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SFoT Q&A Ask questions about rides - how they did that, etc. here.

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Old December 21st, 2004, 09:02 PM
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Default Astrolift Q&A

I can hear it. Yes I can hear the call of the Bull Wheel. ....

Q: Was the Astrolift an original ride since opening day?

Original park ride.

Q: The ride was swiss made do you know any details as to the manufacturer?

The manufacturer was the Swiss company, Von Roll.

Q: What off-season maintenance was involved in the upkeep of the Astrolift?

Usually the cars were cleaned and repainted. There may have been some work on the heads of the cars (the part attaching to the cable) repacking grease in the wheels and maybe replacing the nylon roller on the end of the Lock Arm. Other work involved getting the maintenance cart out on the cable. This cart was basically an open wireframe cage that had two heads on it. This allowed access to the tower wheels. I'd bet that this was one of those thankless jobs that would given to the "oilers" (low man in maintenance). I'm sure this was quite an experience swaying around in that 'car', hoping you can trust the guy at the power box not to suddenly apply full power and send you out of the car. One other thing they probably worked on in the off season was the tower limit switches. I do remember getting longer limit switch arms or maybe they were all brand new limit switches on the towers one year. The result was that the ride would trip a limit on even moderately windy days. -Alan

Q: What about daily operation, lets say its first thing in the morning, what was done in order to get things ready for the day? How was the ride started at the begining of the day? How many cars started and how many were added as the day progressed and what would affect the decision to add more cars?

Lots of questions... Ok... As foreman, I'd arrive at the Ride ops office early, about 8:15 and pick up my timesheet clipboard and the Astrolift handles. Then I would, of course, proceed from there to the compound and have something to eat for breakfast, or just get a big Dr. Pepper. Usually I'd meet up with the modern side foreman and we'd decide when to head on down to the ride. We would both visually check all the important parts and do a overall check of the station and report anything on our maintenance reports. Usually if there was something that was reported, it would end up as a note on the clipboard that the maintenance guys had visited the prior night and fixed whatever there was to fix. The Astrolift and most lifts for that matter are very simple devices employing very few moving parts other than the cable and a few wheels.

I remember that about this point the park music would start playing. I would get on the ringdown phone with the Modern side and they'd start up the ride by turning the large crank located in the 'engine/motor' room. First slow and then up to full speed. There was a panel in that same room that indicated the limit switch conditions. Green lights were a good sign and I believe yellow for a tripped limit switch. These had to be cleared before the ride would run.

After I got at least one crew member, I'd send him out to fill the water jug across the way at Iron Horse Saloon...Lot's of ICE! Soon cars would start arriving over the cable...the first guests into the Texas section were typically carried over by the Astrolift.

The number of cars put on depended on a number of factors...number of crew, number of queuelines that had to be started in the station, etc. In the height of the season, we would start the morning with 3 crew members and about 15 to 18 cars.

Q: How many cars were there total?

I'm fuzzy on this. I think there were 28 total, 26 running was probably the max at any one time.

Q: Is there any evidence of the Astrolift still standing? (cement bases for the towers, old cable on top of the southern palace, the queuehouse, stuff like that)

Not that I've seen. I've tried to find evidence of the superstructure around where the Texas station was but didn't have much luck. There may be some cement bases for the towers left, It's hard to say. I got a "GBnF" entry from Greg Appleton "...nothing left of it except a few door handles (they crop up ever once in a while) and a mile of can see this built into the fence to make queue lines in front of Mine Train..."

Q: Did you guys stay at the lift or did you move on to other rides during the course of the day ?

For the length of whatever shift you had. The whole day if you worked a double... murder on lift.

Q: Did yall ever have to turn anyone down from riding? (please give reasons)

No. Well, let me rephrase that. We didn't turn anyone down that actually waited in line like a good DooBee. We did like to throw the line cutters out the exit door. Usually if they cut in line we'd let them wait through the line and then throw them out at the last moment before they boarded. Or, I'd make them wait and pretend that I had to pair them up with someone before I'd let them know that I saw them cut line. Then, I'd tell them to hit the exit.

Q: Did the lift ever get stuck?

Stuck isn't the correct word. We did have temporary "Shutdowns". These could be caused for a number of reasons. The most common Shutdown was caused by the crew themselves hitting on of the the shutdown buttons. There was one at the catch position and one near trip. I actually had a newby hit the shutdown button instead of trip button. Reasons for hitting the shutdown were if a car became 'de-railed', there was a station overload condition where you couldn't catch up with the flow of cars through the station, or lastly, if there was imminent danger to a guest. -Alan

Q: Any emergencys on the lift requiring getting out on the cable and rescueing people?


Q: Seems like I remember numbers on the cars, why? Was it really important?

Well, from two standpoints. If you needed maintenance on a car, the number was important. Secondary was that it was handy for counting the number of cars on the cable (Modern can't count) and for identifying either a car that was full of kids throwing stuff out, spitting on other guests, smoking, or just identifying to the other side a couple of cute girls. -Alan

Q: Lets talk about the State Fair incident, do you know the date it all happened at the fair? What was it like at Six Flags?

There were Three accidents that set the stage for the removal of the Astrolift at SFoT. Two were at Six Flags parks.

