By Nick Weisenberger
Review by Sam (Engineering)
When you ride a roller coaster, you’re probably not thinking about the calculations the engineers had to undertake or the complex systems responsible for keeping the ride running safely. The book Coasters 101: An Engineer’s Guide to Roller Coaster Design successfully demystifies the process of creating and building a roller coaster, remaining highly accessible whilst not compromising on technical detail.
Coasters 101 follows the process of developing a new roller coaster chronologically from the earliest stages of planning to maintaining operational safety on a working ride. The use of various examples alongside the concepts explored helps to keep the book grounded. For instance, after discussing the types of lift hill, it shows you how to calculate the exact cost of running a ride’s lift for a day. Images are often used to help visualise some of the trickier concepts such as how a roller coaster wheel assembly looks. Furthermore, the book introduces applications of the types of theory you will learn on an engineering course at university.
Chapter 4 focuses on ride elements and is a great introduction to the kind of physical problems coaster designers face. One challenge explored is that of the classic vertical loop. The first circular loops exerted excessive G-Force on their passengers at the bottom of the element, which often caused discomfort. This was because the element had to be navigated at a high speed to prevent derailment at the top, where the centripetal force is lowest. However, a teardrop shaped loop design introduced in the 1970s maintained more consistent G-Force between the top and bottom, allowing rides to safely incorporate this iconic inversion.
When I first discovered this book, I was only beginning to discover my passion for roller coasters and found it very influential. The short chapter on career advice at the end of the book gives tangible suggestions (for example, to create a portfolio of your creative work) which helped to inform my choice to pursue engineering and pursue my dream of designing roller coasters.
In summary, Coasters 101 presents a unique area of engineering in an engaging way that I would recommend to anyone who wonders how these theme park icons work.
Coasters 101: An Engineer’s Guide to Roller Coaster Design by Nick Weisenberger
ISBN-10 : 1468013556
ISBN-13 : 978-1468013559