Patent application title: SUSPENDED COASTER RAIL APPARATUS AND METHOD
Eric S. Cylvick (Wanship, UT, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63G700FI
Class name: Railways amusement
Publication date: 2009-03-26
Patent application number: 20090078148
An improved amusement ride provides minimal requirement on supporting
structures by suspending a rail system from suspension cables. Individual
riders sit in a harness suspended from a trolley traveling along the
suspended rail. The rail may turn in substantially any direction and the
trolley coasts along it. Parallel rails may be suspended for a race-like
format. The suspension cables may be arranged along a hillside, relying
on the grade of the hill for elevation change, or may be arranged as a
lattice of supporting infrastructure with an arrangement of the coaster
rail there below.
1. A method of operating a coaster, the method comprising:providing a
plurality of towers, each tower of the plurality of towers having a base
end, a terminal end positioned above the base end and defining an axial
direction, and a radial direction orthogonal to the axial
direction;providing an offset for each of the towers, comprising a
structure having a suspension location spaced radially away from the each
tower;providing a rail comprising a solid, substantially continuous track
extending from a starting point to an ending point;suspending the rail
from and below each of the suspension locations;spacing the rail radially
away from the each tower by the offset;securing a trolley to the rail to
run therealong supported by the rail against the acceleration of
gravity;securing a harness suspended from the trolley, the harness sized
to support a rider below the trolley and to resist contact with any tower
of the plurality of towers by the rider;loading a rider into the harness;
andreleasing the trolley from proximate the starting point to descend
under the influence of gravity to proximate the ending point.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the rail comprises an operational portion characterized by the starting point, the ending point, and a slope monotonically descending from the starting point to the ending point with respect to the direction of travel of the trolley.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the rail comprises a lift portion connecting the ending point to the starting point and monotonically rising from the ending point to the starting point.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the rail is a tube.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein at least one tower of the plurality is placed on a hill.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the lift portion has an upwardly inclined slope in the direction of motion of the trolley.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the trolley further comprises a brake controlling descending by resisting the acceleration of gravity.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing cables extending between the towers and supporting the rail therebelow.
9. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing risers extending vertically and spacing the rail below the suspension points.
10. The method of claim 1, further comprising;providing a serpentine configuration for the rail, the rail curving back and forth with respect to the radial directions of the towers; andturning by the trolley through a series of turns about the towers during the descending.
11. A method comprising:providing a plurality of towers, each tower of the plurality of towers having a base end, a terminal end positioned above the base end and defining an axial direction, and a radial direction orthogonal to the axial direction;providing a suspension arm extending from the each tower to a suspension location spaced radially away therefrom;suspending a rail, comprising a substantially continuous track, from the suspension locations;securing a trolley to the rail to run therealong, supported by the rail against the acceleration of gravity, and supporting a rider; anddescending by the trolley along the rail from proximate a starting point at a first elevation to an ending point at a second elevation.
12. The method of claim 11, wherein the rail comprises:an operational portion characterized by the starting point, the ending point, and a slope descending from the starting point to the ending point; anda lift portion connecting the ending point to the starting point and rising therebetween.
14. The method of claim 11, wherein the rail comprises a tube, and the trolley further comprises a brake controlling descending by resisting the acceleration of gravity.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein the suspension arms further comprise cables extending between the towers and supporting the rail therebelow, and the method further comprises providing risers extending between the rail and the suspension locations.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the risers extend substantially exclusively vertically.
17. The method of claim 15, further comprising:providing the rail in a serpentine configuration curving back and forth with respect to the radial directions of the towers; andturning by the trolley through a series of turns between the towers during descending.
18. A method comprising:securing a rider in a seating assembly suspended from a trolley riding on a rail;releasing the trolley to move downward along the slope of the rail;descending by the rider and trolley under the influence of gravity from a starting point to an ending point along the rail; andtraveling by the trolley along a serpentine course comprising a plurality of turns curving back and forth between towers suspending the rail therebelow.
19. The method of 18, wherein a system of towers supports suspension cables disposed as catenaries between the towers and suspending the rail below the cables.
20. The method of claim 19, further comprising rolling by the trolley along the rail, in a direction at least transverse to the cables, along the serpentine course defined by the rail thereabove, in response to gravity, the incline of the rail and a brake on the trolley controlling the speed of descent of the trolley, and the serpentine course changing the direction of travel of the trolley through all angles between zero and substantially one hundred eighty degrees.
This application claims the benefit of co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/975,412, filed on Sep. 26, 2007.
1. The Field of the Invention
This invention relates to amusement rides, and, in particular, rides that rely on a rider vehicle moving along a rail.
2. The Background Art
Roller coasters have been a staple of the amusement ride industry for many years. Typically, the individual cars on a roller coaster may weigh from several hundred to several thousand pounds, and may typically be trained together in trains from two to eight cars. Accordingly, substantial structural support must be provided in all three physical dimensions of space in order to support these heavy cars in high speed turns, hills, and drops.
Another difficulty with amusement rides is throughput. A classic is the Ferris wheel. The entire wheel must be slowly rotated, stopped repeatedly, loaded by individual seat, and ultimately started on its rotations after fully loaded. Accordingly, all passengers must endure a particularly long wait during loading and unloading. Typically, the loading and unloading time exceeds the time the ride is actually in motion as a ride.
Roller coasters are another typical difficulty. An entire train must be loaded. Many times the train may be loaded from a dock in which individual gates feed into each respective car. By the same token, large trains must be separated by substantial distances, typically a single train being on the track at one time.
It would be advantageous to provide a system for supporting a rail-based amusement ride without the need for the large structures required to support the heavy amusement ride vehicles in typical use. Likewise, it would be an advance in the art to provide an amusement ride in which individuals ride down a coaster track individually, thus evening out throughput, and permitting more than a single rider on the rail at one time.
It would be a further advance in the art to provide a system of construction for conducting a coaster ride safely, with minimal a amount of equipment, with lightweight support for rider, and in an open-air environment. For example, inside a ride vehicle, much of the sensation of speed, turning, and the like may be lost because the surroundings are removed from the rider by the confines of the vehicle. Thus, it would be an advance in the art to permit a user to feel as if the rider is hurtling through midair without the confines of a track or a vehicle.
It would also be an advance in the art to suspend a user in such a way that a user is permitted to move in three dimensions. Along the ride, it would be advantageous if one need not necessarily be confined to a rigid track path, but be free to swing radially with turns to some extent.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In accordance with the foregoing, an apparatus and method in accordance with the invention provide a suspension system using cables structured to support a rail assembly. The rail assembly is configured to carry a trolley. The trolley may typically coast along the rail in a predominately downhill path.
The rail may be configured in any suitable shape, including a tubular member. Accordingly, the trolley may be fitted to the rail to follow the rail along its path. The trolley may be restrained to travel with the rail, and may be permitted to change the orientation of its bearing surface along the tube as the trolley turns corners. Below the trolley, in one embodiment, a seat or harness supports a rider. The rider will typically be freely rolling along the rail, supported by the trolley.
In certain embodiments, a user may be permitted to have a brake. Typically, in a roller-coaster format, the rail may rise and drop repeatedly in an undulating fashion. In such an event, the brake would typically not be used. That is, in a roller-coaster format the precise energy balance between potential energy at a maximum altitude and kinetic energy of motion at a minimum altitude are balanced to keep the trolley moving. Accordingly, too much braking at a wrong time may not be permitted in order that a rider not leave a trolley stranded between two peaks, unable to move.
In certain embodiments, the apparatus and method in accordance with the invention may include a continuously downhill trolley track that proceeds continuously downhill. Accordingly, the track may be supported above a level surface, or may be installed below supports along a hillside. One advantage to installation on a hill side is that the elevation required for the coasting downhill by the trolley may be supplied by the difference in altitude along the hillside, rather than by structures created for the purpose.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The foregoing features of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Understanding that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are, therefore, not to be considered limiting of its scope, the invention will be described with additional specificity and detail through use of the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a suspension system and coaster rail supporting a trolley seat in an amusement ride in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 2 is an alternative embodiment of a suspension system for an amusement ride in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 3 is an alternative embodiment providing additional suspended structures for provided additional stiffness and stability to the supporting suspension structure;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a cable suspension system for supporting an amusement ride in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a double-rail system with intervening supports and spreaders for supporting and separating multiple rails for carrying riders in an amusement ride in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a segment of a rail with a stiffening rib provided for strength and for securement of the rail to a suspension system in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a rail with its stiffening rib and suspension structure for connecting to a cable suspension system in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of yet another rail mechanism using double tubes on opposing sides of a rib providing stiffness and an attachment mechanism for connected to the cable suspension system in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a trolley suitable for operating on a rail system of FIG. 8;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a trolley with a rail such as the rail illustrated in FIG. 7, having a rib extending laterally from the side, rather than from the top of the rail;
FIG. 11 is a cross sectional view of a trolley suitable for operation on a rail such as that illustrated in FIG. 7, in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 12 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a rail providing improved vertical stiffness compared with lateral stiffness, and showing an alternative embodiment of a support system for the rail as an alternative to adding a substantially continous rib, the rail supporting a trolley embodiment adapted thereto;
FIG. 13 is a cross sectional view of an alternative embodiment of a trolley suitable for operation on a rail such as that illustrated in FIG. 6 in accordance with the invention with cross-sectional views of alternatives as insets;
FIG. 14 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a trolley suitable for operation on a rail system in accordance with the invention, and providing braking by a rider;
FIG. 15 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a harness and seating system for support by a trolley, rail, and cable system in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 16 is a plan view of a layout of an amusement ride track in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 17 is a side elevation view of the track layout of FIG. 16;
FIG. 18 is a plan view of a layout for a track system in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 19 is a side elevation view of the track layout of FIG. 18;
FIG. 20 is a plan view of a layout of a rail system suitable for a hillside installation such as the suspension system of FIG. 4, or a suspension system such as those illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 3;
FIG. 21 is a plan view of a rail system for an amusement ride in accordance with the invention, illustrating one embodiment of an arrangement of suspension locations;
FIG. 22 is a schematic of a side elevation view of the layout plan of FIG. 21, showing one alternative embodiment of elevation, nominal, decreasing values for one embodiment of constant elevation changes per loop, showing the requirement and effects of clearances between crossovers in the layout of FIG. 21;
FIG. 23 is a perspective view of a corkscrew segment of a rail system in accordance with the invention, illustrating one embodiment of a connection system for suspending the rail from the suspension cable apparatus in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 24 is a plan view of one alternative embodiment for a structure to connect a segment of a rail to a suspension system in accordance with the invention; and
FIG. 25 is an alternative embodiment of a system of poles and arms as a structure suspending a rail in accordance with the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
It will be readily understood that the components of the present invention, as generally described and illustrated in the drawings herein, could be arranged and designed in a wide variety of different configurations. Thus, the following more detailed description of the embodiments of the system and method of the present invention, as represented in the drawings, is not intended to limit the scope of the invention, but is merely representative of various embodiments of apparatus and methods in accordance with the invention. The illustrated embodiments of the invention will be best understood by reference to the drawings, wherein like parts are designated by like numerals throughout.
