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The Smiler
Smiler (Alton Towers) 2019 02.jpg
The Smiler in 2019.
roller coaster
Alton Towers
Location Alton, Staffordshire, England, UK
Park section X-Sector
Status Operating since 31 May 2013
Cost £18,000,000
Soundtrack Yes, by IMAscore[1]
Height restriction 140 cm (55 inches)
Replaced Black Hole
Manufacturer Gerstlauer
Designer / calculations John Wardley (ride consultant)

Ben Dowson (development)
Candy Holland (artistic direction)

Type Steel
Model / product Infinity Coaster
Riders per train 16
Hourly capacity 1200
Propulsion Chain lift hill and vertical chain lift hill
Area 120 metres × 50 metres
Drop30 metres
Top speed85 km/h
Length1170 metres
Steepest drop50°
G-force4.5 g

The Smiler is a steel roller coaster located at Alton Towers, opened in May 2013. The ride is manufactured by Gerstlauer and is a prototype Infinity Coaster. The ride is positioned where the Black Hole was formerly located, opposite Oblivion. The ride is the first roller coaster with fourteen inversions.

Due to "teething" problems, the coaster did not open on the planned date of May 23. The ride opened on 31 May 2013.

History[edit | edit source]

Smiler under construction

Plans were submitted for SW7 in late December 2011. Documents were later revealed showing that it was a custom Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster. Planning permission was granted on 15 March 2012, despite opposition from both Alton and Farley Parish councils.

Deconstruction of Black Hole tent started in April 2012.

Track arrived on October 27, 2012 and vertical construction began in early December 2012.

On January 21, 2013, the ride's name was announced as The Smiler.

The ride was originally scheduled to open for the start of Alton Towers' 2013 season on March 16, 2013, however due to the ride falling behind schedule the opening was delayed to May 2013.

The ride's track was completed in April 2013 and a new opening date of May 23, 2013 was announced. However, on May 22, Alton Towers announced that due to "unforeseen teething problems" The Smiler would not be open on May 23. After the problems were ironed out, Smiler opened on May 31, 2013.

Design[edit | edit source]


The Smiler is an Infinity Coaster, manufactured by Gerstlauer. It has two chain lift hills (the latter is vertical) and 14 inversions. The first heartline roll is indoors, underneath the station.

Trains[edit | edit source]

4 trains with 4 cars per train. In each car, riders are arranged 4 across in a single row for a total of 16 riders per train. Unlike all subsequent Infinity Coaster installations, Smiler has over-the-shoulder harnesses.

Name[edit | edit source]

The ride was codenamed SW7. This stands for Secret Weapon 7. This name was used for Thirteen (SW6), Air(SW5), Oblivion (SW4) and Nemesis (SW3). It was subsequently used again for Wicker Man (SW8) in 2018.

Incidents[edit | edit source]

On 21 July 2013, a bolt fell from the ride. People queueing for the ride at the time said that they heard a large clanging sound as the bolt fell. The bolt partially disengaged two sections of track and the ride reopened on 25 July 2013.

On 4 November 2013, guide wheels flew off one of the ride's trains as the train was ascending the vertical incline and hit four people in the face. The ride was closed for the rest of Scarefest.

On 2 June 2015, two cars collided, one full and one empty. The four riders in the front row; Daniel Thorpe, Vicky Balch, Joe Pugh and Leah Washington were seriously injured. The following week, Washington had her left leg amputated above her knee as a result of her injuries. On June 26, it was revealed that Balch had her leg amputated below the knee after multiple operations to save her leg were unsuccessful. Following the accident, merchandise and references to the Smiler were removed from the park. The coaster was closed for the rest of the year. The fate of the ride was unknown until November 24, 2015, when Alton Towers announced that the accident was caused by human error and the ride would reopen in 2016. On March 19, 2016, the ride resumed operation after 9 months of sitting abandoned. The coaster received new modifications to the track and trains following the accident. Merlin Entertainments, operator of Alton Towers, was later fined £5 million for the accident on September 27, 2016.[3][4]

Images[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Most inversions on a roller coaster (14)
May 2013 - present
Preceded by
10 Inversion Roller Coaster
Most inversions on a roller coaster (14)
May 2013 - present
Succeeded by

External links[edit | edit source]

  • RCDB text.png
    Smiler on the Roller Coaster DataBase.