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Crash Studies - Loopy Landscapes Add-on

Author/Contributors: Metro Master

Chris Sawyer made some very significant, though not readily apparent, changes to Roller Coaster Tycoon (RCT) with LL, so those of you who have no add-on or have only the Corkscrew Follies (CF) add-on will not be cognizant of some of what follows. One such change forced me to "field test" the coaster in revenue service in an operating park, rather than on an empty workbench in "test run" mode, in order to obtain reasonably accurate results, since rides no longer age while in test mode. That said, let us move on.

Many subway trains often use a combination of dynamic brakes, in which the motors are used to retard the forward motion of the cars from road speed to about 15 MPH, and, friction brakes in which pressurized air forces brake shoes against the wheels to bring the train to a final stop after the dynamic braking fades out at 15 MPH. Unlike regular trains which may have to adjust their speed at any time, any place, for any number of reasons, roller coasters only require speed changes at certain predetermined locations. This makes it both practical and economical for coasters to employ track mounted brakes, in which the brake pads press against, or grab hold of, the passing train to slow or stop it, at such locations. These brakes, when located in the station limits are called "station brakes", and in RCT they appear in every station section by default. Similar track brakes, with adjustable speed settings, also may be placed at other locations to modify train speed for turns, loops etc., and when so placed are called "trim brakes". In RCT, as on real coasters, it is advisable to also have a stretch of brakes (a brake run) just prior to the station entrance, to slow the trains from their "over the road" speed, and thereby assist the station brakes to execute the final stop. The term I use for these is "approach brakes". They approximate the function of the dynamic brake of the subway cars while the station brake serves the function of the friction brake.

For this series of tests and observations, I selected a steel coaster from the Hasbro Roller Coaster Tycoon website, beastly collection, named "Ferret". This coaster has seven two car trains on about 2500 feet of track with a 180 degree flat turn just prior to the station, and only station brakes. The coaster is powered by boosters. It answered many of the questions we have about "Station brakes failures". Firstly, in its original form, it crashed and killed eight peeps within three years of service. I tore out and replaced the station, resumed service, and it crashed again the following year. So I demolished it and erected a brand new "Ferret". But this time, I modified it with two sections of approach brakes reducing speed to 27 MPH prior to the 180 flat degree turn (which I replaced with a banked turn), and two more sections of approach brakes immediately prior to, and adjoining, the station entrance reducing speed to 13 MPH. In this configuration, "Ferret" gave me six years of service before crashing. Again, I tore up, and replaced, the station and the approach brakes and resumed service. But, alas, "Ferret" killed eight more peeps the following year during another "station brakes failure". Again, I demolished it, and built yet another identically modified "Ferret". This time, instead of seven two car trains, I used two seven car trains. Eleven game years later, this version of "Ferret" has suffered many station brakes failures, but not one single crash. I ran all of these same tests again and came up with just about the same results, from which I can report and advise the following:

(1) Utilize approach brakes as much as is possibly consistent with your design:
Clearly, a set of station brakes bringing a train from 30+ MPH to a stop is going to fail much faster than a set of approach brakes reducing train speed from 30 to 13 MPH, and another set of station brakes stopping the train from 13 MPH working together.

(2) Use fewer long trains rather than many shorter trains:
While many trains running around the track will make your coaster look attractive and pretty, my tests indicate that it does nothing for your excitement rating. But it will reduce your headway (the time interval between successive trains), assuming you have tried to gap (evenly space) your trains. With seven trains operating, the headway on "Ferret" was only seven seconds, meaning that there were two trains within the station limits at any given time. This, in turn, means that there is no way that a mechanic would have time to repair the brakes, even if he could be confined to the station platform itself. By contrast, when operating the two seven car trains the headway was thirty seconds. So if one train was in the station, the mechanic had time to affect repairs before the other one arrived, and, of equal importance, if a train was approaching at the time, the other had already left the station and accelerated to road speed many seconds ago, so there was no danger of the two colliding.
Secondly, my tests, indicate that the brakes wore out based on the number of times they are put into use, more so than the weight of the trains requiring such usage.

(3) About the mechanic:
Confine him to one zone at the ride exit. When the breakdown occurs, Your mechanic is in a race against the next approaching train. If funds permit, have this guy do only repairs, while another mechanic takes care of ONLY inspections for this and four or five other nearby rides. On rare occasions, you can get a "Station brakes failure" while the mechanic is performing or just finishing an inspection. This can spell disaster on even the best planned coaster. I will address this more fully in an upcoming article on "Staff Utilization and Productivity".

(4) Use the Operations Options:
This is an area which still causes confusion among RCTycooners. I am currently preparing a very detailed update on the Operations Options box. But for now, after you have tested the coaster, click on the "show measurements and test data" (the tab with the stopwatch), and note the ride time (say 2 minutes), and convert it to seconds (that's 120 seconds). Click the Operations Options tab (with the gears). Check minimum wait time and set to 60 seconds. Uncheck all other boxes. put the ride into test mode, while you complete your scenery. Once everything is ready, Go back to Operations options, change the minimum wait time to 40 seconds and open the ride directly.


