Tripsdrill unveils “all German” woodie
There’s a new landmark on the horizon at Tripdrill, Cleebronn near Stuttgart. Sitting right alongside the main road that passes the park, motorists can’t fail to notice Mammut – the all-new, all-German wooden coaster and Tripsdrill’s largest investment to date.
The new ride is a perfect fit for a park that fully exploits its location among the forests, meadows and wine hills of the Stromberg-Heuchelberg countryside. “The purely wooden construction of Mammut literally offered itself to us,” confirms Tripsdrill managing director, Helmut Fischer, who runs the park together with his brothers Roland and Dieter.
Keen to stimulate the local economy, it was the family’s express wish that the ride would be of German origin. “We spoke with manufacturers in the USA and Switzerland,” reveals Fischer, “but in the end we decided if we wanted the best quality it would have to be made in Germany.”
Fortunately, Deutschland is home to one of the world’s leading authorities on rollercoaster design, Ingeniebüro Stengel, the Munich-based engineering consultancy founded by Werner Stengel. The firm completed all the drawings and calculations for Mammut, while Holzbau Cordes, based at Rotemburg-Wümme in the north of Germany, fabricated the track. Between 4,000 and 6,000 pine trees were used in the construction of the coaster, all sourced from local forests. Mammut’s two 24-seater trains were designed and built by Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the same manufacturer that supplied Tripsdrill’s G’sengte Sau bobsled coaster in 1998.
Though a new name to some in the industry, Cordes is actually no stranger to the manufacture of wooden coasters, or indeed working with Stengel, as it was also involved in the construction of the Intamin rides Colossus at Heide Park, Balder at Liseberg and El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Yet this is the first time that Holzbau Cordes has been named as an official supplier.
Also key to the construction of Mammut were local company Ingeniebüro Dietz (architecture/design) and Imaginvest of Paris (masterplan/design). The latter’s inclusion should come as no surprise as managing director Emmanuel Mongon has been an advisor to Tripsdrill for the past 12 years.
Whereas some parks can be remarkably coy about their chosen suppliers, Tripsdrill has been anything but. During the Mammut opening ceremony on April 28, invited guests were presented with a list containing more than 40 other contractors. All were German, many local to the park itself. Clearly the Fischers are proud of the finished product, and rightly so.
Mammut is big, but not too big. The 850-metre-long ride has a maximum height of 30 metres and reaches speeds of up to 85km/h. During the ride, the trains negotiate an exciting series of curves, camelbacks, twists and turns, before dropping into a mist-filled tunnel and then back into the station. Yet because this is a family park and the ride should be accessible to as many guests as possible, magnetic brakes are employed at certain points to stop the trains becoming runaway trains.
“With this ride, we had to achieve the right balance of family and thrill,” details Harald Wanner, Ingenieurbüro Stengel’s joint managing director and the man responsible for much of Mammut’s design. “It is not really a big ride, but it’s right for a park such as Tripsdrill. The coaster freaks will say there is no airtime, but this ride had to be suitable also for children. Hopefully the coaster freaks will like it too!”
Mammut’s trains feature decorative saw blades on the front car that supposedly “cut” through the wood ahead of them. The theme continues on the side of the cars, which feature panels imprinted with an intertwined mesh of silver blades. Using two trains, the ride’s approximate hourly capacity is 900.
Thrills & Mills
It was six years ago, when the Fischer family bought the remains of an old timber mill in the town of Boenningheim, that the initial Mammut concept was born, and now antique tools and props from the mill decorate the ride’s loading platform and help underpin its central theme.
Plans for the ride began in earnest four years ago, as the Fischer’s embarked on the slow process of winning round local residents who had for years resisted any new development within the park that impacted the views outside it. According to Emmanuel Mongon, such a construction simply wouldn’t have been possible until recently, and it was only when the Bädkastle building, incorporating G’sengte Sau and a flume ride, was built that local opinion starting shifting. “For years though we had to keep secret the fact Bädkastle was actually designed in Paris!” he adds.