Referring to FIG. 1, while referring generally to FIGS. 1-4, an apparatus 10 or system 10 is accordance with the invention may include a suspension system 12 for suspending a rail assembly 14. A trolley 16 operates to roll along the rail with a minimum of friction. Suspended from the trolley 16 is a seat assembly 18 or harness 18.
In general, the main cables 20 may be suspended, while anchored on each end by a guy portion 21 thereof. Towers 22 may support each of the cables 20, typically a single tower 22 on each respective end of a cable 20. The guy portions 21 extend beyond the tops of the towers 22 and anchor to bollards 24 anchored to the ground. Typically, the bollards 24 may be oriented with a central axis vertical or horizontal. Typically, each guy portion 21 of the cables 20 will be wrapped several times around a bollard 24 in order to increase the friction thereagainst The cable may then be anchored off by a clamp, brake, or the like.
In general, the rail assembly 14 may be suspended from cables 26 or altitude cables 26 properly connected to and secured to the main cables 20. That is, the cables 20 act as suspension cables 20, whereas the altitude cables 26 may be hanging from the main suspension cables 20 or structures connected thereto in order to establish a particular altitude for the rail system 14 at that particular location.
As a practical matter, the altitude cables 26 may be suspended directly vertically from the cable 20 to the rail system 14. Alternatively, two, three, or even four cables 26 may be connected to a particular location on the rail assembly 14. That is, for example, three individual cables 26 may establish an orthogonal system of coordinates. Directed in three independent directions, they may provide the ability to apply forces in all three dimensions to a rail assembly 14. Accordingly, if the cables 26 are arranged in groups of at least three connected to each specific point or location on the rail assembly 14, then the vertical load, side loads, longitudinal loads, lateral loads, and the like may all be accommodated by appropriate sizing and adjustment of the cables 26.
The bollards 24 and the apparatus and methods for tensioning the suspension cables 20 over the towers 22 and securing them to the bollard 24 are described the U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/605,853, incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
The towers 22 may be separately guyed to the ground in order to resist any tendency by the suspension cables 20 tending to tip the towers 22 over. Alternatively, the main cables 20 or suspension cables 20 may be fixed with clamps, plates, sheaves, grooves, or the like at the top of each tower 22, in order to allow the guy portion 21 of the suspension cable 20 to support not only the tension in the cable 20, but also to support the position of the tower 22. In the illustration of FIG. 1, the towers 22 are shown to be tapered toward each end, similar to the trusses supporting the sheaves on cranes and derricks. That is, in general, each tower 20 may act as a simple two-force member. Thus, each tower 22 need only support an axial load along its own length. In an alternative embodiment, each of the towers 22 may be a structure anchored to the ground in such a way as to support lateral and transverse loads on its own. For example, such towers and anchoring systems are also illustrated in the '853 application referenced hereinabove.
The rail system 14 required to support individual users may be designed to accommodate the user as a substantially negligible weight. That is, the overall weight of the rail system 14 will be considerably more than the effective load (e.g. weight and acceleration forces) of one or even several riders on the system 10 at one time. Therefore, the altitude cables 26 may act as stabilizing members to support forces acting in a horizontal plane within the rail system 14. That is, the suspension cables 20 may support both lateral and transverse loads in addition to vertical loads imposed by the altitude cables 26.
Even if the altitude cables 26 were all suspended vertically, such that the entire rail assembly 14 were simply suspended in space, the overall loading in a horizontal direction on the rail 14 could easily be sustained bu guys or structures, and need present no serious difficulties. Nevertheless, if it is desired to have the rail assembly 14 remain positioned more rigidly, then the altitude cables 26 may be angled and anchored several at a time from a particular point or suspension location on the rail assembly 14, or the like.
Meanwhile, the towers 22 themselves may be supported in a lateral direction 27c by additional guy cables 28 or stabilization cables 28. The stabilizing cables 28, in addition to the portion extending between and anchored to each tower in turn, may each include a guy portion 29 dropping down from the top of the tower toward a bollard 24 to be secured or otherwise anchored to the earth.
In general, a longitudinal direction 27a along a suspension cable 20 may be stabilized by the guy portions 21 of the suspension cables 20. The vertical locations of the cables 20, and anything suspended thereby, may be stabilized by the towers 22 in the vertical direction 27b. Meanwhile, stability in the lateral direction 27c may be provided by the stabilizer cables 28.
In general, each tower 22 may be secured to a base 30 in any suitable manner. In certain embodiments, the towers 22 may be fixed to the bases 30 in a rigid fashion. Alternatively, each of the bases 30 may be connected to the bottom of a tower 22 by a single pivot pin, capable of movement in one degree of freedom, or even a ball joint or the like capable of freedom of motion in multiple directions. For example, a pivot 32 may be secured to a base 30, and a bottom end of a tower 22 may be secured thereto by a ball joint, pivot, or the like.
Alternatively, the tower 22 may actually be embedded in a large base 30. In the illustrated embodiment, each of the towers 22 operates as a two-force member in compression between the pivot 32 at the bottom of the tower 22, and the carrier 34 across the top of the tower 22. A carrier 34 may be a pulley, sheave, groove, plate, clamp, fastener, clevis, or any other mechanism suitable for reliably securing a suspension cable 20, a stabilizer cable 28, or both to the top of the tower 22. Thus the tower 22 may be guyed toward the ground against the tension of the suspension cable 20 and the stabilizer cable 28 arriving from another tower 22.
Likewise, each of the bollards 24 may be secured to a base 36 anchored to the ground. The base 36 may be anchored in any suitable way known in the construction industry, and particularly as applied to suspension cable systems in general. Each bollard 24 may be secured to its base 36 by some suitable mount 38, such as a plate, and any associated fastening mechanisms or anchoring mechanisms to secure the mount 38 to the base 36, and to the bollard 24.
Each of the altitude cables 26 or cables 26 may be secured to a suspension cable 20 by a suitable hanger 40 designed for the purpose. Depending upon the sizes of cables, the load carried, and the frictional requirements required to keep any altitude cable 26 from sliding along the suspension cable 20, various types of carriers 34 may be available. Each of the altitude cables 26 may be secured to a hanger 40 by clamps 42 or other fasteners known in the art. Again, the type of clamping mechanisms 42 may be selected in accordance with the size of the cables, the loads carried, the frictional requirements, and the resistance or protection of cables 20, 26 to damage from clamping.
In certain embodiments, riders may mount stairs, a ramp, or a lift, or otherwise arrive at the summit or starting point of a rail assembly 14. In certain embodiments, a lift 44 or tow 44 may be provided to connect to the trolley 16, or the harness 18 of a user, and lift the user to the highest point on the rail 14. For safety reasons, an operator may prefer to have an automated lift 44 that does not permit nor require user or rider intervention. For example, if a rider were to release his or her hold on a tow handle, partway up the height of the lift 44, and then let go, the resulting kinetic energy expressed as the velocity of the rider could be extremely large, and the rider could roll back to the starting point, colliding with equipment, personnel, and other riders.
In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, a rudimentary lift is illustrated. Various levels of sophistication, automation, securement, prime mover, and the like are known in the art and may be adapted to an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention.
Referring to FIG. 2, in one embodiment of an apparatus in accordance with the invention, the suspension cables 20 may axially extend in two directions. Alternatively, the stabilizer cables 28 may actually act as suspension cables 20. Thus, in the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 2, the suspension cables 20 and the stabilizer cables 28, may both be considered to be stabilizer cables 20. Thus, the longitudinal direction 27a and the lateral direction 27c may be established by cables 20, 28 over the towers 22. Likewise, in the illustrated embodiment, the carriers 40, connecting the elevation cables 26 or altitude cables 26 to the suspension cables 20, 28 may be configured to secure all three types of cables together at or near a single location.
Referring to FIG. 3, in another alternative embodiment of an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention, additional rigidity may be incorporated into the suspension system 12 by introducing trusses extending in a lateral direction to stabilize each of the suspension cables 20 with respect to one another. The trusses 50 may be formed structurally as known in the art of structural engineering in any suitable manner, and of any suitable material.
For example, a typical open lattice type of truss formed of steel or aluminum may serve very readily in such an application as the illustrated embodiment. The trusses 50 may interlocked, cross-braced, or trussed together between themselves as well. Accordingly, the entire truss assembly 50 may be a single integrated unit suspended by the cable system. The advantages of using a suspension cable 20 to support this mechanism, would still be realized, while providing a single layer at a fixed altitude for the structures of the trusses 50.
Truss structures may be shaped according to the path of the rail system 14. Truss structures may be of various sizes located in various regions and at various altitudes in order to support the rail assembly 14. In yet another alternative embodiment, the trusses 50 may actually extend down as desired in order to stabilize, just as the altitude cables 26 may be connected as two-force members in groups, typically of three but possibly more or less, to stabilize any particular location on the rail 14, as described above. In the embodiment of FIG. 3 the trusses 50 may be secured by guy lines 52 anchored to bollards 24 as described above.
