The Smiler is a steel roller coaster located at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, United Kingdom. Manufactured by Gerstlauer, it features 14 inversions and holds the world record for most inversions on a roller coaster. The Smiler has suffered a series of setbacks and ride incidents, including a malfunction at a press preview event which delayed the official opening date by two months, and in 2015, a major collision that left five riders seriously injured. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive was initiated, and the ride was closed for the remainder of that season. The ride eventually reopened on 19 March 2016 with revamped safety standards.
The Smiler trains dueling
|Previously known as SW7|
|Opening date||31 May 2013|
|Replaced||The Black Hole|
|Track layout||Infinity Coaster 1170|
|Lift/launch system||2 Chain lift systems, 2nd is vertical.|
|Drop||98.4 ft (30.0 m)|
|Length||3,838.6 ft (1,170.0 m)|
|Speed||52.8 mph (85.0 km/h)|
|Height restriction||140 cm (4 ft 7 in)|
|Trains||4 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 4 across in a single row for a total of 16 riders per train.|
|The Smiler at RCDB|
Pictures of The Smiler at RCDB
Plans to build The Smiler were submitted to the local authority in December 2011. Permission was granted on 15 March 2012 following a Staffordshire Moorlands Council meeting, despite some local opposition to its construction. Gerstlauer, a German manufacturing company, was hired to build the roller coaster. Less than a month after obtaining permission, Alton Towers launched a website announcing a new ride – codenamed Secret Weapon 7 (SW7) – for the 2013 season. Its codename followed a similar format used for other roller coasters during their teaser campaigns, such as SW4 for Oblivion and SW6 for Thirteen.
In June 2012, a trademark filed by Merlin Entertainments, parent company of Alton Towers, hinted that the new ride would be named The Smiler. On 17 October 2012, a number of facts about the coaster were revealed to the public including its maximum speed, track length, ride time, passengers per train and ride cost. Despite the release, Alton Towers did not announce or confirm the name for the ride.
The site for the new ride was determined to be an area in the park being occupied by the tent that previously contained the Black Hole, a roller coaster which closed after the 2005 season. The park began dismantling the remaining Black Hole structure on 12 April 2012. The first pieces of track arrived at the park in late October 2012. Sections of track were later moved to the construction site on 6 December 2012.
In January 2013, Alton Towers officially confirmed that the ride would be called The Smiler. In February 2013, the park revealed some of the ride's elements. The trains arrived in March 2013, as Alton Towers began posting images on both Twitter and their official Smiler website. Vertical construction was completed approximately one month later, as the final piece of track was installed at the top of the first lift hill.
Initially, The Smiler was expected to make its public debut in March 2013 for the park's opening day, but due to construction delays, the date was pushed back to 23 May 2013. The date had to be pushed back further after technical issues were encountered during testing and a ride incident occurred during its preview event that stranded riders on the lift hill. Following the incident on 17 May 2013, Alton Towers explained on their website that The Smiler would not open on the originally scheduled date due to "unforeseen teething problems."
The ride's delayed opening initially caused controversy as many had booked advance tickets and stays at the Alton Towers Hotel in order to be among the first to ride the coaster. However, Alton Towers later announced it would allow those who had made advanced bookings to change their tickets and hotel reservations free of charge. The Smiler eventually opened on 31 May 2013.
The ride has been known for a number of significant structural and technical issues since its launch. The most serious incident occurred on 2 June 2015, when a loaded train collided with an empty test train, causing serious injuries to a number of riders. Subsequently, Merlin Entertainments decided to close The Smiler, Saw – The Ride at Thorpe Park, and two other roller coasters at Chessington World of Adventures (all of which have since reopened) while safety protocols and procedures were evaluated. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served a Prohibition Notice upon the Smiler, preventing the ride's use until remedial action had been completed. On 27 July 2015, it was stated by Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney that The Smiler would "not be opening this summer". The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) initiated a criminal investigation that focused on the actions of two employees – a ride engineer and a ride operator – who may have failed to follow basic safety protocols leading up to the accident.
In the incident's aftermath, Alton Towers and its owner Merlin Entertainments observed a drop in revenue and visitor numbers, which contributed to the decision to make up to 190 job redundancies at the theme park. Six rides were closed during the 2016 season as a result of the crash. Varney released a public statement stating:
This has been a terrible incident and a devastating day for everyone here. We have a very strong record of safe operation of our rides here at Alton Towers and it is our priority. I would like to express my sincerest regret and apology to everyone who suffered injury and distress today and to their families.
