Saturday, November 29, 2014

Universal Orlando Harry Potter Hogwarts Express is in Fact a Funicular Railway !

I've learned something today about Universal Orlando Hogwarts Express that i didn't knew. Well, may be you were aware of it or may be it's obvious when you do the ride between Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure... And i learned it thanks to a post from Swiss company named CWA.

So, in fact the Hogwarts Express, although having all the aspects of a real steam train ( locomotive, smoke, whistle, etc... ) is in fact a funicular railway, meaning - if i've understood it well - that the Hogwarts Express doesn't go from USF to IOA like a steam train, thanks to the power of the  locomotive, but pulled by a machinery at both ends of the track on which are attached a system of cables. If you don't know what a funicular is, here is the Wikipedia definition:
"The basic idea of funicular operation is that two cars are always attached to each other by a cable, which runs through a pulley at the top of the slope. Counterbalancing of the two cars, with one going up and one going down, minimizes the energy needed to lift the car going up. Winching is normally done by an electric drive that turns the pulley. Sheave wheels guide the cable to and from the drive mechanism and the slope cars."

Generally a funicular is done when there is a big slope, which is not the case here, but it can be done also when it's not the case, when the track is flat. So, basically the Hogwarts Express locomotives, even you can see the steam and hear the whistle is probably not used to pull the train between the two parks. Again, this is what i've understood from what you'll read below, and if i'm wrong please let me know. That said, the illusion works pretty well, and you need to have a real close look at videos to finally see the cable underneath. Okay, it kills a little bit the magic knowing that it's not totally a "real" steam train but not too much, that's okay.

Update: A kind D&M reader - Simon De Bruijn - sent me these pictures in which you can see the mechanism of cables located under the train. The last picture shows that even some of the steam which seems to come out of the train is in fact coming... from the ground!

Here is more infos about the Hogwarts Express from what CWA has posted recently, and i also have a great video for you right after it:

Swiss expertise is embedded in the all-new Hogwarts Express experience, created for guests of Universal Orlando Resort by Universal's creative team.

From July 8, the Hogwarts Express began transporting guests between Hogsmeade Station at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure to Kings Cross Station and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, in Universal Studios Florida. The two lands are expansive, themed areas that include shops, restaurants and the attractions, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

The four-minute Hogwarts Express journey transports visitors between the two lands, giving them a chance to ride the iconic train.

The various components making up the new funicular railway mostly come from Switzerland, from the companies Garaventa, CWA Constructions S.A. and Frey AG, Stans. The Hogwarts Express, composed of two carriage sets, is a faithful reproduction of the iconic locomotive from the Harry Potter films. The train is made up of a steam locomotive, a coal tender and three passenger carriages, all the product of engineering from Switzerland.

A unique railway project

As general contractor, Garaventa AG entered into new territory in building the Hogwarts Express. Due to the significant weight of the train (overall length around 70 metres) and tight curve radii and high rope tension, a funicular railway in this form had never before been built. Garaventa AG is proud to have mastered the technical aspects and designs needed to create a one-of-a-kind funicular railway that is true to the Harry Potter films and honoured to have been entrusted by Universal Orlando Resort with recreating such a beloved and iconic element of the Harry Potter stories.

Lightweight construction with a venerable appearance

When visitors board the Hogwarts Express, they have Swiss craftsmanship to rely on. To achieve a faithful visual reproduction, Garaventa commissioned CWA Constructions S.A. in Olten, a company specialising in the construction of innovative funicular railway cabins and also part of the Doppelmayr / Garaventa Group. Faithfully reproducing every detail of the Hogwarts Express was a unique challenge for the Swiss cabin builders. The carriage set is constructed to look of solid, heavy iron and wood sections and the interiors of the carriages are accurately lit and equipped with best-in-class entertainment systems to innovatively present the most realistic images, sound and acoustics.

Controls ‘made in Stans’

For the controls behind the funicular railway, general contractor Garaventa commissioned a third Swiss company, Frey AG from Stans in Nidwalden, on the state-of-the-art wiring of 42 train compartments for film and sound installations. Additionally, Frey AG Stans was tasked with outfitting all compartments with industry-standard technical equipment traditionally used in the construction of both aerial funicular systems and funicular railways, enabling a fully automatic railway drive system.

Technical details

Year of construction: 2014
Length: 676 metres
Speed: 3.4 m/s
Number of trains: 2
Diameter of haul rope: 46 mm
Diameter of counter rope: 46 mm
Diameter of line sheaves: 400 mm
Track gauge: 1800 mm
Weight of locomotive: 13 tonnes
Weight of tender: 15 tonnes
Weight of carriages: 27 tonnes

North station drive
Required rated performance: 215kW
Required peak performance: 636kW

Companies involved in the project

General contractor for railway engineering:
Garaventa AG

Compartment construction:
CWA Constructions S.A., Olten

Funicular railway controls:
Frey AG, Stans

We'll end with this pretty interesting video of a trip between Kings Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station and the reason why is because not only he filmed the stations up to the exit, which allow you to have a better view of how all this is for those who haven't been to Universal Orlando yet, and the ether reason is because how they've resolved the problem of a family boarding the train with a large twin stroller - the wall of the last compartment of the wagon is literally "opening" to let the twin stroller go inside it!

Video: copyright Temporary Tourist

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