Typically, hangers 54 adapted to secure the trusses 50 to the individual cables 20 may be formed of a suitable material and in a suitable shape for reliable operation and simplified installation. From the hangers 54 may extend other devises 56 or hangers 56 of some other variety to secure the altitude cables 26 to the trusses 50.
In an alternative embodiment, the hangers 56 may connect directly to the rail assembly 14. The trusses 50 may be configured, for example, in a rectangular or triangular fashion to extend considerably below the suspension cables 20 in order to support cables therebelow. One of the advantages to using trusses 50 in such a configuration over conventional amusement rides and coasters is that the suspension load is a tensile load, and not as susceptible to the instabilities caused by various side loading that typical roller coasters would experience.
Accordingly, substantially lower weights, sizes, and complexities may be required in order to suspend the rail from individual trusses 50 hanging from the suspension cables 20. Nevertheless, truss structures 50 may be made in a triangular shape, rectangular shape, or the like and of cylindrical or other cross section. Trusses 50 may have a profile in the longitudinal viewing direction 27a of any shape, a profile in the lateral viewing direction 27c of any shape, and a shape in the vertical viewing direction 27b in any suitable shape. Thus, so long as the trusses 50 are not obstructions to riders below a particular rail 14, they may be shaped in any suitable fashion.
In one simple embodiment, the individual trusses 50 may simply act as a mechanism to provide consistent spacing and load distribution between the suspension cables 20, while providing a grid work with the suspension cables 20 for ready connection of rails 24 to altitude cables 26. Thus a rail 14 or any portion thereof may be suspended from a trussed frame having an opening through which a higher rail passes unobstructed. The opening may be rectangular, triangular, circular, or of an odd but suitable shape.
Referring to FIG. 4, in an alternative embodiment of an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention, a tensioner 60 may apply tension to the suspension cable 20. Typically, in such an embodiment, the suspension cable 20 is pulled over a top pulley 62a, or sheave 62a and under a lower pulley 62b or sheave 62b toward a brake which may then be used to lock off the cable while it is wrapped around the bollard 24.
Once the height 64 of the cable 20 is established along its length, the tension has been established. Since each of the suspension cables 20 hangs as a catenary as known in the art, its elevation establishes the tension level within it. Accordingly, a brake may be applied, and several wraps 66 of the cable 20 about the bollard 24 may be taken. Meanwhile, at any time, individual tension may be adjusted by a tensioner 60.
In general, a tower 22 may have struts 68, 69 connected thereto in order to distribute the load and resist tipping. Just as the guy portions 21, 29 of the cables 20, 28 provide anchoring back to the earth, struts 68, 69 may provide establishment of the top and bottom of the tower 22, respectively. In the illustrated embodiment in FIG. 4, it is contemplated that the towers 22 may be set in rows at different elevations along a hill. Thus, a top set of towers 22, and a bottom set of towers 22, may provide an altitude difference for an amusement ride, rather than having the altitude cables 26 provide all the elevation change in the rail assembly 14.
For example, in one embodiment, a rail assembly may be suspended under the suspension cables 20 in such a manner that a rider is always moving downhill. Accordingly, the rail assembly 14 may track in a lateral direction 27c, while trending downward with respect to the vertical direction 27b, all the while losing altitude as a result of moving longitudinally 27a with respect to the suspension cables 20. Thus, for example, a zig zag pattern or a serpentine pattern across (laterally 27c) the suspension cables 20 and turning downhill at each end, could provide a comparatively fast and circuitous ride as illustrate hereinbelow.
In accordance with the illustrated embodiments of FIGS. 1-3, any suitable type of stabilizer cables 28 or trusses 50 may be added to the apparatus 10 of FIG. 4. Likewise, the mounting towers 22 of FIGS. 1-3 may be substituted for the mounting towers 22 illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 4.
Referring to FIG. 5, a rail assembly 14 may include one or more rails 70. For example, a single rail 70 may be stiffened or otherwise connected to a rib 72. The rib 72 has the advantage that it greatly increases the stiffness and strength of the rail assembly 14 in the vertical direction. Accordingly, a rib 72 of a comparatively larger height extending away from the rail 70 may disproportionately greatly decrease the size of the rail 70 required.
For example, each of the rails 70 may be a rail of any suitable cross section. In the illustrated embodiment, the rails 70 are formed of circular tubing. A smaller tube diameter, or a smaller rail 70 of some other cross section may be permissible and fully adequate if the additional rib 72 is added on top thereof.
Another benefit of the rib 72 is that it provides a connecting location away from the rail 70. Since the trolleys 16 must roll along the rail 70, a substantial portion of the upper surface thereof must be available for a trolley to roll against. Accordingly, a narrow rib 72 provides attachment above the rail 70 to the altitude cables 26 suspending the rail 70 below to carry the trolley 16 and the rider in a harness 18 suspended therebelow.
In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 5, two rails 70 are provided in order to permit two users to "race" along the rail assembly 14. In one embodiment, each of the rails 70 may be connected to a bracket 74 or hanger 74 secured to a spreader 76. The spreader 76 may serve the purpose of maintaining the spacing between each of the rails 70.
Accordingly, the spreader 76 may be connected to another bracket 82 provided with an aperture 80 or other connection mechanism for receiving or otherwise securing the altitude cable 26 thereto. In one embodiment, a spreader 76a may be a simple tubular member. Alternatively, each of the spreaders 76 may be a truss, for example, in the form of the spreader 76b illustrated. In yet another alternative embodiment, the spreaders 76 may be trussed together with diagonal members to add rigidity to spacing in any direction or all directions.
Accordingly, the spreader 76b may actually be formed as a truss made of fabricated portions, cast, molded, machined, or fabricated of composite material in any suitable manner. Likewise, the spreader 76 may be members of the truss work between ribs 72 and between spreaders 78.
Aperture 79 may tend to provide spaces 79 in locations where material is not necessary to maintain adequate strength. Accordingly, weight savings may make the system lighter. Meanwhile, at the outer edges, beams 78 or webs 78 support the loads imposed. In the illustrated embodiment, and aperture 80 provides a mechanism for connecting to the altitude cables 26 suspending the spreaders 76 from the suspension cables 20 as described hereinabove.
In certain embodiments, comparatively larger spreaders 76b may be provided periodically for lifting and supporting the rails 70 while smaller spreaders 76a may simply maintain the distance between the rails 70 at closer intervals. In alternative embodiments, all the spreaders 76 may be a single type, braced or trussed together or not, and spaced uniformly or non-uniformly according to the needs for load support, stability, strengths, stiffness, and connection to the supporting suspension cables 20.
In an alternative embodiment referring to FIG. 5, the spreaders 76 or the beams 76 may be trussed together. For example, a diagonal between opposite ends of the two beams 76a, 76b would triangulate, using, in each triangle, the diagonal truss, the spreader 76, respectively, itself, and the intervening portion of the rail 70 and rib 72.
Referring to FIG. 6, in one embodiment, a rail assembly 14 may involve a single rail 70. A single rail 70 may be formed in any particular configuration and cross section desired. For example, an oval shape, a round shape, a triangular shape, or the like might all provide a simple mechanism for sustaining a trolley 16.
For example, a triangular shape suspended with the vertex upward could provide a comparatively broad support surface for rollers rolling along the top thereof, while a stabilizing roller or a pair of stabilizing rollers roll along the bottom flat surface of the triangle. For example, an Isoceles triangle may provide a comparatively large bearing surface, substantial security against rollers escaping from the rail 70, and provide a support laterally as well. One benefit of such an arrangement is that the trolleys 16 may be maintained a suitable distance away from the rib 72, on turns where a high velocity rider may tend to rotate (e.g. roll, in aircraft parlance) a trolley about a cylindrical rail 70.
Whatever the cross section of the rail 70, the rail 70 may be formed with, or attached to a rib 72 or a rib and another tube 70 or tubes 70. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, a weld 86 or other fastener 86 may be used to secure the rib 72 to the rail 70 periodically, or continuously. Meanwhile, aperture 88 or other fastening mechanisms 88 may be implemented in the rib 72 in order to receive connectors or cables associated with the elevation cables 26 or altitude cables 26.
Typically, a rail 70 will be shaped to have a top surface 90a of its overall surface 90, on which may run wheels, rollers, or the like for supporting the trolley in a very reduced frictional engagement. That is, a trolley is not a slide. Rather, the trolley 16 has rollers that roll along the upper surface 90a of the rail 70, while the trolley 16 may have other rollers to engage the side surface 90b, and bottom surface 90c, in order to maintain stability of the trolley 16 rider and thereon.
Referring to FIG. 7, in an alternative embodiment of a rail assembly 14 in accordance with the invention, a rail 70 may be secured to a rib 72 having a lateral portion 94 extending laterally away from a side surface 90b of the rail 70. Meanwhile, the upper surface 90a of the rail 70 is left free for more direct support of the trolley 16. However, in the embodiment of FIG. 7, the trolley 16 will typically be configured in a way to not be impeded by the rib 72.
In one embodiment, additional rollers may engage the rib 72, and roll therealong, in particular if the rib 72 is continuous. Thus, the rib 72 may actually form a portion of the guide mechanism for the trolley 16. Likewise, in the embodiments of FIGS. 6 and 7, additional rollers engaging a continuous rib 72 preclude rotation (e.g. aircraft "roll") of the trolley 16 about the rail 70.
In the embodiment of FIG. 7, the rib 72 extends to a riser portion 96 rising from the side surface 90b of the rail 70 to a return portion 98 of the rib 72. The return portion 98 returns the rib 72 to a location directly above the rail 70. Accordingly, the tether portion 100 of the rib 72 may then receive a connector 102 with its associated fastener 104 penetrating the tether portion 100 to support the rail 70 below the suspension cables 20.
