The following Instructable is on how to build your own portable roller coaster for about $200 - it's easy.
If you have never seen a portable roller coaster before, so I created my own. It had to be easily built, assembled quickly by children and stowed away when not in use. This Instructable describes how I created mine and you will see just how easy it is to build.
What makes this device so unique is that it just happens to be a great source of entertainment for the children. There are a lot of small plastic coasters on the market but they are not much more than a 6' slide with a wheeled cart. This coaster does not need much of a slope because these ball bearing "V" rollers have Delrin which rides very well on PVC pipe. This happens to be a rather inexpensive alternative to some of the pricey camera dollies out there.
The only limiting factor is the amount of space and terrain to place the track. I have connected enough to make a 120' track and it could be any length with the right slope. Obviously, you would need to be mindful of the degree of slope or you will injure the children.
This is as safe as you make it out to be. If you place this on a severe slope you risk serious injury and I cannot be responsible for your actions. Please exercise caution. For all of the adults out there this device is blistering fast and you can seriously injure yourself.
We usually deploy this on weekends. It lays down in just a few minutes and we stow the PVC tubes on the side of the shed. The sled is stored indoors. We usually keep the internal couplers installed inside one of the ends of the PVC to speed-up the assembly.
If you would rather not mess with constructing this from scratch I have put together all of the parts in kit form. Tkit includes:
DIY Portable Roller Coaster (kit form)
This kit does include:
- This kit has all of the hardware required to inter-connect (12) 10 ft. sections of 1" PVC (not included) which will make 60' of track. Additional track can be added at anytime with additional couplers and pipe.
- (10) internal couplers (5) per side
- (4) wheeled cassettes (unassembled). To be mounted on wood panel or other suitable riding surface.
- (18) 1" x 2" PVC trim rails (pre-drilled). Use (3) rails per every10' section of PVC pipe.
This kit does not include:
- 1" schedule 40 PVC (local purchase)
- Wood for sled (local purchase)
Purchase complete kit here
Step 1: Internal Couplers
Here is how I went about it. First, purchase several 1” internal PVC couplers. These are quite affordable and remember you will need to buy them in pairs…they come in bags of 10. These are excellent for interconnecting the sections of PVC seamlessly.
Next, you will need to purchase 1” schedule 40 PVC pipe. The internal couplers fit inside of the 1 in. PVC pipe. You will need Schedule 40 PVC pipe, which has an outside diameter of 1-5/16" (1.315"). This pipe is readily available at the big box stores.
You will now need to locate some 1” x 2” pvc trim. Menards & Lowes carry a wide selection. This will serve as your cross pieces or “rail road ties”. It drills very easily and it has give, wood crossties will be a good substitute. There has to be some flex as the pipes snap into the holes. What is critical is the height that the pipe sets in the crosstie.
Step 2: Forstner Bit
You will now need a 1.25” forstner bit to drill the mounting holes into the cross braces.The purpose of the bit is to drill a 1.25" hole into a section of 1" x 2" PVC trim. The is most readily available at the big box stores.
Cut your PVC trim into 11.875” lengths, this will maximize the number of cuts out of an 8’ stick. Now it is time to drill the holes for the PVC pipe to snap into. This is the most critical step. The idea is to have just enough pipe to protrude from the top while still being held securely in place.
With a drill press, position the forstner bit over the cross brace so that the edge of the bit extends exactly 1” down. The PVC should "snap" in to the hole with just enough area on the top for the wheels to ride without striking the cross ties. The next step is to locate a good padded seat, sled or floor dolly to install your wheels on.
Step 3: "V" Channel Wheels and Channel
The wheels are Delrin “V” groove shaped and they ride on the top portion of the pipe, they just clear the crossties.
The “V” groove wheels are installed in pairs on a 4.5” aluminum channel. This build requires (4) of them, (2) on each side.
Step 4: Assembling Wheels
The general idea is to suspend 2 sets of Delrin “V” grove wheels in each section of the channel. The end result is to displace the weight evenly over the entire area of the sled. (explained later)
Each wheel assembly consists of the following:
· (2) “V” groove wheels # 615446
· (2) 6-32 tapped aluminum standoff # 633134
· (4) ¼” shaft & tubing spacer
· (4) 6-32 zinc socket screws
You will need to assemble (4) wheel assemblies. Lay a section of the channel on a clean work surface as shown in the photo below. Insert one of the 6-32 tapped spacers into the Delrin “V” groove wheel; it should protrude slightly beyond the wheel on each end. This space is where you will place the plastic shafting spacers. With a 6-32 socket screw attach the wheel to the channel; use the second to last hole on each end.
Listed above are the items I purchased from Servocity.
Step 5: Assembling Sled
Sled Build Material
This is one item that you have the most flexibility with. I have made a few versions but the simplest and most cost effective method is simply using a ¾” sheet of plywood. The dimensions should be at least 20” W x 36” L to ensure the passenger will have enough space to sit comfortably. I recommend passing the edge over a router and sanding it. I also recommend sealing with a varnish to encapsulate the wood. I spray mount a sheet of soft rubber on top. Also, a car dolly works well.
Mounting the wheels to the sled
Lay the sled so the bottom is exposed. Lay all (4) completed wheel assemblies on the sled and space them so that they look like the photo below. This is temporary.
The next step is to assemble one section of track by snapping (4) OVC cross rails onto (2) sections of pipe. This is what you will use to align the wheel assemblies to ensure they are aligned and rolling smoothly. It would much easier to have a couple of short sections for this test so that it can be done on top of a work bench.
When you are satisfies with the placement mark the position of the assemblies and remove the track and cross ties. Attach the wheel assemblies to the sled using ½” wood screws, (4) per assembly is sufficient.
Step 6: Laying Tracks and Assembling Coaster
Laying the track and cross ties
The track is assembled by sliding the 1" PVC pipes together using the internal couplers. First, lay the track in-place and then place the cross ties about 4' apart if the lawn is lush and soft. If the ground is compacted and hard with little grass simply add more cross ties and place them closer together. Insert a PVC coupler into one end of the first pipe and then push and twist the next pipe, repeat this process until you have laid down the last section.
Now, gently step on top of the track, making sure the holes on the cross ties are aligned with the pipe. The pipe will “pop” into the hole.
That is all there is to building this portable roller coaster, I call it the "Lawn Luge". It is fast, probably a little too fast for small children, easily built and assembled and will keep children of all ages entertained for hours.
It is possible without making a design change to put slight curves in the track because the track conforms to the terrain naturally. Another more radical idea, strictly for adults, is to fashion wheels that strap onto the hands and feet. What a work out this would be trying to maintain a horizontal plane.
This was a fun build and it is a great out door sport that the children enjoy as a portable roller coaster. It is also an inexpensive portable camera dolly that will make for some very interesting shots.