Electric C.P. Huntington Train from Chance Rides a green game changer for Landry’s Downtown Aquarium

AT: Pam Sherborne

HOUSTON, Texas — A new C.P. Huntington Train that was unveiled April 21 at Landry’s Downtown Aquarium is powering its way into the history books

The landmark 400th train built by Chance Rides is the very first to “go green” — with an engine that runs on lithium-ion batteries. The train also represents the application of a new technology that allows for micro-cycling, which not only is a first for Chance but for Clearwater, Fla.-based Lithionics Battery, maker of the batteries used in the attraction.

The green technology’s use in the C.P. Huntington Train — and its operational and promotional benefits — has Landry’s officials very excited. The electric train is quieter and produces less emissions.

“It completely changes our whole operation,” said Steve Howe, aquarium general manager. “The train ride is a guided tour and it has made the experience much more pleasant.”

The public response, he added, has been gratifying.

“We have had so many positive comments. People love that we are going green.”

The new Electric C.P. Huntington Train replaces a gasoline-powered model that was installed when the aquarium opened in 2003. From an operational / budgeting perspective, Howe acknowledged that the aquarium will see savings in maintenance and gasoline costs.

The train travels on a half-mile track at five mph, providing a five-minute ride. There is a four-percent incline that takes the train into a tunnel through the shark tank and a four percent decline when exiting the tunnel.

When entering the station, the locomotive stops at the same place on the tracks every cycle. The “parking spot” is actually a charging station where the train recharges for about three to four minutes.

“This recharging at every cycle can keep the train running all day,” said Dick Chance of Chance Rides, adding that the train recharges to 100 percent battery capacity overnight.

According to Chance, the speed of this electric train model can be increased to about 10 mph, depending on its location and application.

Roger Berry, an amusement industry veteran and the sales representative for Lithionics Battery, said the Electric C.P. Huntington Train is “turn-of-the-corner technology for Chance.”

Berry has been involved with early research and data collection since about 2010. That experience was key when he met engineer Stephen Tartaglia, who had spent time researching lithium-ion batteries in university settings and with other companies, working to make them safe.

Their connection occurred under mundane circumstances some years ago, when Tartaglia showed up to buy Berry’s pick-up truck.

“[Roger] told me his truck was no longer for sale and then asked me why I needed it,” Tartaglia recalled. “I told him I wanted to haul lithium-ion batteries.” They compared notes and formed a partnership.

Subsequently, Lithionics Battery was founded, and the two were able to draw the interest of Universal Studios and The Walt Disney Co. “They have the capabilities of doing their own research,” Tartaglia said. “Our batteries now power parade floats and the Rivers of Light [nighttime experience] at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.”

Batteries produced by Lithionics have received certification to display the UL Mark and have passed the requirements of the UN Transportation of Dangerous Goods Manual of Test and Criteria, Sixth Revised Edition.

The idea for the Electric C.P. Huntington Train arose when John Chance, Dick’s son, expressed a desire to make a green version of the classic model. Dick Chance knew who to call — thus setting in motion the creation of a lithium-ion battery-powered locomotive.

“Chance is a pioneer of the micro-cycling and opportunity charging,” said Tartaglia, noting that there are three 24-volt lithium-ion batteries in a series powering the train. Each battery is about the size of carry-on luggage and weighs 75 pounds. “Together, they’re producing 11.5 kilowatts of energy. The chargers are 15 kilowatts of energy, so at every cycle, the batteries are getting hit with 15 kilowatts. They are getting all their energy back each ride cycle.”

Testing of the train was conducted at Chance Rides’ headquarters in Wichita, Kan., last summer.

“Dick built tracks and we ran that train all summer, trying to break it,” Berry said. “When it broke, we would learn from it, fix it and tweak it. We have collected an abundance of data and still are.”

Berry said the train at Landry’s has a cellular link that allows him to log in and “look at what it is doing anytime.”

Chance Rides introduced the Electric C.P. Huntington Train at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 in Orlando last November. It was there that the company was approached by Landry’s.

“We worked out a deal with them so we that could use their [aquarium] site as a testing site,” Chance said. “If this works out, they have other trains that may be replaced.”

Chance said interest also has been expressed by zoos, and official visits to see the Houston installation have been taking place.


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This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Amusement Today.

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