Manpowered PVC Rollercoaster

Swing sets and jungle gyms are good enough for your average back yard. But if you want to go extreme you need to build your own backyard roller coaster.

This impressive offering uses PVC pipe for the rails. At its tallest it stands 12 feet, using pressure treated 4×4 lumber as the supports. Pressure treated spacers span the tracks, with the uprights — which are cemented in place — in the center.

You can get a better look at it in the video after the break. This is a parent-powered system. Strap you kid in and then use a stick to push the car up to the top of the hill. We just love it that before the kart has made it back to the start the child is already screaming “again daddy”!

It doesn’t look quite as fast as the metal back yard roller coaster we saw some time ago. But we do wonder how they bent the PVC pipes and whether they’re strong enough to pass the test of time (especially being exposed to the sunlight)?

50 thoughts on “Manpowered PVC Rollercoaster

  1. It would be cool if you guys have HAD shirts that on one side have the HAD logo and the other side had something along the lines of “Awesome Dad”.

    This guy deserves one.

      1. Yea, I was thinking the same thing, you can push the kid up a couple of times no problem but trying doing it for an hour (like the kid would want) and you’ll be dreaming of a chain drive! Oh and not to sound like a safety pussy put dad please put a helmet on the kid, a 12′ drop onto her head would be nothing to laugh at.

  2. PVC is easily bent with a heat gun, and when it hardens, the durability and texture are not changed much. I work with PVC pipe and sheets often, and have had experience with bent pieces, so I know.

  3. When it breaks and dumps the kid out, kid will be afraid of roller coasters for the next 20 years. Note the sharp kink in one rail where it goes up to the small hill. Looks like it’s about to break.

    For something like this I’d want to use schedule 80 PVC. Much heavier than schedule 40 PVC.

    That’s not something you find at Home Despot or Walmart. It’s usually grey, made for deeply buried electrical wiring.

  4. I’ve had pvc get brittle after a year of outdoor exposure. This included hot soummers and -20F winters.

    I think if I was doing it I’d likely make the track bed between the rails solid so that of something does go wrong the car would just bottom out and stop. Sheets of plywood would likely be enough.

    Of course next year the kid will be much larger and everything will have to change.

    Still, I love seeing this, what great memory for kid and I’m sure Dad is watching out for safety.

  5. Interesting that people do experiments on their kids in the name of fun (not my concern really) but it could do with some simple safety improvements such as (a) a ratchet catch to stop the coaster falling backwards down the start incline should the pushing post slip out, and (b) some more support under the 12 ft drop in case of pipe failure. Oh and get the kid a helmet.

      1. If he flipped the car around so it always went backwards, the kid would probably enjoy the thing a lot more. Plus, when dad starts looking like he is going to have a heart attack pushing the car up the ramp, the kid (might) be more willing to take a break.

  6. I was also wondering how the PVC could stand up to that sort of pressure/weight/abuse, and the only thing I could think of was that he filled the PVC (after he bent it of course), with concrete and then allowed it to cure. And the only reason I say this is because he said it took a lot of concrete. Now sure it could be because he sunk those 4×4 rail-ties deep into the ground, but maybe he did just fill the PVC with it as well.

    Too bad there was no build log.

  7. It’s all fun and games, till Child services comes and takes you away in cuffs.

    I wonder though, would EMT conduit not be a better choice? Hard to tell exactly how large the PVC is though… but it looks to be 2-3″ OD? Should be strong enough.
    Hope that ride got a few hundred test runs using multiple sand bags first.

  8. What a nice thing for a parent to do for their kidlet, though :) I’d guess if Child Services objects to it, the dad would have a sheaf of calculations he could thwack them upside the head with, looks like he got the calculations pretty right – IMO we don’t need a “Nanny” state, CPS should be handing out awards to parents who go a mile above and beyond like this one :) Not harassing them. (If a parent meant well and tried this but got it wrong, then HELP them make it right, don’t harass them, but then that’d make sense…)

    1. Logic and law rarely agree. If nothing else, they would want him to put a helmet on the kid. That way, if there is an accident, it will be an instant death from a broken neck…a lot easier for the insurance company to deal with than a life-long brain injury.

  9. I wonder if he did any true “engineering” and calculated the bending moments, loading, torsional stresses (tau, rho, etc).

