PTC Trains (Buzz Bars & other restraints)

I most definitely am not trying to re-visit an old discussion but I have some questions.

Almost every PTC train that I have experienced has been re-fitted with new headrests, (Volvo or padded) seat dividers, and single ratcheting lap bars.

I have "heard" that this was done to increase a sense of safety or to control riders,from many sources.

After riding coasters like CB Exp, and others who still have B-BARS, (and excellent Air Time)
I think to myself... why change.. has physics changed since these coasters were designed?

Are we scientifically safer with these new restraints?

I see old vids with so many PTC trains with original set-ups, and wonder am I missing the feeling of the original ride.

I would like to hear some thoughts on if, or how these new restraints-padding-head-rests and lap bars are helping.

Jeff's avatar
The purists will tell you they ride differently, but I think they're being picky. The only ride I can really appreciably say I know before and after is Blue Streak at Cedar Point, and the key to its restoration came when the Canadians did track work a couple of winters ago. The current restraints don't take away from it, as far as I'm concerned.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

^ Well, they certainly don't add anything to the rides. They actually make the rides less comfortable, since they force your legs toward the inside of the car, so you're kinda sitting at an angle. And a lot of them have loose springs, so if you don't ride defensively, the bar could fall down on you and pin you in your seat, which can result in a more uncomfortable ride.

PTCs with the single-notch bars are more of a rarity these days, but I'm glad they still exist. How many of you would like to imagine the Phoenix with the ratching bars?

coastin' since 1985

rollergator's avatar
IMO....sometimes it's whining, other times it's more justified. But honestly, how much of the new restraints are done to improve relations (and rates) with overzealous insurers, and how much is done that actually improves safety? I don't seem to recall a rash of incidents on wooden coasters that would have drawn all this attention.

Somewhere between the "excessive" freedom of the Golden Age coasters and the seemingly endless restraining of seatbelts, headrests, individual lapbars, and seat dividers (as if the fluffy dividers weren't good enough, these hard-molded jobs with the inserts cut out are *bruisers*) seems to me this is equally excessive. Might be me... ;)

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

eightdotthree's avatar
The PTC train just desperately needs a redesign. The current t-bar and head rest seem like hacks to me. I hate the way I am forced to sit in the train, I have to cross my legs and set the off to the center of the train in order to fit comfortably.

Back to your original question, I think they are safer to the insurance companies cause a stupid kid goofing off could get right out of a buzz bar.

Jeff's avatar
Without seat dividers, it's easy enough to just turn your legs and get out. There's no way that parks knowingly would allow that condition in the long run. Someone gets out and dies, and the park gets sued into oblivion.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

^^I totally agree with you, eightdotthree. Rides such as the CI Cyclone and various 'swing ships' have room enough for 'real' airtime and seem to be safer than the traditional PTC buzz bars.

Makes me wonder why PTC hasn't done anything about this - except for coming up with these awful lapbars that have come on like a plague.

One coaster that has a GREAT alternative to this is the Viper at SFGAmerica. There are return shocks fastened to the lapbars. You have to work to put them down, and they will NOT fall during the ride. This is much better.

^That's true Jeff. But still, there are options. Kennywood Thunderbolt allows no single riders. How about a train with seat dividers in only the 2nd car, say 4-6 seats. Still restricting, but I'd much rather have that than ratchet bars.

I've never shared the hatred that many enthusiasts have for modern-day PTCs. I'll take them over lousy plastic Morgans and Gerstlauers with those idiotic lap bars and day of the week. Last time I was at Cedar Point, Blue Streak as running so well, I didn't care about the seat dividers and headrests, and the individual lap bars allowed me enough room to enjoy some incredible air.

The problem I have is the design of the ratcheting bars and how they were simply attached to the existing design. The bars have that curve that allows them to clear the side of the train as they ratchet down, and that means riders are forced to sit with their legs pushed towards the center of the train, where the seat divider helps push the rider's body back in the opposite direction. When PTC saw that those ratcheting bars were going to be pretty much standard on all new wood coasters, the trains should have been redesigned.

Ok, here goes and its just MY opinion and shouldn't be taken as fact.

I don't mind so much the Newer PTCs say post Raven that have dividers and ratchets. It's the retrofits like Beast, Racer. Trains that were never meant to have them then you take up a ton of room with highbacks ect and the lapbar allows less room. follow that up by raising the seat to allow a articulated axel and IMHO You have a recipie for disaster (I'll explain later)

As for the dividers/ratchets. They were meant to keep a rider facing forwards and not riding sofa style therefore keeping the riders thighs under the bar.

Then PTC goes and allows Single possition bars again (HH, Cornball) but only if they have the dividers.

This proves one thing, The Single possition bars are safe as long as your facing forward.

