2005 - Volume #29, Issue #6, Page #24[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
He Built His Own Backyard Roller Coaster
"I've always been fascinated by roller coasters and always excited to ride," says Reid.
Now an engineer at Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, Reid started working on his roller coaster while studying engineering in college.
"You have to have a good background in physics and engineering to build one safely," says Reid. "You have to be very careful and know a lot about strength of materials, physics and the dynamics of a ride."
To help him in his design work, Reid wrote several computer programs to calculate data for the track profile and to demonstrate the aerodynamics of his design. He built the entire track out of pressure-treated southern pine. Over the course of construction, he used 2,900 board feet of lumber, 7,000 screws and nails, and other parts that came to $5,500 in costs.
A 1-hp electric motor powers a 3/4-in. pitch roller chain that pulls the cart to the release point atop the biggest drop. The wooden runners of the carriage slide on metal strips on the straight coaster rails. On curves he used a hard plastic, as it was easier to cut. The only part of the construction he needed help with was to lift several of the largest supports into place.
The project, which he started in 1997, took Reid about three years to complete. "I have people asking for rides all the time but, mostly for insurance reasons, only myself, my dad and my brother have ridden on it," says Reid. "If you build your own, you have to be very careful. There are a number of ways a per
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