Understanding rollercoasters’ wheels of fortune

WheelCallum Robin is the Business Manager at a company called QWheels – a company which may be of interest to theme park fans.

It provides the polyurethane wheels found on many of the rollercoasters at Britain’s theme parks.

The company’s clients include Alton Towers, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Flamingo Land and Fantasy Island – as well as parks in Europe and travelling showmen.

“We work with a variety of different travelling fairs and showmen,” Callum told us.

“They even travel from far afield to use our services, we are happy to help anyone we can within the industry.”

QWheels has over 40 years experience in the manufacture of polyurethane wheels – which are also used on things like forklifts – and the business has continued to develop and modernise.

Callum said: “We currently offer full traceability of all wheels from start to finish during manufacture or refurbishment.

“This will be available shortly for customers to log in and check progress at any time on-line, I am unaware of anyone else offering this service.

Different wear rates

Anyone that has rode a rollercoaster at different stages of its life, in varying weather and at different times of year will notice how the trains can behave differently.

“We often come across rides that need speeding up, slowing down, need to be quieter/louder, that as is where our strengths are in being able to adapt to different rides and weather conditions,” Callum said.

“Generally with any new ride there is a bedding in period and tweaks are often needed, that is when we are able to help.”

AirAnd how long do those wheels bearing the huge weight of rollercoaster trains typically last?

“Rides like Air at Alton Towers wheels wear quite quickly, this can be down to the G forces and amount of turns involved.

“A lot of it depends on the type of wheel, guide wheels, side wheels, load wheels, some have minimal use over a season so you would expect them to last 3-4 for seasons with ease.

“However harder applications and load wheels can be changed a few times in one season.

“Normally it tends to be the bigger/faster/quick turning rollercoasters that get through wheels quickly.”

Callum said QWheels has been quite resilient during the economic downturn of the past few years.

“Wheels from the Theme Park industry haven’t really shown that much of a decline, if anything it has increased.

“Less people going on holiday abroad and using what the UK can offer, the weather conditions have affected the amount of people visiting the parks but business is good, although we always need more!”

Hot and hold weather

One of the main reasons for rollercoasters not operating during the winter months is their ability to function adequately in the cold.

During the summer, the wear of the wheels is increased. Callum said his business was working to address issues in both extremes of temperature.

“Weather conditions have a huge effect on our products so we are currently working on materials that are suited for Summer and Winter applications, this is to help reduce any variations in speed and noise during the different times in the seasons.”

We asked Callum if QWheels worked directly with any ride manufacturers and if he could reveal any future projects.

“In the past no, however we are currently working with some of the top ride manufactures in the world but we are limited in what we can say at this time,” he teased.

We would like to thank Callum for taking the time to speak to us in this interview.