How to Choose a Roller Coaster System and the Role of Hydraulics?

How to Choose a Roller Coaster System and the Role of Hydraulics?

As it is known to all, the roller coaster’s mechanical system can keep the passengers safe and make them have fun. So, choosing the right system is an extremely important decision. Different types of systems control the different kinds of safety equipment start and stop. No matter what the roller coaster manufacturers or the outdoor theme amusement park owners all need a system that will run a safe and efficient ride design.

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In order to choose which mechanism can work best in the roller coaster, it’s very helpful to know what hydraulic systems do in the roller coaster and how they work. It also helps to understand the rest of the roller coaster and how it works as a whole. Then, let’s talk about the roller coaster working principle.

How Does Roller Coaster System Work?

View from afar, a roller coaster is similar to a passenger train ride, but not the same. Both of them are consist of a series of connected passenger cabins that move on tracks. But the roller coaster is not a passenger train. After all, roller coasters have no engine or power source of their own. So, how do roller coasters work?

For most of the time, to build up this momentum, the roller coaster train has to get to the top of the first zenith (Lift hill) or get a powerful push launch. It is based on the mechanical energy physics theory and some certain forces keep it moving, like Gravity, Inertia. Gravity plays a huge part in roller coaster physics. Before we explain the roller coaster working principle, we should know about the roller coaster components.

Parts of a Roller Coaster

The construction of a roller coaster can vary depending on what type it is. There are steel and wooden roller coasters that feature different elements throughout the ride, depending on the design. These various roller coaster designs still rely on physics and mechanical systems to keep them moving.

Lift Hill

A lift hill is often the initial upward section of track on a typical roller coaster that initially transports the roller coaster train to an elevated point. Upon reaching the top, the roller coaster train is then disengaged from the lift hill and allowed to coast through the rest of the roller coaster’s track.

Chain Lift

Most trains get to the first lift hill is via a long chain (or chains) running up the hill under the track. The chain is fastened in a loop that is wound around a gear at the top of the hill and another gear at the bottom of the hill. The gear at the bottom of the hill is turned by a simple motor. You would always hear a roller coaster train making the “clack-clack-clack” sound as it climbs up to the lift hill. Once the roller coaster cars reach the summit, the chain dogs would release and the roller coaster train starts its descent down the hill. Then, screaming rang through the air.

Banked Turn

A banked turn is when the track twists from the horizontal plane into the vertical plane, tipping the train to the side in the direction of the turn. When a banked turn continues to create an upward or downward spiral of approximately 360 degrees or more, it becomes a helix.

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A roller coaster train describes the vehicle(s) which transports passengers around a roller coaster’s circuit. More specifically, a roller coaster train is made up of two or more “cars” which are connected by some sort of specialized universal joint. The connected vehicle is called a roller coaster. Individual cars vary in design, often carrying multiple passengers each.

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Drive Tire

A drive tire is essentially a motorized tire used to propel a roller coaster train along a piece of track. Although they are most often used in station areas and brake runs, they can also be used to launch trains at greater speeds. Drive tires are also used to power other types of amusement rides, such as Ferris wheels, Pirate Ships, and other spinning rides.

The Brakes

Like the passenger train, a roller coaster also needs a brake system so that it can stop precisely at the end of the ride or in an emergency. In many roller coasters, there are also spots along the track where the train is slowed or stopped deliberately. This can be for safety reasons. Track designers may also choose to slow down the train through a certain part of the ride to help build suspense for the riders.

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Hills, turns, and other features use physical forces applied to a roller coaster to offer riders an exciting journey. Natural forces on a roller coaster help slow it down to build riders’ tension and then send them gliding down the tracks again. In those cases, roller coasters are using potential and kinetic energy to keep moving. Potential energy builds up as the roller coaster car climbs the track, and it releases kinetic energy as it glides down to the hills. All of these forces on a roller coaster mean that the roller coaster train itself doesn’t need an engine to run.

Engineers must harness these forces in safe ways. A roller coaster will maintain speed or accelerate down hills and around curves depending on its design. The rule is going up hills decreases the speed, making for fluctuating acceleration. So, the roller coaster car will not pass certain speeds while heading into turns or hills according to the designed safety rule. These fluctuations can make a ride both exciting and safer. Under those cases, the design and certain parts of a roller coaster are crucial. They have to keep riders safe on their journey.

Roller Coaster System Working Principle

Roller Coaster Safety

There’s been a lot of concern that the ever-increasing size and speed of coasters, the steeper plunges, and the more violent turns were causing brain injuries.

But after studying safety data, the experts concluded that in terms of annual injuries, roller coasters are actually safer than children’s wagons or even folding lawn chairs.

According to an examination of data from 167 roller coasters study said while the rides’ top speeds and heights have increased, G-forces sustained by riders have remained about the same because of improvements in design. 

Many components we’ve listed above serve to keep riders safe, but passengers don’t interact with those components. Instead, they see safety features like harnesses and seat belts. These keep riders secure in their seats at launch, throughout the journey, and until it’s time to exit the ride.

