On the Wild Side

by David Elvin, Freelancer; Amherst, MA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1999, Vol. 69, Issue 11, Pg. 46-51

Document Type: Feature article


Designers of today's roller coasters are constantly looking for new ways to exhilarate riders, from higher drops to tighter turns to launch mechanisms that exert more force on passengers than the space shuttle does on astronauts. Despite these breathtaking advances, much of the structural engineering that supports the steel or wooden rides remains the same. For steel coasters, box girders, not the tracks, carry the weight of the structure plus the moving cars, and the welding is critical. For wood coasters, engineers are still debating how to measure and account for the many forces placed on riders.

Subject Headings: Steel structures | Light rail transit | Wood and wood products | Wood structures | Welding | Structural steel | Structural engineering

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