One benefit of the embodiment of FIG. 7 over that of FIG. 6 is that the vertical loads or the loads in the vertical direction 27b may have a maximum purchase or maximum engagement area on the rail 70. By contrast, in the embodiment of FIG. 6, a roller must act somewhat as a "thrust bearing" in that it is loaded in a radial direction with respect to the cylindrical rail 70, but also circumferentially due to gravity in a vertical direction 27b. By contrast, in a simple design, a roller on the trolley 16 in the embodiment of FIG. 7 may provide virtually pure rolling with substantially no thrust since the rider is suspended directly below the altitude cable 26 and the top surface 90a of the rail 70.
Referring to FIG. 8, in one embodiment of an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention, a rail assembly 14 may include two rails 70a, 70b juxtaposed on opposite sides of a rib 72. In the illustrated embodiment, the rails 70 provide their top surfaces 90a completely free, as well as their side surfaces 90b, and bottom surfaces 90c to receive contact by rollers. In this embodiment, any support system for rollers would still be cantilevered, as would be required with the support for rollers in all of the embodiments of FIGS. 6-8. Additional rollers may provide additional control. However, additional rollers may also provide additional friction. Accordingly, design alternatives may depend on structural parameters.
Structural parameters may include the diameter of any of the rail tubes 70. That is, in the embodiment of FIG. 8, smaller diameters may be used, since two rails 70 are being used. Nevertheless, since the structural strength and stiffness of a rail 70 depends on the amount of material at the outermost distance from its neutral axis (e.g. center), a single larger diameter rail 70 such as the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 6 may have certain structural benefits as to vertical stiffness. Nevertheless, for the same diameter, the structure of FIG. 8 would certainly be stronger.
Referring to FIG. 9, a trolley 16, in one embodiment, may include a frame 106 adapted to receive, or formed with, a bracket 108. The bracket 108 is configured to receive a connector 102 such as a clevis 102 suitable to secure the seat assembly 18 thereto. The seat assembly 18 is suspended at a suitable height below the trolley 16. Meanwhile, the trolley is secured to the rail assembly, 14 which is connected to the altitude cables 26 suspending the entire rail system 14 from the suspension cables 20.
In one embodiment, the frame 16 may sufficiently surround the rail 70 or rails 70 to position rollers 110 against the outer surface 90 of the rail 70. Each of the rollers 110 may be supported by a race, axle 112, bearing, or the like suitable to minimize friction in the rolling of the roller 110 with respect to the frame 106. In typical embodiments, the rollers 110 may actually be formed of a polymer, minimizing frictional engagement between the roller 110 and the rail 70.
In the illustrated embodiment, the rollers 110 are positioned above and below the rails 70 and are shaped to provide lateral engagement, as well as vertical engagement. Accordingly, the rollers provide direct support for the suspended seat assembly 18 therebelow, and may resist lateral loads caused by the swinging of the seat 18 on turns at comparatively higher speeds and comparatively smaller turn radii.
In the illustrated embodiment, axles 112 are illustrated to support four rollers 110 on each rail 70. In this double-rail configuration the additional axles 112 distributed along the length of the rail 70 tend to provide stability against yaw and pitch by the trolley 16, with respect to the rails 70. Nevertheless, if sufficient clearance is provided between the frame 106 and the rib 72 as well as between the frame 106 and the rails 70, a single pair of rollers above and below the rail 70 on each side, corresponding to each rail 70, may suffice.
Referring to FIG. 10, a trolley 16 operating on a rail 70 having a rib 72 extending laterally from the surface 90 of the rail 70 may include an open frame 106. The frame 106 may extend around the rail, supporting one or two pairs of rollers juxtaposed on opposite sides (e.g. top and bottom) of the rail 70. Additional stability against pitch and yaw may be provided by having a second pair of rollers 110 trailing the first pair of rollers 110. Meanwhile, an opening in the frame 106 provides access for the rib 72 to pass through the trolley 16. In certain embodiments, rollers 110 may actually be provided to touch or ride against the rib 72 in order to prevent wear by the frame 106 thereagainst.
One of the structural realities that a trolley 16 in accordance with the invention will typically accommodate is the fact that a portion of the frame 106 will always be cantilevered, due to the fact that an intervening rib 16 is always required in order to support the rail 70 from above with the altitude cable 26. That is, in general, cable systems may have clear spans in which a trolley can completely surround the cable. This is the mechanism by which a zip line operates. Accordingly, in such embodiments, trolleys may be made of lightweight materials in tension on either side of the rollers 110.
By contrast, the framing must be sufficiently strong in a trolley 16 in each of the above illustrated embodiments in accordance with the invention to provide strength in the cantilevered portions sustaining the top rollers 110 and bottom rollers 110. Although not shown in the illustrated embodiment, the frame 106 may have additional gusseting, bracing, and stiffeners added in order to assure that the rigidity of the frame 106 is sufficient to preclude deflection that would separate the top rollers 110 from the lower rollers 110. If insufficiently stiff, the frame 106 may flex and provide excessive clearance between the top rollers 110 and lower rollers 110 permitting the release of the rail 70 captured therebetween. In general, an aperture 14 or other fastening mechanism may be provided on a bracket 108 extending from the trolley 16 in order to support the seat assembly 18 therebelow.
Referring to FIG. 11, in one embodiment of a trolley 16 in accordance with the invention, and compatible with the rail assembly 14 of FIG. 7, a frame 106 of a trolley 16 may be suspended by a rib 72. The rib 72 may extend laterally from the rail 70, and project directly above the rail to secure to the altitude cables 26 as described above. In the illustrated embodiment, either one or two pairs of rollers 110 on axles 112 may straddle the top and bottom surfaces 90a, 90c, respectively, of the rail 70.
Clearances provided by the frame permit passage of the rib 72 through the trolley. In this embodiment, the shape of the rib 72 may be designed to provide additional clearance for the frame 106. Likewise, the frame 106 may be shaped to accommodate the rib 72. The frame may contact the rib 72 at a smaller angle of deflection than would the open cantilevered end closer to the axles.
For example, the open edges 116 or ends 116 of the frame 106 may contact the rib 72 closest to the rail 70 if the frame 16 rotates about the axis of the rail 70. Meanwhile, a larger actual deflection occurs (actual total displacement in linear dimensions) at the corner 115 of the frame 106. Thus, a comparatively small angle of motion would not cause contact between the edge 116 of the frame 106 and the rib 72. By contrast, that same angle may result in the corner 115 of the frame 106 making contact with the rib 72 farther up.
In certain embodiments the rib 72 may actually be formed to be more arcuate in shape. The frame 106 may be more circular in cross section in order to rotate within the shape or profile of the rib 72.
In one alternative embodiment, additional rollers may be provided inboard of the rail 70 on the frame 106 in order to actually run against the rib 72 in its horizontal surfaces, or even its vertical surface 117b. The horizontal surface 117a may provide a riding surface 117a for a roller 110 near the location of the edge 116. By contrast, or similarly, a roller 110 closer to the corner 115, or near the axle 112 may ride against the surface 117b of the rib 72 thus stabilizing the trolley 16 during those maneuvers in which a comparatively sharper corner or comparatively higher velocity may result in the seat 18 swinging wide on a corner, with associated rolling (rotation as in the aircraft sense) with respect to the rail 70.
Referring to FIG. 12 an alternative embodiment of a rail 70 and a trolley 16 may involve a rail cross section that is deeper in a vertical direction 27b compared to being narrower in a lateral direction 27c. In the illustrated embodiment, either one or two rollers 110 may be supported in the frame 106 on axles 112. In this embodiment, the shape of the rail 70 may preclude any rotation, aircraft "roll," with respect to the axial direction of the rail 70. In this embodiment, considering the contemplated weight of the seat assembly 18 and the rider together, sufficient stiffness may exist within the rail 70 to require very little support by the rib 72.
In this embodiment, the rib 72 is reduced to more of an arm 72 supporting the rail 70. Likewise, the same apertures 88, 114 may exist to connect to the altitude cables 26 and seat assembly 18, respectively. In the illustrated embodiment, a single pair of rollers 110 straddles the rail 70.
As with other embodiments, additional stability may result by adding an extra pair of axles 112 and corresponding rollers 110. Nevertheless, a lightweight, simple, and fast trolley 16 may result by using fewer surfaces of rollers 110, and fewer axles 112 to support the trolley 16. Every roller, unless it is a flat roller against a flat surface, is also going to involve side-contact-friction losses. Even flat rollers may be somewhat out of alignment, thus causing a cross friction. Accordingly, minimizing the number of rollers 110 in contact with the rail 70, reduces the number of constraints the trolley 16 must meet in order to pass down the rail.
Referring to FIG. 13, in one embodiment of a trolley 16 in accordance with the invention, a solid frame 106 may be formed as a fabrication, casting, forging, or the like. In the illustrated embodiment, multiple rollers 110 provide support on the upper surfaces 90a of the rail 70, while additional guide rollers 110 provide contact with the bottom surface 90c. In the illustrated embodiment, operating on a cylindrical or circular cross section of a rail 70, the frame 106 may be assembled, formed to be a monolith, or the like.
The frame 106 may optionally be rendered impossible to remove from the rail 70. It may require that the trolley 16 be removed from a section of the rail 70 that has been temporarily removed. In this way, fasteners, bolts, and other assembly devices may not lead to failure of the trolley 16 to hold on to the rail 70.
Alternative embodiments for the frame are illustrated showing rollers 110 adapted to triangular, rectangular, and flat rails. In general, if a rib 72 is attached to another cross section, the upper surfaces 90a may support at least one upper roller. The lower surfaces 90c may support a roller 110 securing the frame 106 against wear with respect to the rail 70. In each of the illustrated embodiments, the configuration precludes the frame 106 from coming in contact with the rib 72 of the rail assembly 14.
In one embodiment, the body 118 of the trolley 16 may simply be the monolithic frame 106. Meanwhile, in those embodiments where the frame 106 may actually "roll" with respect to the axis of the rail 70, additional guides 120 may be added to contact the rib 72 temporarily until the trolley 16 is re-oriented with respect to the rail 70. In alternative embodiments, the shape of the rail 70, in combination with the rollers 110 rolling thereagainst on their respective axles 110, precludes any direct contact between the frame 106 and the rib 72.