The ride eventually reopened on 19 March 2016 for the start of the 2016 season with additional safety features. Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April 2016, in which the firm pleaded guilty. On 27 September 2016, after a two-day hearing at Stafford Crown Court, Judge Michael Chambers QC fined Merlin Entertainments £5 million. In September 2018, Vicky Balch and Leah Washington, who lost their legs on the ride after the crash in June 2015, sued Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd for negligence and or breach of statutory duty.
|17 May 2013||31 May 2013||The Smiler suffered a malfunction at its opening during a preview event for celebrities and journalists which delayed the coaster's official opening. The train became stuck on the first lift hill trapping passengers in their seats for an hour until they could be evacuated.|||
|4 June 2013||5 June 2013||One of the trains stalled on the ride's batwing element during a test run before the park opened to the public.|||
|10 June 2013||11 June 2013||A train stalled once again in the same batwing element, but unlike previous times, weighted dummies were present on the train. The cause of the incident was revealed as a computer malfunction that triggered the trim brakes.|||
|21 July 2013||25 July 2013||48 people were evacuated from the ride after a piece of debris fell from a section of track. Some eyewitness reports described the debris as a 1-foot-long metal bar (0.30 m), while others described it as a bolt. The incident caused two sections of track to partially disengage creating a small gap in the track.|||
|30 July 2013||4 August 2013||The ride was closed for five days after cracks were found around the base of one of the ride's supports.|||
|2 November 2013||7 November 2013||Four people were injured when they were struck by guide wheels that detached from the chain guide as the train ascended the vertical incline.|||
|2 June 2015||19 March 2016||A train carrying 16 riders and travelling approximately 20 mph (32 km/h) collided with an empty, stationary train. Of the eleven riders who required medical treatment, five were seriously injured. Two required partial leg amputations in the weeks following the incident. According to reports, the train carrying passengers was stopped automatically on the lift hill by a safety mechanism that prevents two trains from occupying the same section of track. It correctly detected that the empty train sent previously had stalled. A ride engineer manually overrode the mechanism allowing a ride operator to dispatch the halted train, which led to the collision.|||
A key feature of the ride is the large spider-like structure that serves as a centrepoint for the coaster track. Called ‘The Marmaliser,’ it has 5 legs, each with a distinct function to manipulate riders into "smiling". It is also equipped with a wraparound screen, which displays graphics and video relating to the theme of the ride. The roller coaster intertwines within the structure causing greater interaction with riders to enhance the experience. The track is divided into 5 block sections, permitting up to 5 trains to operate on the ride at once, which would create a theoretical capacity of 1200 people per hour (pph).
|1. Heartline roll|
|2. Barrel roll|
|3. Dive loop|
|4. Dive loop|
|5. Dive loop|
|6. Side Winder|
|7. Barrel roll|
|9. Sea-serpent roll|
|10. Cobra roll|
The train dispatches from the station, playing audio of a man saying "join us!" .The train immediately enters into a sweeping drop 180-degrees to the left. Partway through this drop, riders encounter a heartline roll, the ride's first inversion. The train then comes to a stop on block brakes, before ascending the first lift hill. Upon reaching the top, the train drops into another 180-degree right turn before banking into the second inversion, a downward corkscrew. The train drops down into the next two inversions, two consecutive dive loops before travelling over a trimmed airtime hill into the ride's largest element, a Batwing (this element consists of a sidewinder and reverse sidewinder).
The train then travels through another corkscrew before reaching the second set of block brakes, after a brief pause the train ascends the second lift hill, this time at a 90° vertical angle. The train then enters another drop, 180-degrees to the left, banking into a downward corkscrew. Riders then navigate through a sea serpent roll, followed by a short drop into another trimmed airtime hill. the train then dives into a cobra roll. Upon exiting the cobra roll, the train twists through two consecutive corkscrews before a short left turn into the final brake run.
Marketing for The Smiler started around the same time as construction when, on 11 April 2012, a minisite was launched allowing visitors to register for updates on the ride's progress. A competition to be the first to ride the rollercoaster, at this time codenamed "SW7", started in July. To enter guests were invited to scan a QR Code with their smartphone, which subsequently redirected to Alton Towers Official The Smiler Minisite where guests entered their details.
