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“Warming up throughout the day” - a myth?

Nitefly

New Member
Hello!

It seems to be a pretty robust consensus that roller coasters “warm up” throughout the day and that they somehow become faster still right through until night, when they run “the fastest”.

I really can’t get my head around how this works and I suspect it is mostly, or at least partially, totally bogus.

What is supposed to be ‘warming up’? By references to rides “running cold” I presume this is supposed to be a literal change in temperature. But this is not supposed to mean the track literally warms up by operation of the roller coaster, surely? I don’t see how a train passing over the track once every minute or so for a split second is going to cause any difference to the track. As for the wheels, I anticipate that some heat is going to be generated from their rotation, but surely any heat increase must max out after several trips, if that, rather than increasing and increasing all day? So I don’t see how ‘hours of operation’ is going to make a material difference.

So I presume the theory is supposed to mean “the hotter the track by virtue of THE SUN the faster the rollercoaster”. I’m still not entirely convinced by this.

First, what about a ‘hotter track’ and ‘hotter wheels’ actually makes the ride ‘faster’? Surely softer, more malleable material will move slower that harder material?

Secondly, the material used is not going to be sensitive to heat. I mean, how hot do you think it has to get to heat metal to a point which changes its properties?

Thirdly, the sun also goes away in the evening, so how can night rides be substantially faster - the material can’t retain heat indefinitely...? In fact most metal cools down very quickly.

All things considered, I anticipate the thing mostly affecting the ride speed is the weight of the trains and the application (or lack thereof) of the trim breaks. Save for minor differences causes by temperature, I hypothesise that there is no such thing as a roller coaster “warming up throughout the day to have a material affect on speed”, certainly not via heat, and I’m at a loss as to what else is supposed to be ‘warming up’. Things also appear to move quicker at night and I think there is something ‘psychologically appealing’ about a machine ‘warming up’ - it humanises the ride and makes it seem like it has a soul, so we all buy into the idea without really thinking about it.

Do you agree / disagree? If you disagree, or have a decent explanation of how this ‘warming up’ is supposed to work, then please educate me!

Cheers.
 

Smithy

Well-Known Member
There's a reason they send trains round fully loaded first thing (or with water dummies in) but later on can run them with empty spaces - in the sense of it 'warming up', it's a combination of ambient temperature, friction related heat etc...

Don't forget, as the train goes through each track piece there will be the flex and movement through each joint, which itself will generate heat. That will build up throughout the day. I'd imagine the main aspect that benefits from the heat will be the wheels on the train though.
 

Nitefly

New Member
There's a reason they send trains round fully loaded first thing (or with water dummies in) but later on can run them with empty spaces - in the sense of it 'warming up', it's a combination of ambient temperature, friction related heat etc...

Don't forget, as the train goes through each track piece there will be the flex and movement through each joint, which itself will generate heat. That will build up throughout the day. I'd imagine the main aspect that benefits from the heat will be the wheels on the train though.
Thanks for the response. But really, how long do you think it will take for the ride to reach 'max heat'? The idea that it heats up more and more, or even substantially, seems... farfetched.
 

Dar

Member
The wheel grease is a factor, it starts out thick and gloopy, then gets thinner as the day goes on. Which is less friction for the wheels to overcome constantly. And also why Infusion has those heaters pointed at the wheels...maybe.
 

Smithy

Well-Known Member
Yeah Icon is the first one for me that came to mind too, that thing at the end of the day is a different beast altogether.

@Nitefly it may not be that they continue heating up - but it plateau's at a certain temperature relevant to how frequently it's exposed to the forces heating it?
 

Nitefly

New Member
The wheel grease is a factor, it starts out thick and gloopy, then gets thinner as the day goes on. Which is less friction for the wheels to overcome constantly. And also why Infusion has those heaters pointed at the wheels...maybe.
Hmm interesting - is this stuff applied everyday?
 

Nitefly

New Member
Yeah Icon is the first one for me that came to mind too, that thing at the end of the day is a different beast altogether.

@Nitefly it may not be that they continue heating up - but it plateau's at a certain temperature relevant to how frequently it's exposed to the forces heating it?
Yes I can accept there is a plateau to the “warming up” although I think this would be reached rather quickly rather than over a period of hours.

I do need to get up to the north to ride Icon but... it’s chock full of white walkers and wildlings up there.
 

Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Without getting too far into answering your question, and instead just picking up individual points:
First, what about a ‘hotter track’ and ‘hotter wheels’ actually makes the ride ‘faster’? Surely softer, more malleable material will move slower that harder material?
I think the general argument is that hotter wheels means less viscous grease in the bearings.
Hmm interesting - is this stuff applied everyday?
Generally not - I should imagine it's a weekly thing. The grease isn't really going anywhere, it's just having differently within the bearing.

Secondly, the material used is not going to be sensitive to heat. I mean, how hot do you think it has to get to heat metal to a point which changes its properties?
You'd be surprised. For the above mentioned grease in the bearings you could see temperature-viscosity profiles leading to a halving of viscosity with only a 20°C change in temperature. Of course, the exact characteristics depend on the grease being used, but the effect of temperature on the grease will be well understood by the designers (indeed, I remember doing some studies about how grease performance changes due to friction on a shaft - that was 3rd year Uni stuff). If we're talking about the steel, again, don't underestimate it. Thermal expansion is a major factor in structures. For coasters, the comparative lack of structure helps the situation greatly, but buildings/bridges/dams/etc are riddled with movement joints to allow movement without unduly stressing things (yes, they're for more than just thermal expansion, that is a major factor). A 20°C rise seems like a lot, but have you ever touched your car on a hot day? That's much more than 20°C!

