Station (roller coaster)

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A roller coaster's station is where the passengers board and alight from the trains. The station houses the coaster's control panel, and has devices for moving the trains in and out of the station and holding them in position, as well as devices for locking and unlocking the restraints and devices for controlling guest access to the platform. Some stations have separate loading and unloading platforms.

Controlling the ride[edit]

The main control panel is normally located at the front of the station, on the unload side, and will typically have at least all of these controls:

  • Dispatch. Often two or more buttons that must both be pressed. When pressed and held down, the train in the station will move forwards out of the station. For safety reasons, the train will stop if the button is released before the train is clear of the station.
  • Dual Leave the Station. Push button that is pressed in conjunction with the drivers dispatch button to advance a train out of the station. For safety reasons, the train will stop if this button is also released before the train is clear of the station.
  • Train Advance/Accept. Also known as "Auto-Brake Enable", when pressed and held down, the train behind the station moves forward into the station. Like the dispatch button, the train will stop if the button is released. The dispatch button sometimes also serves as the advance button, in which case the train in the station will dispatch, then the train behind the station will advance as soon as the station is clear. In some cases if the operator forgets to advance the train forward with this button after another train has left the station the lift chain will stop the other train from moving depending on ride design and other brakes or chains located on the track. This method is also used to perform a "block-test" to ensure that the two trains will not collide.
  • Diagnostic Clear or Fault Reset. Push button that will clear an error caused by the driver or other ride problem. The driver/operator can only clear some errors while mechanics can clear all. This ensures rider safety. Such errors that drivers can clear are forgetting to advance a rear train after a front train has left the station and the lift chain has stopped because of it, or forgetting to lock the lapbars before pressing dispatch, which in such a case the system will disable dispatch until all restraints are locked.
  • Advance E-Brake. Push button that is held down to advance a rear train forward to the "trim-brakes" while another train is in the station. This option will not cause the two trains to collide because the trim brakes must remain closed until the front train has fully dispatched from the station. This option on a control panel is a useful tool in case the operator or "driver" of the ride forgets to bring the rear train into the station once a front train has left and thus helps prevent the chain lift from shutting down. Also if this button is released the train will stop so long as it is in the "e-brakes" position, else it will not stop until it has reached the "trim-brakes."
  • Lift Start Warning. Push button that is held down for a certain amount of time until the alarm itself stops after which the operator along with one other person can start the lift. The operator must also check that all trains are in correct position or else the lift chain will not restart. At least two buttons must be pulled by two different people, one of which must be the driver in order to start the lift. Mechanics only have to use one so long as the ride is in "manual mode."
  • Alarm Silence. A push button that silences almost any alarm but in some cases won't. A usual alarm heard by a driver is when there are at least two trains on a track and the alarm makes a buzzing sound to alert the driver that a rear train is about to enter the "e-brakes" position.
  • Lift Start/Stop. A button that is pulled after the "lift start warning" has been sounded which will enable the lift to start. Pushing the same button can also stop the lift from operating. This is useful for non-emergency stops.
  • An "Auto/Manual Mode" key switch. Automatic mode is used for the normal operation of the coaster, while mechanics use manual mode for maintenance and testing purposes, and also to perform the pre-opening procedures each day. When starting complex roller coasters, it can take an hour or more before the first test run can be conducted.
  • A microphone to allow the operator to talk to the guests.
  • Lights indicating whether or not each block is occupied by a train.
  • Lights indicating whether or not the restraints are down far enough to allow the train to be dispatched. This could be one light for the entire train, or a separate light for each row or car. They will normally be built into the lock/unlock restraint button(s).
  • An "all clear" light, which indicates that the train can be dispatched. It is normally built into the Dispatch button.
  • A "trouble" light, indicating that the coaster has experienced a malfunction, normally a very minor one. On a very complex coaster such as Kingda Ka, even something as minor as a lightbulb burning out will trigger the trouble light.

In addition to the main control panel, most modern coasters have an "enable panel" on the station's wall, normally in the corner farthest from the main panel. These are small panels that have two buttons: "Leave the Station Button" and "Emergency Stop". Many modern coasters also have a Open/close entrance gates button on this panel, as well.

Moving and interfacing with the train[edit]

The station has a mechanism to move each train into the station, hold it in place while it is loaded, then move it out of the station. If the station is built on a slope, the train will move into and out of the station under gravity and all that's needed are brakes to hold it in place. If the station is built flat, drive tires or another form of propulsion must be used. On some coasters, the station has no brakes - instead, it has drive tires that lock in place to prevent the train from moving. This is normally used on coasters with magnetic brakes, as this type of brake cannot completely stop a train.

The station also has a mechanism to lock and unlock the restraints, which can be physical or electric. A physical interface uses spring-loaded rods in the train that are pushed by plates in the station to unlock the restraints. An electrical interface uses copper contacts mounted to the track and brushes mounted to the bottom of the train to allow the computer to interface directly with the train and control its restraints. One major advantage of a physical interface is that it allows the restraints to be easily unlocked with a simple wrench-like tool if a train has to be evacuated (unloaded anywhere other than the station). An electrical interface, on the other hand, may require a large, bulky battery pack to be plugged into the train in order to manually unlock the restraints. Some electrically operated restraints allow manual operation with a wrench or T-bar device, in the event that electrical power is not available. An electrical interface also requires more maintenance, as the electrical contacts in the station must be cleaned regularly to maintain a good connection.

Most coasters also have an interface for giving the computer feedback on the position of the restraints. This is usually a simple electric interface. On some coasters this is not used, instead there is a fixed-length seatbelt that must be buckled to the restraint. If the restraint cannot be pushed down far enough for the belt to be buckled, the train cannot be dispatched.

The station, as well as other important parts on the coaster such as the lift and brake runs, has many hall effect sensors that give the computer feedback on the position of each train. These sensors sense the presence of any metal object, such as part of the train, in their immediate vicinity. Moving any other metal object in range of the sensor will also trigger it, creating what's known as a "ghost train" - the computer thinks there's a train where there isn't one, causing an emergency stop.

Some types of coasters have additional equipment in the station. Floorless roller coasters have individual floor sections between the rows that flip downwards and to the side to allow the train to move. Inverted roller coasters have a retractable floor that drops down about a foot before the train dispatches. Flying roller coasters have a mechanism to flip the seats into flying position, and some also have the same retractable floor of an inverted coaster. Some Vekoma Boomerangs have buttons for 'station unlock' (releases the brakes so the train can be pulled out of the station), 'full brake clear' (completely disengages the station brakes so the train doesn't rapidly decelerate and potentially get stuck in the cobra roll), 'station brake prime/half brake lock' (increases station brake pressure by half, which slows the train down on its return), 'start lift' (which is often rolled into the Station Unlock button, but on newer models the first lift can be activated manually), 'station lock/full brake lock' (stops the train completely on its return forwards into the station), 'train unlock' and 'train lock' which release and lock the harnesses, respectively. Other Boomerangs simply have three buttons, in addition to another dual-dispatch button at the front end of the station; these buttons are 'train lock/unlock', 'ride start' and 'ride stop'.