Designing a roller coaster can be a tedious challenge. Where do you begin? So many decisions to make is daunting to anyone. We’ll, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
In order to design a good roller coaster, you must consider the proven track designs and select one. Also, consider the terrain available to make your layout unique. Finally, use design the layout so that it will give you the forces you want.
Common Track Types
If you look at modern roller coasters, it seems that each ride manufacturer has their own unique track design. Each has benefits and drawbacks for a backyard roller coaster.
This video explores some of the popular ones and I select one for my roller coaster.
Terrain – Make the Best Use of What You Have
Every yard is different so get creative on how to use it. Is there an existing structure that can be incorporated? Is there a small pond or pool? Trees you can miss or fly through? Think about such things as you start developing your track plan.
Designing Your Track Layout
Laying out your course can be a daunting task. This spreadsheet will aid you in your design by removing most of the math needed for a successful coaster. The spreadsheet will allow you to calculate the velocity, energy and G forces at any point. I selected only the critical points, but you can add points every foot or meter if you’d like!
The main unknown here is your coaster’s efficiency. The Black Widow had a 6% coefficient of drag, but I only knew that after it was built. Unfortunately, I planned for 5% so the cart doesn’t make it all the way back to the station. I recommend that using multiple coefficients of drag for your design to ensure a complete loop.
Plan on a worst case 6.5% efficiency so that the cart makes it all the way back around. Then use a 4.2% to see if the ride becomes too violent for your taste. End up somewhere in the middle (5% to 6%) for what your actual coaster may do.
Download the Track Layout Planner Here
The video will explain how to use the spreadsheet. (Side note: remember that a straight line has an infinite radius and not ‘0’)