First let us introduce ourselves. We are Rens , Joost and Gijs from the Netherlands, also known as Hoezer2 or Brickride. We are cousins that have been building LEGO structures together since we were very little. We used to live more than an hour cycling apart from each other, but we made that trip pretty often to work on our LEGO projects.
The experimenting with LEGO roller coasters has been going on since way back. We used to make enormous roller coaster-like structures out of electric LEGO train track with lots of curves and height differences. At some point we realized you could put the old grey 12V curved train track on its side, so it would go up and down instead of let and right. This next obvious thing to do was making a loop with that system. The first time we made a loop must have been when we were around 10 years old, so more than 20 years ago. Every time a train went through it, we had to tighten all the bricks before it was ready for another run.
The first time we made a rollercoaster that was continuously running and that had an automatic lift hill was about 4 years later. We used the old 12V tracks, the cars were completely loose on the tracks, so the only thing that kept them on the track was centrifugal force and gravity. The challenge was that the track could quickly become a ramp when it went uphill. Also, with that track, curves are really hard to make. You want them to be sloped to keep the car from falling out, but the track pieces are not really made for that. For example, you can't twist the track parts. Also, the angle they make and the length are always the same.
At some point a couple of rollercoasters later, we saw a YouTube video of somebody named ZERO BRICKS who made a piece of track that used pin joiners as track. The wheel base was based on technic axles, so it didn't run really smooth. We thought it was a very interesting idea, but in order to really make it work, it would have to be the 9V train wheels (part 2878c01) riding it, because those are by far the smoothest running wheels that LEGO has. After some experimenting we came up with a track system that worked pretty well using angled axle connectors and pin joiners.
We calculated how many bricks we needed approximately for this new system and bought them on BrickLink. I think this cost us about €350,-. With the newer track we also had room to add guide ‘wheels’ and make the track go everywhere we like and the car would not fall off. Suddenly we could make cool things like corkscrews. We built the entire coaster in 3 full days. The roller coaster was built on 23 48x48 baseplates, contained about 5000-6000 bricks and was about 1.2 meters high.
The big downside of the newer track using pin joiners is that it’s a lot rougher than the old track, so it loses speed much quicker. Something we are still trying to improve. The biggest challenge with the new track type is to distribute the kinetic energy evenly over the track. We like to add cool things like loops and helix curves, but they consume a lot of kinetic energy. Also because the track is so flexible, it needs more support.
Every time we build a new roller coaster, we try to improve something. Over the years we had four different types of track and five types of cars. Right now we are working on our seventh roller coaster is going to have some improvements to the track and we completely redesigned the cars and lift hill system. The new one is also going to have some scenery and a station and lift hill controlled by a Mindstorms EV3 smart brick.
Our advice when making your own roller coaster would be to start small and improve from there. You can’t make the perfect LEGO roller coaster over the weekend, it takes a lot of time to figure out what works and what doesn't. We did make some ‘how to’ videos on our YouTube channel that show the basics of our roller coasters. We already saw four rollercoasters pop up on YouTube with our track