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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Ya'll,

I'm wondering if anyone has ever attempted a working roller coaster prop. I was doing some research on the forum, and saw that someone had done a static one with a photo op, which looked really cool. I've always been fascinated by some of the DIY backyard rollercoasters, but the engineering looked to be a little bit suspect on some of them for actual humans, but I was thinking that maybe for a haunt, it would require less concern about someone actually becoming a dismembered corpse!



My idea is to do a 1/2 inch pvc track, which is relatively bendable, and either do a straight track where the car and occupant come down being triggered and use a motor to reset it, or have a complete track where it will be triggered and go around once and reset. Both would have an arduino scenario with sound and lighting cues. As of now, I'm leaning towards the complete track.
So far, I have a basic wheel design using 3/4 inch pvc, roller skate wheels, and some other mini u-wheels to guide the side and undercarriage. Each wheel assembly is independent so it (in theory) should be able to glide freely on the track. I loosely based it on the Coaster Dads version, which seems to work very well for actual humans. My plan is to have a skeleton in the car or some other type of prop.
If anyone has tried this, I would be grateful on any tips or pitfalls, or if anyone here has any ideas/advice on the mechanics, I'm open for suggestions. I'm still in the planning stages, so my plan is to try to do a mock up of 10 or 20 feet of track to check proof of concept.
I'll try to post pics/progress here as I go. I've added a pic of my wheel design. I've since upgraded the wheels to wider skating wheels, which are flat instead of curved. The bolt at the top will have a plastic washer and go into the frame of the coaster car (a wheel assembly will be at each corner), which for now I'm making out of pvc, since it's way easier to do a mock up. I might end up doing the final version out of wood, depending on whether or not pvc will work.
I really like this forum, there are so many great resources for Halloween haunting!
The Coaster Dad project article
Thanks!

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Ok, slow but steady progress! More than a mock up now as far as the wheel system goes. After my initial mock up, I decided to pull the trigger on the pvc wheel structure and glue them together. Not too hard, but trying to keep everything lined up is tough, the glue drys very quickly, so there is not much room for error there. I still have a little more assembly on the other 3 wheel bases, but almost there.

As for now, I'm keeping the basic frame of the Ghost-O-Coaster pvc, but I might end up doing it in 2 x 4s eventually, depending on how much weight I'll need to get the coaster from the top of the peak of the starting point to the bottom of the lift. Also drilling into the pvc is rough, but I figured out if I drill a regular drywall screw in first, it helps to have that as a pilot hole. Probably re-inventing the wheel here, as I know a lot of people use pvc structures here for haunts, but I thought about that after I figured it out.

Getting a little ahead of myself, but I'm working up an arduino routine and some scary roller coaster sound effects. Been researching the Octobanger scenario, and I have most of the parts and pieces ready to go for that. I was surprised how cheap the hardware was on Ebay. Hopefully I can get it all figured out. So far it's sounding pretty cool. I'll keep updating this as things progress. Going to try to do a mock up of the track this week depending on the impending Hurricane.
Check ya'll later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Very cool! My plan was not to do anything that long track wise, but I'm glad to see that it can be done and proof of concept and then some!
Thanks so much for the link. The track seems pretty straight forward, but I'm going to have to check out the lift system they used, that's going to be the part that I need to figure out. I was hoping not to have to use a chain, and was thinking of some type of conveyor belt system with maybe blocks of wood/pvc or something attached to that system to lift up the car.

Also I was thinking of using a 12v lock mechanism to use to stop the car at the top of the hill. Maybe have a spring to keep it in the "open" position to keep the car from moving forward at the top. I can then use a motion sensor to trigger my arduino program with sound, lights, and sending the car on it's way by triggering the lock mechanism. That's what I have at least on paper for now.

I was chatting with my brother last night and he was very excited about the project. He's a programmer for a robotics company, and mastered the arduino programming and will help me with the programming of the routine if it gets too complicated. We did a working Zoltar machine for Mardi Gras with a dual mp3 routines with different words of wisdom, Zoltar moving, and spitting out a ticket. It was a lot of work, but he was able to figure it out. We ended up constructing the ticket mechanism with some Lego wheels and a step motor. I'll try to post a video, might be able to reuse that prop now that I think about it! But I digress!
Thanks again for the link! I'll post progress as it happens.
 

