Roller Coaster Design Trends and Technology
A reader recently asked me for my thoughts on how roller coaster design is changing. Specifically, he wanted to learn more about growing trends and new technology. I decided I would share my response with the rest of you and am very interested in YOUR feedback. A couple trends in roller coaster design that immediately came to my mind:
1. Blurring the line between wood and steel roller coasters
2. More efficient design techniques
3. “wing” coasters are hot
A traditional wood coaster’s track was made on-site by carpenters. Today, some designers are turning towards different types of prefabricated track manufactured to perfection in a machine shop before being shipped to the construction site resulting in a smoother ride. Some of these new rails include more steel than traditional wood coasters. One of these new hybrid wooden coasters being built in Missouri will apparently go upside down too – a wooden coaster first since since Son of Beast’s loop was removed in 2006.
To see how roller coaster design has evolved take a look at Millennium Force at Cedar Point, opened in 2000, and Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion, opened in 2010. This is a good case study because they are both similar 300 foot rides built at Cedar Fair owned parks, designed and manufactured by Intamin, and each cost $25 million. Just by looking at pictures of the lift hills you can see how coaster design evolved in just ten years – steeper lift angle, faster cable lift, fewer supports needed, etc.
In terms of rider experience and vehicle design, the current trend is what are called “wing” coasters (or wingriders or 4d coasters) where the seats are cantilevered off the side of the train instead of on top of or below the rails. There are four variations of this concept:
1. Fully winged (X-Flight @ Six Flags Great America, Wild Eagle @ Dollywood)
2. Partially winged (Skyrush @ HersheyPark)
3. Free spinning seats (Green Lantern @ Six Flags Magic Mountain)
4. Controlled rotatable seats (X2 @ Six Flags Magic Mountain)
Do you agree with me? Comment below to share what you think are the current trends and progression of roller coaster design.