Template:InfoboxSpecial A roller coaster is a theme park attraction that consists of a track, that has a pre-designed course, and a train that runs on the track. The track is typically wooden or steel and may contain inversions that flip the train upside-down.
The oldest roller coasters are believed to have been Russian ice slides known as "Russian Mountains". These large wooden structures, up to 70-feet tall, were popular throughout Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Riders would use a wooden sled or block of ice and slide down the ice-covered hill at up to 50 MPH (80 km/h) crash-land into a sand pile at the bottom. The term "Russian mountain" is still used to refer to roller coasters in most of the Romance languages. Interestingly, in Russia, roller coasters are called "American mountains".
An unknown amount of time later, the French developed an all-season version of the ice slides by waxing the sled runners. Eventually, someone swapped wheels for runners, and more ambitious and thrilling tracks were created. In 1817 someone attached the carts to the tracks and dubbed the ride "Les Montagnes Russes à Belleville" (The Russian Mountains of Belleville). It had two tracks that ran next to each other, so riders could race and onlookers could bet on the outcome.
Scenic Gravity Railroads
In 1827, a mining company in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania constructed Mauch Chunk Gravity Railroad, an 8.7 mile (14 kilometer) downhill track used to deliver coal to Mauch Chunk (now known as Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania. By the 1850s, the "Gravity Road" (as it became known) was providing rides to thrill-seekers for 50 cents a ride. Railway companies used similar tracks to provide amusement on days when ridership was low.
Using this idea as a basis, LaMarcus Adna Thompson began work on a Gravity Switchback Railway that opened at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in 1884. Passengers climbed to the top of a platform and rode a bench-like car down the 600 foot (180 meter) track up to the top of another tower where the vehicle was switched to a return track and the passengers took the return trip. This track design was soon replaced with an oval complete circuit. In 1885, Phillip Hinkle introduced the first full-circuit coaster with a lift hill, the ride was called Gravity Pleasure Road, and was soon the most popular attraction at Coney Island. Not to be outdone, in 1886 LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his design of roller coaster that included dark tunnels with painted scenery. "Scenic Railways" were soon found in amusement parks across the county, with Frederick Ingersoll's construction company building many of them in the first two decades of the 20th century.
Most roller coaster cars are not self-powered. Instead, a standard full circuit coaster is pulled up with a chain or cable along the lift hill to the first peak of the coaster track. When the train falls down the first drop, its collecting speed used to make it over the rest of the track.
Not all roller coasters feature a lift hill, however. The train may be set into motion by a launch mechanism such
as a flywheel launch, linear induction motors, linear synchronous motors, hydraulic launch, compressed air launch or drive tire. Such launched roller coasters are capable of reaching higher speeds in a shorter length of track than those featuring a conventional lift hill. Some roller coasters move back and forth along the same section of track; these are known as shuttles and usually run the circuit once with riders moving forwards and then backwards through the same course.
A properly designed coaster under good conditions will have enough speed to complete the entire course, at the end of which brakes bring the train to a complete stop and it is pushed into the station. A brake run at the end of the circuit is the most common method of bringing the roller coaster train to a stop. One notable exception is a powered roller coaster. These rides, instead of being powered by gravity, use one or more motors in the cars to propel the trains along the course. Many do not consider this to be an actual coaster because it breaks rule four.
When a train launcher does not have enough potential energy to launch the train to the top of an incline, the train is said to "roll back." On some modern coasters, such as Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, Kingda Ka in Jackson, New Jersey and Xcelerator at Knotts berry farm in California, this is an occurrence highly sought after by many coaster enthusiasts
- 14. ISBN 1586631721.
- Roller Coaster Glossary
- Roller Coaster History - History of the roller coaster
- Roller Coaster Database - Information, statistics and photos for over 3700 roller coasters throughout the world
- Roller Coaster Patents - With links to the U.S. Patent office
- Roller Coaster Physics - Classic physics explained in terms of roller coasters
- How Roller Coasters Work