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  1. #1

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    Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    Name:  Alice_in_Wonderland.jpg
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    How do these operate? Is there a battery in each one? Does the center track just provide guidance or does it also provide electricity to each vehicle? Can the operator start and stop each vehicle independently from the control panel? If so is there a radio receiver in each one?

  2. #2

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    The dark ride vehicles you are asking about are propelled by an on board electric motor. The motor receives power from a bus bar, more on this in a moment. The bus bar is one part of the center rail assembly. The center rail has two functions, one of which is the aforementioned bus bar and the other function is to guide the vehicle about the ride path. The ride vehicle also has load wheels that are mounted on to a swivel caster.

    The bus bar, which is a rigid electrical conductor, typically copper, can be in two or more sections. From a simplified electrical description, we'll say that the ride system is a single phase system where one bar is hot with a voltage potential and the second bar is the neutral (or common if DC); there is another way too if the system were to use three phase voltage (like Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers) and I can explain that at a future time.

    In this scenario and that would be true of attractions like Alice, the track is divided into separate zones. When voltage is applied to a zone, then the motor is energized the vehicle is in motion. During the Load/Unload cycle, the ride controller turns power off to the unload zone the vehicle comes to a stop; there may also be a braking mechanism that holds the vehicle in place making it safer and easier for Guests to exit and enter the vehicle. When the vehicle is safe to dispatch and the operator has told the ride controller to enable motion, at that time the ride controller applies power to the zone and away you go on your adventure in Wonderland.

    I think the highlights have been hit and hope this helps. Please let me know if more explanation is needed. Also, if others have more to add or if I misrepresented something, then clarification is most welcome.

    By the way, I am not an Imagineer nor a ride system engineer, but a hug e fan. I am an electrical engineer and design motion control systems for industrial systems, where many of these principles are used on a regular basis.

    -Justin

  3. #3

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    Interesting you bring this up. I am working on starting a blog and my first post is focusing on dark ride vehicles--specifically the Omnimover.

    As for the Alice ride vehicles, they seem to be a variation on the classic Pretzel Carts. They are electronically driven--the track providing the electronic connection with the vehicle. The motor is inside the vehicle itself. They can not be controlled individually and if one stops on the track, the track will stop feeding electricity to all vehicles and they will all stop. They have a break system in place which allows for loading unloading.

    I may have gotten some of the details wrong so if anyone else has any other input feel free to add to the discussion.
    "Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey."
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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    If I remember correctly, I was told that typically each car cannot be controlled individually. If the zone is powered, the bus bar, collector, and motor complete the circuit and allows the vehicle to move forward.

    During power up, each zone is powered one at a time for a split second to see if a vehicle is located in that zone. It can tell by seeing if that particular zone is drawing any current. Once each zone is powered up, the ride computer knows how many vehicles there are and where they are located.

    During operations, the ride computer cannot tell exactly where a vehicle is located within a zone, only that a vehicle is someone within a zone. What it can do though is run a timer to see how long a vehicle stays in a particular zone. Each zone should take a certain amount of time to pass through and if it stays longer than expected, then the ride computer knows that the vehicle got stuck or malfunctioned, causing the ride to shutdown. Additionally, if a vehicle enters a zone too quickly or intrudes in a buffer zone between vehicles, it can also cause the ride to shutdown.

    This information may or may not pertain to Alice in particular but some of the other dark rides at Disneyland use this theory of operations I believe.

  5. #5

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    If there's electricity running through the rails then why don't we see warning or caution signs?

  6. #6

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by MickeysImagination View Post
    The dark ride vehicles you are asking about are propelled by an on board electric motor. The motor receives power from a bus bar, more on this in a moment. The bus bar is one part of the center rail assembly. The center rail has two functions, one of which is the aforementioned bus bar and the other function is to guide the vehicle about the ride path. The ride vehicle also has load wheels that are mounted on to a swivel caster.

    The bus bar, which is a rigid electrical conductor, typically copper, can be in two or more sections. From a simplified electrical description, we'll say that the ride system is a single phase system where one bar is hot with a voltage potential and the second bar is the neutral (or common if DC); there is another way too if the system were to use three phase voltage (like Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers) and I can explain that at a future time.

    In this scenario and that would be true of attractions like Alice, the track is divided into separate zones. When voltage is applied to a zone, then the motor is energized the vehicle is in motion. During the Load/Unload cycle, the ride controller turns power off to the unload zone the vehicle comes to a stop; there may also be a braking mechanism that holds the vehicle in place making it safer and easier for Guests to exit and enter the vehicle. When the vehicle is safe to dispatch and the operator has told the ride controller to enable motion, at that time the ride controller applies power to the zone and away you go on your adventure in Wonderland.

    I think the highlights have been hit and hope this helps. Please let me know if more explanation is needed. Also, if others have more to add or if I misrepresented something, then clarification is most welcome.