A significant amount of landscaping is promised around Mammut in the months to come, but the ride also forms the keystone to a new section of the park due to be completed by 2010, at a cost of around E6 million ($9.4m). The Fisher family won’t be drawn on detail, but Mongon says that, together with other attractions in the area such a golf course, waterpark and second gate Wildlife Park, Tripsdrill is now a realistic two-day destination. “With Mammut, the Fischers have highlighted the park’s quality status,” he adds, “and now hopefully it will receive the recognition it deserves from a much wider area.”
For now, Helmut Fischer hopes Mammut will lead to a modest attendance boost after a disastrous start to the season. “If we get 5% more than last year I’ll be happy,” he says. “Other parks in the area are also investing in new rides this year and I think that’s the best we can hope for. Years ago, when we started, you could have hoped for 10%, but now it is a lot more competitive.”
The start of the season back in March was greeted by icy temperatures and snow so thick that Tripsdrill was forced to close on Easter Sunday, the first time ever this had been necessary since the park began. It remained cold for the rest of the Easter holidays and the water rides were closed for several days afterwards. Not only were attendances down, but the park handed out a number of half price or complimentary return tickets to disappointed guests. Mammut therefore must perform a mammoth task in delivering the crowds.
Fischer is broadly confident about Tripsdrill’s chances, despite grim economic forecasts elsewhere. “I think we are in better situation than we were three or four years ago,” he says. Any boost in attendance will also be complemented by a revenue increase. An extra E1.50 has been added onto the gate price this season, taking the cost of entry to E21 for adults or E17.50 for seniors citizens and children under 12.
Founded by Kurt Fischer in 1929, Tripsdrill is a unique park with some very original theming, all of it inspired by local myths and legends from the turn of the century. There are several attractions, for example, that pay tribute to the region’s wine-making heritage, but there are also many more that are simply out and out fun. The park’s original feature is a windmill with a slide inside it known as the Altweibermühler (Old Women’s Mill), the rapids ride is better known as Waschzuber (Wash Tub) Rafting and the Mack flume ride uses bathtubs instead of logs.
A number of unique attractions have been introduced in recent years, many of them by ABC Engineering from Switzerland, including a tree-house drop tower, maypole ride, soapbox derby and an interactive boat ride with watering cans and wine-boxes as water cannons. Natural materials and finishes are used wherever possible and so rides look like they’ve always been part of the landscape. Mammut is no exception.
The season continues until November 2.
The “All German Woodie”
According to Werner Stengel, it is over 70 years since a wooden coaster was last built from scratch in Germany, despite the country’s acknowledged pedigree in the construction of steel rides.
“It must’ve been in the 1930s that such a ride was built,” he tells Park World. “There was actually a wooden Wild Mouse at Oktoberfest in 1964, but there were no block brakes in those days and the speeds were much, much different!”
Until Mammut opened at Tripsdrill, the country’s only other recent wooden coasters of note have been at Movie Park in Bottrop and Heide Park, Soltau. Though Ingenieurbüro Stengel consulted on both, it was foreign companies (the Roller Coaster Corporation and Intamin respectively) that were responsible for their construction.
So why have Stengel, and Germany in general, resisted a “woodie” diet for so long? “From the 1960s onwards, we were so busy in our office with steel coasters, there was no need for woodies,” says Stengel. “Steel coasters allowed for more flexibility; if we were going to do a wooden coaster, we would have to do it differently.”
In particular, Stengel was keen to address the expensive maintenance issues often associated with wooden coasters. “Woodies only seem cheaper than steel coasters, but they are not. You have to walk the track each morning and the wood has to be replaced every two to three years. That’s crazy! Instead we laminate the track with glue, and it’s been very successful. We want to keep the maintenance as low as possible for the operator.”
Prefabricated laminated track was first used on Colossus at Heide Park, as well as other Intamin rides including Balder at Liseberg, Sweden, and Six Flags Great Adventure in the US. Although Mammut uses a more traditional method of track construction, it is still an incredibly smooth ride. It is also the first wooden coaster completely designed and built in Germany, thanks to the collaboration with Holzbau Cordes and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides.
“You need to have the right partners,” believes Stengel, “but it is even more important to have a park owner that believes in what you are doing. We have been working with [Tripsdrill owner] Fischer for many years, and finally the time had come to do this ride.”
Does he expect the three German firms to partner again on another wooden coaster? “I hope so!”