Zipline roller coaster.

Case study .

The Adventure Recreation industry needed to turn a corner,
and we could help.

Business owners in the Adventure Recreation industry are always looking for exciting ways to get the most out of their sites. We see ski resorts become bike parks in the summer and nature parks add canopy tours above walking tracks. Using a site year-round is a great way to boost customer throughput.

We wanted to create an experience that would exceed business owner expectations and thrill customers

The idea: A zipline ride that goes around corners

On existing zipline tours, riders stop at each intersection (or turning point) to move to the next section. For a zipline trolley to turn corners without stopping, we needed to create brand new technology.

So, the SWITCHBACK™ was born. An innovative system that allows a zipline to transition from cable to rail. This transition is important because corner sections must be made from rail, but cable is the cheapest and easiest way to get from A to B. With the powers of cable and rail combined we could make a flexible system that could travel long distances and turn corners – game changer!

The challenges and answers

Challenge: Design a system that safely transitions from cable to rail, every time.

To stop trolleys derailing and to keep riders safe, traditional zipline trolleys create a closed loop around the cable (using a carabiner or locking side plate). We couldn’t use this system because the loop could not pass around corner section support brackets.

Answer: We developed a gating system that automatically opens and closes as the trolley passes between cable and rail. On these sections, dual-rail geometry holds the trolley securely, making the entire ride perfectly safe.

Challenge: Make sure riders of all sizes are comfortable on the ride.

Existing zipline harnesses are not designed to deal with the side swing generated by going around corners, or the high rider throughput of a SWITCHBACK™ system.

Answer: We designed a flexible harness and lanyard system (with adjustable connections) so riders face forward throughout the ride in a comfortable seated position. The design also allows riders of all sizes to be connected to the trolley while standing on the launch platform (no boxes or stairs for smaller riders).

Challenge: Manage rider speed and swing-out.

Zipline rides are gravity-based. The bigger the rider, the faster they go. We needed to make the experience safe and enjoyable for all riders by managing not only rider speed, but also the side swing around corners.

Answer: We simulated the entire ride (under all operating conditions) using sophisticated engineering tools. To prevent unsafe rider speeds, we created an innovative speed-limiting eddy current brake on the SWITCHBACK™ Trolley and we designed the track to eliminate dangerous swing-outs. To bring the rider to a safe stop, we fitted pass-through magnetic braking fins at the end of the ride.

Challenge: Design support structures to local building code and get them signed off.

Answer: Luckily, we know some guys who are pretty good at that stuff. Our mates at Holmes Structures (also part of the Holmes Group) led the track and structure design, including tower and platforms. They are great at what they do; we knew we could trust them completely.

The making and testing

We’re big fans of evidence-based design, so after verifying our designs with analysis and modelling, we were ready to start physical tests. In our onsite test lab, our talented team built a prototype trolley and track with a corner section. This meant we could test every aspect of the transition and see exactly how the trolley performed. We were able to make modifications to manage swing-out and speed. As soon as we saw the SWITCHBACK™ cable-to-rail transition in action, we knew we were on to something amazing!

We built 12 prototype SWITCHBACK™ Trolleys and it was time to install the first complete system.

The Installation – ‘The Flying Ox’

The first compete installation of the SWITCHBACK™ system was ‘The Flying Ox’ at LumberJack Feud, Tennessee. This was a perfect site for a cornering zipline. Space was tight, so being able to turn corners meant we could use the space to its fullest.

Some of our team travelled to site to help construct and install the track. During the build, we partnered with ClimbWorks, a forward-thinking company that create bespoke attractions and have the can-do attitude we love. We worked with them to finely tune the system’s speed-limiting brakes and meet tight deadlines. The lasting friendships, plates of shared buffalo wings and team tee-shirts are a testament to this amazing partnership.

The future

This new technology can be used so many ways and we are excited about what’s around the corner. This first prototype only scratched the surface of what is possible. We’re already working on a number of new applications around the world; helping clients create unique and awesome experiences for their sites.

Keep an eye out; there’s another game-changer coming!

The Installation – ‘The Flying Ox’

The first compete installation of the SWITCHBACK™ system was ‘The Flying Ox’ at LumberJack Feud, Tennessee. There wasn’t a huge space to work with, so having a cornering zipline was perfect to make the most of the
This was a perfect site for a cornering zipline. Space was tight, so being able to turn corners meant that space was used in the best way.
Some of our team members travelled to site and worked closely with ClimbWorks to get the track built and the ride installed. Being onsite was important so we could make sure the system’s speed-limiting brakes were finely tuned and we were available for immediate problem-solving.
xxx

The future is bright

This new technology can be used so many ways! Our first prototype only scratched the surface of what is possible. We are already working on a number of new rides around the world, helping clients create unique and awesome experiences for their sites.
Keep an eye out; we’re already developing another game-changer!
<blockquote class=”alignright”>
<h4><strong>”This was a challenging project, but Holmes brought solutions to the table for an amazing result.”
– XXX, XXX, Climbworks.</strong></h4>
</blockquote>

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