Referring to FIG. 14, in one embodiment, a trolley 16 may include a brake assembly 122. Typically in a coaster type of arrangement, it is not appropriate to permit riders to apply any braking. That is, a coaster relies on precisely calculated velocities, energy, and momentum to assure that with each valley encountered, sufficient kinetic energy is developed within the coasting vehicle to surmount the next peak in view of the frictional losses ongoing. In such an environment, permitting a rider to brake may be an operational problem, and may be very dangerous. A rider is susceptible to actually traveling backwards down an uphill grade of the rail 70 due to having wasted too much kinetic energy on braking. Also, allowing one rider to slow down on a continual descent may affect through put.
In some configurations, a coaster amusement ride in accordance with the invention may include a continuous downhill track 14. Not withstanding twists and turns, the track 14 or rail assembly 14 may have a continuous downhill grade, whether or not the actual incline angle changes. Accordingly, such a ride may tend to approximate a zip line in nature.
A roller coaster typically takes speed out of the vehicle with altitude. Kinetic energy of motion is stored in the potential energy of altitude. By contrast, a zip line is a continuous downhill ride. Accordingly, a zip line is unconstrained in velocity. In such an environment, a brake is appropriate. Likewise, if a rail assembly 14 were connected to be continuously inclined downward, then a user may benefit from having a brake assembly 122 available, and even operable by a rider, in order to slow the speed of descent.
Accordingly, in on embodiment of an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention, a trolley 16 may include a housing 124 to support brake pads 126 formed of a suitable material. Suitable materials may include various polymers, elastomers, and the like as disclosed in the United States patent application incorporated herein by reference by the inventor above. In the embodiment of FIG. 14, the brake pads 126 may be formed of any suitable material previously disclosed by the inventor, including ultra high molecular weight olefinic polymers, such as polyethylene. Likewise, the brake may be adapted to use alternative materials or sets of different materials in order to achieve the proper braking effectiveness and reliability.
In the illustrated embodiment, the connector 102 may support the seat assembly 18 therebelow. In this embodiment, the weight of a user in the seat 18 will pull vertically 27b downward on the portion of the lever 130 behind the pivot point 131. Accordingly, the brake pads 126 do not engage the rail 70. However, by providing a substantially longer portion of the lever 130 ahead of the pivot 131 and the rollers 110, a user may obtain a leverage advantage. A user may lift the users weight a comparatively small distance but with a substantially reduced force applied to the lever 130.
A lever allows a user to pass the lever 130 through a much larger distance with a substantially smaller force. This is compared with the comparatively smaller distance and larger force applied by the weight of a user suspended from a connector 102 on the trolley 16.
A system of a tether 132, such as a rope 132, may be connected to a handle 128. These may be connected by some type of connector 134 to one end of the lever 130. The lever permits a user to apply the brake 122 more forcefully against the rail 70 to slow the speed of the trolley 16.
The illustrated embodiment shows a pair of rollers 110 juxtaposed above and below the location of the rail 70. In an alternative embodiment, an additional one or two rollers 110 may be applied. For example, having two rollers 110 above the rail 70 provides additional bearing stability in the "pitch" direction (in an aircraft sense of roll, pitch, and yaw). Having a single roller 110 therebelow underneath the rail 70, minimizes the number of rollers causing friction. Of course, bearings, bushings, lubricants, and the like may be applied in order to minimize friction. Also, a certain amount of friction may actually be a safety feature to tend to brake the speed of the trolley 16 in its downward path.
In one embodiment, the lever 130, at one end thereof, may have a bumper portion 136 for engaging a mechanism near the unloading and loading station of the amusement ride in accordance with the invention. Upon approaching a particular location, a bar, ring, or an operator's hand or tool may engage the bumper 136 pulling the lever 130 down, and applying a positive brake.
In one particular embodiment, an apparatus 10 may be provided with a trolley 16 having a brake lever 130 restricted in its motion or pressure. Accordingly, for example, the brake cradle 124 may be provided with a spring loaded mechanism that does not permit an excessive amount of braking to occur. Accordingly, a user may be able to decrease speed but not bring the trolley 16 to a stop, nor to a sufficiently slow speed to interfere with the subsequent rider on the track 70.
In an alternative embodiment, the brake pads 126 may be provided with spring loading in order to limit the pressure the lever 130 can produce against the rail 70. In this manner, throughput may be maintained. A degree of braking is possible for an individual rider, but a rider would be unable to bring the trolley 16 to a stop or to slow it sufficiently to interfere with subsequent riders.
Referring to FIG. 15, a seat assembly 18 may include a seat panel 138 below a rider, and a back panel 139 positioned behind a rider. The seat panel 138 and back panel 139 may be formed of a flexible fabric, or may be formed as a more rigid seat. In the illustrated embodiment, the overall seat assembly 18 includes a harness 140 built into the seat assembly 18.
For example, a waist belt 142 is formed of a suitable material, such as a webbing material to fit around the waist of a rider. Likewise, leg straps 144 may be provided to underlie the legs of a user, just as a safety harness used in climbing and industrial work may operate. In the illustrated embodiment, the leg straps 144 are formed as part of the seat panel 138, or crossing the seat panel 138 in order to be comfortable, unobtrusive, and easily positioned, even automatically postponed.
Likewise, a front strap 146 extends either as a literal extension of the webbing forming the leg straps 144 or as a strap 146 completely secured thereto in order to effectively provide a safety harness 140. In the illustrated embodiment, the front strap may include a loop to be threaded by the waist belt 142 and buckle 148. The buckle 148 may be of any suitable type to connect the waist belt 142 to itself in order to secure a rider safely.
In various alternative embodiments, the front strap 146 may be formed to have a portion of a composite buckle 148 in which two ends of the waist belt 142 and the free end of the front strap 146 all buckle together. In general, the seat 140 or harness 140 in accordance with the invention may include upper portions of rigging 150 for connecting the harness 140 to a trolley 16.
For example, a main carrier strap 152 may be formed of a suitable material, such as safety webbing used in mountaineering and industrial safety applications. The carrier strap 152 may be formed of one or more pieces secured to support a user.
In the illustrated embodiment, the carrier strap 152 may be a continuous piece of webbing extending from well above a head of a user, down beside a user, underneath and behind the user, ultimately either connecting or continuous by means of continuous webbing, or stitching 156. For example, manufacturing techniques permit stitching 156 that is sufficient to render webbing materials completely inseparable, or separable only at some rated safety level of force.
In the illustrated embodiment, a shoulder strap 154 may extend down parallel with the carrier strap 152 at its upper reaches. Should straps 154 are shown separating to pass over the front of a shoulder of a user, and extend toward the front of the seat panel 138.
In certain embodiments, the shoulder strap 154 may simply be a continuous piece of webbing with the carrier strap 152. The shoulder strap 154 may actually extend to the front of the seat panel 138. As shown the should strap 154 may turn to run underneath the legs of a user, and across the front of the seat panel 138. It may return as part of the shoulder strap 154 on the opposite side of the harness 140.
The carrier strap 152 and shoulder strap 154 may typically be stitched together with stitching 156 near a spreader 160 or spreader bar 160. The spreader 160 effectively provides separation of the carrier straps 152 on either side of a harness 140, as well as the shoulder straps 154 on opposite sides of the harness 140. Separation tends to relieve the pressure that would otherwise result from the weight of a user in the harness 140.
For example, every child has sat in a swing having a rigid seat, as well as a swing having a seat formed of flexible belting. The seats formed of belting tend to create lateral pressure on a user as a result of the weight of the user sitting on the seat. Accordingly, a spreader 160 may be sized of a sufficient length to provide the desired degree of comfort for a user sitting in the harness 140.
In one embodiment, spreader bars 160 may actually be positioned along the front strap 158 running under the legs of a user, at the back of the seat panel 138, or even along the seat portion 161 of the carrier strap 152. In one embodiment, the entire seat panel 138 may actually be framed in a rigid material. However, it has been found that a rider can be comfortable in the harness 140 without the rigid materials surrounding the seat panel. The spreader bar 160 is properly designed to separate the carrier straps 152 and shoulder straps 154 from their counterpart straps 152, 154 on the opposite side of the harness 140.
In the illustrated embodiment, the carrier strap 152 and shoulder strap 154 may extend on continuously upward toward the extension portion 162. In fact, in certain embodiments, including the illustrated embodiment, the carrier strap 152 and shoulder strap 154 actually extend up and over the main hanger 164 or main carrier 164. They may be formed as a single continuous strap 152, 154 stitched back to itself to act as a single supporting strap in the extension portion 162.
The main carrier 164 may be formed in any suitable shape to separate the carrier straps 152 on either side of the harness 140, and securely fasten the harness 140 to a trolley 16. For example, a connector 166, such as a clevis, bolt, pin, cable, or the like may connect the main carrier 164 to a trolley for operation along a rail assembly 14.
In certain embodiments, a suitable material may be used for forming the back panel 139 together with the seat panel 138 as a continuous fabric support for a user. In safety situations, maintaining the various straps 152, 154, 142, 144, 156, 158 is still a good practice. It provides fail-safe support that would sustain a rider even if the fabric in the back panel 139 or the seat panel 138 in particular to fail due to were age, should otherwise rip, or the like.
For example, if a seat panel 138 were to rip, the continuing stress concentration at the edge of the tear would tend to propagate the tear all the way across the material, so long as the stress is sufficiently high. By contrast, webbing such as used in the straps 142, 144, 146, 152, 154 is rated at very high loads, with many times the strength required to support a user.
Nevertheless, such straps 142, 144, 146, 152, 154 are not typically as comfortable standing alone as they would be with a seat panel 138 or back panel 139. Moreover, the seat panel 138 and back panel 139 may be padded to make the load bearing capacity of the various straps 142, 144, 146, 152, 154 less prominent to the senses of a user.
