Even in your wildest dreams you would not guess that it was in Russia in the fourteenth century that the history of roller coasters evolved. During the winter months, seventy foot hills were created from wood and packed with snow. Next the creators sprayed water to freeze the snow and cause the track to become slick. Riders would then sit on the laps of guides who would take them down the slope. Outside of St. Petersburg in the 1700s, colorful lanterns adorning the slope made sledding possible at night.
Catherine the Great, a Russian Empress who enjoyed these rides, inspired the evolution of adding wheels to make it possible to coast during summer months. Although credit is given to these Russian Mountains, it was the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway in Pennsylvania in 1784 that should have received this acclaim. The Mauch Chunk Switchbak Railway hauled coal down a nine mile strip during the day and paying-passengers in the evenings. The roller coaster called the Russian Mountain emerged in 1804 in Paris with wooden carriages travelling down metal tracks. Although this mode of fun was risky and sometimes lethal, Parisians were thrilled and enthusiastic to ride Russian Mountains.
The Parisian connection In the mid 1870s, after the Parisians got tired, the roller coasters migrated to the United States. LaMarcus Adna Thompson, regarded as the father of modern-day roller coasters, developed the Coney Island Cyclone. Soon competition ensued and many coasters evolved, including the Serpentine Railway, designed by Charles Alcoke in 1884. In 1885, a chain lift was added to Phillip Hinckle’s Gravity Pleasure Road, and with passengers seated facing forward, set the evolution of the modern coaster on track.
The Hiccups The Father of Gravity Ride, Thompson, came on board again and created the first coaster train, the Scenic Railway of Atlantic City, New Jersey, which comprised of linked cars and was an instant success. Thompson’s creation was followed in 1888 by the Flip Flap, the maiden looping coaster of America, and in 1901, the Loop-the-Loop which was designed like a teardrop. These coasters proved to be extremely dangerous and so they were retired. Then, the Roaring Twenties witnessed a deluge of coasters. During this time, amusement parks competed for customers by constructing the most fearsome and terrifying coasters. But, theGolden Age had to end when America and the world experienced the onslaught of Great Depression of 1930s and the Second World War in 1940s.
Only for Those with Strong Stomachs
Huge technological developments and designs aiming at crashing higher heights and faster speed have introduced some really ferocious coasters in the twenty-first century. You have the Raging Bull at the Great America Six Flags in Gurnee, Illinois. Showcasing a total length of 5,057 feet and maximum speed of 73 mph, the Raging Bull offers descents from 202 feet in two minutes and 30 seconds from a 65-degree angle. Other terrifying or exhilarating roller coasters, depending on your perspective, include Batman the Ride in California. Batman travels at 50 miles per hour and throws you in five inversions, but, if you are not squeamish, you may prefer the Ragin’ Cajun with a lateral force of 2.5 Gs. For those with super courage, the 100-foot drop Superman: Ultimate Flight may be more of a challenge. The Superman roller coaster lasts three minutes during which you experience two inversions and a linear vertical velocity coasting at 70 miles per hour.
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