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Sorry, dumb question. Are you thinking of having people ride on PVC wheel supports and track system, or are you putting something together for use with props, skeletons, and such? I read through the thread and didn't see specific mention of your intent, but that you've seen were suspect for use for humans. Is that your goal? To have people riding on a Halloween themed roller-coaster made of PVC piping?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Both great questions actually! The track would have a wood pieces holding the pvc.The way the wheels line up, they only cover the top, side, and bottom of the cart. A lot of backyard coasters use this design (see attached)
737221
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Human rider on pvc would definitely be under engineered, and I'm sure my homeowners would flip out at that idea, (but could make for a realistic death scene for my haunt!), I should have clarified that. Thanks for keeping me honest.
My goal is to have a ghoul or skeleton, maybe on a spring or something so that it will flail wildly as it cruises around. Heck, I might even try animating it somehow with a battery powered arduino scenario. I've got a lot of extra time since my industry is hurting due to Covid, so I'll be able to try different configurations hopefully.
Still in the planning stage right now, but I'm definitely up for some suggestions and any creative ideas ya'll might have. After seeing the track from the home haunt listed above, I might have to make it longer. The great thing about pvc is that it is so cheap, it just will probably be time consuming. I'm really hoping I can make it work with 1/2 inch pvc since it is a LOT easier to bend. We will see! I've been checking out some backyard coater sites for inspiration Coaster 101, and Will Pemble, who has a really in depth video blog of his project. Will Pemble
 

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OH nice! A roller ghoster!
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I was thinking also about maybe checking out pex tubing for the track. It's definitley more flexible, but I'll probably need more support framing depending. I also won't have to worry about as many connections, and pex has cheap plastic connectors to put them together. It's probably only going to be 5 to 10 or so pounds if I use pvc as my car plus my ghoul. $30 for a 100ft of 1/2 inch pipe at home depot. Even if I go a little larger like 3/4 it's only $40 per 100 ft. Definitely a possibility. Might go to Home Depot to grab a small amount to test in the backyard today. More to come! Pex
 

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Had you checked out the landscape irrigation pipe? I ask because it comes in massively long rolls (saves you money on connectors), its already curved since you buy it in a giant roll, and it's black so it looks spooky without needing to be painted. You could faux-rust it with some rusty Krylon colors, probably, if you wanted it to look like the dead passenger was in even more danger. Just a thought, it sounds like a huge (but very cool) project.
 

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Have you seen how most mobile carnival rides, including their roller coasters, are propelled? They have powered tires between the rails that move the carts along as they roll over the top of them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Had you checked out the landscape irrigation pipe? I ask because it comes in massively long rolls (saves you money on connectors), its already curved since you buy it in a giant roll, and it's black so it looks spooky without needing to be painted. You could faux-rust it with some rusty Krylon colors, probably, if you wanted it to look like the dead passenger was in even more danger. Just a thought, it sounds like a huge (but very cool) project.
It's funny, I was at Home Depot yesterday and was this close to buying the landscape pipe! It was almost a game time decision, and at 100ft for $20 or so bucks, definitely won't break the bank. I actually saw that it was black and I figured that would be a lot less work than painting the track. Good call!

I'm still on proof of concept right now, so I got some 1/2 inch of the far cheaper and thinner hose that you use for drip irrigation and garden watering along with some 10 foot pieces of pine for the center pieces. I'll use it for testing only, and it's very pliable. It was $5 for the tubing, and my plan is just to see if the cart will be able to roll on 1/2 inch properly with turns. I have a very short section of 1/2 inch pvc that I tested the other day, and I'm not sure if the cart will roll all that great on the smaller tubing. It seems that the smaller tubing might not be big enough to allow the wheels to pass without hitting the center support. It still rolls, but I'm thinking it will slow the cart down over a distance

Also, even with a smaller section, it's already drooping pretty significantly, even without that much weight. I know I'm going to have to support the track along the way, but I'm thinking with the thicker tubing or pvc 3/4 inch (that is what most backyard coasters use), it will require less support along the track, and it won't hit the center piece. Also, due to covid, wood prices are a lot higher. I figure having to get the bigger pvc/hose/ or pex still might be cheaper than having to get as much wood for supporting the track. I have a buddy that does a lot of flips, and he said he has some extra pex, so I might try to see if I can get some from him. Definitely on a budget this year, so free is all me!


Screaming D, yes, I thought about the wheel thing initially as far as moving the coaster up the hill, but I was thinking that I'd need a bunch of wheels and have to chain them all together somehow, and my initial impression was that it might be too hard to finagle. Maybe I'll try to revisit that. The conveyor thing seemed simpler, but haven't gotten that far yet.

