May 25, 2012

Leviathan roller-coaster construction a tight squeeze at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ontario

Building a roller-coaster is like building a ship in a bottle, says the head of construction at Canada’s Wonderland.

“We’re dealing with a pre-existing site. We have to thread this new track through an existing environment. We have some challenges there, about where to place column footings and where do we set up the cranes to get the optimal reach,” explained Peter Switzer, Wonderland director of maintenance and construction.

This isn’t just any roller-coaster either; the Leviathan is set to become Canada’s largest roller-coaster.
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Reaching a top speed of 148 kilometers per hour, the ride spans 1,672 metres of track that includes a series of giant camelback hills reaching heights up to 54.9 metres, and an overbanked hammerhead turn at 115 degrees that will cross above the park’s front gate at 44.8 metres high.

Leviathan is 93.3 metres at its highest point, with an angle of descent of approximately 80 degrees.

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Canada’s Wonderland already housed the nation’s largest roller-coaster, Behemoth, with a track length of 1,620.9 metres, a lift height of 70 metres an angle of descent of approximately 75 degrees, but Leviathan, the park’s 16th roller-coaster, smashes all those records.

“It’s bigger and faster and people always want to go higher and we want to give our guests the next thrill — 142 kilometres an hour, you don’t get that many places,” said Switzer.

Construction began in late summer/early fall. The ride manufacturer is Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M) of Monthey, Switzerland, a highly recognized leader in roller-coaster development who also constructed Behemoth.

There are three 32-passenger trains made of fiberglass and steel. The track and columns are structural steels and the footings are all concrete with reinforcing steel. Footings need to be “bang on,” said Switzer.

“There’s some tight tolerances with trying to make sure the footings are where they need to be so when the track comes together, when they start assembling it, when we get to the end of the loop that the two pieces match up,” he said.

“Not a lot of construction has that type of constraint.”

The project’s biggest challenge was trying to integrate the ride with the existing facilities, like existing buildings and utilities, said Switzer. They had to modify some of the footings to accommodate the underground utilities.

The columns and track were manufactured in the United States. The design, trains and many of the mechanical components come from Switzerland.

Subtrades include: R.V. Anderson (foundation and architectural designers); Rutherford Contracting in cooperation with UCC Group ( foundations and site work); Hartwell Electrical (electric work); Tormac Mechanical (mechanical work); Classic Fire (sprinkler systems and the HVAC systems); and E.S. Fox Ltd. (rider installation).

Canada’s Wonderland and the SickKids Foundation held an auction for the first official rides on Leviathan. It is now open to the public.

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