    By the way, I am not an Imagineer nor a ride system engineer, but a hug e fan. I am an electrical engineer and design motion control systems for industrial systems, where many of these principles are used on a regular basis.

    -Justin
    Excellent post, and completely accurate.

    The braking mechanism spoken of is just that; a brake usually attached to the motor. When it (and the motor) are not energized, a spring holds the brake 'on'. The motor shaft will not turn. It is arranged this way so that any type of malfunction results in the vehicle stopping, not free-wheeling.

    When power is applied, the motor starts and the brake releases.

    Since this is an electromechanical device, you can usually hear a sort of metallic 'clunk' when the brake is applied or released.

    I don't know how the rides at DL are arranged, but one way to keep a moving vehicle from crashing into a disabled one is to place sensors along the track, and time the vehicles moving past them. If too much time elapses from one vehicle to the next, the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller, a sort of computer that controls machinery) will assume a breakdown and it'll stop all vehicles.

    Rob

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by bigcatrik View Post
    If there's electricity running through the rails then why don't we see warning or caution signs?


    Instead there are cast members monitoring all entrances to the ride path. Guests have to stay within certain safe areas marked by yellow lines and physical barriers. If they go outside these areas, the cast members will immediately remove power from the bus bar before the guest can get too close to it. (This is dangerous and can lead to long down times so dont try it!)

  8. #8

    • world class bilge rat
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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by bigcatrik View Post
    If there's electricity running through the rails then why don't we see warning or caution signs?
    Not completely sure, but I'd guess that there are enough sensors placed along the track that it'd be pretty much impossible for a person to be anywhere near the energized rails. If someone (or something.......) were to breach the track boundaries, the rails would be de-energized and the ride vehicles would stop.

    This would also serve as a means to prevent anyone from being struck by a ride vehicle as well.

  9. #9

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicless

    Quote Originally Posted by micromind View Post
    Not completely sure, but I'd guess that there are enough sensors placed along the track that it'd be pretty much impossible for a person to be anywhere near the energized rails. If someone (or something.......) were to breach the track boundaries, the rails would be de-energized and the ride vehicles would stop.

    This would also serve as a means to prevent anyone from being struck by a ride vehicle as well.
    It depends on the ride. Racers has way more sensors and intrusion alarms than anything I've seen while Teacups only has two LEDs that turn solid green when the magnetic exit gate is locked shut. Some attractions depend more on CMs than sensors for safety. In terms of electricity, I doubt we're talking about high voltage. I've witnessed hats, glasses, trash, etc. fall on various tracks and hardly any heat transferred to them from what I could tell. (Screamin' and Racers might be exceptions, however.) I also know Tower of Terror has an error message that requires an immediate shutdown of an elevator shaft otherwise it could knock out power to half the resort.

  10. #10

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    Thanks for the answers.

    I wonder when the zone system was put in place. Around 1968 or so, my Dad, my sister and I were on the Alice attraction when we came up to a vehicle that had stopped on the track on an uphill section. That vehicle had 4 adults in it. I didn't remember bumping into it, but last Thanksgiving my sister and I were talking about this and she said we hit the vehicle with a pretty hard thud. Sometime after that (maybe during the 1983 remodel?) they must have put in the zone system which prevents any 2 vehicles from touching.

  11. #11

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicles

    The people who designed and made the Alice in Wonderland ride have an oral history about themselves published in this book:

    Amazon.com: Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers eBook: Robert Reynolds: Kindle Store

    It's not a great book, but there is the exact schematic for the Alice in Wonderland ride vehicles and mechanical systems inside. It's available cheaply as a e-book if you'd like it.

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicless

    Quote Originally Posted by nerdycm View Post
    I also know Tower of Terror has an error message that requires an immediate shutdown of an elevator shaft otherwise it could knock out power to half the resort.

    I've always wondered about that. Those giant motors must be pulling a couple thousand amps a phase when they're moving the elevators that quick.
    Just sayin'

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicless

    Quote Originally Posted by MSCguy View Post
    I've always wondered about that. Those giant motors must be pulling a couple thousand amps a phase when they're moving the elevators that quick.
    They have had to build special electrical build out to support ToT's high demands at each of the installations.
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  14. #14

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicless

    Quote Originally Posted by flynnibus View Post
    They have had to build special electrical build out to support ToT's high demands at each of the installations.
    It'd be interesting to see how they accomplished this. I have a few ideas of how I would do it but I'd like to know how it was actually done.

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    Re: Technical question - dark ride vehicless

    Quote Originally Posted by MSCguy View Post
    I've always wondered about that. Those giant motors must be pulling a couple thousand amps a phase when they're moving the elevators that quick.
    I do believe that there are a large number of transformers behind Tower of Terror to handle the power needs.

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