Other Coaster Materials (Other than steel & wood)

Monday, February 2, 2009 2:42 PM

I think this cabin fever is starting to get to me. Last night, I was trying to go to sleep when a crazy thought poped into my head.

"Has anybody trield building coster out of other materials besides wood & steel?"

I'm not just talking about parts used in a coaster (plastic for the car fairings).

I know most of the wood used in coasters is southern yellow pine, but what about, say, bamboo or glue-laminted beams? Bamboo can glow quickly, AND it's used in other parts of the world for structural uses. Glue-lam's are fairly common in job sites.

As for stuff other than that, why not aluminum structure or carbon fiber? Carbon's stronger than steel and just plain looks cool. If you made a coaster car from a carbon monocauc, or fiberglass shell, the car would be lighter and able to acive faster speeds.

What about all the inovative plastics ot there?


Am I off base, crazy, weird or just thinking WAY outside the box? Would ANY of this be possible (cost excluded)?

I know there are some engineers out there (Professor Noble?).

Monday, February 2, 2009 4:35 PM

I could see bamboo maybe being used over seas, but not so much in North America. Carbon would just be plain too expensive. Aluminum's properties change too much with temperature change.

The only viable change I could see is using bamboo as wood, I don't think anything else is going to beat steel as far as coaster structures and track go.

Monday, February 2, 2009 5:20 PM

Two notes: There is already a coaster built using concrete for support structure, and there are several wooden coasters using engineered lumber (the Intamin prefabs).

Monday, February 2, 2009 5:54 PM

The Bailey Pipeline Express coaster in Fostoria, Ohio was built out of PVC.


Monday, February 2, 2009 10:33 PM

One would think the sheer forces involved severely limit what is practical in terms of building materials. The other thing you have to consider the economic factor. Perhaps their would be some chance for composite plastic materials, but it would seem to me that if their was something else that was structurally sound AND economically beneficial, someone would have done it by now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 7:10 AM

I did not the Itamin pre-fabs were wood composit. Nor did I know about the PVC coaster.

On another point, WHY not more bamboo in the states????

What about carbon for ride vehicles? If you built say, TTD's train out of fiber, could you not achevie higher speeds (maybe 130+?) with the same launch force?

Okay, what other materials (other than those already talked about) would work (let's toss cost & price out the window here)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 9:10 AM

I think that carbon fiber trains would also allow you to reduce the amount of steel in the structure.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:05 AM

Yeah, but you can't replace people with carbon fiber. The payload carried in those vehicles represents a significant percentage of the total weight running on the tracks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 1:42 PM

^ You bring up a good point. But I think the train (without people) makes up most of the weight.

I'm gonna use Dragster as an example, because it might benefit most from loosing weight. I belive the trains alone weight about 8,000 lbs.

I did a bit of quick math. 20 riders per train at an average of 200 lbs is 4,000 lbs of people per train per lap. The total train at launch is 12,000 lbs.

Now if we cut the train weight by 1/4 (2,000 lbs or 1 US ton), which might be realistic, by using aluminum, carbon and titanium, you would end up with a total load of 10,000 lbs at launch.

If the same amount of energy is used to launch the ride at the new weight vs. the old, you'd probably eek out another 5-7 MPH. On the other hand, you could use less power to achive the orgional top sped and save wear and tear because there'd be less force applied.

I'm no physics major, but somehow I might have some clue.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 3:33 PM

I'm thinking about future designs. How much could you save on track and support structure steel if you shaved off 20% of the train weight? Fewer supports also means less concrete and quicker/cheaper construction.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:22 PM

The first coasters were made of ice!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 1:34 AM

^And to make them lighter.....shaved ice! :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 12:03 PM

What flavor?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 2:17 PM

Bug. You get 'em in your teeth if you keep grinning. :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 7:32 PM

You have to consider that making the trains lighter isn't necessarily going to make things better. If you change the weight of the trains, you change all of the dynamics. A lighter train is going to have a less momentum, and if you are saving 10,000 pounds of weight on a train, then you are drastically changing the momentum of a train. Take dragster for example. If you are lessening the momentum, then you are making the train much more succeptable to outside forces. Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 11:15 PM

Two things--

SFSL_Guy07: Excellent point, and it's worth noting the conventional wisdom that PTC trains run better than Gerstlauer trains on wood coasters. How much of that is because the PTC trains weigh at least twice as much as the Gerstlauers?

I also remember speaking with Alan Shilke (whose name I probably misspelled) at IAAPA a number of years ago; he was explaining some of the features of the Arrowbatic suspended coaster car, and one of his comments was that the car was deliberately heavy so that the performance would be more consistent with different passenger loads. That is, if the mass of the vehicle accounts for a larger percentage of the total mass of the loaded vehicle, then the variations in the passenger loads will have a smaller impact on the performance of the ride.

Second, someone mentioned the Pipeline Express up at Putt 'N Pond in Fostoria, OH. That coaster, such as it is (it's a Bailey Auto Sled, I think...) is listed in my 'track record' as a "plastic coaster" because it has PVC rails. The support columns, track spine, and cross ties, however, are all steel tube.

So far as I know, that ride has been SBNO for several years now. Hmmm...I have on-ride video; I wonder if I ever copied that to VHS, or if I can find an 8mm player...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Thursday, February 5, 2009 3:18 PM

Note that Morgan trains, even though we don't like their rigidity, run better than both PTCs and Gerstlauers, and they are lighter than both. When I spoke with a representative at the M&V booth at this past IAAPA Expo, we were discussing trains and coaster wood. He mentioned that LeMonstre has not needed much track work since they built the coaster over 20 years ago. He atrributed that to the use of Douglas Fir, and the lighter and better tracking Morgan trains.

But as mentioned above, there are downsides. I know Texas Cyclone and Rattler, when it ran Morgans, had to be sandbagged whenever the trains were sent out empty. Cyclone was prone to valleying during morning test runs, something that would probably have been less likely with a heavier train.

Last edited by Jeffrey Seifert, Thursday, February 5, 2009 3:23 PM
Friday, February 6, 2009 12:35 AM

That, and I am not sure how much of the Morgan advantage is because of lighter rolling stock and how much is because of proper trailering. I know the Millennium Flyers are pretty darned heavy (heavy enough that GCI has been trying to figure out ways to shave off weight). I don't know how they compare to either the Morgan cars or the PTCs* but they do have the Morgan* advantage in terms of not tearing up the track. Lightning Racer ran for a number of years with almost no trackwork at all while Wildcat across the midway got retracked twice.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

* Yes, I realize that PTC bought Morgan's wood coaster train business. It's still easier to call them Morgan trains, especially since PTC never sold any of them.



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