Referring to FIGS. 16 and 17, a length 168 of, for example, the longitudinal direction 27a of an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention is laid out in a plan layout 170a and an elevation layout 170b. Accordingly, the width 172 represents the distance in a lateral direction 27c in an apparatus 10. The length 168 represents the length in the longitudinal direction 27a. Likewise, the height 174 represents the distance in a vertical direction 27b of such an apparatus 10.
In the illustrated embodiment, a simple coaster design path is illustrated, beginning with the lift 176 portion. At the top of the lift 176, a summit 177 represents the highest point and effectively the start of the coaster ride for rider. Accordingly, during a run 178 a user travels in a longitudinal direction 27a in an undulating ride such as a conventional or other coaster amusement ride.
At the end of the run 178, a turn 179 returns a rider to travel once again in the longitudinal direction 27a. Herein, no distinction is made as to forward and backward in the longitudinal direction 27a or the back and forth of the lateral direction 27c. Rather, motion along the axis in such a direction is not distinguished.
Once again, the run 180 follows an undulating path in the vertical direction 27b as a rider continues forward in a longitudinal direction 27a. A turn 181 occurs at the end of the run 180. Likewise, another run 182 begins with the turn 181 and ends with the turn 183 leading into a final run 184. Ultimately, a turn 185 arrives at the end of a relatively flat portion of the run 184, which may be used as an unloading and loading zone.
Following the turn 185 the lift portion 176 begins, rising once again to the summit 177. In the illustrated embodiment, each of the runs 178, 180, 182, 184 may be supported by altitude cables 26 from a suspension cable 20 running there above and parallel to each of the runs 178, 180, 182, 184.
In such an embodiment, one or more altitude cables 26 may be vectored at each connection point to the rail assembly 14 in order to provide support against any thrust (e.g. lateral, transverse) loads. Meanwhile, since there are no crossovers within the entire course of the illustrated embodiment of the track 14, no clearances between multiple levels of the rail assembly 14 are required.
One may note that the undulating path of the rail assembly 14 results in a variety of valleys 186 followed by peaks 187 followed by valleys 188 and peaks 189. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, the peak 187 lies below the summit 177. Accordingly, the kinetic energy developed by the trolley descending to the valley 186, is partially recovered, less some frictional losses, and some remaining velocity retained by the trolley and rider at the peak 187.
Meanwhile, each turn, and each amount of distance covered tends to dissipate a certain amount of energy due to frictional forces acting on the trolley 116. Each succeeding valley 186, 188 generates velocity and kinetic energy, which is then used to surmount the following peak 187, 189. One advantage of an apparatus and method in accordance with the invention is that an individual rider presents a comparatively small aerodynamic profile, although some aerodynamic drag will tend to dissipate the energy of motion of each rider.
However, with a comparatively light trolley assembly 16 and seat assembly 18, plus the weight of a user, the overall frictional loads, which depend on weight, are also minimized. That is, friction is proportional to weight, and thus less weight results in less friction, proportional to the weight of the overall system. Accordingly, an amusement ride may achieve significant velocities, with minimal losses due to drag and friction.
Referring to FIGS. 18 and 19, a plan layout 190a and elevation layout 190b correspond to the rail assembly 14 illustrated in FIG. 1. The layout 190 again represents a simple coaster configuration having no crossovers. Accordingly, such an embodiment is comparatively simple to implement in an apparatus 10 and accordance with the invention. Generally, there is no requirement that runs be straight, that they be undulating, or that they be of any particular configuration other that calculated to provide continuous motion of a user along the rail assembly 14.
Stopping and backing up are not typically desirable nor permitted in an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention. Nevertheless, velocity may increase or decrease according to the steepness of descent of the rail assembly 14, and according to the number of turns encountered. Likewise, velocity may increase and decrease according to the net exchange of potential energy and kinetic energy at higher elevations, and lower elevations, respectively.
In the illustrated embodiment, a series of runs 192 is connected by corresponding turns 193. Meanwhile, beginning at a summit 177, a trolley 16 carrying a rider will descend to a valley 194 and subsequent peak 195. Thus, for each of the runs 192 a minimum valley 194 is illustrated, corresponding thereto. Likewise, a peak 195 is shown for each run 192.
Initially, at a very high velocity, a run such as the run 192a will result in a particularly rapid passage between the summit 177 and the peak 195a. By contrast, the run 192f will be comparatively slower, and thus multiple undulations may be provided as illustrated by the multiple valleys 194f on the run 192f. How many valleys 194 may be placed in any particular run 192 is a matter of design choice, and is dictated by the engineering and operation principles as well as the comfort and security of riders, as well as the structural capacities of the apparatus 10.
Referring to FIG. 20, an uphill direction 196 is indicated by the arrow 196. Meanwhile, an overall run 198 is illustrated in one embodiment of an apparatus suitable for implementation in the embodiment of FIG. 4. A suspension system 12 may be implemented in accordance with any of the illustrations of FIGS. 1-4, so long as the towers 22 have sufficient height. However, a strictly downhill ride is particularly appropriate where a hillside may be used to provide a change in elevation, such as is illustrated in FIG. 4.
In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 20, the coaster effect is achieved by moving the trolley forward on the track assembly 14 or rail assembly 14, achieving changes in elevation by running in the uphill direction 196, or opposite thereto, downhill 197. In the illustrated embodiment, a layout 200 includes a number of peaks 202, each followed, typically, by a subsequent valley 204. In the illustrated embodiment, the circuitous path with its various curves, provides a turning sensation in each turn to the right or left of an individual user.
Meanwhile, the elevation change may be achieved by going uphill 196 or downhill 197. Accordingly, each of the peaks 202a, 202b, 202c, 202d, 202e, 202f, 202g, 202h, 202j may be designed such that a preceding peak 202 exists at a higher altitude than a subsequent peak 202. Likewise, the individual valleys 204 may advantageously be set each to have an elevation lower than its predecessor. In this way, the frictional energy loss may be made up by the difference between, for example the potential energy of the height difference between the peak 202a, and the peak 202b, in combination with the energy difference between the elevation of the valley 204a, and 204b. That is, a trolley 16 arriving at the peak 202c differs in potential energy by the difference in altitude between that peak and the peak 202a. By dropping each valley 204 below the previous, the velocity or kinetic energy of the trolley 16 and rider may still achieve similar values, with each turn. That is, otherwise, if all the valleys 204 were at the same altitude, velocities would slow between the potential energy peaks 202.
In the illustrated embodiment, the peak 202f may be the next immediate peak 202 following the peak 202d. Nevertheless, in this embodiment an additional loop 210 was added.
Two design points may typically be important for safety. These design points involve the placement of cross overs 206, and the proximity of turns 208. With crossovers 206, bridges are not typically contemplated. That is, in a roller coaster, a bridge permits one roller coaster track portion to pass underneath another. By contrast, since the apparatus 10 is based upon cable suspension systems 12, cables from above support each rail assembly 14.
Whenever the rail 14 passes under itself, one must accommodate exactly how the altitude cables 26 will support the rail assembly 14 below the suspension cables 20. Thus, the loop 210 as it causes various crossovers 206, must be positioned either above or below other portions of the rail assembly 14. Likewise, altitude cables 26 must be engineered as to height and location in order to provide adequate, periodic support along the rail assembly 14.
Clearance is needed for riders on upper reaches of the rail assembly 14 to pass by the cables 26 extending to lower reaches with out striking them, or being able to reach out to touch them. Again, with a larger rib 72, the rail assembly 14 is capable of longer unsupported spans between connections to the altitude cables 26. In one embodiment, the loop 210 may be dispensed with completely. In such an embodiment, the peak 202f may follow the peak 202d, and the rail assembly 14 would have absolutely no crossovers 206 of concern.
In an alternative embodiment, the layout 200 may be configured with substantially no returns in an uphill direction 196. That is, it may be monotonically descending in a downhill direction 197 at all times.
Typically, in a rail assembly 14, a runout portion 212 will permit a loading and unloading zone for the trolleys 16 and their associated seat assemblies 18. Providing a level or even slightly uphill portion of the rail assembly 14 as a runout portion 212 will permit each trolley 16 to come to a stop, permit the riders to exit, and permit reloading. The trolley may be stopped easily and delayed for loading before connecting it to a lift 44 to draw the trolley 16 up the lift portion 176 of the rail assembly 14.
Referring to FIGS. 21 and 22, one embodiment of a layout 220 represents a plan layout 220a, and an elevation layout 220b. In the elevation layout 220b, the actual altitude changes may not be exactly as shown. For example, a spiraling loop descending downward, when viewed from an elevation view appears to have a sinusoidal motion. A rail 14 may have a constant rate of descent per distance traveled. Rates of descent may be reduced for straight sections or comparatively larger loops, since friction may be less. Nevertheless, in the illustration of FIG. 22, the descent motion has been reduced to a schematic, triangular, nominal, linear function between each extreme of each loop for clarity. The exact height at any horizontal location may be determined and plotted, but is not shown here.
In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, each of the locations 222 represents a truss 50 or a cable 28. Meanwhile, each of the lines 224 represents the location in a plan view 220a of a suspension cable 20. Accordingly, the resulting lattice provides a variety of connection points available for suspending the rail assembly 14 therebelow. Thus, the cable lines 224 may be distributed along the width 72 of an array while the trusses 50 or the truss lines 50 may be distributed along the length 168 thereof. Meanwhile, the grid lines 226 represent different elevation levels in the vertical direction 27b.
In the illustrated embodiment, each of the locations 228 represents an appropriate location (e.g. such as along a truss 50) for a connection 228 between the rail assembly 14, such as at an aperture 88 in the rib 72. This connection point 228 may be secured to one or more altitude cables 26 below the suspension cables 20. Accordingly, each of the connection locations 228 is aligned along the path of a truss 50 or a truss line 222 in the illustration.
At other locations 230, circles indicate connection locations 230 wherein a rail assembly connection point 230 may be suspended directly from a suspension cable 20 without an intervening truss 50 or lateral cable 28. For example, in order to avoid too long expanses of unsupported rail assembly 14, the rail assembly 14 may be connected directly to altitude cables 26 proceeding from the suspension cables 20 themselves.
