What Is Heartline And Why Is It Important For Roller Coasters?

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Since we’ve started this project, people have been asking us about the meaning of Heartline. Is it a real thing? Is it some kind of romantic yet non-existing word that we deemed perfect as the name for our blog? We can assure you: it’s a real word. And it’s actually a quite important concept in the world of roller coaster design.

As we explain in this blog post about loopings, it’s a daunting task for roller coaster designers and manufacturers to find the sweet spot between super exciting elements and painful, uncomfortable forces. The way track work is designed plays a major rol in this.

It’s easy: the heartline is the imaginary line your heart draws when moving. If you’re walking straight forward, you’re heartline is going to be a straight horizontal line. But if you’re walking forward while jumping, ducking, turning and juking, your heartline is going to resemble a line drawn by an over-excited alcoholic after pounding six wodka red bulls. Not smooth at all!

Back to theme parks. As a roller coaster designer, you have two choices concerning the heartline when drawing up your banked twists and turns. Either:

  • riders move around the track, keeping the track leveled
  • the track moves around the riders, keeping their heartline leveled
© 2017,

Playing with these different options eventually led to a few roller coaster elements, such as the inline twist and heartline roll. An inline twist (referring to the left side of the image above) is an inversion with the track twisting laterally. In this case, the heartline would resemble a sinus curve: going up and down (and left and right) while riders swing around a leveled track. A heartline roll is the opposite (referring to the right side of the image above). It’s an inversion performed on an axis with the track forming a spiral, allowing the train travel at the same level. In this case, the heartline would be a straight line.

As long as the forces put on riders’ bodies are acceptable, both elements are great fun. In my opinion, one is not necessarily better than the other. It all depends on the other elements and general flow of the ride.

It doesn’t always have to be so spectacular, though. Even the smallest turns or pieces of track work can seem a little bit weirdly ‘twisted’ (for lack of a better word) to keep the riders’ heartline leveled. The upside? It makes up for some sexy coaster track shots, as you can see in these gorgeous pictures below by Jantzen Simko and Pursuit Of Thrills on Instagram.

Awesome, now you know the basics about roller coaster heartlines. Make sure to check out some pieces of trackwork during your next theme park visit and outsmart your friends with this otherwise pretty useless piece of knowledge!

I'm a twenty-something living in Bruges, Belgium. I have an obsession for football, working and roller coasters. My fav? Twisted Colossus (Six Flags Great Adventure, California)!

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