Heck, some coasters have SUCH an issue with the wheels heating up they have to mist them in the brake run. Sure, that's to help the polyurethane elements of the wheels not just melt off, but it goes to show how much heat the friction can build up.

Smithy pretty much summaries the closing argument though.
There's a reason they send trains round fully loaded first thing (or with water dummies in) but later on can run them with empty spaces - in the sense of it 'warming up', it's a combination of ambient temperature, friction related heat etc...

Don't forget, as the train goes through each track piece there will be the flex and movement through each joint, which itself will generate heat. That will build up throughout the day. I'd imagine the main aspect that benefits from the heat will be the wheels on the train though.
I do agree that it's always felt a little unscientific. This would be an interesting one to chat to some of the firms about - I might make a mental note to ask next time we get the chance.
 

emoo

Member
This is a thing, Untamed is a terrific example. Also had much better rides on a nice day on Goliath (same park) than when its cold.

I always wondered about parts expanding so they are a smoother fit. Less bouncing about = smoother action.
 

Howie

Active Member
To be fair, I used to think it was bollocks too, just coaster nerds sounding off and trying to come across as the 'expert', but I gotta say I have since experienced it myself. To differing extents and over differing time frames, and I've only noticed it on certain coasters... but it definitely happens.
Some examples:
Icon. The most obvious one. Takes aaaages to 'warm up' properly. Seems to gradually get faster and faster throughout the day. Very noticeable difference between first and last rides.
Nemesis. Delly P will back me up on this one - we had a very early ride one day, 1st or 2nd lap of the day. Sluggish. Then again 10 minutes later, same train, boom - the thing was mental, absolutely flew around the track. Clearly one that 'plateaus' quite quickly.
Saw & The Smiler. Not so much 'gets faster' with these two, more like 'gets rougher', but I suspect they're related. Maybe they get rougher because they get faster? 🤔
Steel Vengeance. Maybe it was the darkness playing tricks on me, but night rides definitely felt faster. Same with Shambhala.
Don't ask me to explain the science behind any of this - that's Hixee's job - but as a goon with a moderate amount of experience, I can confirm that it's not just a myth.
 
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Hutch

Active Member
Yeah, Nemesis and Steel Vengeance (and I’d say RMCs in general) are the obvious ones for me that spring to mind. Both I had ridden in the morning, Nemesis was among the first few trains of the day, Vengeance within the first couple hours. But coming back to Nemesis in the afternoon, back row? Oh man now that’s an experience.

With Vengeance my later rides were actually in the dark, so while that definitely helped out, I definitely noticed that it was running much faster. Those morning and night rides were the difference between just scratching my Top 5 to earning my No. 1 spot.

But while I’m not an expert on the science behind it, it definitely happens and is quite noticeable for certain rides.


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I can speak from experience. Lightning Run I had 2 back seat rides on it, first ride of the day and just before I left the park around 5 pm. The later ride absolutely flew through the layout providing stronger airtime than in the morning.
 

HeartlineCoaster

Active Member
I can throw in some more anecdotal evidence for this being a thing, the most notable experience I've had with it is the Intamin Wing coasters.
Both Skyrush and Flying Aces gave me very underwhelming 'what's all the fuss about' rides early in the day, then became mind blowing top ten monsters by the end of it.

For its location, Aces would imply that it's all very much based on train parts and actively running the ride and much less to do with weather and sun. It was well over 40°C 'melt your face off' ambient in those early rides.
Now you've got me thinking. What if it was painted black instead of white? Can track colour affect ride experience?
 

Antinos

Slut for Spinners
Social Media Team
What if it was painted black instead of white? Can track colour affect ride experience?
It would affect functionality of the ride, yes. Every bit of the ride would be subject to thermal expansion, and if the chassis is not designed to expand at the same rate as the track, the bogeys likely wouldn't track properly on the rails and introduce side loading and ultimately extra friction into the system.
 

Nitefly

New Member
All - thanks very much for the replies. I assure you I’ve read them and I appreciate the input. Very interesting!! I’m still not sure of the science but there is clearly a collective agreement it’s a thing - I can’t doubt those more experienced than I!

I’m doing a mega theme park trip this summer so I’ll be sure to report back and say whether the likes of I305, Fury and SteVe crank up to 11 later in the day

Thanks again :)
 

Kalistos

New Member
I've been thinking about this too and I'm still not very convinced without scientific back up about anything more than a personal sensation of "warm up". Maybe the wheel grease theory is the most interesting one.
 

Dar

Member
There are videos on youtube comparing rides early in the day and in the evening

It's also not so much about the ride speeding up, but about it holding onto its speed better, so later elements are taken faster than when the train loses speed quicker
 
The most sensible theory is the wheel grease, it is a genuine problem running slow on a morning until they warm up. I rode icon at park opening last summer, felt tame. That afternoon it was running much better. Shambhala runs slow on a morning too, riding 10am and 9 pm there was a massive difference in speed and airtime, changing my opinion of the ride massively
 
Also I must mention a ride on lost gravity, morning was just okay, evening on fright nights was about 9 pm, slight drizzle, the train ran noticeably faster, much more forceful, to the point where I could feel the mid course brake force had increased due to the speed it had carried through the course
 
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