Some of the most interesting layouts 220 for an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention may involve numerous crossovers 206. With each of the crossovers 206, safety design considerations must be considered. For example, a rider must be able to clear the elevation distance between the different levels of the rail assembly 14 crossing over itself. That is, there needs to be sufficient clearance for a rider and seat assembly 18 suspended below the railing assembly 14 to clear the rail assembly 14 and its portion of the suspension system 12.
The rail assembly 14 is suspended from above. Any part of the suspension system 12 suspending a lower portion of a rail assembly 14 must provide clearance thereabove for any rider and trolley 16 passing thereabove. Thus, clearance between a rider and a rail 14 or the portion of the rail 14 therebelow must be adequate. A rider above must clear any portion of the suspension system 12 supporting the portion of the rail 14 therebelow.
For example, the supports 230e and 228j support a portion of the rail assembly 14 below the connection points 230d and 228j. Since the connection point 230d mounted to the cable 224d near the crossover 206a is above the other portion of the rail assembly 14 at the crossover 206a, it may be suspended directly from above.
By contrast, the portion of the rail assembly 14 passing thereunder at the crossover 206a is not suspended near the connecting point. Rather, it is suspended from the next nearest locations 230e and 228g, suspended respectively from the cable 224e and the strut 222j near the cable 224d. By planning each of the connecting points 228 secured below a strut line 222, and each of the connecting points 230 connected below a cable line 224, clearance between a rider and the cables below may be accommodated.
Likewise, clearance between a rider and supporting structures such as the suspension system 12 and the altitude cables 26, in particular, may also be accommodated. The situation like that occurring at connecting point 231b may be problematic, and requires an engineering solution. Assuming that all altitude cables 26 drop straight down from either suspension cables 12, trusses 50, or suspension cables 28, then the connection location 231b is associated with an altitude cable 26 that is too close to the cross over point 206b.
However, such a problem may be resolved by connecting at the connecting point 231b not with a cable 26 straight up to the suspension system 12 and truss 50, but instead some type of a spreader or truss that may be suspended from its ends located away from the cross over point 206b. Thus, the point 231b may be connected to a truss suspended below the cable lines 224b and 224f, or between the truss lines 222e and 222g. In any case, adequate clearance may be provided between any suspending altitude cables 26 and the rider passing there above. Altitude cables 2b are shown as vertical, but may be vectored in any suitable direction and number.
In the layout 220a of FIG. 21, nearly all of the connection points 228, 230 may be connected by vertical cables 26 secured to either suspension cables 20, suspension cables 28, trusses 50, or the like. Nevertheless, in an alternative embodiment, various truss networks may also be created to suspend along the cable lines 224 and truss lines 222. For example, a universal, trussed grid may extend over the entire domain of the layout 220a. Alternatively, localized trussed grids may be suspended to provide support for various portions of the rail assembly 14. Alternatively, individualized truss supports may be suspended at any particular connection location 228, 230 from surrounding cables 20 or trusses 50 passing along the cable lines 224 and truss lines 222, respectively, above the rail assembly 14.
Any crossover 206 may be given sufficient clearance for riders. Connecting a truss work of solid members or cables, including horizontal spreaders, diagonal bracing, and the like may form a framework. One or more such frameworks may be suspended from the support system 12. An appropriate portion of the rail system 14 may be suspended therefrom, avoiding the portion of the rail system 14 and rider path passing thereabove.
In general, the layout 220a may be viewed as a series of loops 232. Many of the loops 232 may complete a full three hundred sixty degrees of arc. Others may instead double back on themselves. Likewise, a certain portion of runout 234 may be curved or may be a straightaway.
Nevertheless, one may view each loop 232 from 232a to 232g as a loop 232 to be supported. Likewise, each loop 232 will typically have a direction change point 236 forward, or a point 236 at which the direction change loops from backward (toward the right edge of the layout 220a) to forward (toward the left edge of the layout 220a). Likewise, at an opposite side of each loop 232, sooner or later, a direction change 238, or point 238 of direction change will exist on the left side of each loop 232 indicating that the direction of a trolley is proceeding backwards toward the right side of the layout 220.
Referring to FIG. 22, a layout 220b provides a somewhat schematic elevation view of the nominal elevation clearances between various locations on the rail assembly 14. For example, lift portion 176 on the rail assembly 14 is illustrated in FIGS. 21 and 22. Near the end of the lift portion 176 is a summit 177, the highest location reached by a rail assembly 14 and its trolley 16 carried therebelow. Upon release, a trolley 16 proceeds down the rail assembly 14 through the various turns and loops 232.
For example, in layouts 220a, 220b of FIGS. 21 and 22, the rail passes through the point 236 of direction change identified as location 236a and proceeds on around to another point 238a of direction change. As the elevation of the rail assembly 14 declines, a trolley of a rail assembly 14 descends on around the loop 232a and eventually enters the loop 232b with its direction point 236b, at subsequent direction change point 238b.
Thus, as each loop 232 progresses in direction and elevation, the turns may be identified in FIG. 22 as locations 236 and 238, as illustrated. Nevertheless, the elevation changes shown are nominal. For example, in general, a loop will approach a sinusoidal shape if it is a continuous spiral of uniform decline on a single radius.
For example, at a constant level of decline, a spiral, when viewed in an elevation view such as that illustrated in layout 220b of FIG. 22, actually may have a sinusoidal appearance, not a straight linear appearance as schematically illustrated. Also, a constant rate of decline per distance travel may or may not exist. Undulations may also be provided in addition to the curves. Nevertheless, at each of the points 236 and 238, the locations may illustrate the principles. Modeling or "descriptive geometry" may be used to show the precise height at any point along the path of the rail.
One may observe in FIG. 22 that the clearance 240 between the rail assembly 14 and itself at each crossover point 206 is illustrated by a corresponding distance 240a through 240h corresponding to each of the crossover points 206a through 206h. Thus, in designing the comparative elevation of the rail assembly 14 throughout its entire course, an engineer may determine at each crossover point 206 exactly what the value is for the clearance 240 corresponding thereto.
For example, the clearance 240h between the portions of the rail 14 is extremely large because five changes of direction, with associated loops 232 and changes in elevation have also occurred therebetween. By contrast, the clearance 230c is considerably less, representing only two changes in direction. As a practical matter, in loops 232 that are closed (encompass a full three hundred sixty degrees of change in direction) at least two opposite changes in direction will typically occur. Unless a circle is very tight (of small radius), or the loop 232 is very tight, sufficient clearance 240 may be engineered into the crossover 206. Without such a change in direction, no crossover 206 will exist, and thus only the proximity between portions of the rail assembly 14 near each other need be a major design consideration in the exclusion.
Nevertheless, such a situation may be of concern, as at locations 208a, and 208b in FIG. 20. Two turns or corners are sufficiently close to one another that an engineered distance therebetween is in order. To the extent that a rider is free to swing in response to centrifugal forces, two riders may collide if the locations 208a and 208b were too close. The design should consider the speeds of riders and their proximity in entering the amusement ride. Again, spacing the riders apart, and controlling elevations changes to control speed, as well as engineering the distances between such points as the points 208a and 208b may avoid safety concerns.
Ultimately, a rail assembly 14 will typically descend to a runout portion 234, typically level or even running slightly uphill to slow the trolleys 16. Accordingly, a loading zone 242 or an unloading zone 242, or both 242 may be established at such a location. As riders are released from harnesses 140 and new riders are loaded, trolleys 16 may be pushed, pulled, or otherwise motivated or moved along the rail assembly 14 toward a start point 244. At that point 244, a lift 44 or tow 244 may then lift each trolley 16 toward the summit 77 to begin the downhill course.
The examples discussed above are only illustrative. That is, for example, in the layout 220a of FIG. 21, any number of elevation changes desired may be engineered into the rail assembly 14. Clearances may be increased at crossovers 206 by causing one portion of the rail assembly 14 to rise or dip in order to provide more clearance for a corresponding portion thereof at the crossover 206. Accordingly, the changes in the elevation in the layout 220b of FIG. 22 are only nominal between the turning points 236, 238. Nevertheless, one may see how the clearances 240 may be determined.
In an engineering process, actual clearances 240 may be established by plotting exactly the change in elevation between each of the turning points 236 and 238 thus plotting out exactly what the clearance 240 is at every location on the layout 220b.
Longer, sweeping curves may be accommodated. Irregular curves may have one portion having a tighter radius than another portion. All may be accurately accommodated.
For example, as illustrated, turns may become like those of a roller coaster in which minimum velocity is achieved at each peak, and all turns are made at peaks, in order to minimize the momentum transfer from the car into the rails. In an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention, such an arrangement is illustrated in the trajectories of FIG. 19. The inset of the layout 220b shows a downward spiraling sinusoidal progress about a circle when viewed from an elevation perspective. Accordingly, a start point 246 represents one point on the spiral in a circular configuration, and the intermediate point 247 represents the opposing side of the circle, with the commensurate, even rate of decline throughout the entire semicircle between the points 246 and 247.
Likewise, the return about the spiral along the circular path is represented by the curve between the point 247 and the point 248. Accordingly, a crossover point of the corkscrew is represented by the distance 240x or clearance 240x between the points 246 above and the point 248 below. Actually the clearance of 240y is almost irrelevant. That is, the clearance 240y is the distance in elevation between opposite sides of the loop 232 represented.
Thus, each of the straight lines between the points 236 and 238 corresponding to one another in the layout of FIG. 220b actually would look more accurately something like the sinusoidal trace of the inset. Thus, each line between a point 236 and point 238 corresponding to one another would be one half of the sinusoid of the inset. With a longer trajectory therebetween, a more leisurely sinusoidal path is traced. Nevertheless, elevation changes may be adapted to add peaks and valleys as discussed hereinabove. Accordingly, the clearances 240 should be checked, designed, and engineered for safety for each crossover 206.