The restraint bars on a roller coaster keep riders secure. Whether they are lap or shoulder bars, they need a reliable mechanism to lock them in place and unlock them once the ride is over. Roller coaster safety features may use: 

  • Mechanical systems
  • Hydraulic systems
  • A combination of mechanical and hydraulic technologies

No matter how many safety mechanisms a roller coaster uses, it must function well. Depending on the construction of the ride, a car may have multiple security devices. Roller coasters with extreme twists and turns or upside-down loops require more secure harnesses.

Amusement Ride Safety Tips

  1. To stay safe on amusement rides, follow these safety tips:
  2. Always follow all posted height, age, weight and health restrictions.
  3. Make sure to follow any special seating order and/or loading instructions.
  4. Always use safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars.
  5. Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
  6. Know your child. If you don’t think he/she will be able to follow the rules, keep him/her off the ride.
  7. Trust your instincts. If you are worried about the safety of the ride, choose a different activity.
  8. Avoid “mall rides” if they are over a hard, unpadded surface or if they don’t have a child restraint such as a seat belt.

Roller Coaster Launch Systems

It’s one of the most thrilling parts of a roller coaster ride — the launch. Launch systems give riders a boost before the rest of their exciting journey. There isn’t just one type of roller coaster launch system because different roller coaster design requires different launch equipment. The right system for a roller coaster depends on how fast the ride launches, the amount of space for the equipment, and other factors. Different types of launch equipment include:

  • Electromagnet
  • Hydraulic
  • Pneumatic
  • Flywheel
  • Catapult
  • Friction wheel

Every system operates differently with varying results. The last three systems — flywheel, catapult, and friction wheel— are the least common varieties of roller coaster launch systems. They are less common choices because they tend to use more energy than the other three options. Roller coaster engineers also do not use them as often as other varieties systems because they require a lot of energy to operate. Besides, the power that they do create is not considered efficient. The ratio between the powers they need and what they provide does not make them the best roller coaster systems out there.

So, narrow down your choices by comparing pneumatic, hydraulic and electromagnetic roller coaster launch systems. How to Choose the Best System for a Roller Coaster

All of the systems above can be responsible for keeping riders safe, but you have to choose the best system for the roller coaster ride. So, when selecting a system for a roller coaster, please consider that:

  1. What is the budget will you spend on the roller coaster project?
  2. How large the space you have for your roller coaster?
  3. Does the roller coaster have any height limitations on the build?
  4. How fast the roller coaster would you like to launch the ride?
  5. How many and what the safety mechanisms would you like to adopt?
  6. How many seats will you prefer?

Although passengers’ safety is the top priority, it’s not the only consideration when designing, updating, or repairing a roller coaster. Think about the longevity of the product you choose and potential future repairs or replacements. Will the system you select always work for the ride? Will it be in the budget to conduct major repairs or replacements?
If you choose the right system, you’ll realize a high-quality product is an answer to how to prevent roller coaster accidents. Here are the two most common and useful drive systems for roller coaster pros and cons.

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Hydraulic Vs. Pneumatic Roller Coaster Launch Systems

Hydraulic Pros

  • Hydraulic system is faster and smoother in acceleration, especially compared to an electromagnetic system.
  • It is much better in energy conservation and emission reduction, and friendly to the environment.
  • It is quiet and no noise, and friendly to passengers.


  • Some designs have more moving parts than an electromagnetic system.

Pneumatic Pros

  • Pneumatic systems provide a constant acceleration


  • The loud noise they produce is a turn off for theme parks and guests.
  • With their loud noise comes less powerful propulsion.

Even though the pneumatic system functions similarly to a hydraulic one, and the primary difference between the two is that pneumatic launch systems replace nitrogen gas and hydraulic fluid with air. But for faster, smoother, and quieter acceleration, a hydraulic system may be your best option. Once you’ve chosen the type of system, you should also carefully consider the roller coaster manufacturer and the system manufacturer or the provider.

Avoiding Hydraulic Cylinder Failure

Selecting the right manufacturer for your machinery will help you avoid hydraulic cylinder failure. More moving parts in a mechanism means:

  • More parts to keep track of and get inspected
  • More parts to repair
  • More possibilities of damage or breakage

You can ensure that you avoid these issues with proper maintenance. Without the requisite maintenance, you could experience problems caused by:

  • Contaminated hydraulic fluid
  • Piston or seal damage
  • Pressure fluctuation
  • Poor operation

Issues with hydraulic systems will impact roller coaster safety. We suggest you should choose a high-quality, secure system and regularly maintain your mechanical systems. It can help you prevent unnecessary accidents.

Choose the Right Hydraulic System for Roller Coasters

Hydraulic components will be the best choice for the roller coaster, whether you use them in launch or safety systems. When choosing a hydraulic system for roller coasters, riders’ safety is the top priority. Since the actuator controls the movement of a system, we must choose the best one in the industry. So does the DAMO Group.

We work hard to create a system with unique fail-safe properties to ensure secure operation.