What to Know About Roller Coaster Brakes, Sensors, and Blocks

It’s been years since roller coasters used the original, simple design from 1864, when the first Roller Coaster was commissioned.

As more and more customers have flooded into parks worldwide, safety has become paramount.

Operators need to maintain a careful balance between throughput and safety and are required to comply with many rules and regulations. For these reasons, the importance of excellent brakes, sensors, and blocks cannot be understated.

What are Blocks and Sensors?

Roller coasters are divided up into sections called blocks. Each block is separated by a braking point. The blocks are designed to keep two trains from being in the same block at the same time.

Sensors work with the roller coaster block system to keep track of where each train is. These sensors, usually inductive, work off proximity. If, by some chance, two trains reach the same block at the same time, the sensors signal the brakes to stop the rearmost train.

How Roller Coaster Brakes Work

Whether you’re talking about wooden coasters or the more modern stainless-steel version, the basic concept is the same. Stopping a roller coaster relies mostly on friction applied at the right time and with the right force.

Roller coaster components work together to slow trains down at the right time and allow them to speed up again. Different styles of brake are used depending on what the situation demands.

Broadly speaking, roller coaster brakes fall into two categories – Trim and Block.

Trim brakes slow trains down but do not stop them – they “trim” speed from the train. A roller coaster block system stops trains, typically to stop them from impacting others at the station or entering a section that already has a train in it.

There are also several types of brakes that fall into these categories.

Fin Brakes

These brakes hang down over the rails of the track. They squeeze using a carefully controlled hydraulic system, closing on metal fins on the underside of the train. The friction caused gradually slows down the train.

Fin Brakes should be inspected daily. Inspections should ensure they are firmly fixed to the train and have a good braking surface.

Magnetic Brakes

These are usually made up of two rows of magnets that interact with a magnetic fin behind the train. The eddy forces generated push against the direction of the train, causing it to slow.

Due to the physics of the magnetic force, these brakes cannot be used to stop the train completely. This usually means that a fin brake is fitted alongside to halt the train completely.

Skid Brakes

You would expect to find skid brakes on an older roller coaster braking system. They use large ceramic plates that rise and push against the bottom of the track.

Their use has mostly fallen out of fashion over time, not being fitted to newly constructed systems.

Quality Safety Requires Quality Components

Coaster brakes and sensors are the lynchpins of safety when it comes to roller coasters. It’s important to ensure you’re performing regular maintenance and installing good quality components.

For all your requirements, don’t hesitate to contact us today, and our qualified sales personnel will get in touch to help you find exactly what you need.

Posted in Industrial Equipment.