In celebration of Coaster101′s birthday, I’d like to welcome you to another Coaster101 Special Feature. This time we talk with John Hogg, inventor of the totally amazing and unique cantilevered roller coaster concept. When I ride roller coasters today I am almost never surprised by any part or element of the ride. Amusement attractions today are very predictable. The cantilevered coaster could revolutionize the industry by taking the thrill ride to the next level of unpredictability and excitement. We’d like to thank John for taking the time to talk to us! Now on to the interview.
For those who don’t know, could you please give a brief description of the Cantilevered Coaster concept?
I’ll try, but it’s never easy to do verbally. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a good model is worth about a thousand pictures. But I digress…
The CRC (Cantilevered Roller Coaster) system uses two tracks, each with a vehicle chassis on it, one above the other. A support arm is mounted to the lower chassis on pivot bearing, and runs up through a gimbaled, sliding bearing in the upper chassis. The guests ride in the themed portion of the vehicle mounted to the top of the arm on a pivoting bearing, above the upper track and chassis. As the complete vehicle moves along the track course, the upper track and chassis serve as a kind of fulcrum for the support arm. The lower track follows a slightly different course than the upper track, and this causes the top of support arm and the guests to swing in a side to side yaw movement, pitch front to back, and an up and down vertical stroke relative to the upper track in a its kind of like ride systems employing a multi-axis simulator sitting on a tracked chassis (i.e. Indiana Jones/Spiderman), but without all the hydraulics and servos of those systems, plus the ability to move on an undulating, coaster-style track.
Who came up with the idea for the CRC and how did it come about?
I did. My “day-job” is as an art director/designer, and I was working at Warner Bros. at the time on their movie park for Düsseldorf, Germany. They were putting a Coyote-Roadrunner themed coaster in to the park, just a big semi-themed iron-ride. I began to think how cool it would be if they did a completely themed environmental ride, one where you got in to the Coyote’s ACME Rocket Sled and shot off in pursuit of the Roadrunner, just as in the cartoons, totally out of control, blasting across a cartoon desert floor, up the sides of cartoon mesas, almost colliding with cartoon 18-wheelers; fantastic! It would have to be completely immersive like Disney’s Indiana Jones ride. To pull it off the track would have to be concealed and the ride vehicle would have to be on a stick, elevated up off the track with the track concealed below a scenic floor, and with a slot in the scenery to allow the thing to move. The more I thought about it the more I realized what a system like that might be capable of, and which resulted in the different axis of motion. The system could be used in higher speed rides, but might be just as much fun utilized in slower speed dark rides. I kept toying with the idea for a few years, and then got to the point where I thought it would be worth it to get a patent.
How much time has gone into design, planning, marketing and engineering to try and turn this concept into reality?
I’ve spent a lot of time over a long period promoting it and expanding on the design. I came up with the idea in 1994, applied for the patent in 1998, and received it in August 2001. The future for theme park development seemed pretty bright at the time. I was working in France for Imagineering on the second Paris park. I figured that with all the global competition in the rides business someone would see potential in the concept. Then 9/11 happened and that pretty much put the lid on any interest for a while. Things slowly began to pick up again, and there’s been sporadic though consistent interest from potential park clients, and also from engineering/manufacturing sources. I think that the opening of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter will do a lot to boost the theme and amusement park business as a whole. I’m hoping that this will push the manufacturers will to start marketing rides that are truly new and radical, like the Cantilevered Coaster.
How did you get involved with the Cantilevered Coaster and what is your role?
See above for how I got involved. As for my role, I’m mainly a promoter and dreamer.
Are there other members involved with the Cantilevered Coaster project beside you? If so, what are their roles?
My wife created the website; she’s got a background in film advertising and graphic design and she’s been invaluable in that regard. I also employ an assortment of friends that I know from the local entertainment network to do modeling and illustration from time to time, plus some engineers that I get advice from. Frankly I’d like to be able to say that we had a company with employees, but that just isn’t the case yet.
What have you done to promote the Cantilevered Coaster? Have you ever pitched your idea at or attended the IAAPA convention?
Yup, I go to IAAAPA almost every year. I’m usually there on company (“day-job”) business, and then do the coaster stuff on the side. I’ve pitched the CRC to two of the largest US manufacturers and one of the smaller ones with positive feedback in all cases. With one of them, I met with a group of their key engineers and sales people in the back room of their IAAPA booth first in 2002, and then again in 2005. Both times they were extremely interested. During the 2005 meeting I actually had to excuse myself to go meet with a design group from one of the UK parks who wanted to talk about the CRC. How amazing it was to be juggling meetings on the CRC concept. After talking with the English group for about an hour I returned to the manufacturer’s booth to restart that meeting. The idea was floated to invite the UK group in for a larger discussion, but was dropped as it seemed premature to bring in a potential client in to what was an initial kick-off meeting. Looking back, I should have insisted on it as about a month later the manufacturer decided they weren’t really interested, but having the English group in the room might have kept the project moving. It was really exciting there for a while though.
