How Do Theme Parks Build Roller Coasters?


Quick Answer

Theme parks build roller coasters by using the laws of physics to create loops and dips that make these tracked rides fun and safe. Those laws differ with the type of material used to make the roller coaster track.

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Full Answer

Wooden roller coaster tracks tend to be shorter than steel coasters and usually don't loop. The hills are not usually as steep and the straight tracks not as long, but they do sway more than the steel variety. They also tend to be noisier. Some older wooden coasters pushed the limits of roller coaster physics of their era.

Steel roller coasters push the laws of physics to even greater heights. In a list of tallest roller coasters for 2015, the Bizzaro at Six Flags New England boasted a 221-foot drop. At Six Flags Over Texas, the Titan sports a 255-foot drop and a top speed of 85 miles per hour. Wooden coasters just can't handle the physical stresses of that type of height or speed.

Roller coasters have no engines, another factor in track design. A chain pulls the car up the first hill, which tends to be the steepest, and then it's up to kinetic energy to drive the coaster down the track. At the end of the ride, compressed air stops the coaster.

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