The Best Time to Ride

Saturday, August 6, 2005 12:24 PM
What is the best time to ride a wooden coaster. Well besides the obvious answer of anytime I am doing something else, or in the winter when there is nothing else to do. There are certain factors that affect the performance of a wood coaster. If you want the fastest, most forceful ride, ride it during the following conditions:

The most obvious time to ride a wooden coaster is during or after a rainstorm. The rain mixes with the grease that is used to lubricate the track, creating an ultra smooth and slick riding surface. The principle losses on a roller coaster are due to aerodynamic drag, and the frictional losses from the road wheels and metal flat running strip on top of the laminated wood track. This smooth surface for the road wheels to go over, reduces the amount of frictional losses. This in turns creates a faster ride throughout the course, and a shorter ride time. It is the same idea of why it takes longer for your car to brake during the rain, or why the Beast when it had skid brakes, didn't run in heavy rain. The reduced frictional environment, means it will take longer to stop. In this case you don't want a lot of frictional losses, you want the ride to be going as fast as it can during the end of the ride. That is what the rain will cause, a fast middle and end. The top speed will likely be the same about, but in the long run, less frictional losses, will result in more speed at the end.

The other weather related factor is temperature. Basically the hotter it is, the faster it goes. The heat lossens the heavy grease on the wheels and track. This in turn makes for a smooth riding surface and less friction throughout the course. This also plays a rule on what time to ride.

The best time to ride is like most people expect, at night. This gives time for the heat to do its thing, and lossen the grease up and the wheels to get hot from running all day. So you have less friction because the wheels and track are lossen up and slick and running all day. However there is something else that has nothing to do with actually going faster. It is the percieved speed and danger from riding a wooden coaster at night. Wooden coasters have big structures, and several go through the structure that structure and make it seem that your going faster than you really are. This effect is increased at night, when it is really dark and you can't see where your going. Tunnels also add to this effect, and so does a remote setting like in the woods. You feel like your going faster when you can't see where your going, and it also distorts your sense of direction and time.

Another question is whether a full train or empty train is better? Well if you just think about it the answer should be rather obvious. Why do you think they have sandbags or dummies when they test? Well the full train goes faster and they use the sandbags as weight. So you want a full train if you want a faster and better ride. Another example is why Dueling Dragons at IOA weighs its trains. The lighter train goes first and the heavier train with more inertia goes second. The heavier train will eventually catch up and meet at the designed spots for the dueling action. On another note, the heavier train should win for racing coasters, if all other factors are kept constant. The Beast at PKI is another example of a full train going much faster. At the mid course brake shed, an empty train would have a speed of 18-20 mph, while a full train would be around 27-30 mph on the same part of a ride.

So in summary if you want a fast ride:

1. Ride at night

2. Ride after a hot summer day

3. Ride after or during a heavy rainstorm

4. Ride with a full train of big people

So just wait till night after a summer day, make sure it rained really hard, and find 28-36 of your heaviest coaster riding friends, and get ready for the fastest trip on your favorite wooden coaster.

On the other hand if you want a slower ride:

1. Ride in the early morning, just after testing

2. Ride on a very cold windy day

3. Ride in an empty train by yourself.

There is a note that certain rides with trim brakes, turn them off when its cold or windy. So then the ride could be running just as fast or maybe faster than a hot day. But in general the best time to ride is at night, after it rained, on a hot day, and with a full train.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 1:31 PM
Actually, big people probably won't really help making the train faster.
As the "feather and penny" experiment shows, weight has no effect on the acceleration of free-falling objects.

Horizontal break-runs are a different matter: Because big people increase the amount of energy that the train aquires during its acceleration on a downward slope, the breaks won't be able to slow down a heavy train as much as an empty one. (In magentic breaks, the force that is available to slow down the train is proportional to the speed of the train, not its weight).
Maybe the speedometer on Beast is after the break run?

