Part Nine


May 15, 2002

The first weekend in May saw us working on a place to escape from the heat. In the warehouse that will house the ride, there is a space that used to be a practice room for several bands whose members were involved in House of Shock. This was given to us to use as an office and workshop, and it's about 20' x 20' in size. Frank, Byron and I proceeded to gut, insulate and panel it. It had two window A/C units, one of which was defunct. Byron brought in a good one from home, and we can now chill the place down to below 70 degrees, even in the heat of South Louisiana. (It may be Summertime, but the livin' ain't easy without some sort of cooler on hand.)

We added a 16' workbench on one wall, and brought in some of our power tools. In fact, all the Phantasmechanics production tools are located there now. There's enough room to bring an entire Dark Ride Car frame into the space if necessary.

Sidebar: Here's a cool link for those of you looking to get into metalworking. If you've been a small project tinkerer all your life, you will find a basic knowledge of metalworking tools to be valuable as you move on to larger projects. Travers Tool Co. ( has a nice catalog, and you should get a copy - or at least browse the website. They have an import line that is affordable - although not of production quality - and these items are great for those just getting started (they also have the high-grade stuff, naturally.) One thing that I bought right away was an inexpensive decimal caliper, as I hate working in fractional inches. This can really be a time saver, and it is very accurate, despite the low price. If you are frustrated with rulers and tapes, do yourself a favor and get one.

The following week saw the completion of the first Charon production frame. This will be used in the ride, despite the fact that we are still finalizing the parameters of the drive. Since the frame shape has been altered, and the motor position shifted back a bit, we will require a testing period before starting the real production run.

What did we change? Well, the car is over a foot shorter, and has a new clamping system on the drive wheel. We are reverting to the use of a pneumatic tire, as it gives us better performance on uneven track and less vibration than the solid drive tire would. The larger motor and transmission combo does indeed have a lot of torque, but we actually need to see it run before we order these rather pricey drive trains in quantity.

We're using a heavier duty Cyclo-Drive rather than the version used in Lizzy; and the combination of it, the two-speed motor, and the tire and rim weigh about 100 lbs. To support this, the entire drive support package was re-designed in much thicker metal. It's capable of supporting my weight (over 250 lbs.) with no problems, so the drive train weight should be a cinch for it.

This past Monday brought a surprising cooler turn in the weather, so Byron and I jumped on the project of track welding, which we plan to continue this evening. Chris Carley has been too busy to assist, but will no doubt be back with us in the weeks to come. We cut parts for 10 20' straight segments, and will also be making a number 10' lengths. The queue track must be composed of 6' segments, and there will be one for each car to park on (counting the unload position segment) when the ride is shut down for the night.

We are also investigating a nice little PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) made by Mitsubishi, and versions of this may end up in the cars and as the master ride control instead of relay boards. One advantage of the PLC is that can it take over the safety aspect of the ride, shutting the system down if a car fails to be where it should be. That covers car mechanical failures that would not otherwise be detectable electrically, and makes things a lot easier for the Overlook operator. The dispatch operator need only press a button to queue up the cars automatically, and watch for a green light as a signal to press the dispatch button. The car would not dispatch unless the PLC is satisfied by the ride's status. All this means that it will be much easier to train operations staffers, and that riders will be much safer from accidental bumper taps between cars.

Finally, we have been given a 'go' for the use of 48V. track power, which will save us money over the 24V. system we had planned to use. This is good news indeed!