How Do Rollercoasters Work?

November 21, 2018

They say the key to conquering your fear is to understand the thing you’re afraid of. For instance, would it help to know that Megafobia, like every great rollercoaster throughout the world, has no engine? Once the coaster launches down that first drop, you’re flying around the track on pure kinetic energy. Has that set your mind at ease? No? Well, this might help you: Behind every thrilling circuit of a rollercoaster are many hours of skilled research, design and engineering. Here’s the inside track on how rollercoasters do what they do.

 

It all starts with the thrill engineers 
These people look at ways to scare you before the rollercoaster has even moved. These devious psychologists have actually identified the moment the lap bar is secured around your waist as one of the most exciting parts of the ride. Because that’s the moment of no return, and your sense of anticipation does the rest.

 

Each loop takes years of planning

Every inch of track must be calculated. The design team need to get the first drop just right, as this provides the energy the carriage needs to hurtle around the whole track. After that, the g-force needs to be checked to ensure it doesn’t exceed 10gs – at which point, you can pass out. But don’t worry, the most you’ll see in your average rollercoaster is 3.5gs.

 

The dummies get to jump the queue 
Before the real work of construction begins, designers usually create a prototype to test out any new features on the rollercoaster. This is where a carriage full of water filled dummies get to have the first ride. Depending on how these dummies fare, final alterations and tweaks will be carried out on the design.

 

Building takes place during the off season 
You’ve probably noticed your favourite theme parks often close for a while, and that’s when the real work begins. Steel coasters tend to be constructed bit by bit and then shipped in, whilst wooden coasters, like Megafobia are built carefully piece-by-piece on site. It’s a slow and careful process, because every bolt must be tightened, checked, and checked again.

 

It’s all about hills and drops
If you’ve ridden on a rollercoaster before, you’re probably familiar with the slow, daunting first part of the ride, where the carriage is pulled up what is known as a ‘lift hill.’ Not only does this journey to the top of the big drop give you plenty of time to think about what you’ve let yourself in for, but it’s also vital for giving the carriage plenty of energy to shoot you at high speeds, usually around 50mph, around the track. At this point, you’re attached to a ‘chain dog’ which is the hook that pulls you up to the top, and once that releases you, gravity does the rest…

 

Pro tip: The further back in the carriage you sit, the faster you’ll whip over the drop. So whilst you won’t get the best view, you’ll get the biggest thrill. 

 

Fighting a force of nature
So, how does a roller coaster stick to its tracks as it goes upside down? It’s actually a simple matter of cheating gravity – for a few seconds, at least. The acceleration you’ve gained from that big hill you’ve just been winched up is strong enough that it defeats the tug of gravity as you loop-the-loop. Don’t let us stop you from gripping the handrail if it makes you feel better though.

 

Oakwood has thrills galore! 
We’ve got the UK’s number-one wooden rollercoaster, raved about by obsessives throughout the world! And Speed is our steel coaster, so you can try both and decide for yourself which is better, wood or steel. We’re chock full of attractions for families and large groups too, so for thrill seekers and attraction lovers alike, we’ve got all the bases covered.

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