Backyard Roller Coaster – Family, Physics And Fun

Coaster Dad Track Segment

This week we have been in touch with [Will Pemble], Geek Dad. After a visit to Magic Mountain in early 2013, his son [Lyle] asked “Why don’t we build our own rollercoaster, Dad?”. [Will] couldn’t think of a single reason why not. This was the start of the CoasterDad Project. Excited by the challenge of building a Backyard Roller Coaster, [Will] also thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to teach [Lyle] about physics. Family, Fun, and Physics – what could be better?

The track is made from parallel PVC pipes on a lumber frame, similar to the one we saw for the Manpowered PVC rollercoaster, but it is more varied and looks a lot sturdier. [Will] is now working on mark II of the cart made from a steel frame with skateboard wheels and has independent axles. He is planning to add a pedal mechanism with freewheel, so you can get a little extra oomph on the rises.

In [Will’s] great videos you can get a front row seat on the coaster and see that even though it is fairly compact it has enough rises, troughs and turns to keep you entertained. It may not be quite as exciting as [Jon Iver’s] homemade rollercoaster, but when finished, the rider will be able go round and round self-propelled to their heart’s content, or till they puke, whichever comes first.  [Will] also explains the theory and practicalities behind making a strong, safe, but really fun coaster. Don’t miss the videos after the fold.

Have you made a backyard roller coaster, or are thinking about building one? Have you got any questions about [Will’s] roller coaster build? He’s up for making a video to answer some of them, so please leave questions for him in the comments below. We will post the video later on.

The video below contains a time lapse of the steel wheel build

19 thoughts on “Backyard Roller Coaster – Family, Physics And Fun

  1. nice someone can play roller coaster tycoon backyard style now how awesome is your daddy that make this for his kids everytime I see a backyard roller coaster there are better and better and even more bigger we all know there are stupid people that Note can make it but still try to do itI wonder the safety aspects on the long time

    1. Does painting it help? Is there any paint recommended for it, officially for that purpose? Or failing that, anything that’ll at least help? Presumably it’s the UV that does it.

      I suppose the fact that most PVC is used underground means they don’t usually worry about this issue. Still you can get uPVC windows, the u stands for UV-treatment of some sort, if not quite the same thing as pipes.

      1. I have recurring dreams where something like this is used as a method of transport in towns. Only mine hang down from a sortof monorail suspended from lamp-posts. Probably would use pylons in real life. Anyway you look around and find the nearest one, then pedalling propels your vehicle along the railway, high-ish in the air (it goes up higher in between stations) so you’re nice and safe from pedestrians.

        The vehicle itself isn’t much more than a seat with a fixed handlebar to hold onto, and pedals underneath, hanging from a standard plastic-coated steel tube from the rail above. Your legs would dangle freely when not pedalling.

        Just an idea. Maybe Disneyland had something like it in the 1950s and I’ve forgotten seeing it in some documentary somewhere.

    1. If it were me, and I really haven’t got it in me to build one, but if it were, I’d make sure I could fit in it myself too. As long as it wasn’t too much more expensive. Maybe do a few test runs with some weights first (or a LOT of potatos). But failing that, add in enough slack for a couple of years’ kid-growth. Then hopefully by the time they’re too big, they’ll be bored of it and you can sell it to the parents of one of their friends.

      I imagine, in any neighbourhood, the kid with the rollercoaster won’t be short of friends!

      Most rollercoasters are powered by one big hill at the beginning, then continually change between potential and kinetic energy going up and down smaller hills, til they’re about run out on the final flat run. The first hill is generally powered by a motor running a chain. It’d be nice if he could implement that here, using one or two chains in parallel, with some simple plate or hook running on them, loosely tethered, catching on something under the car. The wheels on the car should always free-wheel.

      Others have done this, I remember it reported here, I think one guy had an electric motor operating the hill-lift, activated by some sensor when the car was in the right place. Might be best to have it remote controlled from the car itself, for safety, with a cutout switch nearby, in case dad’s fixing the chain and the motor somehow starts up.

      Anyway those are my suggestions. Apart from that, goes without saying that all backyard rollercoasters are crescent fresh! I’d love to have a dad like that!

  2. My father built a sortof rollercoaster when he was a kid. I say sortof becausecI I don’t know how elaborare it was. One of the results of the project was a broken arm. He was a maker when it was called it DIY.

  3. Grey pvc for elec conduit is uv protected. Otherwise, most any paint works. But black or dark colors could soften it (sun, IR) and allow dangerous slop, perhaps. Make a roller coasre track for motorcycles, ok… but a regular one? No. Almost lost myself and a son when part of one dropped a thick sheet of plywood. Beyond scary.

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