Top Thrill 2 issues

Top Thrill 2 issues

Top Thrill 2 – Cedar Point’s new (or rebuilt rather) 2024 ride has closed after just over a week of use and the news took a lot by surprise. The question is why that has occurred – and numerous theories are making the round as to what the problem could be. Perhaps the main slant of these is whether the Top Thrill 2 (TT2) trains poorly designed? There’s been discussion that hints at the train wheels being a problem that they overheat and wear out faster than anticipated.

There’s been a lot of theories for example the height of the new trains, or the bogie design, or the LSM (linear synchronous motors) which enacts the launch and so on. The train seats are higher than usual hence there’s more drag and more weight throw as the trains pass over the ride’s top hat. The wind factor could also be one – by way of its location Cedar Point is pretty susceptible to strong winds – not to mention the tornadoes that visit Ohio from time to time.

It’s quite possible all these things are happening at the same time – eg overheating wheels, wear, height of train, wind factor, and many pointed out that the silver train was riding badly and it was found this had suffered a cracked wheel. Because its a new type of ride no doubt some issues would have not emerged until the ride had opened. At times the ride was only allowing people on certain seats at the front and rear (such as in this video).

It was said the ‘aluminum body design makes these trains not only lighter and faster but means that they experience less maintenance and more uptime over their lifespan’ (Youtube). This is what Cedar Point and Zamperla had hoped, but as it turns out the trains lasted barely more than a week! It opened 4th May and shut on 11th May 2024. The post below shows Cedar Point’s message sent out a day after the closure – announcing TT2 had closed UFN, as well as Coasters613’s comments re the silver train.

The silver train has been mentioned widely on social media & it was an early indication there was some issue with TT2.

Each of the TT2 trains are a LSM Lightning model and they are designed by Zamperla, an Italian theme park company. The silver train was the first to exhibit considerable problems however at the time of writing its been claimed 27 cracked wheel bogies had been found – whilst some trains had damaged their chassis and the LSMs had several broken fins. See this thread at Coaster Force.

Like all new things, despite intensive testing, real world conditions almost invariably sees unseen factors emerge. Its no doubt disconcerting for the company that designed the newly upgraded ride and its disappointing too for many coaster fans. Many had placed hopes on a TT2 a ride soon with a number on social media saying they had booked specific hotel dates in May or June.

In terms of what has happened with TT2m its pretty clear the current closure is down to the trains’ design. On the last day or two it was in operation operation the ride suffered a number of rollbacks (eg it failed to go over the top hat) with one person suggesting they saw at least 30 rollbacks. In one or two cases the resultant reversal was the train in question practically reached the very end of the vertical launch spike (there’s a stop to prevent any actual overruns however) and in a few instances the train barely made it through the top hat at a crawl.

What happens is when the trains go over the top hat it seems the fact the rear set of seats in each train module acts like a pendulum. The trains are lightweight however the rear seats in each set acts like a sort of pendulum – that they give a certain amount of centripetal force. The other seats dont because they in fact go through a different envelope so they follow the track profile and its how it should be.

On most of the track the design is fine however in terms of the top hat it isn’t. That’s because as the train reaches that point the deceleration which occurs along with the forces that are present is causing a combination of factors that very likely have not been fully understood and so the trains are experiencing considerably great stress and rapid wear. It seems this might possibly be due to the fact some of the seats are actually tethered to the train bogies.

This picture from Cedar Point shows how the seats are directly tethered to the bogie itself. This is before further modifications took place to reduce any possibility of riders catching their feet on the wheels.

In an ideal world no one would design a high speed vehicle where the passenger seats are tethered directly to a train’s bogies yet this is what has been done on TT2. Its an articulated system and whilst there’s nothing wrong with this it could be the forces and the speeds which make it more problematic. There’s five cars in each train set thus each has one wheel bogie. A sixth car (which is non passenger) leads the train and this has its own bogie. Each of these five passenger cars carries two pairs of seats thus there’s ten seats on the actual train itself whilst the other ten seats are upon the bogies themselves.

