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Roller Coasters


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The Evolution of Tracking

Most of the earliest American Coasters-namely the switch-back type coasters and Scenic Railways- simply employed the tracking method used by railroads: a flanged wheel riding atop an iron or steel rail. This arrangement worked fine on the relatively slow-moving, gentle up-and-down rides of that era where most of the track ran a straight-line course, but the flat curves could not be negotiated at high speed without disastrous results. Some other method of tracking had to be devised to keep cars safely on increasingly convoluted layouts.

The answer was the side-friction coaster. The new technology called for coaster cars equipped with flat (i.e. not flanged) steel "tractor" or running wheels to carry the weight of the car, and horzontally mounted "side friction" guide wheels to keep the cars on course. Set atr perpendicular angles to and on both sides of the main track were upright boards that formed a wooden channel through which the cars ran. The side-friction wheels made contact with the upright boards through curves and other unconventional maneuvers. This system allowed for increased speed, especially on turns. yessmiley[1].gif

The side-friction technology caught on quickly, and soon most coasters, beginning with the Figure 8 rides, were of side-friction design. This allowed for larger dips and tight turns without th worry of having cars jump the track. The main drawback to this system was that it did not prevent cars that were moving at high speed from lifting off the track at the apex of the short hill, further,

side-friction could be quite jostling due to the amount of play between the

side-friction wheels and the track side boards.

Coaster builder John Miller almost single-handedly changed all this with his upstop, or under-friction wheel arrangement- an ingenious design that ushered in the golden age of roller coasters and one which is still employed by virtually all coasters. The upstop wheels and their specially designed track effectively locked the coaster cars to the track and provided the perfect means of taking the wooden roller coaster to much greater levels of terror. devil-winks

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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