While "Station brakes failure" is the most common cause of roller coaster crashes, there are many others. Almost every coaster in RCT is susceptible to a rollback crash, in which the train fails to crest a hill and rolls back, crashing into its follower. The only exception is the air powered vertical coaster and any other coaster on which you operate only one train. On real world coasters, particularly the woodies, there is a ratchet like device called the anti rollback near the tops of most hills, which produces the familiar "clack-clack- clack-clack", sound as the train goes over the top. In lieu of such anti rollback devices in the game, you can avoid this disaster by placing additional chain drives near the tops of hills, or additional boosters near the bottom of hills depending on the type of coaster involved. This is extremely sound advice in the case of wild mouse types as they seem to lose momentum and speed very quickly and are particularly prone to this type of crash. Your operating costs will go up, but the ride will still show a profit. Most coasters do. With this type of crash, the Heartline Twister handily wins the most susceptible award. As best I can determine, the cars on this coaster will roll all the way back down to the station, crashing into everything in their path, if the "Safety cut out" should occur while they are in the ascending process. I've not figured out how to beat this yet. Any and all suggestions are invited.

Many rides in RCT other than roller coasters, can get airborne and crash. Ghost Train, Whoa Belly, Go Karts, and Water slides are examples. Among the coasters, Wooden Side Friction, Bobsleds, and Reverse Whoa Bellies, are probably the easiest to launch. But almost any steel coaster built in a shuttle loop, or other non circuit type configuration is "good to go" if your design and planning is erroneous. Careful planning and extensive testing will prevent such costly occurences.

There are many coasters which have no brakes. Virginia Reel, Wooden Wild Mouse, Suspended Single Rail, Steeplechase, Bobsleds, Heartline Twister and Reverse Whoa Belly come to mind. But the game gives us a lot of slack and most of these will not crash because of brake related problems. Thus far, the only one which I have seen crash because of the "station brakes failure" is the Bobsled. As mentioned earlier, Heartline Twisters crash with alarming regularity but because of the "safety cut out". And the Reverse Whoa Belly will only crash if you launch it, as there is only one train involved. For the most part those remaining on this list will crash because of the roll back more so than for any other reason.

QUESTION: After a "Station brakes failure" related crash should I replace all the brakes as the strategy guide suggests?

ANSWER: You can, if it makes you feel good. Replacing the braking sections will serve just about as much purpose as repainting and renaming the ride. My tests indicate that the same breakdown will occur again soon. The game does not recognize new sections of track, so the reliability and down time do not change appreciably. It identifies the entire ride as "so many years old" and generates breakdowns accordingly.

QUESTION: When the station brakes fail, is it just the station brakes or all brakes on the entire ride?

ANSWER: This is the 64 million dollar question of RCT. The answer is even more elusive, now that LL has modified the way rides behave in test mode. One thing is for sure. When you have a station brakes failure, the brakes in the station will not work. In tests, prior to LL, I have occasionally seen trim and approach brake sections continue to work normally, while the ones in the station had failed. Much more often, I have seen all the brakes fail on the entire ride. I was also fortunate enough to be monitoring a train, which had engaged the approach brakes and begun decelerating when the brakes failed and it remained coasting at that speed. But in my tests since the LL add-on, whenever the brakes have failed, they have ALL failed. My advice, for now and until I can gather more data, is to go for your own conclusion. To do so, keep the ride window open to the operation options tab (the tab with the gears). When the breakdown occurs, immediately pause the game, then switch to the view of ride attraction (the tab with the camera) and then use the train 1, train 2, etc. to find out exactly where the trains are and how fast they are moving. If there is one approaching a braking section, click pause again and watch to see whether or not the train speed changes in the braking section. If you are anything like me, this question is going to keep coming back to haunt you. So memorize the foregoing procedure. This is a difficult area in which much more testing and reporting is required. Made even more difficult now that long term testing must be done "in revenue service" rather than in "test mode". But I suspect that it is also the place where the RCT community will agree to disagree. If you have any observations on the "station brake failure" crashes I would appreciate an e-mail detailing your experience.

QUESTION: Should the approach and station brake sections be adjoining or separated for better results when the brakes fail?

ANSWER: This response depends heavily on the real answer to the previous question, as opposed to what you believe. If all brakes fail simultaneously then it doesn't make a difference. However, if the brakes do occasionally, or even rarely, fail independently of each other, it would be sound planning to insert at least one section of regular rail between the two braking sections so that the game can identify them as such and hopefully save you some grief.

QUESTION: What else could I do to minimize a crash?

ANSWER: I had great success with the new Water Coaster. I used four water channel sections to bring the coaster boat speed from 27 MPH to 13 MPH in place of approach brakes. The coaster hasn't crashed in 17 years. With the Wooden coaster, use the water splash section in place of the approach brakes. You will need to plan a little more carefully, so that the train doesn't stall out completely in the water. You could also try building the coaster in an inverted configuration. Place the station on an elevated structure. The train leaves the station rolling downhill and executes its carefully planned circuit with the lift hill being required to return the train to the station. The dread of the "station brakes failure" will be just about non existent. The "safety cut out" which tends to occur much more regularly than the "station brakes failure", will stop the chain drive, and stall the train in the lift hill just prior to the station. But the following train will lose speed and momentum rapidly as it runs uphill, and in my tests, it only bumped its leader gently at about 10MPH with no damage or casualties.

There is only one way to completely, iron clad guarantee, crash proof your coaster. That is to run one and only one train, so that it has nothing else to crash into. Experienced RCTycooners know that this is the only way to keep the "Woodpecker" in Haunted Harbor (CF) scenario from dropping your ratings and emptying the park. But running only one coaster is an extreme measure required in this scenario because you can't even modify, much less demolish, this relic. If you apply the aforementioned techniques, your coasters will easily serve past the ten or even twenty year mark without casualty. In one of my parks, Steve's Coney Island Cyclone has been in service uneventfully for over 37 years, with three trains on the circuit.


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Chris Sawyer Software Development

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