Referring to FIG. 23, a rail assembly 14 is arranged in a corkscrew configuration 250. In the illustrated embodiment, the corkscrew 250 represents a circular spiral in which the radius does not change. The rail assembly 14 completely overlaps itself for at least a full one hundred eighty degrees. In such an embodiment, the lower portion of the rail assembly 14 may be supported by cables 26, illustrated here by various assortment of altitude cables 252, 254. In one embodiment, using multiple cables, including at least two, three, or four cables to each connection point 88a, 88b, 88c, 88d.
Each of the respective cables 252, 254 may then be connected above to the suspension system 12 at corresponding connection points 256. By proper selection of the locations of the connection points 256 to the suspension system 12, sufficient clearance may be provided between the rail 70 carrying a trolley 16, and any of the supporting cables or rails 70 nearby.
In an alternative embodiment, suspension members 258, made of either elevation cables 27 or some other structures, including rods, trusses, frames, and the like may suspend a cross truss 260. The cross member 260 connects to the aperture 88e or other connection point 88e of the rail assembly 14. Thus, the suspension members 258 are separated by the support structure 260 providing adequate clearance between the rail assembly 14 and itself, including the trolley 16, seat 18, and rider carried therein.
As a practical matter, the suspension assemblies 258 may be connected to any point in the suspension system 12. Likewise, the suspension members 258 may represent pyramids, columns, two-, three-, or four-dimensional structures or other members in order to properly carry any vertical loads or loads in the longitudinal 27a, vertical 27b, or lateral 27c directions. Thus, a rail assembly 14 may be suspended in as rigid a manner as desired.
For example, a complex truss work of two-force members may be constructed providing passages, all effectively hanging upside down from the suspension system 12. Framing of openings may extend above as a roller coaster framing system would extend from below the coaster. However, a significant advantage is the cost and weight saving of suspension. That is, comparatively lightweight cables, lightweight structures, and the like may be relied upon in an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention.
One of the reasons that such lightweight structures may be accommodated is the fact that the rail assembly 14 may actually deflect. A swing may actually be granted certain degrees of freedom not available in a car and rail structure supported from below. For example, a displacement of a structure below a roller coaster could be devastating, causing buckling or the like in a compression member.
By contrast, any displacement of any portion of the rail assembly 14 in a longitudinal 27a or lateral 27c direction would eventually be resisted by all the suspension cables 20 thereabove to which the respective altitude cables 26 are connected. Meanwhile, wire rope is extremely strong and stable in tension. Extremely small, light sizes thereof may be used. Moreover, since the altitude cables 26 may be deployed in groups of two or three to each connection point 88 on the rail assembly 14, they represent a factor of safety in which even a breakage or cutting of one cable 26 may result in some displacement, but not a catastrophic dropping of the rail assembly 14.
Referring to FIG. 24, a layout 261 illustrating a plan view of a portion of a rail assembly 14 supported by a network of cable lines 226 and cable lines or truss lines 222 illustrates a support mechanism. In the illustrated embodiment, each of the lines 226 represents a support line of some type such as a suspension cable 20, truss 50, or the like. Likewise, each of the lines 222 represents a supporting member such as a suspension cable 20, support cable 28, truss 50, or the like.
Typically, a suspension cable 20 may be arrayed along the line 226 while a truss 50 may be aligned along the line 222. The catenary path of each cable 20 will provide a single elevation along each line 222. Nevertheless, by either mode, a grid constituting a suspension system 12 is represented in a layout 261.
In the illustrated embodiment, the rail assembly 14 passes under the suspension system 12 supported by connections 262, 264 into the suspension system 12. Each of the connections 262, 264 may be made in any suitable manner, and may be represented by a clevis, a fastener, a cable 26, or the like.
In one embodiment, the expanse between each of the connections 262, 264 corresponding to each other (e.g. 262a-264a, 262b-264b, etc.) represents a truss. By either mode, whether cables, trusses, or the like, a connecting point 266a represents a connection to the rail assembly 14. In the illustrated embodiment, a system of trusses may be formed to suspend the rail assembly 14 from appropriate, selected points 262, 264 regardless of the absolute location of the rail assembly 14.
Thus, the rail assembly 14 as it traverses the entire layout 261 may have a connection 266 supported by trusses of varying lengths, strengths, and the like, or cables. Each may traverse the respective distance between the connecting points 262, 266. The members may likewise traverse the distance between the connecting points 264 and the connecting points 266.
Thus, in various embodiments, the structure represented between the points 262,264, 266 may be triangular, rectangular, of any particular cross section, in order to accomplish the desired support, weight, and stiffness in the suspension of the rail system 14.
In the illustrated embodiment, for simplicity, each of the connections 262, 264 is made at an intersection of a cable line 226 and a truss line 222. This is not necessary. Nevertheless, this illustrates how truss work or cables may be used effectively to create a very lightweight structure while handling a substantially arbitrary location and elevation of a rail assembly 14.
Moreover, truss work, cables, or other stabilizing mechanisms may be connected between any desired connection point 262, and any other desired connection point 262 or connection point 264. Accordingly, as much rigidity as desired may be introduced into the truss structure, while remaining localized. No massive truss assembly need be designed to cover the entire grid of cables 226 and trusses 222.
On the other hand, the trusses 222 may be trussed together. A grid may extend on a level, or on an incline, or in segments as necessary or desirable to support the rail assembly 14 with proper clearances for passage of passengers there along, and thereabove. Thus, a suspension system 12 in accordance with convention may support any amount of cabling or trussing structure to suspend the rail assembly 14 in any manner designed.
Such a system 10 may have maximum flexibility, intermediate flexibility, or a comparatively rigid lack of flexibility. The trusses 50 may be connected to one another in a lattice like a suspension bridge would require, or may be separated from one another. Trusses 50 are not even necessary, and may be replaced by cables. Nevertheless, for simplicity, cables 20 with their catenary disposition may benefit from trusses 50 each crossing at a single elevation.
Referring to FIG. 25 an apparatus 10 in accordance with the invention may involve an alternative mechanism for support of the rail. Any of the rail assemblies 14 described hereinabove may be used with any suitable structural support mechanism. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, a system of poles 270 may be secured to the earth or other surface by any suitable method to support vertical loads. Likewise, they may be grounded and sized to support lateral loading as well. For example, if a rail assembly 14 circumnavigates a pole 270, then the weight of a rider and the momentum thereof may apply a radial load to a pole 270. Accordingly, a radial load may tend to load any particular pole 270 in a radial (likewise, a lateral) direction.
In the illustrated embodiment, the poles 270 may be provided with arms 272 extending radially therefrom to support the rail assembly 14. Typically, a system of struts 274 may extend from above or below to stiffen the load capacity of the arms 272. One advantage of using struts 274 extending from above the arms 272 is that the struts 274 may be "two-force" tension members, such as cables, rods, and the like. By contrast if the struts 274 are placed below the rail assembly 14, the clearances for a rider to pass under the rail must be accommodated in the dimensioning of the arms 272 and struts 274. Likewise, the struts 274 must be designed to avoid compression buckling under the compressive loads transferred thereto from the arms 272.
In certain embodiments, an apparatus 10 may be built in conjunction with a platform 276 or tower 276 associated with a water park. For example, a water park may involve a platform 276 for supporting users climbing to the top of the platform 276 in order to begin a downward ride on a slide 280. A water slide 280 or tube 280 may be supported by various poles 278.
Without constructing a new tower 276 or platform 276, a concessionaire may simply provide a gate or other access at another location on the platform 276 from which to launch riders on the rail assembly 14 of the apparatus 10. In such an embodiment, the throughput of customers or guests may be increased for a single tower 276, with minimal structural additions.
Of course, a certain amount of real estate may be required to place the poles 270a, 270b, 270c, for example, in order to support the rail assembly 14. Nevertheless, a combination of loops, bends, corkscrews, linear paths, and the like may be engineered. They may all be designed and supported as best suited for the real estate available and the other features of the amusement facility.
Any of the rail assemblies 14 described hereinabove may be adapted to a supporting structure comprised of poles 270 and arms 272. Accordingly, the clearances between the rider and the rail assembly 14, may be adjusted in order to accommodate the presence of the poles 270 and dynamics of the ride. Alternatively, the arms 272 may simply be designed to be of an appropriate length, and the struts 274 of an appropriate dimension to support the rail assembly 14 at some desired distance away from a pole 270.
Likewise, in the illustrated embodiment, additional balance may be achieved against lateral or radial forces exerted on a pole 270. For example, each pole may be positioned such that the rail assembly 14 wraps sufficiently around the pole 270 to provide balanced loading on all sides or on opposite sides. Thus, a bending moment along the length of the pole 270 may be avoided or minimized. Moreover, doubling the rail assembly 14 back around each pole 270 in an appropriate pattern, provides additional use of each pole to support additional passes by the rail assembly 14, while also balancing the bending moments on the poles 270.
In laying out the ride one may thus focus on maximizing the ride length or otherwise optimizing desirable features like speeds, drops, curves, and so forth, or minimizing the required amount of real estate. Accordingly, any suitable pattern may be engineered with a system of poles 270, arms 272 and rail assemblies 14 to provide a single pass ride, a double-rail system allowing pairs of riders to race, or the like.
Another feature that may be implemented in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 25 is the use of other water features. For example, an installation such as the illustrated embodiment might be installed in a water park. Therefore water cannons, walls of water, sheets of spray, sheets of water dropping over, waterfalls, and the like may be installed along the path of the rail assembly 14 in order to provide additional thrills for users passing therethrough. Also, the rail assembly may operate above other features like pools and gardens.
Likewise, water cannons aimed by friends on the ground, or others may selectively aim and fire streams of water at riders descending along the rail assembly 14. Likewise, although additional logistical issues must be addressed with respect to the harnesses and support of users, the rail assembly 14 may terminate near a water feature, such as pool. Likewise, the rail assembly 14 may also terminate at a station just as described with respect to other embodiments hereinabove.
The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative, and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims, rather than by the foregoing description. All changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.
Patent applications by Eric S. Cylvick, Wanship, UT US
Patent applications in class AMUSEMENT
Patent applications in all subclasses AMUSEMENT