BTW, various German and Swiss manufacturers have all expressed enthusiasm in the CRC, but it’s too much of a stretch for them to take on. They seem to be doing fine with their existing product lines. In the end I’ve got more faith in American engineering and marketing risk-taking. The US companies are always the ones willing to talk seriously and enthusiastically about the CRC.
As a CAD Engineer, I can fully relate to your earlier comment about a model being worth a thousand pictures. This leads me to ask, have you ever created a fully functional model (physical or animated) of the Cantilevered Coaster?
I’ve tried creating virtual models several times using the help of friends who are proficient in different 3D software systems. Unfortunately by its nature the CRC has some complex interdependent kinetic relationships that make it difficult (and therefore expensive!) to model. Previous attempts have utilized 3D Studio, Maya, and other software platforms, none of which have yielded a really useful model containing the interdependent characteristics that the system requires. The funny part is that every time someone has started to try and model it, they’ve insisted at the start that they’d be able to pull it off, and that they understood everything about the mechanical nature of the CRC system. Instead, each time they ended up tired and frustrated realizing that the system was much more complex than they’d expected, and that the chosen program was inadequate to do the job.
As far as a physical model, I’ve started work in AutoCAD 3D to create CNC plastic parts in order to transform a K-nex kit in to a CRC, but that’s going to take a little time. I’d really prefer to create a virtual kit-of-parts model system using the right program that could be easily adapted to different track configurations and thematic concepts. That would certainly be the ultimate sales tool in my mind.
What is the status of the Cantilevered Coaster at this time? Is it still purely conceptual or has some actual engineering gone into it?
I’ve had some basic engineering done on it, and I strongly suspect that some of the interested manufacturers have done a little of their own analysis, but it’s still sitting in the conceptual end of the technical design spectrum. However there is one engineering firm expressing interest at the moment and they seem serious about it. I just hope they aren’t pulling my leg.
We hope they aren’t pulling your leg either. Besides the Coyote-Roadrunner idea, what other themes or story lines have you envisioned utilizing the Cantilevered Coaster?
Check out our website to see some concepts at www.cantileveredcoaster.com. The current main feature concept is based on the Warner Bros. Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt”, and which takes its cue from the great car chase in the film. There are other concepts on the site ranging from a jungle safari ride to an outer space coaster. In addition I’ve pitched rough concepts on rides based on everything from “Speed Racer” to a re-do of Disney’s Peter Pan ride using the CRC system. Hell, there are thousands of ride possibilities that the CRC could be utilized in. And don’t even get me started about Harry Potter; that’s probably between fifty to a hundred concepts right there! The thing is, this ride system would be great at higher speeds, but completely different and as equally exciting in a wholly different way if used in dark-ride scenarios at tamer speeds. Whereas most “coaster” systems are better if they’re going fast, I think the CRC would be fun to ride even it was going slowly!
The cantilevered coaster definitely looks exciting to me, no matter the speed! Do you often visit amusement parks?
Not that often unfortunately. It usually depends on what kind of project I’m working on at Lexington Design and Fabrication here in LA where I’ve been employed for the last four years. If it’s a theme park project we’re working on I’ll often end up having to go to the park for meetings and to look at the site. Sometimes we end up riding certain rides that are pertinent to what we’re doing, and going backstage to check things out. In the years when IAAPA is somewhere such as Orlando I invariably end up going to one of the parks to see or ride an attraction. On the non-work side, occasionally friends come in to town wanting to go to Disneyland, and I’ll go with them. I was also up at Magic Mountain several years ago to ride “X-2” and write a review of it for the website Blooloop.com.
Seeing as how this site is called Coaster101 I have to ask, what is your favorite type of roller coaster?
As far as pure, unadulterated roller coasters are concerned, there’s nothing like a good wooden coaster. I haven’t ridden enough of them, but memorable ones include the Dragon Coaster at Rye Playland in New York, Le Monstre at La Ronde in Montreal, the Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and Colossus at Magic Mountain. On the non-woodie side, I’m a big fan of the Big Thunder Mountains at Disneyland and Paris Disneyland. I really like their combination of thrills and environmental theming. Another cool steel coaster is the one at the New York, New York Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas, despite the fact that it probably makes chiropractors a lot of money since it’s so rough. As for “coaster-esque” rides, I’ve always loved the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, and Spiderman at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I also have a soft spot for the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland, but I guess that doesn’t count as a coaster.
You can’t go wrong with a good wooden coaster! two of my favorite attractions in Orlando are Big Thunder Mountain and Spiderman too. Thanks again to John for the taking the time out of his busy schedule and answering our questions. I hope one day soon we will see a theme park push the boundaries of thrills and technology by investing in the cantilevered coaster. I, for one, would love to see it be taken from concept to reality!