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Thirteen

Thirteen's tall lift hill is easy to spot on the right, but the second lift hill is much harder to see.  On the extreme left edge of the picture is part of the show building.  It is covered in canvas and scaffolding.  The flat segment of track leading into the show building extends from the second lift hill into this building.  After a train enters the building, a roller door closes behind the train ensuring that the cars are immersed in darkness.  Another half dozen sets of electric motors and tires are used to pull the train in and out of the building.  Once stopped in the building on a seemingly dead end section of track, three sets of brakes hold the train in place, but this is not ordinary track.   It is the world's first Vertical Drop Track.  The track is held up by a giant hydraulic piston, but as hydraulic fluid is released through a series of valves and huge pipes, gravity pulls the track straight down.  The track, and the cars attached to it, freefall!

The show building is often referred to as a crypt.  It is very dark inside, but there are a few dim lights that show the inside of the building is overgrown with trees and vines.  A couple of air cannons blast the riders with air, while the sounds of creaking wood are heard.  Suddenly, the track and train drop down about 30 centimeters (one foot).  After a two second pause, the track and train freefall five meters (16 feet).  As a safety precaution, several feet of the wood-plank walkway on either side of the train are attached to the track and drop with the track, ensuring that any riders with arms outstretched will have adequate clearance and be protected as they freefall.  Magnetic brakes stop the downward progress of the track at the bottom of the free-fall, and the motorized tires propel the train backward out of the lower level of the show building after the free-fall track is firmly locked on to the stationary track leading out of the building.

After being pushed backward, the train drops down into a long underground tunnel.  The train passes through turns and drops and remain in the dark tunnel for what feels a long time.  It finally backs out of the tunnel right next to the loading platform.  Brakes hold vehicle stationary as a section of track moves sideways to change the brake-track's connection from the tunnel exit to the station entrance.   After the track switch is complete, the train moves forward just a few feet and enters the station.

Thirteen roller coaster at Alton Towers

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