Thanks for bringing that up, it's worth a second look. I got a few motors from American Science and Surplus. BTW, they have some super cheap prices on random motors and surplus medical pumps and weird devices, definitely worth taking a look, although not sure what some of the items could be used for, but I'm sure you guys can find something!), including this car seat motor for $5 (this one spins pretty fast, not sure it's going to work for this project, but might be able to reduce the voltage to regulate the speed) and a Car seat motor for $12 which is the one I will probably use. I might have to brainstorm some ideas. The window motor has a high torque and slower speed, so I might end up using that for whatever I decide.
Glad I got a head start on this, looks like I'm going to need it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Coaster Update: So weather has been pretty bad here the last few days, and had some work around the house, so sorry for not updating this sooner. Initially, my original concept looked like it was a complete fail because I was connecting to the wheels from the top to the pvc structure which would become my RC car, and the wheels kept binding on the small pvc track I was using for my first test scenario. I was getting ready to start all over, then I did a bit more research and noticed that a lot of the backyard coasters connected via a bar in the middle to the wheels. I did a quick mock up with a piece of wood in the middle as a bar, and whalla, it worked.

I strung some of the $5 1/2 inch garden watering tubing from my fence to a ladder for testing (see video), and for the most part, it worked. The tubing wasn't very rigid, so I'll probably move to the landscape tubing and work with that for some of the turns, and pvc for the straight pieces. The pvc is way more sturdy and will require less bracing as well. I'll work on another test this week.




Phase 1 proof of concept on test track
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So have made a little more progress (if anyone is interested!) on the wheel assembly. Went a little bit back to the drawing board and made my assembly out of metal intstead of pvc. Actually took way less time, the metal L pieces have holes, and make for a pretty easy manipulation. I went back and looked at the design of the backyard roller coaster experts, and realized I had made an error in my design.

The front wheels need to be able to tilt front to back and side to side (yaw) in order to move along a curved track, and I didn't have that in my initial design (reinventing the wheel again!).
Also the bar that connects the two front wheels needed to be solid so there is no movement between the two front wheels.

Also the 1/2 inch pvc looks like it will work, but I either have to drill holes to recess the screws so the wheels don't hit them, or move them out of the way of the wheel. Otherwise, it works pretty good on at least the finagled together straight test track. Will definitely have to solidify the track with ties every few feet, but I believe this will work with the 1/2 inch track. Unfortunately the landscape tubing is smaller than the pvc by a little bit, and I'm not sure if they will both work together. I might try to see if I can still incorporate that into the build, but we'll have to see if that will work.

The plus and minus of the 1/2 inch is that it bends easier for the curve, but that I'll have to support it with bracing at shorter intervals. I think this will be a trade off I can live with, because bending the thicker tubing looks like it will be a pain. Coaster test 2 I've attached a video to show the new design. I'll have a little more time this week to mess around with it. Baby steps!
 

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So have made a little more progress (if anyone is interested!) on the wheel assembly. Went a little bit back to the drawing board and made my assembly out of metal intstead of pvc. Actually took way less time, the metal L pieces have holes, and make for a pretty easy manipulation. I went back and looked at the design of the backyard roller coaster experts, and realized I had made an error in my design.

The front wheels need to be able to tilt front to back and side to side (yaw) in order to move along a curved track, and I didn't have that in my initial design (reinventing the wheel again!).
Also the bar that connects the two front wheels needed to be solid so there is no movement between the two front wheels.

Also the 1/2 inch pvc looks like it will work, but I either have to drill holes to recess the screws so the wheels don't hit them, or move them out of the way of the wheel. Otherwise, it works pretty good on at least the finagled together straight test track. Will definitely have to solidify the track with ties every few feet, but I believe this will work with the 1/2 inch track. Unfortunately the landscape tubing is smaller than the pvc by a little bit, and I'm not sure if they will both work together. I might try to see if I can still incorporate that into the build, but we'll have to see if that will work.

