Sea Glass Carousel: Designers Solve Challenge of All-Electric Ride Structure

Battery Park's SeaGlass Carousel

SOURCE: Entertainment Engineering · PUBLISHED: Volume 6, Issue 12 · AUTHOR: William B. Gorlin, P.E.

Designing a reliable carousel ride driven exclusively by electric power is a formidable undertaking. The challenge is multiplied when the ride structure is set in an outdoor, oceanside environment sensitive to temperature changes. The SeaGlass Carousel ride posed such a challenge, but its designing engineers were able to devise a solution that addressed the technical issues while, at the same time, illustrating the project’s theme as a vibrant celebration of marine life.

SeaGlass Carousel is an automated, glass-and-steel, aquatic themed ride within a spiraling nautilus-shell pavilion soon to be constructed in Battery Park in lower Manhattan. The project required very precise electronics, numerous rotating parts, and exacting specifications. The ride structure consists of one main turntable 46 feet in diameter, with three smaller turntables each 17 feet in diameter that are incorporated into the main turntable and which rotate on their own axes. The main turntable is driven by four electric motors with a friction drive – a rubber wheel that grabs onto and pushes the turntable. The smaller on-board turntables ride on ring bearings and are each driven by a separate electric motor.

When the ride is active, the main turntable rotates infinitely, while the motion of the smaller turntables is an oscillating movement confined within a total angle of 240 degrees.

The ride will feature distinctive patron seating – iridescent carriages shaped like fully sculpted “sea glass fish” that rotate on the four turntables, creating the impression of fish floating in the ocean. A dozen different sculpts will be used to fashion the fish carriages. The total capacity is 30 riders – one per carriage. On the main turntable, between the three smaller ones, will be three groups of four fish carriages. Each of the small turntables will feature six fish carriages, which will have mechanisms to create vertical lift and side-to-side motion similar to a fish moving through the water. The carriages’ lift and swivel action results from a compact, custom piece of machinery developed to move the fish in an environment where machines are rotating, to clear one another and the structure, and to improve aesthetics by eliminating the need for overhead lifting poles. The fish on the main turntable will be fixed. All together, the ride will have 25 different axes of motion.

Unlike traditional carousels, SeaGlass’s design has all the structural supports and drive mechanisms below the ride’s main turntable, creating a unique upward open viewing environment for the patrons as there is no revolving roof over the ride. The main turntable structure rides on a central ring bearing and a series of large casters rolling on tracks in the facility cellar.

Electrical cable management was a significant priority in the structure’s design. A revolving slip ring – which resembles a tower clad with a stack of wire brushes – resides in the middle of the assembly to maintain electrical contact, distribute power and effect signals for the ride. The structure’s complex control system is housed in the cellar, except for the Ride Operator control console, which has a full view of the ride. The ride will also feature up to 10 separate programmed sequences to create an individual feel of being part of a school of fish.

See also: Sea Glass Carousel Project Summary