Roller coaster in the United Kingdom
Watch the on-ride POV
The Smiler
The Smiler in 2019
Alton Towers
Location Alton, Staffordshire, England, UK
Coordinates 52°59′15″N 1°53′45″W / 52.987465°N 1.895813°W / 52.987465; -1.895813
Park section X-Sector
Status Operating since 31 May 2013
Cost £18,000,000
Soundtrack Yes, by IMAscore[1]
Rider height 140 cm minimum
Replaced Black Hole
Manufacturer Gerstlauer
Product Infinity Coaster 1140
Designer / calculations John Wardley (ride consultant)

Ben Dowson (development)
Candy Holland (artistic direction)

Type Steel
Riders per train 16
Hourly capacity 1200
Propulsion Chain lift hill and vertical chain lift hill
Area 120 metres × 50 metres
Drop 30 metres
Top speed 85 km/h
Length 1170 metres
Inversions 14
Drop angle 50°
Duration 2:45
G-Force 4.5

The Smiler is a steel roller coaster located at Alton Towers in Alton, Staffordshire, England, UK. The attraction was manufactured by Gerstlauer and is a prototype Infinity Coaster.[2] The ride is positioned where the Black Hole was formerly located, on the opposite side of Oblivion. It is the first roller coaster to feature fourteen inversions, and still holds the inversion world record today.

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


The Smiler under construction

Plans were submitted for SW7 in late December 2011.[3] 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.

The structure that previously housed the Black Hole was dismantled in April.[4] Ride hardware started arriving in September and vertical construction began on 7 December.[5]

Merlin Entertainments filed a trademark for the name "The Smiler" in November 2012. In January 2013, an advertising and social media campaign was launched that saw the smiling face logo projected on to various buildings and photographs circulated of the logo spray-painted on the side of sheep. On 20 January, posters appeared in London with "The Smiler", and this name was confirmed via a newspaper article the following day.[6]

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

The ride's track was completed in April 2013 and a new opening date of 23 May was announced.[7] However, the day before the planned opening, Alton Towers announced that due to "unforeseen teething problems", the opening had been pushed back again. The Smiler finally opened to the public on 31 May 2013.[5]



Ride experience

The Smiler starts with a small drop out of the station into the first inversion, an enclosed heartline roll. The first chain lift hill follows before heading into a small declined turnaround into a corkscrew, before a drop, followed by the only double dive loop in the world. Riders then reach an airtime hill with trim brakes before entering a double inversion similar to a batwing, except that there is a small banked turn between the two inversions. This is followed by another corkscrew. This then leads into a declined magnetic brake run that leads into the vertical lift hill. The ride continues at the top with a small declined turnaround, this time to the left, but this, same as last time, leads into a corkscrew, followed by a drop. Then riders enter a sea serpent followed by another airtime hill and subsequently a cobra roll. The cobra roll and the batwing combined are dubbed the "Staffordshire Knot".[6] Riders then traverse a double corkscrew before reaching the final brake run.


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.


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.


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.[8]

On 2 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.[9]

On 2 June 2015, an empty train valleyed in the middle of the batwing element, and another train, this one full, collided with it at full speed. A ride operator had dispatched a train despite knowing that the block zone was occupied by another train. 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 26 June, 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 24 November 2015, when Alton Towers announced that the accident was caused by human error and the ride would reopen in 2016. On 19 March 2016, the ride resumed operation after 9 months of standing but not operating. The coaster received new modifications to the track and trains following the accident. Park operator Merlin Entertainments was later fined £5 million for the accident on 27 September 2016.[10][11] Alton Towers recalled the damaged train while park management faced the fine.[12]



  1. "THE SMILER soundtrack produced by IMAscore". IMAscore.
  2. "The Smiler". Gerstlauer Amusement Rides.
  3. "Black Hole site plans confirmed for SW7 at Alton Towers".
  4. "Farewell to the Black Hole Tent". TowersTimes. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Construction Timeline". TowersStreet. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "'The Smiler' – 2013 roller coaster officially named!". TowersStreet.
  7. "The Smiler: Track Complete - TowersTimes".
  8. "Alton Towers closes £18m rollercoaster after visitors see metal bolt fly off".
  9. "Alton Towers Smiler shut after wheels hit four on ride".
  10. Four seriously injured in Alton Towers crash - BBC News
  11. Alton Tower bosses considering scrapping Smiler after the accident - Daily Record
  12. "Alton Towers trial: Chilling pictures of destroyed Smiler carriages revealed as theme park faces 'large fine'".

External links

The category Smiler contains additional media.
  • Smiler on the Roller Coaster DataBase.
Most inversions on a roller coaster (14)
tied with

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

May 2013 - present
Succeeded by

Articles on Alton Towers