In fact, air resistance surely is a significant factor... suggesting that empty trains are fastest, unless for the part of the ride after the break run.

The physics of wet coaster rails could be interesting, I guess wooden coasters might "benefit" more from wet rails as they are flat, supporting the appearance of aquaplaning cushions under the wheels better than the round rails of most steel coasters, decreasing the friction between the wheel and the rail. I'm not so sure if it has anything to do with the water mixing with the grease - I rather think it's the water cushioning under the wheels.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 2:09 PM
Well the water and grease is a slick surface, just like a wet track would be. That is why I said during the rain, when you have that ultra slick mixture of grease and water, or afterwards with mostly just water on the track. And your feather and penny experiment, is true in the ideal world of physics. But with friction, aerodynamic drag, the weight and size of the the object matters. So that is just a theoretical type of thing, that is rather not applicable to coasters.

I agree with you about the beast having a magnetic trim brakes, and the sensor is probably after the magnetic brake on the mid course shed. It has more momentum, so it probably should come out with greater speed.

But that does not explain why Dueling Dragons weighs the trains, and the heavier one goes second. That is from the quote Universals project lead for Islands of Adventure. He was discussing that in the roller coaster film, America's Greatest Roller Coasters Thrills The Next Generation. It featured Dueling Dragons as one of its coasters, and he stated that the heavier train had more inertia and that the trains are weighed and adjusted on the lift hill. The lighter train goes first, but the heavier train will eventually catch up and meet at the desired spots. So your theory on the lighter train going faster through the course does not seem correct. Also than why do they test them with sandbags? The extra weight is needed for it to make it through its course for its first couple runs.

Also on the making of the coaster, a discovery channel coater program, they featured Lightning Racer. During a test run Michael Boodley stated, that he thought he would win against his partner, because he was heavier. He ended up winning and joked that his partner/friend should bulk up and eat more. I think it is rather clear on which goes faster, a full train does. The more weight in the train, the faster it should go, with all other factors being constant.

I just trust my own intution and experience, along with what other designers and experts in the roller coaster business say. I might further research this point, but I suggest you do the same.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 3:34 PM

Drop a feather and a penny sometime. See which hits the floor first. The weight doesn't make any difference concept holds true for objects falling in a vacuum, but on the surface of planet earth aerodynamic drag is significant, and the desner object will fall faster, all other things being equal.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 5:15 PM
There is one factor that you forgot to mention. However this one is hard to predict. It's how recently wheels and gears ect have been changed on the ride. How old they are.

Once again it's hard to tell!

Saturday, August 6, 2005 7:04 PM

Yeah I am sure the upkeep of the ride and maintenance is a factor. But really unless you know the people that do that sort of work for that ride, how would you know if they recently replaced wheels, did track work, etc. So I am sure the ride will be running bettter and faster, if the park just recently gave it some much needed attention. Some parks probably do that before coaster events and things of that sort. Besides running faster, more importantly it would be running much smoother.

I think I was just trying to say, if you had an option of riding a wooden coaster, there is a best time to ride it. Although I think some people realized this fact, that at night and after it rained is the best time. I am just providing an explanation of why. I also think there has been confusing of whether a lighter trains will result in a faster ride. I think the answer is no, you want a heavier train. *** Edited 8/6/2005 11:04:41 PM UTC by Beast Fan***

Sunday, August 7, 2005 1:11 AM

Jim Fisher said:
The weight doesn't make any difference concept holds true for objects falling in a vacuum, but on the surface of planet earth aerodynamic drag is significant, and the desner object will fall faster, all other things being equal. really doesn't have to do with density: As you say it depends on aerodynamic drag:
Big(tall) people in trains should actually make the train slower: more aerodynamic drag.

Sunday, August 7, 2005 10:52 AM
The aerodynamic drag would only happen if their heads are above the seatbacks. Plus, wood coaster trains are not the most aerodynamic vehicles.
Sunday, August 7, 2005 11:11 AM
For maximum effect, I think the best combination is:

Right after a light-moderate rain, in the evening, on a blazing hot day.

