When Were Roller Coasters Invented?

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Published: 26th November 2010
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Theme Parks like Six Flags are located across the United States and in many countries worldwide. These theme parks offer guests a chance to visit another world, one that is filled with cartoon characters, games, prizes and rides. Among the rides that are offered, the most popular is the roller coaster and it is the main reason why people visit the park.

The First Roller Coaster

The first roller coaster was patented by LaMarcus Adna Thompson on January 20th, 1885. The oldest roller coasters are believed to have come from Russia in the 15th century. The Russian Mountains in St. Petersburg were covered in ice and offered many hills and were ideal for roller coaster construction. The slides reached heights of 70 to 80 feet and offered 50 degree drops.

While some historians believe that the very first roller coaster was constructed under Catherine The Great orders and was created in the Gardens of Oreinbaum in 1784, others believe the French were responsible for the first roller coaster. In Paris there were the Les Montagnes Russes a Belleville (The Russian Mountains of Belleville) and the Promenades Aeriennes that were constructed in 1812 and both featured wheeled cars that were securely locked to the track and guide rails to help keep them on course during the high speeds they reached.

A mining company in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania constructed the Mauch Chunk gravity railroad in 1827 that was an 8.7 mile downhill track that was used to deliver coal to the mine that is now known as Jim Thorpe. The "Gravity Road" became a ride for thrill seekers by the early 1850’s. People would travel from all around to ride the railway for .50 cents.

LaMarcus Adna Thompson used the same basis as the "Gravity Road" to develop a switchback railway ride that opened in Brooklyn’s Coney Island in 1884. The passengers were taken down the 600 ft track in a bench like seat to the top of another tower where the vehicle was switched to the return track. The oval closed circuit track replaced this switchback method in 1885, introduced by Phillip Hinkle. Hinkle created the Gravity Pleasure Road at Coney Island that included a lift hill.

The Roller Coaster Evolves

In 1886 LaMarcus Adna Thompson upped the ante by adding dark tunnels and scenic paintings to the roller coaster design. By 1919 the roller coaster frenzy was in full force and John Miller created the first underfriction roller coaster design, such as "The Cyclone" that was constructed in Coney Island in 1927.

1959 introduced the ‘Matterhorn Bobsleds" in Disneyland, this was the first tubular steel track design ever constructed. This new tubular design allowed tracks to loop, twist and corkscrew, leading to a whole new world to the roller coaster mania.

After a drought of depression, recession and general hard times, roller coasters began to flourish again around 1972. Kings Island in Mason, Ohio opened up the "The Racer" that was designed by John Allen and started the 2nd era into the golden age of roller coasters.

Today, there are roller coasters in every theme park and all are exciting and unique in their own way. New ones are being designed everyday and each year your favorite theme park has constructed a new one to thrill you. Every year roller coasters get faster, higher and offer more of a rush.

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