Thrill-o-matic Ride

The Thrill-O-Matic dark ride was created through a collaboration between Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ltd. and Aardman Animations Ltd at a cost of £5.25 million with backing from Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. It replaced the popular Gold Mine dark ride that closed in September 2011.

The Thrill-O-Matic ride uses the route of the of the Gold Mine ride, but with new trains that were designed and built by WGH Transportation Ltd. The attraction takes visitors on a 3-minute trip through a fantasy world based on the adventures of Wallace & Gromit, the award winning and much loved animated series. Passengers are transported through the ride in cars which are based on Wallace’s trademark slipper. They travel through scenes from cartoon classics, such as ‘A Grand Day Out’, ‘A Close Shave’ and ‘The Wrong Trousers’.

Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit, said: “We have the perfect marriage between Wallace and Gromit and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I grew up in Preston, which is just down the road so Blackpool feels like a natural home for Wallace and Gromit. It has been a great experience working to create this family ride that sits right in the heart of the park, I really hope that our fans enjoy the Thrill-O-Matic as much as we have enjoyed creating it.” (Source: www.aardman.com)

Project Elements

  • Specification
  • Design Risk Assessment
  • Hardware Design
  • Software Design
  • Graphical User Interface Design (GUI)
  • Safety Verification
  • Panel Build and Supply
  • Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT)
  • Installation
  • Commissioning
  • Site Acceptance Testing (SAT)
  • Training

To minimise the installation time for the cabling and to simplify the arrangement, we developed a supervisory control system that allowed all the sensors to be connected to a bus network

Control Systems for New Rides

There are eight trains on the ride, each train consisting of two cars carrying up to 4 passengers each. Each car is driven by two on-board 0.75kW electric motors, controlled by a variable speed drive. The train is supplied by a power rail that runs around the track. The track is divided into 19 block sections to ensure collisions are avoided. The blocking system is managed by a supervisory control system which automatically removes power from a section of the track if the next section is already occupied by a train.

The timing of the ride has been carefully designed to ensure that, under normal operation, the trains run around the track without stopping and passengers are not aware of the presence of the blocking system. Trains travel at a nominal speed of 1.25m/sec except in three high speed sections where they accelerate to 2.8m/sec. The trains detect the high speed sections by means of the on board proximity sensors.

Passengers get on and off the ride at the station where there is a simple push button control console to operate the ride. The control console also has a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which provides the operator with a visual indication of where each train is on the track, the status of each block section and any alarm notifications. The ride has local push button control panels at each of the block sections
to allow the maintenance staff to set or clear the block sections after the ride has undergone maintenance. This ensures that the maintenance staff have physically checked the block section before any manual intervention.

The control system has been designed to ensure that the Thrill-O-Matic ride fully complies with ISO 13849: Safety of Machinery standard.

Challenges

The main challenge was how best to manage the extensive cabling that was necessary for the large number of block sections, each of which had numerous sensors and local push button panels.

To minimize the installation time for the cabling and to simplify the arrangement, we developed a supervisory control system that allowed all of the sensors and push button panels to be connected to a bus network, which runs the length of the track. Fairfield Control Systems has since patented this system.

Outcome

Fairfields installation team fitted the electrical equipment in each of the cars at WGH’s manufacturing facility in Yorkshire, UK. Each car and train was powered up and fully tested prior to being delivered to site. This reduced the onsite commissioning time ensuring the ride opened on schedule. The ride was formally opened on 24th April 2013 by Nick Park, the creator of Wallace & Gromit and the head of Aardman Animations Ltd. It has proved to be a very popular and safe attraction since that time and will hopefully continue to thrill visitors for many years to come.

The team at Fairfields developed a unique solution for this ride which allowed us to provide a complex blocking system with a simple, yet safe, ride control system.

Andrew Howarth
Managing Director,
WGH Transportation Ltd