The actual physical construction of a classic roller coaster may take place in a factory or on the amusement park site depending on the type and size of the coaster. Most steel coasters recreational amusement rides are built in sections in a factory then trucked to the site and erected. Most wooden coasters are built piece-by-piece on the site. Here is the typical sequence of operations for manufacturing both modern steel coasters and classic wooden coasters.
Preparing the site
1 Before the roller coaster can be installed, the area where it is to be located needs to be cleared and prepared. This is usually done in the offseason when the amusement park is closed. If it must be done while the park is still open, the area is fenced off to prevent the public from wandering onto the construction site.
2 If there are existing structures, vegetation, or utilities that need to be moved or demolished, this work is done first. If any of the surrounding terrains needs to be filled or excavated, that work is also done at this time.
3 Holes for the support structure foundations are surveyed and drilled or dug. Sturdy wooden forms are constructed to hold the concrete for each foundation point. In some areas where the soil is very sandy, large wooden piles may be driven into the ground as foundations rather than using poured concrete. If concrete is used, it is brought to the site in mixer trucks and pumped into place by a concrete pump with a long, articulating arm that can reach each foundation form. Connector plates are embedded into the concrete on top of each foundation to allow attachment of the supports.
Erecting the main support structure
4 When the foundation is in place, work begins on the main support structure. The supports for steel coasters—in fact, almost all the parts for steel coasters—are made in a factory and shipped to the job site in sections on trucks. In the factory, the pieces for each support are cut and welded into the required shape using fixtures to hold them in the proper orientation to each other. If a complex three-dimensional bend is required, this may be done in a hydraulic tube ****** that is controlled by information from the computer. On wooden coasters, the material for the supports is usually shipped to the site as unfinished lumber and the individual pieces are cut and assembled on site. In either case, the lower portions of the main supports are lifted by a crane and are attached to the connector plates protruding from the foundation points.
5 Once the lower supports are in place, they may be temporarily braced while the upper sections are lifted into place and connected. This work continues until the main support structure is complete.
Installing the track
6 With the main support structure in place, the track is installed. On steel coasters, sections of track are fabricated in the factory with the stanchions and tubular tracks welded to the track supports. After the sections are brought to the site, they are lifted into place, and the track ends are slid together. The sections are then bolted to the main support structure and to each other. On wooden coasters, wood tie beams are installed across the top of the main support structure along the entire length of the ride. Six to eight layers of flat wood boards are installed lengthways on top of the tie beams in two rows to form a laminated base for the rails. The rails themselves are formed from long, flat strips of steel ******* into the wood base.
7 On steel coasters, walkways and handrails are welded in place along the outside of the track to allow maintenance access and emergency evacuation of passengers. On wooden coasters, the portions of the tie beams outside of the track are used as walkways, and handrails are installed.
8 The lift chain and anti-rollback mechanisms are installed on the lift hill, and the braking device is installed on the final approach to the station.
Fabricating the cars
9 The individual cars for the coaster are fabricated in the factory. The subframe pieces are cut and welded. The bodies are stamped from aluminum or molded in fiberglass, then fastened to the subframe. Seat cushions may be cut from foam, mounted on a base, and covered with an upholstery. Running wheels and guide wheels are bolted in place with locking fasteners. Brake fins, anti-rollback dogs, and other safety components are installed.
Finishing the ride
10 When the main construction is completed, electrical wiring is installed for the lighting, and the entire ride may be painted. The boarding station is constructed, signs are installed, and the landscaping is put in place.
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