Introduction: DIY Portable Roller Coaster - Easily Constructed-Assembles in Minutes
The following Instructable is on how to build your own portable roller coaster for about $200 - it's easy.
There are a number of roller coasters that folks have constructed in their yard and though many of them are very elaborate I was not willing to erect such a device in my yard. It occurred to me that nobody had created a portable roller coaster that was inexpensive, easily built and could be assembled quickly by children. I also wanted it to be easily stowed when not in use. This Instructable describes how I created my version of a portable roller coaster.
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. The original concept was derived from a camera dolly some DIY’ers constructed.
What makes this concept so unique is that the size of the yard and the slope of the yard are the only limiting factors on the length of the track, I have connected enough to make a 120' track. Obviously, you would need to be mindful of the degree of slope, please keep in mind that this is intended for children.
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. My first prototype was constructed using adult roller blade wheels and without any brakes, needless to say it was blazing fast and extremely unsuitable for children.
We usually deploy this on weekends. My two grand-daughters can assemble it in just a few minutes but it takes a lot longer to get them to stow it..if you get my drift. 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.
DIY Portable Roller Coaster is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
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.
Camera Dolly or Thrill Ride?
The Delrin wheels for this build work great but they are not going to be very fast. I built an earlier version using inline skate wheels with ABEC7 bearings and man was it fast. My brother-in-law even attempted to “surf” down the slope on his stomach. He flew down the track with blistering speed and he created a few blisters upon his landing. Here is a link to some descent wheels that are already prebuilt.