    100% certain the PVC manufacturer would not approve of their product being used for rails on a ghetto rollercoaster.

    This doesn’t even begin to address the subject of how he secured adjoining sections to each other. If those joints are rated for impulse type shear forces repetitively cycled.

    There’s a reason “real” rollercoasters are designed by engineers.

    Some people should not be parents ! (you can’t fix stupid). What’s his next trick ? a surplus turbine engine on the back of a kiddy trike ?

  10. OK safety pussies… the kid is strapped in and the car is attached to the rail in such a way that it can’t come off! This thing holds no greater risk of injury than the stuff in an average playground for cryin out loud!! CPS taking the kid? This is not child abuse! The kid is having FUN!!! This Dad is awesome!!

    1. Hey I’d be the first one to rally against excessive government regulation of anything. Fact of the matter is, OSHA exists for a reason. Building codes and organizations such as NEC, NFPA standards are bare minimums for safety.

      I pretty much despise the FAA (as a commercial pilot with multiple type ratings), since it’s a bureaucratic boondoggle. However – there’s an old saying to the effect, that aviation policy is written in blood. In other words, people had to die first, before the regulations came out.

      OSHA rules came out because people were being maimed or losing their lives.

      Reckless attitudes only invite more government intrusion into our lives. Like the morons shining lasers at aircraft. Next thing you know, we won’t be able to purchase them because they’ll be banned.

  11. For every “does not seem safe” and “CPS” threat I read – I note yet *another* pundit who has never done anything. (Where is yours?) Guess it wouldn’t be too safe. Best just to hang around message areas where people are being AWESOME and try to spoil their fun.

    Guess what! It isn’t working! As one of those Dads that engineers/builds/plays with his three (!) kids (youngest now 13, oldest 21) I have news: the more fun you have with them (especially like this) the more creative they become as well! Yayyy! (Note: roller-coasters had to start somewhere. Think about it. Or don’t. That might be a little much…)

    …”reinventing the wheel is exactly what allows us to travel 80mph without even feeling it. the original wheel fell apart at about 5mph after 100 yards. Now they’re rubber, self-healing, last 4000 times longer. Whoever intended the phrase “you’re reinventing the wheel” to be an insult was an idiot.” – QDB #308280

    This Dad is AWESOME. I just feel sorry for you trolls that not only have never accomplished anything (except try to misquote regulations and borrow trouble – I guess that’s an accomplishment, of some sort) – may you someday give yourself permission to step outside of your “protective” shell, and GO DO SOMETHING noteworthy! Besides purchasing your next wide-screen TV, or upgrading your ‘net connection so you can auto-spam others’ cool progress. Maybe *your* Dad’s should have spent more time with you, too…

    – Sorry, it just begged to be said, by someone with enough experience to back it up.

  12. Don’t feed the troooools! I grew up on a farm with dirtbikes, tractors, and old barns. these were all our dangerous toys and none of us ever got badly hurt…the one thing that hurt more people than anything else was the trampoline…very dangerous toy…we would have loved to have a DIY rollercoaster, lucky kids…

    1. Exactly, I would walk with my friends through thunderstorms and blizzards, just to see how bad the weather really was. We would explore everything from the orchard behind our houses to the string of abandoned and condemned buildings on the edge of town, honestly hoping to find something cool.

      (Actually we once found an old compound bow. We restrung it with nylon cord and made arrows with corn stalks for shafts, flighted them with cardboard, and tipped it with a soda tabs.)

      However, when you got on that trampoline you couldn’t be sure if you would come back alive.

  13. I’d like to cast my vote for “best dad ever!” Back when I was a youngin, me and some neighborhood friends made a rollercoaster like this, but way more dangerous (nothing to hold the cart on the tracks from the bottom) and lame. We all would ride it, break it, fall off, then rebuild it and keep riding it. Retrospectively, I wouldn’t have thought we’d be able to consistantly fall from such heights without breaking stuff… do other people know about this super resilient quality of children? QUICK, SOMEONE CALL A SCIENTIST!

  14. Wow what negativity… on this site especially I would never have thought to have this problem. This is what is wrong with this world today, parents are afraid to build things with their kids and teach them things for fear of DCFS? All of you not wanting to put your child on it (without reasonably inspecting it first of course) I hope you are sterile because you are perpetuating the risk adverse society that is wallowing in itself.. for shame.

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