Ups and Downs of Roller Coasters…


Although August 16th is actually “National Roller Coaster Day”, the month of June is “Roller Coaster Month”.

LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented the first roller coaster on January 20th, 1865.

His “Switchback Railway” coaster used workers to pull the carriage to the top of the track.

In 1884, the “Switchback Railway” became part of the Coney Island Amusement Park and you could ride it for a nickel and hit a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

Compare that to the world’s fastest coaster, “Formula Rossa” in Abu Dhabi which reaches a top speed of 149 miles per hour…in 5 seconds!

Early coasters were inspired by “gravity railroads” used by mining companies to haul ore and materials from the mines.

Wooden coasters have been around the longest, obviously.

They require for maintenance and attention but they endure wear and tear much longer than the newer, steel-models.

The oldest operating wooden roller coaster, “Leap-the-Dips” in Pennsylvania, was built in 1902 and it’s a National Historic Landmark.

“The Cyclone” at Coney Island Amusement Park was created in 1927 and it will hit speeds of 65 miles an hour and offer an 85 foot drop.

One of my personal favorites is at Cedar Point Amusement Park near Sandusky, Ohio on the southern shores of Lake Erie.

The “Blue Streak”, named after the Sandusky High School mascot, was opened in May of 1964. It cost $200,000 to build (chump change by today’s standards) and it offers a 40 mile per hour ride and a 72 foot drop over a run of just under one-half mile. It will juggle your innards.

Cedar Point is home to 18 world-class roller coasters.

Roller coaster fans say it’s the best theme park in the USA , dubbed the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”.

Now, Six Flags Magic Mountain ion California can claim 19 roller coasters, one more than Cedar Point.

As a youngster, I remember when Cedar Point was not much more than a glorified summer-long county fair but today, it’s a mega-money-maker.

Coasters actually declined in popularity due to The Depression and World War II until “The Racer” at Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio ignited a roller coaster renaissance in 1972.

Since than, roller coaster designers and amusement parks have been spending big bucks to lure riders with the new thrill ride.

The first modern steel roller coaster was the Matterhorn Bobsled at Disneyland in 1959.

In 1975, the first “inverting corkscrew” roller coaster came on the scene at Knott’s Berry Farm in California.

Now there are “sit down”, “standup”, “inverted”, “suspended”, “pipeline”, “bobsled”, “flying” and “fourth dimension” models to get your blood pumping.

The new rage are “polercoasters”, vertical rides built around an extremely tall tower, many with an observation deck at the top.

At last count, there were about 900 different roller coasters operating in America.

We must like them.

Roller coasters aren’t cheap to build.

For example, Disney’s “Expedition Everest” took 6 years to design and build and carried a $100 million price tag.

Most roller coasters work by converting potential energy into kinetic energy.

Would you agree that the best part of any roller coaster ride is that clackety-clack, anxiety-inducing powered-chain lift that takes the coaster on the climb to that first big drop?

Thanks to Phillip Hinkle for coming up with that process in 1884.

When you head down that first big drop, do you duck, like I do if you’re entering a tunnel or tube?

It’s all part of the tummy-tingling experience a roller coaster ride can produce.

If you really enjoy the feel, thank the extra levels of dopamine in your brain.

It’s linked to sensation-seeking activities.

That being said, thrill-seekers should get a bigger charge out of the drive to the amusement park since you only have a 1 in 24,000,000 chance of being seriously injured on a roller coaster.

The AAA will tell you the odds are much higher than than on your car ride to the park.

For the record, the tallest coaster is “Kingda Ka” at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

More than 460 feet tall, “Kingda Ka” takes your breath away with a 418 foot drop.

The “Steel Dragon 2000” in Nagashima Spa Land takes you on a ride covering 8,133 feet.

The steepest roller coaster is “Takabisha” in Fuji Q Highland in Japan with a 121 degree drop angle.

Thorpe Park’s “Colossus” offers 10 inversions on its’ trip.

The most upside down sections are found on “The Smiler” at Alton Towers in the UK.

Roller coasters inspire folks to do crazy, fun things.

Four guys hit 40 parks in 4 states in 24 hours to ride 74 different coasters.

The used a helicopter to get from park to park and their effort raised $40,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network.

In 2012, a man rode the “Big One” coaster in Blackpool, England for 112 consecutive days.

Medically speaking, riding the “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” at Disney World could help dislodge kidney stones”

Roller coasters of today have come a long way from the oldest rides, descended from “Russian Mountains” hills of snow near St Petersburg in the 18th century.

You could experience heights of 70 to 80 feet and a drop of 50 feet in the Russian cold.

That’s when roller coaster riding was really “cool”.

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