June 23, 2009 11:05 AM   Subscribe

125 years of roller coasters: From the oldest, Switchback Railway, the first real coaster, Leap the Dips (photo), , New York City's famous Coney Island Cyclone (video), to the highest (456 feet, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure (video), here's to 125 years.
posted by jaduncan (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Riding Leap the Dips was fun as something to check off a list, but that's about it.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 11:08 AM on June 23, 2009

God, I love the Cyclone. My wife and I came very close to getting married on it.

Newer rollercoasters are awesome, batman, Superman, etc - I love them, but they are so smooth you may as well not even be there. The Cyclone though? Your body is directly subjected to every bolt and crack and piece of hundred year old wood. You are a part of the machine.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:15 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just rode Behemoth at Canada's Wonderland for the first time this month. It had been more than ten years since my last roller coaster ride. I was totally taken back to my childhood, and that day, for the first time in a long time, I was able to get absorbed in something outside of work and problems for a few hours. I'm now looking for a suitable candidate to return to the park with me and just ride that roller coast all day, like twenty times. Probably my nephew.
posted by autodidact at 11:17 AM on June 23, 2009

Oh god, I just went to King's Dominion in Va. for the first time on Sunday and now basically want to move there. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2009

Leap the Dips is located at Lakemont Park, not far from where I went to college. We used to go when it got warm- It was something like 7 bucks to get in and that included the waterpark. I will tell you this: If there is a more dangerous amusement park in America, I do not know it's name.

Basically, if there were more than 20 people in the whole park, that was a busy day. As a result, they'd just kind of strap you into a ride and let you go for 15 or 20 minutes. There is a really good reason most amusement parks don't let you do this. Ever been on those flying swings for more than 3 or 4 minutes? All the blood pours into your legs and you start to feel like you've walked 10 miles without a break. Those spinning things where you get stuck to the wall? I have never vomited before on a ride, ever. But there were 4 of us. And we all immediately threw up.

It was kind of awesome, but also dangerous, and hilarious. A+.

P.S.- Leap the Dips sucks. It goes like 2 MPH.
posted by GilloD at 11:29 AM on June 23, 2009

Also hilarious about Lakemont Park: They have another rollercoaster that I very literally almost fell out of. Someone lost their glasses, so the guy stops the ride with the halfway up the hill and proceeded to leave everyone stranded. It was about 95 degrees. He looked for a long time.
posted by GilloD at 11:31 AM on June 23, 2009

Secondary benefit of preferring wooden roller coasters: never a line.
posted by palliser at 11:33 AM on June 23, 2009

We're heading up to Cedar Point in a few weeks. We live "close" to both CP and King's Island, so it's always a toss-up as to which coasters we will hit. CP has been the family fave for several years, though. The park itself is in serious need of sprucing-up, but you gotta love the coaster selection.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2009

American Coaster Enthusiasts (check out their Coaster Classics and their criteria)
Roller Coaster Database (The IMDb of coasters)

And hey, there's a great new generation of wooden coasters, like the ones built by Great Coasters International.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:37 AM on June 23, 2009

Cyclone is great, especially at night.

Current favorite, however, is Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:37 AM on June 23, 2009

Man, I am feeling some coaster envy right about now.
posted by everichon at 11:43 AM on June 23, 2009

Secondary benefit of preferring wooden roller coasters: never a line.
You've obviously never gotten in line for The Beast.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:43 AM on June 23, 2009

palliser: "Secondary benefit of preferring wooden roller coasters: never a line."
I've waited in long lines for the Thunderbolt at Kennywood, PA. The other three wooden coasters there have long lines too. The Thunderbolt is neat because it's built on a hillside so that right out of the gate, you're going downhill.
posted by octothorpe at 11:48 AM on June 23, 2009

palliser: "Secondary benefit of preferring wooden roller coasters: never a line."
I've waited in long lines for the Thunderbolt at Kennywood, PA.

What?! I was thinking of the Thunderbolt in particular. What a great coaster. And everyone else seems to be at the steel ones, at least when I've been.

Well, anyway, I will see you there, octothorpe.
posted by palliser at 11:57 AM on June 23, 2009

Matt Dillon was a coaster enthusiast in his youth (for all I know, he may still be.) He even did a documentary about it, of sorts, in that he went to various coasters and the resulting footage was edited, MTV-style: Wild Rides. I always sort of liked Matt Dillon as a result of this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:59 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

The hydraulic launch on the new coasters seems pretty cool. Looks like Kingda Ka (what an odd name) averages just under 2 g of acceleration in the 3.5 second launch.
posted by exogenous at 12:07 PM on June 23, 2009

Secondary benefit of preferring wooden roller coasters: never a line.

