and dizzy are just the way you should feel. It's awesome.
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ThrillRide! had a chance to talk briefly with Jim Seay, President of Phoenix Rides, developers of The Chiller:
TR: First, has your company's name changed from Premier Rides to Phoenix Rides?
JS: No, we didn't change our name; we are made up of three different companies: Phoenix Rides is the company that focuses on very high-tech attractions; Premier Rides focuses on other types of issues as well, such as consulting services; they're involved in a lot of the development of theme parks over in China. And then there is Premier Parts and Services.
TR: When did Six Flags first come to Phoenix Rides to get involved in this project?
JS: Approximately a year ago. It took a tremendous amount of cooperation between the two companies and it was a great example of a co-development of a project, where we had the tremendous talent of the Six Flags engineers working with our engineers to come up with a unique, one-of-a-kind attraction.
TR: Was Werner Stengel, a designer of the Outer Limits attraction, involved with The Chiller?
JS: Yes, he's our exclusive track designer; he does the structural analysis portion of the ride. When you look at a project like this, everything from the queue gates to the exit, there are a lot of people involved in the ride. On this type of attraction, we've tried to have all the top experts in the world working on it. And Werner is the expert; he's the number one guy in terms of structural analysis, and he was a critical part of the team.
TR: Force Engineering was the company you co-developed the Linear Induction technology with?
JS: Correct, Force Engineering is under an exclusive contract with us. They developed linear induction motors to be used in the transportation field and what you're seeing here is an example of taking a technology used in another industry and applying it to something truly unique, a much-higher speed application.
TR: The Chiller has been described as "twice as powerful" as the Outer Limits coasters; how so?
JS: From the standpoint of the amount of energy being put into the vehicles, there's twice as much energy at work here. We actually designed the system to go from zero to seventy miles per hour in right around four seconds. The Chiller's launch speed is 65 miles per hour. The Outer Limits attraction has a launch speed around 51 to 54 miles per hour. Each year the rides just get a little more sophisticated.
TR: There are the two other linear induction "Batman"-themed coasters [the "Mr. Freeze" single-track coasters] opening at Six Flags parks this summer-
JS: That's correct, Six Flags St. Louis, and Six Flags Over Texas.
TR: Do you think any of the remaining Six Flags parks might get installations of this kind?
JS: I hope so. I would think they would.
TR: Are any parks lined up for some of your other attractions, such as your "Hell Diver" freefall tower, or the "Pendulum of Terror" swinging attraction?
JS: Prototypes of those rides are being built at this time. And based on the performance of those prototypes, once we get the technology to where we feel they're ready to go to market, we'll actively sell them. It's the same situation with the Chiller; we built a prototype of one of these attractions first; we do a lot of prototype modeling.
TR: And is there any progress on your [super high-speed] Bullet Coaster?
JS: The Bullet Coaster is a highly secretive project; I should probably say I don't know anything about it... Paul Ruben put it well when he said that this is the "second golden era of rollercoasters." If you just look at the general climate we're living in now, everything's "extreme." You turn the TV on; what do you watch? You watch "extreme" sports. How are new products marketed? They're "extreme" products. And Six Flags has been able to deliver the extreme attractions people are looking for. The Chiller is the best example of how they've come up with the most extreme attractions available in the country today.
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TRACK LENGTHS: "Batman": 1,137 feet - "Robin": 1,229 feet
TOP SPEED: 65 Miles Per Hour
MAX. HEIGHT: Approx. 200 feet
CARS: Two trains seating 20 riders each.
CAPACITY: 1,600 guests per hour
MANUFACTURER: Phoenix Rides