The thrill of a roller coaster has always been found in the experience of blasting over the rails in an open car with sharp banking turns, loops, and incredible speeds. Traditional roller coasters use a combination of potential and kinetic energy to sling riders over a track system and to keep the momentum going. Chain lift systems elevate the cars up to the highest peaks, and gravity does the rest, driving riders through corkscrews and around wicked bends. As could be assumed, any reduction of friction makes a roller coaster system more efficient, which has led to an evolution in wheel and rail technology. From all-wood, to metal, to modern polyurethane wheels on steel tubular rails, every new development leads to a faster, smoother ride. But what if there was no friction at all? What if there were no rails or wheels? What if the cars were propelled with magnets?
The conversation began between Olivier Peraldi and me. Following the success of the Daredevil concept we started brainstorming on roller coasters ideas. Olivier wanted to give thrill seekers an entirely new experience, full of dramatic changes, new sensations, and previously impossible freefalls. We decided to cast aside every typical convention and look for a completely new angle. We threw away the orthodox roller coaster cars and asked, “What if the car weren’t cars at all? What would happen if the riders were literally propelled clear of the tracks? The Pinball coaster was born.
How it works
While there are no bumpers to collide off of, the experience of the Pinball coaster is very much like those iconic steel balls rolling along tracks and through the chutes within the machines. The open top car has been replaced with a sphere that houses three passengers, all securely strapped into a safety seat complete with a pull-down padded restraint similar to conventional roller coaster rides. The passengers would be arranged so that they faced toward the centre of the sphere with no other passengers directly in front of them to obstruct their view. Gyroscopic technology would allow the sphere to roll freely while keeping the action within to an exciting but manageable level. The sphere would then be unencumbered while the passengers would not be exposed to a dangerous level of g-force.
In the shell of the sphere would be strategically placed super magnets in stripes that would correspond with the location of the seats. This would limit any unnecessary obstructions of the rider’s view. The magnets would be the key to launching, lifting, and slowing the sphere as it rolls its way around the track. The track itself would resemble a waterslide, utilizing a combination of high-sided portions, tubes, and fully open portions depending on the feature being performed. Every measure will be taken to ensure that the spheres only travel on the desired path and that there are no unplanned departures with the path.
The track would begin much in the same way as a pinball machine, propelling the sphere like a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier. The magnets located in the track would accelerate the sphere at a safe but exciting rate on a short straightaway and up a three-tiered corkscrew, steadily gaining speed as it climbed. At the top of the corkscrew, the sphere would be lifted up a vertical tower where it would be released on the other side to descend though a controlled freefall and into a funnel decorated with bright lights. Magnets would work as airbrakes, slowing the sphere to a safe speed as the riders dove underground where they will again be launched up a steady ramp. At the top of the ramp, the sphere would temporarily leave the track as it jumped into a second, and much larger funnel. The sphere would round the funnel and eventually slip through the centre hole.
This jump would be the central attraction of the ride, advertised at the ultimate in extreme rider experiences. The magnetic propulsion system would mean the ability to drive the sphere to the same spot, at the same rate, with precision consistency, time and time again. The ride would then finish with a loop before returning to the beginning for a new set of passengers.
The sphere is currently designed to be 1.9 meters wide with a track that at an even 2 meters across. The majority of the track would be tubular with an open top, creating a concave shape that would maintain the sphere within the designed track area. Multiple magnetic rails within the track would push the sphere, keeping it on the prescribed path and ensuring the desired speed. In the event of an emergency, the magnets would be used to slow the sphere to a stop and hold it securely in place. When moving, the sphere itself would not come in contact with the track. The magnetic field created would elevate the car slightly, and the magnet tracks would push it along through the air. Zero friction. Absolute control.
What it’s used for
Not only is this design the natural evolution of the roller coaster, this is the beginning of an entirely new rider experience. The cushion-soft ride and incredible speed combined with features including flight, free fall, underground tunnels, and heart-racing turns and loops will give riders an experience more incredible than they could have imagined possible. This is not just an amusement ride. The Pinball Roller Coaster is the experience attendees have been dreaming of.
I would like to thank Olivier Peraldi who proposed this idea to me. I would also like to thank Adolfo Esquivel for the incredible renderings of the Pinball. Adolfo earned an Industrial design degree from Colombia and completed a postgraduate study on events design at the the UQAM in Montreal. He works as a Senior Industrial Designer for Geico Design. –Adolfo also created the design of the Sea-Bull wake surf boat concept.