You've obviously never gotten in line for The Beast.

As a ten-years-running season pass holder at King's Island, I can attest that The Beast's lines aren't always that long. If you go on a non-holiday weekday (preferably somewhat overcast, since the teensiest threat of any form of precipitation scares the bejeebers out of Cincinnatians), you can get in line for The Beast, hop on, ride, and get back in line to do it all over again, all in the space of 10-15 minutes. There's even been times when I've managed to pull off multiple front-seat Beast runs (the best kind) without having to wait very long at all.

The only line problem that I've seen crop up at KI is that the ride ops are sometimes a little slow on getting multiple coaster trains on-track during the peak times of otherwise slow days. Granted, this was back when Paramount was running the park, and now that Cedar Fair owns the place this doesn't seem to be an issue.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2009

Secondary benefit of preferring wooden roller coasters: never a line.

Not true. The last time I was at Fiesta Texas in san antonio there was an hour and a half wait for Rattler.

At Six flags over texas people tend to ignore the Texas giant (amazing, and maybe the only coaster i have actually been able to first row) and oddly enough the Titan megacoaster right next to it. Every time i've gone i have been able to ride both multiple times with no wait. On the texas giant there wasn't even a line, they were letting us stay in our restraints and just starting it up again.

On the first row thing, i hate waiting in line more than anything else, so i usually just look for the shortest gate line.
posted by djduckie at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2009

I've been on Kingda Ka twice and it is both awful and awesome in the way that only insane roller coasters can be.
posted by lullaby at 1:12 PM on June 23, 2009

I'll add some links to Roller Coaster Images. No talk of wooden roller coasters is complete without mentioning The Voyage at Holiday World in Indiana. Non-stop intensity with tons of tunnels, sudden drops, lots of lateral forces and near 90 degree banked turns.
posted by mmascolino at 5:30 PM on June 23, 2009

Ah, yet another blast from my carney past. The Coaster Classics site linked by ALongDecember mentions the Zippin Pippin, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the United States and Elvis's favorite ride, as one of the coasters that had its ACE Coaster Classic status rescinded due to later modifications.

My childhood on the road introduced me to more roller coasters than I can remember, but this particular roller coaster holds a very special place in my heart. For two weeks each fall, I lived right next to the Zippin Pippin on the Mid-South Fairgrounds in our travel trailer. And when I say "right next to" I mean that the room I shared with my brother was fewer than ten feet away from the ride's wooden rails. We were positioned near the coaster's lowest dip which exposed me and my brother to the incredibly loud and rickety sounds of coaster cars rushing past the window every ten minutes or so, day and night, for almost two straight weeks at a time.

This picture was taken from the lot where our trailer was parked during the fair. The dip I'm referring to is located to the right of the two small yellow concrete posts. Here is another shot, taken from the coaster itself, of the dip. The rear of our travel trailer would have been right in front of the light pole on the left. To give you an idea of how this sounded to me as a young girl, take a look at this video taken by a passenger (beware of the shrill screams). My perpetual fear was that the structure would collapse and that the cars would fly off the tracks into my bunk bed.

Since my family's business, Sullivan's Concessions, originated in and operated out of Tennessee, the Mid-South Fair in Memphis was probably the show with which it had the longest relationship, beginning with my great-grandfather who introduced Fiddlesticks to the south. Sullivan's Concessions was honored by the Mid-South Fair in the early nineties with a bench on the grounds, dedicated to my father and grandfather. The operation ended when, as mentioned in the article, my father sold the business in 1999. He returned to the Mid-South Fair in 2002 as the show's exhibition director and part time assistant manager.

In 2005, the city of Memphis started having some economic troubles that resulted in the closing of Libertyland and a reduced operational budget for the Mid-South Fair, forcing my father to resign his position. Sadly, the Zippin Pippin was also a victim of this financial turmoil, its operation halted by the close of the amusement park to which it once belonged. In 2007, the Zippin Pippin was donated to the city of Memphis in order to save Libertyland. As far as I know, it remains inoperative, much to the public's displeasure. You can do your part to alleviate this sadness by signing the petition to reopen the Zippin Pippin rollercoaster.
posted by inconsequentialist at 7:37 PM on June 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

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