I feel the ratcheting bar has a very flawed design thats only further accentuated by the trains construction. One the gear is in sufficient to keep the bar locked. Two, Unless the bar is physically pressed into you. You can submarine it (Straighten out under it)

Three, The back and middle seats of a three bench, you can extend your legs further allowing for submarining (You can't do this in the front seat of a car)

Four, Raising the seat level to accept a articulating axel without RAISING THE SIDES AND BACKS IMHO is very dangerous, 1 to the ribs and 2. to the ejection factor.

This is just my opinion and its based on personal observation. no other train do you sit so high in.

Chuck, who knows a couple other well known people that share this view.

P.S. Theres nothing dangerous about them riding properly, Which I practice. Belt snug, bar against me. I just feel the whole ride suffers because of them.

Rob, IMHO if the ratcheting bar were to be designed properly and work properly, Wouldn't they come up from the center of the train and L shape to the edge of the seat??????


I completely agree that should be the design. As I said, the problem seems to stem from additional hardware being added to a "box" that doesn't have the room for additional hardware. That box needs to get bigger, or maybe change its shape. The body could be made wider without having to change the chassis, right?
eightdotthree's avatar
That would probably be much better Charles. I feel like the bar is jammed into my gut, my legs are pushed to the center of the train and there is no where to put my arms.

If the train bodies were a bit wider, I see no reason why something like the brilliant system employed on Phantom's Revenge wouldn't be possible.
rollergator's avatar
^I remember getting *nearly crucified* for suggesting that retractable seatbelts were better than the regular kind....of course, that was SEVERAL years back.
Jeff's avatar
I'd be right there with you, Bill. They load faster and they restrain you flexibly before the bar does. That's a hell of a lot more comfortable. Remember, I'm the guy who pulls mine as tight as possible on Magnum.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Has anyone tested weather the retractables actually lock in possition? Yeah they come back but do they actually lock?

When I was a little wider I took a couple of rides that the belt was actually wadded up beside me. It was on but there was a ton of slack in it. I didn't do this purposfully.


Retractables make the most sense on any ride. They're more expensive but they make for easier loading/unloading and they are more comfortable. Not sure if they lock in position, Chuck. I actually never paid attention. I figured they were just like the seat belts in my car.
I want my space, and I don't care for not having the seat dividers. It's uncomfortable being next to someone I don't know. For the buzz bars, they are safer than the other type. They push on the entire person, and not just to a point. Everyone is different.

The smaller kid isn't as big as the adult, and they will jump around, and could jump out of the seat. For the buzz bar, it doesn't matter what age you are. They push down on the smaller kid, and bigger adult.

I for one, cannot stand PTC trains!

They are the most uncomfortable train I have encountered. Mostly due to the lapbar...

It pushed my legs towered the middle and makes it extremely uncomfortable. I am tall, 6'7" so it doesn't help. My legs are just too long for those trains.

But give me a nice Millennium Flyer train and I am in heaven. Roomy, no leg pinching, comfortable, perfect.

I like how PTC's ride, but they are just too uncomfortable for me.

A certain amount of it comes from a desire...either through the park's own wishes or through regulatory fiat either by the insurer or the AHJ (that's Authority Having Jurisdiction...Controlling Legal Authority if you're an Al Gore fan) to comply with current ASTM standards.

Unfortunately, the ASTM standards for the design of restraints on rides are very poorly written, not to mention more than a little ambiguous. The standard says that Thou Shalt Conduct a Patron Containment and Restraint Analysis. Then it talks about all the factors that should be considered. Then it says, "Having considered all the important stuff, now consider ONLY accelerations, and use this chart to determine the restraint type." There are five restraint types, classified by the number of riders per restraint, locking or latching function, adjustability, and redundancy...and of those five types, three require adjustable restraints and two require individual restraints. There's a chart and everything. It's only a design guide, mind you, but it's quite specific. Then the next part of the standard says, "Now forget about that and do what the analysis says you should do."

That's a good thing, because the chart essentially says that you have to have a latching restraint on the park bench. But that doesn't stop the parks and inspectors from trying to apply the chart, which essentially says that if you have ANY vertical force less than 0 for more than 0.2 seconds, you MUST have an individual, locking restraint. That means those miserable orange lap bars that PTC has come up with.

The interesting thing is that it can easily be demonstrated that if you put the PTC lap bar down to its 5th (of 6) notch, a fairly average person can easily stand up and sit on the seat back. Heck, I demonstrate that every time I go to Kings Island and try to ride Racer or The Beast: I put the bar into the first position (should be the 3rd notch) the ride op doesn't like it, and to get one more notch I have to stand up first.

By comparison, with the old double-bar, most riders have to turn sideways in the seat in order to stretch out enough to get their knees out from under the lap bar. The seat divider generally prevents that, and as a result, it's a lot more difficult to actually come out of the train while riding under the old handlebars. Just my opinion, of course. But my opinion is that in many cases, parks have gone out and fixed things that were not broken.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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