Here are some excerpts from news articles off of the Amusement Ride Accidents site.

o Saturday, February 5, 1978 - At Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park in Valencia, California, a man was killed after a gondola car of the "Skybucket" ride slipped from its cable and plunged fifty feet to the ground. The man's wife was also seriously injured in the crash.

o Tuesday, July 26, 1978 - Three people were killed at Six Flags Mid-America amusement park in Eureka, Missouri, after their gondola car fell from the park's "Skyway" ride. Another person, also riding in the car, was seriously injured. The ride was shut down immediately, leaving nearly one hundred people stranded in the twenty-seven remaining cars, some of which had stopped at heights of up to two hundred feet. Firefighters were called to the park to rescue the occupants of these cars. A park spokesman claimed that the car simply "dropped off" its cable.

o Saturday, October 21, 1979 - On the "Swiss Sky Ride" at the Texas State Fair, two gondola cars dropped eighty-five feet from the ride's cable to the ground. One man was killed, a twenty year old woman was left a quadriplegic, and seventeen other riders were injured. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that the ride's operators knew of defects in the ride, but failed to report them. The woman won a $3.1 million settlement on the basis that the ride had been operated negligently in high winds.

From what I recall, the first accident had us shutdown for the first of the 78 season. We opened up after some of the excitement died down only to be shut down again in July. It was my day off when the July accident happened. After that, we were indefinitely shut down, I was assigned to pool. Here I was a ride foreman in POOL. A unique situation. Everytime I'd go to a ride, people would wonder why I was a 'red-tag' and what I was doing there. I'd always have to explain how we were shut down until further notice and such. I'd go in the office everyday and ask if we'd run or not. Towards the end of the 78 season, I was moved to foreman of Dolphin show, YUCK! and DISCO ISLAND, Double Yuck.

We opened back up for the 79 season. I left in August and then went back to school in Sept, so I wasn't around for the State Fair accident. I talked to the foreman and he told me that they were shut down that day for high winds.

Q: What was the daily outcome for the Astrolift? (perhaps a timeline here,for instance how many days before all evidence of the Astrolift was done away with)

I have no idea.

Q:Where did the Astrolift go ? Is the Astrolift at Astroworld the same one?)

I'm not sure what happened to the ride. I would assume it was sold through a broker to some other park. It's possible that the cars were sold for use on another parks system. If anyone knows, I'd like to know too.

Q: If SF got rid of the lift on Arlington why not Houston?(I hope not I like that ride)

Who knows. It's bound to be a legal thing.

Q:I kinda felt like you guys never knew what was going to be coming off that ride tell me about some of the strangest things, or people that got off and you thought,"whoa,where did that come from?!)

A remember a pair of panties coming across one time, just the panties, no girl. We also liked to fill cars with water and send them across the park. We would hide and scare the guy catching at modern side and they'd do the same to us, thinking it was an empty car. We'd come into the station with a big cup of water and throw it at the last minute and then trip ourselves out.

Q: Any near misses? (like "hey I forgot to lock that door!!!")

Once we had a new guy loading and I was running trip position...well the guy didn't lock the door and the car hit the trip before I knew what was going on and tripped out. I grabbed the bumper and hooked my leg around the wooden station post and stopped the car mere feet before it went into the lock arm rails. I yelled back at the guy loading to stop his next car and then proceded to reach back to grab my lift handle. I just reached it, as all the blood in my body drained away. The guests in the car had very funny looks on their faces as I asked the Dad in the car to close the door and hold it for me. I quickly inserted the handle and locked the door in one swift motion...kinda like tying up a calf. I got a standing ovation from the queuehouse...ok well they were standing what.

Q: Were there any facelifts on the Astrolift since it's beginning ?

The cars have been all types of colors. When I started they were mostly either blue or red with stars on the doors and a Six Flags logo. They then went to the Delta emblem on the sides and bottoms. They adapted a sign to the bottom of the cars, that soon after being installed started to come undone due to general wear and tear and additional abuse by ride ops.

Q: Do you think that the decision to rid the park of Astrolift was because of the State Fair incident or was that just an excuse ?

I think it was the last straw. I'm not sure what, if any influence the real owners of the park had. But, from a safety and legal standpoint, I would bet that they thought it was only a matter of time before the Astrolift fell. Three fatal accidents with cars falling within 20 months of each other on rides of roughly the same vintage is a little scary.


Q: How old was the ride? Was it brand new when SF opened ?

As far as I know, the ride was brand new in 61-62.

Q: How fast did the lift go ?

I would estimate the speed at around 5-6mph.

Q: What was involved with shutting the ride down?

Modern side would start the process about 30 minutes to an hour before close, depending on the crowd. They would start by asking the Texas side to give a little more space between some cars (holding some in Texas station) to allow them to unload the guests and get the cars on the side rail. There was a handle, mounted on one of the superstructure poles with a cable attached to an arm that lowered the side track onto the main track. This allowed cars to be pulled off to the side holding area. This process would continue until only a few cars were running and the queue house was emptied. On some busy nights, all cars would remain on until the queue was empty. The last car across to the modern side would be called in and then the cable would be shutdown. It would then become awfully quiet.

Questions submitted by: Bill Elliott

Answers attempted by: Alan Reynolds =|
Old December 21st, 2004, 09:57 PM
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Default Astrolift pic (looking at Texas Station)

Astrolift picture
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