In September 2012, the park began the second stage of advertisement through the overnight spray painting of a stencil logo (which resemble a smiling face) all over the park. This was followed in October with new boards around the park, new 'subliminal' advertising on different sections of the main Alton Towers website, and a countdown timer on the Alton Towers mini-site. The countdown timer initially gave a scheduled opening date of 16 March 2013, but was removed however on 4 January 2013, as the ride hit delays.
More overt advertising started in January 2013, when the "Smile" logo was used in various forms across the country. Including billboards in London; ticket barriers at Leeds railway station; projected onto various buildings including Big Ben; and sprayed onto flocks of sheep in areas including Leicestershire, Devon and Perthshire.
Track designer, John Wardley, confirmed in a radio interview, on 19 April 2013, that The Smiler would feature more inversions than any other rollercoaster in the world. Despite construction proving this fact long beforehand, this was the first official confirmation that The Smiler would hold the inversion record. In an earlier interview Wardley had said that The Smiler would have "...5 mind manipulating elements that play around with you on the ride, so it’s more than just a physical rollercoaster."
From early April and throughout May, Alton Towers published videos online giving snippets of the ride's fictional backstory. This was followed by footage of weather presenter Laura Tobin riding The Smiler, live on ITV's Daybreak programme and an advertising campaign on boxes of Krave cereal.
- "Alton Towers' Smiler ride reopens nine months after horror crash". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- Sim, Nick (16 March 2012). "Alton Towers receives planning permission for SW7 roller coaster". Theme Park Tourist. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- "Noise Report" (PDF). Staffordshire Moorlands Council. Retrieved 5 January 2012.[dead link]
- "New rollercoaster ride approved". BBC News. BBC. 13 March 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- "SW7 Name Speculation Begins". Towers Street. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- "Case details for Community Trade Mark E10993517". Intellectual Property Office. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- "Alton Towers Resort to launch world's first rollercoaster in 2013" (Press release). Alton Towers. 17 October 2012. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- Marden, Duane. "Black Hole (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- "Planning Permission Granted for Secret Weapon 7". Towers Times. 15 March 2012. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- "New SW7 Promotional Material released". Towers Times. 11 April 2012. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Farewell to the Black Hole Tent". Towers Times. 12 April 2012. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- "Track and components arrive". Towers Times. 3 November 2012.
- "SW7 Construction Updates". Towers Street. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2012.
- "SW7 Vertical Construction Begins". Towers Street. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- Gilani, Nadia (21 January 2012). "Ewe've been framed! Creepy sheep Twitter mystery solved". Metro. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "February 20th 2013 : The Smiler: Confirmed Track Changes". Towers Times. 20 February 2013. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- "The Smiler Trains Delivered". Towers Times. 28 March 2013. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Alton Towers (28 March 2013). "Alton Towers Twitter - The Smiler Trains". Twitter. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- "The Smiler Ride Cars Arrive". Alton Towers. 28 March 2013. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- "The Smiler Track Construction Completed". Towers Times. 24 April 2013. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- "The Smiler Track Construction Reaches Completion". Towers Street. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- Goodenough, Tom (23 April 2013). "Alton Towers workers recreate famous pose on top of rollercoaster". The Sun. London: News International. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "The Smiler leaves many frowning..." The Sentinel. 27 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
- Fletcher, Damien (18 May 2013). "Alton Towers' The Smiler breaks down on preview night leaving thrill-seekers dangling". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- Hogg, Chris (22 May 2013). "Alton Towers delays opening of The Smiler after technical issues". The Sentinel. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- "Due to unforeseen teething problems, The Smiler will not be open on 23rd May (Twitter)". Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- Moody, Jenny (24 May 2013). "No date set for The Smiler opening at Alton Towers". Burton Mail. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- "New 'Smiler' ride at Alton Towers has teething problems". ITV News. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- "It's time to Join Us - The Smiler is NOW OPEN #TheSmiler". Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Four seriously hurt in Alton Towers Smiler crash - Ride Rater. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
- "Smiler - Alton Towers". rcdb.com. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- "Alton Towers And Other Parks Close Major Rides". BBC News. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- "Alton Towers: HSE investigation serves prohibition notice on the Smiler". Ashbourne News Telegraph. 5 June 2015.