Of course, it has to be a good coaster also! :)

Sunday, August 7, 2005 12:31 PM
Also one thing to keep in mind is seaside coasters. I have heard that late in the day they run slower as the salt from the sea air hits the track causing friction. This certainly seems to be the case with The Cyclone.
Sunday, August 7, 2005 2:05 PM
For me, there is ONE "best time to ride". It's called *nighttime ERT*...and it's special... :)
Sunday, August 7, 2005 2:32 PM
^Ditto on that! That could with just about any coaster, ESPECIALLY the wood.

I found riding Thunderhead at Dollywood in the middle of December VERY sweet.

In a way it was strangely invigorating, despite the cold. Then again it wasn't THAT cold if you properley bundled.


Sunday, August 7, 2005 2:45 PM

The more weight in the train, the faster it should go, with all other factors being constant.

Just playing devils advocate here, but wouldn't a heavier train create more friction against the rails, thus slowing the train more - or does the extra speed gained from the additional weight of the riders outweigh the slowing by the increased friction?

Or could it be even on a train that holds 36 riders of heavy weight (we'll say 200lbs average) that the additional 7200lbs isn't much of a difference in comparison to the weight of the the train in the first place? I have no idea. How much does an empty coaster train weigh?

Just throwing some alternate ideas out there to see what sticks. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2005 3:33 PM
Lord Gonchar:

I think an empy train weight a couple tons, so maybe around 3000 to 5000 lbs or so. So having a full train is a bigger deal and is why they have sandbags or dummies that weight around 150 lbs when they test. Next time your on a racing coaster and have the opportunity to load one side more than the other, try it and see which side whens. Then ride the other side with more people and see who wins.

I tried that on Lightning Racer in the morning, and the side with more people always wins. Not the most scientific method, but I already explained the difference in speed with a full and empy train on the Beast and why Dueling Dragons weighs the trains. I think your alternative ideas are interesting, but really have no validity. They go against my own experience, other experts, and my own intution.

I think the real explanation deals with the concept of inertia and momentum. You see inertia is the resistance of an object to resist change. So the train with greater mass and inertia, has greater resistance to change, including greater resistance to the frictional forces.

It is similar in concept to something with a greater 2 moment of mass (also called moment of inertia). Something with a greater moment of inertia, has greater resistance to rotation, so an applied torque will yield less angular velocity on an object with greater moment of inertia than a smaller one.

But back to the coaster example. I think everyone can agree that the heavier train just requires greater braking force to come to a stop. I think it is common sense that you need more force to stop a 4000 lb train than a 2000 lb train. Well I think now you have to realize that for the most part aerodynamic drag is not going to be affected that much with the fully loaded train. The peoples heads are not outside that much, and unless everyone has their hands up, I expect minimal difference. T

he friction between the rails and wheel, are more related to the grease, wheels, and all that stuff I orginally discussed. I think that frictional loss is more affected by when you ride, not how many people are riding. So now that the frictional force acting on the ride is about the same, what it comes down to is the amount of momentum the ride has and the increased inertia.

The speed at the bottom of the first drop, is around the same for both. So the momentum is greater for the heavier train, because of the greater mass. If you apply the same braking or frictional force on the ride for the same track length, what one do you think will be going faster at the end? I am going to bet and go with the heavier train everytime. That is my best explanation why it is so. I already believe it is so, just from my previous examples and own experience and observation.

Sunday, August 7, 2005 6:22 PM
Every time I've seen an *average rider* estimated, Gonch....they're at 170. Of course, that includes women and children which tend to offset my "slight overage"... ;)
Sunday, August 7, 2005 8:40 PM
Hey, I said a train full of "heavy riders" and averaged them at 200lbs a piece. :)

200lbs each is my "fat train" ;)


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