World’s longest-running rollercoaster back on track at Luna Park

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By Selby Stewart

 

St Kilda residents will again hear the familiar sound of screams from Luna Park’s iconic Scenic Railway rollercoaster when it rolls back into action after a five-month break. 

Currently the world’s longest continuously running wooden rollercoaster, it was taken off the track for repairs. 

Luna Park general manager Matthew Butta said a section of the track underwent a complete reconstruction and that it was unavoidable. 

“We had a complete rebuild of dip one which has the highest dynamic load, the highest speed and it has the tallest drop and rise back up,” Mr Butta said.

“Each year if you take on a big project it will be down for four or five months. 

“If you take on smaller projects it might be down for a month but the constant maintenance is why it (the roller coaster) is still there,” he said. 

The ride opened in 1912 and is one of two in the world that are still run by a traditional “brakeman”. 

The ride’s two-ton trains run along the inner walls of Luna Park, bobbing up and down alongside St Kilda beach before roaring past the palm trees in O’Donnell gardens.

The track was originally made with old-growth Oregon pine brought from Canada. 

During inactive periods the trains are kept in this shed. Photo: Selby Stewart

During inactive periods the trains are kept in this shed. Photo: Selby Stewart

In recent years, the original pine has been fortified with redwood timber. 

“The new redwood laminated lumber which is stronger than the original should last 50 years,” Mr Butta said. 

The secret of the rollercoaster’s longevity lies in its material. 

“If it was steel it would have disintegrated by now and would be sitting on the floor. 

“Because it is wood, it is so easy to rebuild and that is the reason why it is there. As long as you continually maintain it, it will last indefinitely,” he said. 

Despite Melbourne’s unpredictable weather, Mr Butta said the popular 105-year-old rollercoaster is safe because it is maintained diligently.  

“It is checked by the park and engineers every year, throughout the year…and the engineers are very happy with what they see,” he said. 

The roallercoaster is pulled down when rain approaches as wet tracks can hinder it’s breaks.  

 The Scenic Railway can withstand wind up to 50km/hr.

“It is over-engineered by today’s standards so there is a great deal of strength in the structure,” he said. 

Each ride runs for 3.5 minutes, traversing 967 metres and reaching up to 17 metres in the air. 

The brakeman’s job is hotly contested within Luna Park’s senior staff. 

The management is confident that Luna Park's prize ride will survive many more decades. Photo: Adam Richmond

The management is confident that Luna Park’s prize ride will survive many more decades. Photo: Adam Richmond

“It is the most coveted position,” Mr Butta says. 

The management receives numerous applications for the top job. 

They narrow it down to ten candidates. 

At a point in time, no more than five Luna Park employees are trained to run the Scenic Railway. 

To ensure the brakemen are focused while on duty, they ae restricted to working in short shifts of just an hour each. 

“You have got to have a long history at Luna Park of completely sticking to all your processes…, you must be really (honest) on the money,  … paper work never wrong, and you must be just an exemplary ride operator all the way through,” Mr Butta said.  

“To give you an idea, the operations manager is still driving the train and he has been here for eleven years.” 

 Luna Park draws an estimated 1.7 million riders per year through Mr Moon’s famed mouth. 

 It hosts themed carnivals which can contain up to 22 rides at a time. 

However, Mr Butta said it is the Scenic Railway that keeps bringing families back to the Park. 

“It is the park’s calling card and when you hear the thing going around everyone in the local area knows it’s on. 

“It has its gravity it just pulls people in.”

The management claims to have spent over half a million dollars on repairs and maintenance of the Scenic Railway.

And that number doesn’t include labour costs, Mr Butta says.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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