I actually wonder why I have never written about what it is like to work at Liseberg before. It has been a big part of my life for the past four years and I guess some might be curious about how it actually is like to work as an attraction operator at Scandinavia’s biggest amusement park.
I will start this new series of mine with explaining what a “break” is and what it means to us in the staff. It might be stressful and emotional for guests, but is is for us as well. A “break” is when there are technical issues with an attraction and we temporarily have to close it. It can be anything from a restraint that is malfunctioning to strange noises to error messages that doesn’t make any sense. I have to be clear on something first though: safety is our biggest concern and nothing ever becomes dangerous and we always have everything under control beacuse all of us has gone through extensive training to be able to operate the rides safely. And we would never ever run an attraction if it wasn’t perfectly safe. After four years I have been through a lot of “breaks” but the one I experienced today really had me tested.
I was sitting in the driving seat at Helix, the big green rollercoaster that was installed in 2014. It is nice sitting there, the music gets dulled (because working most of every day in that music is exhausting), you get 30 minutes where you don’t have to talk to guests, and best of all: you get to sit down. Helix is a very dependable attraction, nothing much ever happens. But today, when one of the three trains were driving in on the station, it stopped. The control panel started beeping very loudly and red. I tried resetting it, the train started moving. Phew. Then stopped again, more beeping. Resetting, not working. Not good. When the train doesn’t properly come into the station, it means that no more trains can fit on the shunt zone (the part which we move the trains on to the garage) or break zone (zones easily explained: the attraction has 5 zones and there can never be more than one train per zone as a safety precation, the trains can also stop in each zone). So that meant that one train got stuck out on the track, on launch 2 as we call it. With people on it. I have never experienced an evacuation from there before, only from the three zones right next to the station which is very easily handled. This is a big deal, people stuck out on the attraction! And it is my responsibility to make sure that the evacuation is done as smoothly as possible.
There are a ton of things to do in every “break” situation at Helix (or at any attraction for that matter).
- Talk and comfort the people stuck in the trains
- Explain to people on the station and in the queing area that they have to go to the closest exit
- Designate jobs to all Liseberg workers at Helix (like who should evacuate, who should give out tickets to those who already paid, and inform guests what is wrong)
- Call our supervisors
- Write down the error
And all of this has to be done with my heart trying to beat itself out of my throat. And also with not enough people on the station since we were in the middle of switching people on the attractions (every 30 min or 60 min we switch attractions so we won’t get injuries being on one attraction for too long). It was hard, it was scary. Everything went really smoothly though, even though the guests stuck on launch 2 had to stay for a bit since we were under staffed, but one of the supervisors went there to keep them company until I could send people there. The mechanics got to me fairly quickly after everyone had been successfully evacuated and the error was fixed in two minutes, something with the driving motors on the station. My heart was beating fast for a long time after.
Everything went well, and it was actually exciting if I may say so. I got to use my skills as the operator in charge of the whole attraction in a situation where it was truly needed. And what feels best is that I managed it really well under the circumstances. During this event I was not in contact with the guests so I don’t know how they felt. But I am hoping they read this and that they understand that a “break” is a stressful event for the staff too and that we are doing everything as good as we can with the resources we have.
We are working at Liseberg because it is a fun working place, we love interacting with guests, we love to see the little kids who are scared before going on a ride jumping and crying out of joy after. We do all we do for their sake. And sometimes I get the feeling that they don’t understand that. But we do! Perhaps a few of those will read :).