I think ultimately the wheel/bogie interface takes a compromise in terms of the forces. In any coaster – whether classic or modern – the forces which act upon the front, middle and rear sections of a coaster train are different. Its why there are proponents who have a preferred position on any coaster train because the car (or section) chosen gives the maximum thrill. However with such potential momentum and speeds the effects upon the train itself are far greater. And its the arrangement in question that could be part of the problem. In other words the ‘bogie’ seats may have a different throw to the others.

Some could well say but what about those classic roller coasters where they have a brakeman and who sits on a seat directly tethered to the train bogies? Those are different evidently for start the speeds are far slower and none of those take a running shot at a climb which is a vertical 420 feet! Besides the cars on either side form a balancing factor so the seat’s throw doesn’t affect the train’s motion.

It’s been said the trains are of a new and advanced lightweight aerodynamic design but as is being quickly realised, even the trains’ level of sophisticated design is encountering difficulties. And its likely the forces generated on the ride are compromising the trains’ most critical elements.

As the above Tweet/X details, the Youtube video that is presented by Theme Park Recommendations discusses a fair bit of what could be the issue with TT2. One suggestion is that Cedar Point undertook a considerable risk by using a company with barely any prior experience of such large scale coasters. Theme Park Recommendations do say despite the difficulties that have arisen, Zamperla did a fantastic job, but its still a gamble.

Some of the gains in the trains’ weight reduction no doubt comes from the arrangement depicted however that might also be contributing to the overall problems. By having part of the train provided with a deck area upon which the front row of seats is placed whilst the second row of seats is sat upon the bogie itself, it must be that the front and rear seat sets sport a different centre of gravity. Its largely what’s known as a centripetal force.

If one were to tether ropes with heavy balls (a basketball for example) on the front and rear ends of an empty train (or alternatively as a thought experiment the passengers are holding strings with a ball tied) its how these would demonstrate a force which potentially extends beyond the confines of the train itself. One can demonstrate this centripetal force with any coaster classic or modern however on TT2 its no doubt more pronounced.

If the train does slow down considerably as it tackles the top hat, then this potential force shifts and is quite likely to depreciate the train’s momentum further. Whether the train goes over the top or succumbs and does a rollback would no doubt depend on the totality of these forces. Not just that its the stresses from these various forces that could be a factor too. If TT2’s trains have by now developed 27 cracked bogies plus an unknown amount of chassis damage, well there’s a lot more going on than is known!

When the Japanese were first designing their high speed trains in the 1960s it proved quite hard for them to understand why their trains acted in such a way over a certain speed limit. This is known as hunting. They brought in an aircraft expert – Tadashi Matsudaira – who immediately understood the problems for that happened to planes too. These stresses were enormous and caused the planes’ internal skeleton to vibrate and cause critical failures. With that knowledge the Japanese were then able to design trains which could maintain high speeds and stay on their track.

As many have suggested on forums and social media, the realms which TT2 has entered is very likely to reveal effects/issues that have not been thought of or understood before – as such circumstances had not existed in the ride’s former life. And as I have mentioned, it could be the unusual bogie arrangement which is part of the problem! Hopefully it all gets sorted and the ride is reopened soon!

Update 16 May 2024:

Youtube video by EIToroRyan suggests TT2 could reopen this weekend (eg 18th May) he also says the issue seems to be a miscalculation of how the ride’s forces could affect the components in question and what had happened is these had a much shorter life cycle than anticipated. He also informs that the ride has been undergoing testing, so its obvious it can work given whatever problems are plaguing it. Until Cedar Point confirms anything its essentially speculation. As I had indicated in my post the forces on the ride had perhaps not been understood fully – its good to see someone else with a similar line of inquiry (if not exactly the same). If the ride does open this quick no doubt we’ll learn a bit more of what exactly caused TT2 to close down after such a short period of use.