[RCT] Blocks vs Long Platforms

One thing I’ve noticed on YouTube about the RCT series of games is the refusal of some to use block sections on their coasters, opting instead for very long station platforms.  In the RCT series (particularly 1 an 2), one square is 10 ft and the ride height is adjusted in 5-ft increments.  The maximum station length is 12 units or 120 ft and allows for several trains to be in the station at once if blocks are not used.

First off, a “block” is a section of track that can be occupied by one (and only one) train at a time.  The maximum number of trains that a roller coaster can run is equal to the number of blocks minus one.  When a train transitions from one block to another, it occupies two blocks at a time.  When a train approaches a block, that block must be clear before the train is allowed to enter it.  The end of a block is at the end of any device that is capable of stopping the train before it reaches the next block.

In the RollerCoaster Tycoon series, you have the option of not using blocks.  Doing this can lead to some rather dangerous situations.  For example, the train may stall at some point during the ride or the station brakes may fail (note that real roller coaster brakes stop the train upon failure while RCT brakes act as if they aren’t even there).  Both situations can result in a crash.  In RCT, there are some maintenance tricks that you can use to try to prevent both situations, but they don’t always work.  And the best solution is to simply use blocks.

RCT has some strange physics when it comes to crashes.  The difference between the train literally exploding (killing everyone onboard) and not is literally 1 mph.  If no blocks are used, players typically design their tracks to use up most of the train’s momentum by the time it gets to the platform.  This is what prevents a crash if the station brakes fail.

The main reason I’ve seen as to why people don’t use blocks on their coasters is throughput.  Simply put, you can send trains out sooner when one train leaves the platform at the exact same time another train is being pulled into it.  And this means more money!  It’s not called RollerCoaster Tycoon for nothing!  But coasters that crash make no money and in fact wastes money.

Another reason I’ve heard for not using blocks is that it’s very hard to design a coaster where the train does not stop anywhere but at the station.  But the only reason this is hard is because they don’t practice doing this.  You can also claim it’s hard to make a track where the train can make it all the way back to the station.  But after a while, you grow an intuition for stuff like how long the train takes to load and unload, how quickly it loses momentum, how high to make each block for the amount of track you want to have after it, etc.

To make a safe roller coaster in RCT where the train only stops at the platform, remember that the time that the coaster spends pulling into the station, loading, pulling out of the station, and going up the lift hill is going to be the longest segment of the ride.  If the coaster stops at the top of the lift hill, then increase the amount of time the coaster spends between the station and the lift hill.  When the train is going relatively slowly down the track, it doesn’t take much additional track to increase the ride time enough to keep the train moving.  Just make sure the train can actually grab the chain lift.

If the train is stopping at the mid-course brake run, then try shortening the segment between that brake run and the final brake run and/or increasing the ride time between the lift hill and the mid-course brake run.  If you do the latter, be careful to ensure that the train has sufficient momentum to still reach the mid-course brake run.  If the train stops only at the station and the final brake run just before the station, then you know you’ve maximized throughput for that coaster and made it 100% safe for your guests to ride on.  If you’ve built the coaster so that the train stops only at the station, then you have reached the perfect balance for that coaster for the length of all the blocks.