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All the Fun of the Fair

23/11/2016 | General

Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire opened in the late 1980s as a small family park with BMX bikes, a wooden fort, a 3D cinema and go karts. The Park now has five world class spectacular rides including a wooden roller coaster rated number three in the world.

Oakwood Leisure Ltd was owned and developed by the McNamara family until March 2008.  The first stage, completed in 1987, cost approximately £1 million to build and invest in new rides, infrastructure and staff training.   As a result, Oakwood is now classed as one of Wales' top tourist attractions and one of the Top Ten Theme Parks in the UK.

Following an increase in visitor numbers after the arrival of Snake River Falls water coaster in 1994, management decided to pursue the development of the park into a more 'thrilling' theme park.   On April 30, 1996, Megafobia opened.   It cost £1.7 million to build, but allowed the park to reach 500,000 visitors in one season for the first time..

In1997 the Vertigo Sky Coaster was added. 1999 saw The Bounce Tower added. 2002 and Hydro (now Drenched) becomes the biggest ride to arrive since Megafobia six years earlier. In 2006, Speed Euro-Fighter was installed, at the time of opening it was the UK's only rollercoaster to have a beyond vertical drop.

In 2012, the park celebrated its 25th birthday.    “Over the past two years we have invested well in excess of £5m in developing new areas of the park and providing visitors with a series of quality new attractions," according to Clare Stansfield, Oakwood's new Head of Marketing.  

Those attractions include, Speed, which reaches 59 mph on a 600 metre long track and a height of 35 metres with two inversions (a 97° drop including a vertical loop, heartline roll); Megafobia, the traditional wooden roller coaster, reaches a speed of 48 mph on a 900 metre long track and a height of 25 metres ith a 55°drop. Other attractions include Bounce, a 50 metre tall launch tower; and SkyCoaster a free fall type ride. Drenched is one of the biggest Giant Flumes in the world, currently the tallest water ride in Europe with a 36 metre drop and a speed of 88 mph, plus Vertigo, a 50 metre, 80 mph skycoaster.

However, the rides require a massive amount of maintenance, the hydraulic side of which now falls to Pirtek Swansea.  In 2013, Pirtek Swansea was asked to quote on the refurbishment of Megafobia that included the pipework for the train transfer system.

“We chose Pirtek because Nick Edwards looked at the job, said what we needed, why we needed it, when it could be done, how long it would take and how much it would cost.   He provided a complete plan of works, something no other company could do.   In fact they couldn't even get close.   We liked that, a one-strike response. Better still they were very quick. And as they have completed projects, our relationship has got better and better.   

One of the most effective and time saving things they have done is to catalogue and list all the new hoses so, if we have a failure, a new one can be ordered over the phone and be installed in hours,” explains Oakwood's Engineering manager Mark Mitchinson.   “I don't think people understand how much maintenance work is need on the rides.   For example, Pirtek replaced 80 metres of 10 mm, 180 bar steel pipe on Megafobia that operates the train transfer.   On top of that they replaced 120 metres of nylon pipe for the braking system and provided a further 30 metres spare to be kept on site for our own engineers.  They replaced all the 12 mm push fittings to the brake actuators and all the hoses to the rams, plus fitting the H&S tec sleeves in case of a leak. The existing steel pipes were replaced with flexible hoses to avoid cracking.   And two engineers took just two days to complete the work.”

Pirtek has now instigated a Total Hose Management system for Oakwood and has provided a plan of action for the Park. “The work on Megafobia was comparatively easy compared to Bounce, as work was all at ground level. With Bounce you are dealing with 56 metre high ride that takes 24 levels of scaffold to service.  Pirtek replaced all the 2" air hoses which charge the main cylinders that keep the brakes off when the ride is operating.   A complex job that took two MSSTs 10 days to complete, and was leak free when tested.   Pirtek said it would take 2-3 years to completely refurbish the hydraulics in the Park and already Drench, The Airplane Ride and the Pirate Ship have been earmarked for immediate hose replacement,” Mitchinson continues.   “All of the rides are foreign manufactured, so that means we often have huge lead times for parts, which is why some rides have to be put out of action during the season.   

Bounce has to be reprogrammed after servicing, and we have to call in an engineer from Huss in Germany to do that.  The Megafobia carriage wheel bearings cost £230+VAT and there are 24 units in each running wheel.  They are made in America and are made just one a year by Timkinsons - we buy the entire years stock.  We also purchased £3,500 of track bolts for the ride, which we walk and inspect every day.  The American rides also have imperial fittings - these have all been changed to metric by Pirtek to avoid the 2 week lead time. We have 30 rides all to be serviced in just 3 months, at a cost of £1/4m per ride, plus we have a new ride, as yet to be installed, which Pirtek will provide all the hydraulics to.   I'm sorry if rides don't work to schedule but safety is all important, and I'm pleased to say we have a good partner in Pirtek to ensure that happens.”

 

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