Vuoristorata is one of the few remaining roller coasters in the world with trains with manual brakes. Although Vuoristorata was opened in 1951, it was built according to the drawings of Rutschebanen, which opened in 1932. So already in its opening year, Vuoristorata represented 20-year-old technology.
Vuoristorata is a unique amusement ride even on a global scale, as similar roller coasters have not been built since, and many of the old roller coasters with similar technology have been demolished or converted to utilize automatic braking system. So you can only experience a real old-time roller coaster ride in Finland on Vuoristorata!
Vuoristorata in numbers
- Length of the track: 960 metres (3,150 ft)
- Height of the track: 24 metres (79 ft)
- Longest descent: 48 metres (158 ft)
- Top speed: approx. 60 kph (37 mph)
- Average speed: approx. 25 kph (16 mph)
- Ride duration: approx. 2 minutes 15 seconds
- Four trains, 22 passengers per train (the number of trains in use depends on the number of customers in the park)
- Ride capacity is up to 1,400 passengers per hour
- A total of approx. 42,000 cycles are run during the season, and up to 700 cycles during one busy opening day
- 800,000 guests visit Vuoristorata every year
- It is estimated that over 50 million guests have visited Vuoristorata in the course of 70 years
The structures of Vuoristorata are made from creosote-impregnated Finnish pine, and the structures weigh a total of about 400 tons. The 6×6-inch vertical support columns are numbered, and there are a total of 365 of them. A badge is also attached to each of them, on which the year of renewal of that part has been stamped.
The structures are renewed during off-season in a certain cycle, therefore today the oldest parts are only about 30 years old. Impregnation guarantees the wood its excellent durability in Finland's varying climate. The lumber is supplied by Versowood sawmill located in Vierumäki, Southern Finland.
Vuoristorata's track gauge is 1,130 mm (3 ft 8 31⁄64 in). On the wider lower plank a wooden sleeper plank is attached with a flat steel on it, which acts as a rail. The side of the track, the so-called "stack", which is made by nailing five boards on top of each other, acts as a braking surface. The replaceable plywood strip attached to the side of the stack acts as a tread. The wider board on top of the stack keeps the wheels of the train under it during the course.
Vuoristorata has a total of four trains. Trains are named Red, Green, Blue and Yellow according to their coloring. The first three have been in use since the beginning, and the Yellow train was built later in the 1950s. With the exception of a few minor changes, the trains' design is similar to the original; some of the cars still have the original oak frames from the 1950s. A long wire runs through the train, holding the four cars of the train together. Between the cars are bars with ball-joint connections.
Vuoristorata's train is 11.5 meters (38 ft) long and weighs about 1,500 kg (3,300 lbs) empty and about 3,000 kg (6,600 lbs) with passengers.
The appearance of the trains has varied several times over the decades. The latest paintings have been made with airbrush technique by Jeppe Kivilaakso from FAW D-sign .
Vuoristorata's train has a total of 16 wheels. Each wheel is attached to the train's frame with a fixed axle, so the wheels do not turn. The wheel's flange runs inside the rail, keeping the train sideways on the track, and the wheel hub runs below the top plank of the side stack, so the train also cannot jump off the rails during the ride.
Due to the old-fashioned wheels of the trains, Vuoristorata is a so-called "scenic railway" roller coaster. Therefore, there are no significant banking on the curves either. The more modern roller coasters have separate wheels above, below and on the sides of the track.
Brakemaster's most important tool is the brake lever, located at the back of the last car of the train. Using the smaller handle, the brake lever can be locked in place, leaving the train stationary without the need for the Brakemaster to manually hold the lever in the back position. When releasing the brake, the locking lever is raised and secured to the upper position, so the locking does not accidentally engage during the ride.
Although Vuoristorata's trains are basically similar, the decades of operation and maintenance have made the braking feel of each train slightly different.
Because Vuoristorata's train was originally intended to be braked while in seating position, the original brake lever was a straight rod, but in 1988 it was redesigned into a loop-type handle, making braking while standing much more ergonomic. In the original brake lever, its locking mechanism could not be locked in the open position either, so the Brakemaster had to squeeze the lock handle throughout the ride.
When the Brakemaster pulls the brake lever, the brake shoes between the wheels of the last car are pressed to the sides of the track, which slows the train down due to friction. The braking system is therefore completely mechanical. The brake shoes are made of 12 mm spring steel and weigh about 10 kg (22 lbs) each.
Behind the brake shoe is a wedge, there are two of them per car. If the train stops uphill, the wedges bite into the wooden rails next to the actual rails. This prevents the train from rolling backwards.
In addition to the mechanical main brake, the train has a back-up brake system using compressed air which has been added to the trains in the 1960s. It can be used, for example, in the event of a main brake failure. The system was not in the original drawings, so it is Linnanmäki's own design. The compressed air system is operated from valves located next to the Brakemaster's seat, which release air from the tank to the cylinder under the third car of the train. The piston in the cylinder pushes the brake shoes between the wheels of the third car to the sides of the track. The compressed air brake can also be activated remotely from the platform: electric current supplied to the rails is routed through the wheels of the train to the solenoid control of the air brake valve, therefore activating the air brake.
An important part of the train's compressed air system is also the horn, which can be used to notify other trains and the Brakemaster working on the platform, in a situation when, for example, a train has stopped in the middle of the course.
Vuoristorata works like most other roller coasters, i.e. the trains are lifted by machine power to the highest point of the track, from where they roll to the end of the track by gravity. As a result, each hill and curve is lower than the one before, as friction reduces the kinetic energy of the train during the course.
So there are no motors at all on Vuoristorata's trains, although many people think so. Even the whole platform area is slight downhill, so the trains start to roll forwards by gravity when the brake is released.
Vuoristorata's train is pulled to the top of the first hill by a 22 mm (⅞ in) diameter steel wire. The train grabs the wire at the bottom of the first uphill by means of spring-loaded grippers at the bottom of cars 1 and 2, and the train detaches from the wire at the beginning of the top curve. The grippers open as the train runs over the opening rails at the beginning and at the end of the lift hill, so the gripping system works completely mechanically.
The wire is driven by an electric motor. Originally, the engine room of Vuoristorata housed a motor made by Strömberg in the 1930s, but by 2016, the technology was completely overhauled. The current power source is Finnish-made ABB 75 kilowatt IE4 induction motor controlled by a VFD, which rotates the wire drive wheel through a right angle gearbox manufactured by Dodge Industrial.
The total length of the wire is 250 meters (820 ft), and it is usually replaced annually. The hand-braided wire is spliced, i.e. the ends are joined by hand.
The trains of Vuoristorata are serviced at the two-story depot located in the middle of the roller coaster. The trains are taken to and brought from the depot via manual switchtracks, which are like big jigsaw puzzles. The number of trains in use depends on the amount of customers in the park, so trains that are in use can change even daily. Trains under maintenance will be stored at the depot and on the side track located in the tunnel.
After each opening day, the trains in use are run to the tunnel to their designated spots for overnight storage. There is a service station at the platfrom where the trains are inspected every day before being put into service.
The iconic lighting of Vuoristorata consists of a neon sign installed in 1991 and the so-called "running lights" that have been in place since the beginning. There are a total of 3,030 lights and they are connected to a series of eight lamps. When the relays turn off and on one lamp of the set at a time in sequence, it creates an illusion that the lights are "running" along the track.
Originally, the running lights were 15-watt incandescent bulbs, but they have since been replaced with energy-efficient 2-watt LED bulbs during the 2010s.