New king of the hills

If you thought youd been on wild roller coasters, thinkagain. Theres a new coaster thatll do more than justmake you scream. Its called Millennium Force and itreaches speeds and heights like no coaster before it.

Although the ride issurprisinglysmooth, MillenniumForce manages tobreak speed andheight records bysizable margins.

When the ride opened this summer at Cedar PointAmusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio, it became thetallest, fastest coaster in the world, hitting 92 mph on a300-ft, nearly vertical drop. And it doesnt break previ-ousrecords by narrow margins. In coaster terms, the Millennium Force shattersthem. For instance, the highest drop beats the previous record by 45 ft, and thetop speed surpasses the next fastest coaster by a full 7 mph.

The coaster breaks 10 records in all, but the most noticeable ones are on thefirst hill. Riders travel a world-record 310 ft in the air and then plummet at an80 angle. And forget the clinkety clank chain-and-sprocket noises you typicallyhear on the first hill. The Millennium Force doesnt use conventional mechanics,nor does it use trendy linear motors that have recently zipped coasters to recordspeeds. Engineers at Intamin AG, Wollerau, Switzerland, stuck with mechanicalmethods when designing the ride, but instead of using chain, they designed an el-evator-style system unlike any other coaster.

Riders are lifted up the first hill by a carriage on a continuous cable that wrapsaround an 8-ft-diameter 10-ft-wide drum. A computer-controlled 800-hp motordrives a gearbox connected to the drum. The cars engage with the carriage at thebase of the first hill, which begins immediately outside the loading platform. Thiswhisks riders to the crest of the hill and then releases the cars. The drum then ro-tatesin the opposite direction, sending the empty carriage down the hill to pickup the next train.

The rest of the ride is no walk inthe park. Speed freaks will enjoymore than just the first hill becausethe fast-paced ride leaves no time torelax during its 2-min, 45-sec trip.The coaster also boasts two 122banked turns, the steepest turns ona coaster without inverting thecars. Even the brakes arent con-ventional.Instead of frictionbrakes, the cars have metal finsthat pass through 30 sets of electro-magnets.In seconds, the magneticfield slows the cars to a stop as theyapproach the end of the ride.