Gravity Group sends wooden roller coaster upside down

By | June 3, 2013

Photo courtesy of The Gravity Group

Photo courtesy of The Gravity Group

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — For the first time ever, a wooden roller coaster is being sent upside-down through a corkscrew loop using a traditional wood track. This happens on a ride called Hades 360. Hades 360 opened on Saturday, May 26 at Mt. Olympus Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

The ride features a corkscrew that twists riders upside-down and an impressive 110-degree overbanked turn. Previous attempts to send wooden coasters through a corkscrew have used steel as a primary structural component of the track rather than just a running surface for the wheels. Hades 360 is unique because it uses a completely wooden track, making it the only wooden tracked inversion using a traditional wood track. It was designed by The Gravity Group, a Cincinnati-based engineering firm.

Hades originally opened in 2005 as one of the world’s largest wooden coasters, featuring 1,400 feet of underground tunnels and the steepest first drop on any wooden coaster.

The decision to add an inversion to Hades resulted from a discussion that engineers from The Gravity Group had with Nick Laskaris, owner of Mt. Olympus Theme Park. Work on the ride’s turn-around was being proposed and rather than merely reprofile the track, it was decided to try something completely different — and Hades 360 was born.

“Since the 1990s, we had been talking with Nick about going upside-down on a wooden roller coaster,” said Chad Miller, an engineer at The Gravity Group. “Fast forward to today and we have all the tools required to make it happen, from our new Timberliner trains that can handle the corkscrew’s rapidly twisting track to the sophisticated computer programs required to design just the right track shape.”

Special attention was given to the structural framing of the ride. Miller said, “We wanted to maintain the feel of a wooden roller coaster with trussed structure flying past you as you go through the roll. At the same time, we wanted to give the structure an open feel and so we cantilevered the track so there is nothing below you when you are upside down. The result is something quite unique and thrilling.”