While I’ve been a fan of roller coasters for close to twenty years, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on how they work and how they’re designed. I’ve studied construction photos and viewed roller coaster documentaries like the next coaster fan, but that doesn’t begin to really get into how these modern thrill machines are born.
Thankfully, Nick Weisenberger’s new book Coasters 101 – An Engineer’s Guide to Roller Coaster Design can help you upgrade your knowledge. I was provided a copy of the book for this review. Just out, is the updated 3rd edition that’s double the size of earlier editions. It includes photos and very recent examples and mentions of coasters like GateKeeper.
Grounding Our Wild Dreams in Reality
I love how Nick describes roller coasters as three-dimensional puzzles. Riders often take roller coasters for granted. After learning about all that’s involved in the planning process as well as the many design considerations and constraints, I have a much better appreciation for what today’s engineering heroes are able to pull off. After reading Coasters 101, I think you’ll understand: why a roller coaster has a certain number of loops, (only) achieves a certain top speed, and doesn’t reach the level of insanity of another coaster or one of your Roller Coaster Tycoon creations. The designers at Bolliger & Mabillard, Intamin, The Gravity Group, Great Coasters, & the other great companies out there are engingeers (not gods) that have to work within many defined parameters.
As you might expect in a book with this title, Nick covers the topic of roller coasters exhaustively. Just a few topics include: coaster classifications, common elements, vehicle design, wheel materials, friction, and amusement industry safety standards including inspections and restraints. He goes into the physics behind how roller coasters work including kinetic and potential energy and even includes detailed equations. He also gives us insight into the popular design trend of the day, 4D roller coasters.
Roller Coaster Design Career Advice
Quite often, I’ll see questions from people who are interested in getting into the roller coaster design field. It’s great that Nick included a section with some advice. Like armchair quarterbacks in sports, there are millions of us coaster fans that design them for fun on our computers, but if you really want to pursue the ride engineer profession, Nick’s got some good advice.
My Take: A Detailed & Easy to Read Book on Roller Coaster Design
Whether you’re looking to get into the amusement industry as a career or you’d just like to know more than the next coaster geek, Coasters 101 is a great book. I would even think that non-technical amusement professionals would benefit from this knowledge. Nick did a great job of covering a complex topic in a thorough way, with plain and easy to understand language.
I’d also like to point everyone to Nick’s great website by the same name: Coasters 101. When I recieve technical questions I often point people to Nick and his great site. For years, they’ve been covering the industry with fun and informative posts.
Have you checked out Nick’s book? Leave a comment below.