- Hiscott, Graham (27 July 2015). "Alton Towers crash: The Smiler remained closed all summer as families shun the park". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- Craven, Nick (22 August 2015). "Two workers quizzed over 'human error ' in Alton Towers horror". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- "Alton Towers to axe 190 jobs due to Smiler incident".
- "Six rides were closed during the 2016 season at Alton Towers, linked to the smiler crash".
- "Merlin CEO Nick Varney fronts response to Alton Towers crash". PRWeek. 4 June 2015.
- "Smiler crash: Alton Towers owner to be prosecuted". BBC. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
- "Alton Towers admits Smiler ride safety breaches". BBC. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
- "Smiler crash: Alton Towers operator Merlin fined £5m". BBC News. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
- "Alton Towers operators fined £5m in sentencing - SHP Online | Health and Safety News, Legislation, PPE, Training and CPD". SHP Online | Health and Safety News, Legislation, PPE, Training and CPD. 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2017-04-16.
- "Alton Towers Smiler ride crash victims sue park's owners". BBC News. 19 September 2018.
- "Opening of The Smiler at Alton Towers delayed". This is Staffordshire. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- "Alton Towers' Smiler ride closed again as new cracks found". Express and Star. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
- "It's Fault-on Towers! New roller coaster BREAKS DOWN on opening ride". Daily Mail. 18 May 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
- "The Smiler Stalls". Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- "The Smiler Stalls for the third time". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Alton Towers Closes Smiler". Sky New. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- "Smiler forced to close again as flying part just misses Alton Towers ride queue". Express and Star. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- "The Smiler - Handling the Heat + Track Issues". TowersTimes. 21 July 2013. Archived from the original on 3 February 2016.
- Moody, Jenny (31 July 2013). "The Smiler is reopened after debris on track". Burton Mail. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- MOODY, JENNY (31 July 2013). "The Smiler Closed Again". Burton Mail. Archived from the original on 3 August 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- Twitter / altontowers: @morgeennminajThe Smiler
- "Rollercoaster shut after riders hurt". BBC News. 2 November 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
- "Alton Towers Smiler reopens after four hit by wheels". BBC News. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
- "Alton Towers closed after Smiler rollercoaster crash". BBC News. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- "Alton Towers crash: Leah Washington has leg amputated". BBC News. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
- "Alton Towers Smiler crash: Vicky Balch has leg amputated". BBC News. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
- "Engineer and ride operator under investigation". Daily mail. 23 August 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
- "Alton Towers Resort reveals new rollercoaster, The Smiler is said to combine mental and physical fear factors to 'marmalise' riders!". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Jamie Grierson and Josh Halliday (3 June 2015). "Alton Towers rollercoaster crash". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- Marden, Duane. "The Smiler (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
- "SW7 - Coming Soon to Alton Towers Resort". Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Want to ride SW7 first?". Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- "SW7 Construction Update - 19th September 2012". Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- "SW7: World Beating Rollercoaster for 2013". Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- "SW7 Opening Delayed?". Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Is Turnham Green in West London being #getcorrected". Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- "More advertising at Leeds Station". Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- "Alton Towers promotional video - YouTube". Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- Rush, James (18 January 2013). "Just grin and baaaa it! Mysterious 'smiley face' symbol sparks internet debate after appearing on hundreds of sheep across the country". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
- "Farmers baaa-ffled after hundreds of sheep are branded with smiley face". The Sun. London. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
- "Alton Towers Alton Towers Resort baffles the nation in a baaarmy hoax". Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Smile! Details revealed for Alton Towers' latest coaster". Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "'The Smiler' - 2013 roller coaster officially named!". Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Twitter / altontowers: @Jacob_Ross14 it's completely". Twitter.com. 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
- "The Smiler - Game". Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "The Smiler Game Released!". Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Exclusive look at The Smiler merchandise". Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- "The Smiler: John Wardley on Bolton FM". Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- "John Wardley talks The Smiler on Bolton FM".
- "Miles Cedars Interview". Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "Miles Cedars Tape #1". Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
- "The Smiler is the world's first fourteen looping coaster". Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- "Smile. Always - Part 4 of 4". Retrieved 15 May 2013.
- "The Smiler - On Ride Footage". Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "The Smiler: The world's first fourteen looping coaster". Retrieved 4 May 2013.