Electrical components of a roller coaster

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 7:50 PM
I'm doing a presentation/project for a Circuits class. So I thought i'd do an overview of the electrical aspects of roller coasters. I thought one of the more interesting parts that I should maybe focus on is the computers in Batwing et. al. that record where the train is at every second within one centimeter. Anyone know where I can read up on this? RideMan care to chime in? Thanks guys.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006 5:28 PM
Anyone at all?
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006 5:52 PM
To the best of my knowledge, there isn't a coaster computer that knows where a train is to within 1 cm. Most coasters are broken into 'blocks' and a computer monitors a trains location based on proximity sensors-switches. Logic is then used to program a controller to act-react in a certain way based on what trains are in what blocks.

I don't know of any location of information of an explicit detailed electrical schematic of a rides controls.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:19 AM
Sorry, I've been busy... :)

Electrical components? How about...

01) Big honkin' electric motor.
02) [Contatctor for (1) XOR
02) Soft start controller for (1) XOR
02) VFD controller for (1)]
03) Air compressor (with small electric motor)
04) Sets of solenoid air valves to control brakes
05) Air pressure switches
06) Miniature proximity switches to detect brake caliper status
07) Proximity switches positioned to detect train "check in" and "check out" for block controller
08) [Proximity switches OR
09) Mechanical switches OR
0A) Optical emitter-detector pairs] to detect train presence in brake zones
0B) [Control relays OR
0B) PLC I/O chassis]
0C) PLC CPU chassis
0D) Status indicators
0E) Control panel switches
0F) Alphanumeric display panel
10) Station smoke/heat detectors
11) Station fire alarm panel and annunciator
12) Audio amplifier(s)
13) Lift hill and brake zone speaker systems
14) Station PA speakers
15) Functional lighting systems
16) Decorative lighting systems
17) Decorative lighting controller (chase controller)
18) Telephone sets
19) Telephone intercom switch
1A) Anemometer
1B) Wind speed display
1C) Clock/Timer
1D) People-Counter
1E) Transformer
1F) Distribution panels (110v and 208v, perhaps 240v or 480v)
20) Bells, buzzers, lamps, other signalling devices

That should be enough to get you started... :)

If you are looking at control systems, most of those use PLCs programmed with ladder logic. Most of the time you don't care where the train is with any precision, you just care that it is in a particular area, and that it is proceeding as expected. You may care about the speed at particular points. Typically you will find proximity switches used to identify the start and end of each block, with a target on one end of the train on one side and a target on the other end of the train on the other side, so that the train checks into and then checks out of each block. That way the controller can handle the case of a train that has entered a block but not yet left the previous block.

The one place where precise train position is needed is in the station, to park the train for loading and unloading. That is frequently handled by a series of switches mounted a few inches apart which are triggered in sequence as the train approaches. That way when the first switch is triggered the brakes can be cycled, and the train inched forward until the last switch is triggered, signalling that the train has parked.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.
*** Edited 4/20/2006 1:24:42 PM UTC by RideMan***

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Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:43 AM
Thanks a lot Dave, that's plenty to get me started.
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Saturday, April 22, 2006 3:24 AM
I love the fact that you numbered in hexadecimal.
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Saturday, April 22, 2006 3:49 AM
Where was this thread when I did science fair 10 years ago?! Of course, I had not ridden a coaster back then. Great list and a lot to think about. While this doesn't deal with electronics, but with ride projects, I would love to do a project on the confort and design of coaster and ride cars, both stopped and in motion. The pictures of rides I enjoy the most are of ride vehicles, empty or full.
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Saturday, April 22, 2006 5:08 AM
Hmm Dave.. I can think of a few things you've missed.. but not bad.. ;)
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Saturday, April 22, 2006 10:46 AM
Only a few, Rob?

That was literally a list off the top of my head, so I figure I missed a lot of stuff... :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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