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Roller Coasters

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Steel-Track Coasters

Steel coasters offer a more controlled ride experience than the wooden variety. The precision with which they are designed and the tight tolerences applied to steel coaster trains gives steel-track rides a relatively quiet, sanitized flavor, but at the same time it allows for a far more convoluted track plan, complete with vertical loops, barrel rolls, and other acrobiatics that are not feasible with wood coaster construction. It also allows for some radical new approaches to coastering: suspended and inverted roller coasters in which the track is above the train.

With the opening of the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneland in 1959, the tubular steel track and polyurethane or nylon wheels set the precedent for a brand-new direction for the amusement industry. Steel-track coasters existed before the Matterhorn, but they were basically "kiddie" carnival coasters or Wild Mouse-type rides untlizing a flat angle-iron running rail. Not only was this track difficult to bend and shape, it produced a rather noisy and often choppy ride experience.

Arrow Development (today, Arrow Dynamics) was pioneer in refining tubular steel-track technology. That compamy's invaluble research and experience with steel coaster construction paved the way for the modern metal thrillers that riders now enjoy. Though others around the world have refined the technology and created their own versions, they all use the same basic concept Arrow devised over 40 years ago: a track made of hollow tubular rail which coaster cars grip with wheel assemblies that include running, side-friction, and upstop wheels coated with a nylon/polyurethane compound. The rails are welded to steel rail-spacing crossmembers and the whole track system likewise is welded to a steel support system or bolted to a wood-support system.

Although modern steel coasters are based on that simple concept, there exist numerous and complex variations, depending on what firm is responsible for the design. Supporting structure, too, varies wildly with all-steel coasters. Some steel support systems are similar to those used by all-wood--i.e., a system of bents, crossmembers and bracing, but made of steel rather than wood. Many coaster builders employ a steel pole arrangement which, although it appears minimalistic, is very stable, especially when augmented by guy wires.

Taken from:

ROLLER COASTERS by Scott Rutherford

Published in 2003 by Lowe & B. Hould Publishers

Previously published in 2000 by MBI Publishing Company.

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