A train enterting the attraction's loading station slammed into the back of another train in the station. The injured were taken to a local hospital for treatment and released that night.
The report lays blame on operator error, coupled with a failure of the ride control system to prevent the operator error from resulting in a collision.
FYI, I am a former Thunder Mountain operator at Walt Disney World, and have stored dozens of trains at that ride during my time with the Walt Disney Company. Thunder Mountain has two sides to its loading station -- the main side (closest to the ride) and the spur side (the other one). The DOSH report said that the tower operator switched the ride system to put the spur side of the loading station in "storage mode" before the approaching train had entered the spur side of the station.
Storage mode closes that side of the station to oncoming trains, moving the track switch to point to the main side station. That way, the train being stored from the spur side can back up into the storage yard without being hit. But there was no train in the spur side yet, since it was still approaching from "Block Zone 4," the last segment of the ride.
With the track switch set to the main side, the approaching train entered the occupied main side station, causing the wreck.
The ride system is designed to stop a train in Block Zone 4, on a series of linear induction motors, if both stations are occupied. At Disney World, a train stopped in BZ4 would lead to a "cascade" shutdown, where the next train following would be held up on the "C" (third) lift, the train behind that on the "B" lift, and a fifth train (if running) on the "A" lift.
Apparently, from the report, a train stopped in BZ4 on the Disneyland version of the ride does not lead to a ride shut-down. The report says that the twoer operator can reset BZ4 and send a train into the loading station once he sees that a side is clear.
But once a train leaves BZ4 and heads to the track switch, the ride system has no way of stopping the train. So if the operator screws up and send a train from BZ4 when the stations are not clear, the incoming train will hit the waiting train in whichever station the trach switch was pointing to.
The report requires Disney to retrain the tower operator (speaking for myself, I'd be shocked if he weren't fired) and to "enhance the Ride Control System and/or adopt operator procedures" to assure that trains with people on them don't enter track block zones (such as the loading station) with trains in them.
So, basically, Disney could reprogram the system to not allow a tower operator to put spur station into storage mode during the time between a train leaving BZ4 and its arrival into the station. Or it could just print up a memo telling cast members "don't do that," and call that a new operator procedure.
It's ridiculous how that someone is fully trained on a thrill ride after 2 days being on the job. Magic Mountain will put you at a flat ride/small attraction first and keep you there for a month. Training at MM requires 4 hours/1day minimum, or 8 hours/2days min Then you'll get moved up to a roller coaster/thrill rides. They require 12 hours of training/4days minimum.
Every time you get trained on a ride at MM, you're required to take a test. If you fail, you must get re-trained and complete all the required hours again.
One mistake you make while operating a ride and there's a great chance you'll get fired , no matter how big or small the mistake is. I got lucky, I made an error while operating Riddlers (small one); However, I got suspended; permanently removed from Riddlers, lost certfication from that ride, was sent down to a flat/small ride (Tidal wave) and was required to be re-trained on that ride. I was not allowed to go to a "major ride" (roller coaster) for three months. But was allowed to go to any other small attraction
And new hires were never sent to Thunder. Indeed, at one point while I was there, Disney management decreed that no "Casual Temporary," i.e. seasonal, employees would be allowed to work at Thunder, no matter how experienced at other attractions.
John K., since you've worked in parks more recently than I, could you share with us what the average hourly pay rates are for attractions operators at local theme parks? Anyone?
How many times will even the Disney Dorks hear "Not our fault!" before they start realizing that maybe it IS Disneyland's fault?
I'm confused, was it his thrid day on the job? or his third day on the ride?
I read something from somewhere (I think KNBC-4 website) saying that it was third day on the job, and that all the training was finished. According to the report from Dept. Occupational Safety and Health, it was third day at the ride.
At Magic Mountain, you go through a two-day training, then you'll get placed at a ride. I don't know if it's the same way at Disneyland. I think they should require more training time for operators. Third day at the ride/Third day on the job whatever it is, that's a little too quick to be trained
It seems like most parks that run continous circuits (roller coasters, flumes, etc) have a load area, the coarse of the ride and then the final brake run. Between the brake run and the load platform (or between the brake run and unload platform if it's separte from the load) there is a length of track to be used as a stacking zone.
For example if a ride can run a maximum of three trains at any given time, the stacking zone would be behind the load platform and would be as long as two trains. If train 1 was in the station and got delayed (slow moving crew, guest in a wheelchair, etc) the other two trains would finish their run then simply sit on the stacking track until the platform was cleared.
I have watched these procedures used at parks such as Various Six Flags parks, Cedar Point, IOA SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.
It seems, however that this is not the way Disney rides are operated or designed for that matter. From Robert's description, there is certianly not a stacking zone equal in length to four trains behind the station (or even 2 trains on each side of the spurs) Instead if something happens in the station the entire ride E-stops, forcing the cast to walk the guests down catwalks and slows everything down. I've also heard that this could be the reason for the most recent accident; there simply isn't enough room for the trains in the station.
I'd just like to get the point of view from Robert working at Disney and John from SFMM working on a B&M ride and how these designs and operating procedures differ. I guess my point is, if a train doesn't get out of the station in 45 seconds, you know it's going to mess up the cycle. Now that you've accepted the fact that the cycle is messed up at least mess it up in the station (or just before it) with a long stacking track instead of various points on the actual course.
Just my thoughts and a call for yours.
Of course, what then happens to the third train? Or, if you stack the third, what happens to the fourth? At some point, you either limit the number of units running on the ride, or you chance having a ride cascade.
The key to preventing load area back-ups, ultimately, lies in effect loading. I'm going to write a column about these issues for Monday. But slow loaders cause ride units to stack up, even when the tower operator does everything right. That rarely results in accidents or injuries, but slow loading and stacked ride units slow down rides, lengthen queues and inconvenience visitors who've paid a lot of money to experience as many rides as they can.
(FWIW, sometimes the term "stacking" happens literally. At Pirates of the Caribbean at WDW, guests would exit downstairs, and the boats would go up a ramp in the staging area before returning to the loading dock. If the loaders were too slow, boats would back up into the staging area. And, I was told when I trained, in the days before better sensors, sometimes the boats coming up the ramp would pile on top of the waiting boats in the staging area, stopping the circuit and forcing a downtime while maintenance literally unstacked the boats.)
So that is it; disneyland is not being extra cautious about their old rides and they should
IMHO, the problem lies more with a failure to train and retain employees than in ride software. My column on that is up now, for those who want to take a look.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort