Q. Can you help me or put up instructions on how to build a model like yours?
A. At one point the materials I used were readily available. Sadly, the HO scale wheels that are used for the upstop/guide wheels are no longer produced, anywhere. Without these, it is very difficult to make a working model like mine. The truth is, it's pretty complicated. And it can be expensive. When I did have the tutorials up, I got inundated with questions to the point where all I was doing was answering questions and trying to help people locate supplies. I simply no longer have all the time to devote to helping people with questions or in finding supplies.
Q. How you get into building model roller coasters?
A. My earliest coasters were not working models at all. For my birthday one year as a child, my late Grandmother built a non-working, small paper roller coaster that she intended to put on my birthday cake. So I guess actually, we can blame her! She didn't use it, but she did give it to me. I was intrigued. I built a similar paper model soon after at school. My classmates were intrigued and I was hooked.
Soon after in 1978, I rode my first looping coaster, the Shock Wave at Six Flags Over Texas. I was blown away. Shortly after my visit, I built a model of it out of notebook paper and used a bulletin board for its base. I played with my model for hours on end.
As time went on I built several models out of poster board and used balsa wood for the supports. I couldn't figure out how to make them work, but they were fun to build and "play" with. I built my first working model in the early 1990's. It was large and used HO scale wheels for the road wheels, rollers for the side friction wheels and N scale wheels for the up stops. It worked okay, but the up stop wheels didn't roll well at all, so inversions had to have a lot of speed to work. I used poster board for the track and aluminum tubing for the back bone support for the track. It didn't have a working lift, so I pushed it up the lift.
One day while experimenting, I got to looking at the up stop configuration. Then it hit me, why not use the rollers at about a 45-degree angle to guide the cars and keep it on the track at the same time? I tried different wheels, but the cars constantly slipped off the track. Frustrated I gave up on the design. Then I saw a picture of the first generation Schwarzkopf coasters from the Great American Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It used a similar system that I was trying to incorporate into my working models.
I again was experimenting one day and got to looking at a HO freight truck and realized the wheels on each axle slid on and stayed in place via friction. I pulled them off and then it hit me. Flip the wheels over and slide them together and you have a wheel with an outer flange on the top and bottom. I threw a set together and then attached them to a set of road wheels. It worked! I built a few small coasters, but often, the wheels would slip off the track in an inversion or steep drop. The paper needed to be just a bit thicker I thought and then the cars wouldn't slip off.
Buying supplies for my latest coaster one day I noticed some clear 6 X 12-inch plastic sheets. They were thicker than paper. I bought one to test my theory. I cut a one-inch-wide strip to use as a track. I adjusted the side friction/up stop wheels to fit. It worked perfectly! Though I wasn't thrilled about having a see-through track and a joint every foot. A few days later I was talking to a friend about it and he told me to look into buying styrene plastic. So I headed to my local plastic shop with a piece of my track. I told them I was looking for plastic that was as thick as my piece of track, but I wanted a solid color. They asked how thick my track was, to which I replied I had no idea. The got out their handy thickness gauge and I soon discovered that my track was .030 mils thick. They explained about white styrene plastic that came in 4 X 8 foot sheets and was fairly economical. Excited I bought a sheet and went home building my first large scale multi-loop model, "Big Red". I was up all night working on it. I discovered wooden dowels were less expensive than balsa around this time too.
Big Red was just over 4 feet tall and featured a large over banked turn, vertical loop with a single inter-locking corkscrew, a couple of small camel backs and a partially tunneled helix finale.
Q. What scale are your models built in?
A. There are two scales. Most of my models until recently are O scale or 1:48 scale. That is, 1 inch equals 4 feet in the model. Also known as quarter scale, as a quarter of an inch equals one foot. Recently I have also started building G scale or 1:24 models. With this scale ½ inch equals one fool.
Q. How much does it cost to make a model similar to yours?
A. The price varies. The larger the model, the more it will cost. It also depends on if you have the basic supplies like a glue gun, etc. If you want to build the Stinger model in the tutorial and you have to buy everything it will cost you around $50.00 US. Once you have a train built, which is one of the more expensive items, you can reuse it on another model. The only other thing that is a large cost factor is the motor and chain. Though the parts aren't outrageous, you can reuse it on other models or get new ones.
Q. Will you build me a working model? Do you sell your models?
A. I only will sell my models to institutions such as Museums and Science Centers. I do not sell the models to the general public. For one, they require training so that regular maintenance and occasional repairs can be made without my help. If you are with a Museum or Science Center, contact me at email@example.com with your contact information and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Q. What do you do with all your models?
A. My friend Rene was horrified to hear that I take them apart. I only have so much room in my roller coaster room. I do however plan on making a few of them transportable and will keep those after they are built.
Q. Will you post a link to my related roller coaster model site?
A. Definitely! I just ask that you do the same for me. Send me an email with your link to firstname.lastname@example.org.