The Perils of Togetherness

The most challenging part of the project involved weeks of testing various ways of joining cars into sets of 3, 4, 5 or 6. I tried weak springs in between cars, and then I tried a thin strip of acrylic plastic. In both cases, cars were given eye screws at each end and the car joiners were fastened with tiny bolts and screws. I also tried various other gizmos like tiny plastic universal joints and plastic hinges, but the number of derailments and the utter inconsistency of performance led me in a new direction: thread and straight pins.

Although none of the above methods worked worth a darn, I've succeeded with test runs of a thread-connected, 3-car coaster train several times in a row. Unfortunately, since the average success rate in dozens of test runs was a little better than 50 percent, I had to eventually realize several things about the project:

• The joined coaster system was unstable and not robust and would never be robust, because slight variations in the distance cars were from each other as they went down dips or around curves were enough to derail them. The system was actually so hypersensitive that if I let the 3-car train (each car separated by ¾" of thin thread) hang in my hand and get the thread as untwisted as possible I got 50% success rates, but if I purposely twisted the thread between two cars a mere one turn, or if I merely pushed the knot (held by a cut-off pin stuck in each car end—the eye screws had been abandoned) so it was above the pin head rather than below it, which was the best position, I could reliably get less than a 10% success rate. Perhaps the Chaos Theory people have a point about the ability of a butterfly flapping its wings to cause a set of occurrences culminating in a storm miles away. The smallest causes can have large effects, I discovered.
• I wasn't likely to get a multi-car system to operate well in N-scale unless the wheel and rail configurations were changed until the cars couldn't leave the track so easily.
• If the Wild Mouse at Disneyland can run one car at a time and look neat and be fun, then it wasn't that bad that I had a similar ride, even if I didn't start out thinking of the coaster as a single car operation.
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