May 2010 •
GOOD TIMES –
Tose ere Te Days
Remember back in our youth when wecouldn’t wait for the annual trip to the “big”amusement parks. In our area this would usu-ally mean mostly going north to Cedar Pointor south to King’s Island. Regardless of wherewe went the highlight of the trip was always toride the fastest, biggest, most terrifying rollercoaster. As the amusement park season openslets take a look back at how this thrilling funride began.The earliest history of roller coaster is at-tributed to the Russian mountains in the 17thcentury. Slides of ice re-enforced with woodensupports were built down the mountainsidesand enjoyed by the upper class.There is some dispute as to when and whoactually put this concept on wheels. Some say
the Russians were the rst in 1784 and fea
-tured carriages that undulated over hills withingrooved tracks. Other historians say it was theFrench who added wheels to the slides
The rst American roller coaster was not
built at an amusement park or city, but in themountains of Pennsylvania. The Mauch ChunkSwitchback Railway, which was more like arunaway train than a modern coaster, is consid-ered the forefather of today’s roller coaster.Previously, 2,322 feet of this railway trackhad been used to bring coal directly down themountainside. The old track stood idle for afew months, but in 1873 the railroad re-openedfor business carrying passengers instead of coal. It was a success and carried over 35,000passengers per-year.Le Marcus Thompson’s version of the Switch-back Railway at Brooklyn’s Coney Islandopened in Spring 1884. This was America’s
rst “Roller Coaster”. It was an instant success
and made the inventor hundreds of dollars perday, charging riders only 5 cents a ride.He fashioned his over undulating hills and thecars slowly (6 mph) rolled down a track six
hundred feet long and fty feet high.
Roller coasters have come a long way sincethose early days. The amusement-park indus-try has experienced a coaster boom of sorts inthe past 15 years or so. New catapult launchingtechniques, hanging-train designs and othertechnological developments have opened up aworld of options for designers. In recent years,designers have introduced coasters that have
you lying at against the train car so you feelas if you are ying, and coasters that shoot you
down long stretches of spiraled track. “Fourthdimension” coasters spin or rotate your seat asthe ride twists, turns and free-falls.Kingda Ka, at Six Flags, New Jersey is cur-rently the tallest and fastest steel roller coasterin the United States, reaching 456 feet andaccelerating up to 128 miles per hour in 3.5seconds.We can only imagine what designers will beable to dream up to thrill us in the next decade.So whether you prefer to stick to the standard
wooden roller coasters or prefer to be ipped,
swirled and shot off into space...enjoy yoursummer thrill ride!