The plus and minus of the 1/2 inch is that it bends easier for the curve, but that I'll have to support it with bracing at shorter intervals. I think this will be a trade off I can live with, because bending the thicker tubing looks like it will be a pain. Coaster test 2 I've attached a video to show the new design. I'll have a little more time this week to mess around with it. Baby steps!
For the ties, could you pre drill the outside pvc, to allow the screw to set inside the pipe, would eliminate the need to move and avoid it getting snagged...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
DQ13, thanks for that advice, countersinking the screw is for sure the way to go.
I've had a few days to mess around with the types of track, and it looks like the pvc is the clear winner, and unfortunately, the new metal design keeps getting caught up on the track as it moves from a high to a lower point in the track, so I've gone back to the pvc for now. Had some success with the pvc wheel assembly and just a piece of wood holding them together on top and no yaw rotation. Might have been over thinking it (as I often do!). Going around the bend of a track, it seems like if I make the track ties a little smaller, they go around pretty smoothly. So far, I've just been using one set of wheels, so who knows if this is going to work once I add another set of wheels and my coaster car/occupant). I'm figuring that if I can at least get a large piece of track to test, it might be easier to test my car design, although my failures go on full display to the whole neighborhood. I'm used to that, after all, my axe-worthy ghost started out as epic failure one after the other for about a month, so I'm not so worried about failure. This is definitely becoming a time sucker, but I'm figuring worst case, I can make it work on a short section of track or a static display, but haven't gotten there yet, gonna exhaust all other options before I admit failure. That's how I roll. Going to start setting up the track in the front yard to get that going, and to see how it will affect the rest of my display. Good thing is that my neighbor is cool with me using part of her lawn to extend my display.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Ok, so took the track to the front yard and had some luck with getting the track up and running with at least one set of wheels. I found the key is to pre bend the pvc overnight by bending it and holding it in place using my fence, it made it a lot easier to manipulate. We had great weather yesterday, so it was a perfect day to be outside and get aggravated with this project. After a bunch of trial and error, I got it to work. I ended up using the black landscape tubing directly underneath the pvc to hold the ties in place. I'll try to add some still pics later to show it. As of right now, I have a hodge podge of items like trash cans, boxes etc to hold it up, but I got some free wood from my buddy who just got finished building an outdoor theater/bar, total score. I've also deciced to use L-brackets from the inside of the track screwed to small sheets of wood to hold the track in place on the curves, and where the pvc pipes come together. I found some pvc connectors online that fit pretty tight, but still tend to want to come apart when bended. I didn't want to glue them together because I want to be able to take them apart and store them after Halloween.



I'm still trying to figure a lift system, conveyor belt with pieces of wood to pull it up, maybe a screw type mechanism that spins that could somehow bring it up? I'm open to any suggestions. I'm thinking the simpler the better. Gonna try to finish the track today, I put a big brick in place to hold down where the lift will go so the pvc will keep the shape. I have a heat gun I can use to try to bend the pvc if I want, but I saw from the backyard coaster guys that it tends to warp the pvc, and my pvc is a lot smaller than theirs at 1/2 inches.

A lot of neighbors seemed to be excited about it coming together and got a lot of great feedback. As a plus, my son has a project that he needs to do about physics, and this fits the bill.

Super sore today from having to manipulate the pvc and drilling, but the end result is worth it.


3/4 track test This is actually from an early test, and as you can see it gets hung up on the top curve. I've since made that curve area a little tighter with strapping so it can more easily turn without binding. I also figured that once I get my full car set up, if I need more speed, I can raise up the track higher in the first 1/2 of the track.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Update to my blog for my epic Ghost0coaster, and by epic, I mean it will either be an epic fail, or a glorious victory, or maybe somewhere in between. This thing has turned into a monster project.


Got the track complete, and man, this project makes my Axeworthy flying ghost look like a walk in the park! Tons of tweaking involved. As you move one part of the track, the other part goes out of wack. I had to finagle the skate wheels so that they are staggered, since as the track turns, it gets shorter or wider at different points.

Not sure if anyone has used pvc as a track for a prop, but when it's completely straight, it makes a very smooth motion. The curved wheels I got worked great. I can imagine a rushing ghost on motorized wheels etc. A lot of potential ideas.

I now need to support the track at key spots to bear the weight of the car, which I still haven't had a huge amount of success with yet. The track is not very forgiving, and it tends to bind up easily still. I might need to bite the bullet and custom cut plywood for the parts of the track in the air that go from the top to the straightaway. The track really needs to be exactly the same the whole way down, otherwise the wheels bind. We'll see.
Here is what I have so far. A little janky, but functional. Once the track is painted and decorated, it will look a lot better. Still need to work on my arduino program and the lift system. I've had a suggestion to maybe use a rope with some knots in it for the lift system, and so far that seems to be the best idea. A conveyor belt system is running a close second, but I'll check the rope idea since I already have some pulleys left over from my Axworthy project a few years back.

Lot's of great interest by the neighbors and tons of cars slowing down to check out my Frankenstein project. I've set the bar high, hopefully I can bring this idea to fruition. Super sore from all the drilling, haven't used some of these muscles maybe ever? Not a spring chicken anymore, but going to muddle through as best I can. Thanks again for the help!

Here's a video of what I have so far, sorry for the crappy camera work.
Finished track, phase 149
 
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