A Brief History of Roller Coasters

During their existence, theme parks, and roller
coasters in particular, have spread to every corner of the globe. It’s extremely likely that you’ve been
on a roller coaster, at least once in your lifetime; but did you ever question the origin
of these thrilling rides? Many consider the birth of the modern day
roller coaster to have occurred close to 60 years ago, with the revolutionary breakthrough
of tubular steel technology. However, the entire history of these vast
attractions date back even further in time. In this video, we’ll explore the history
of roller coasters, from their humble origin, to the huge adrenaline machines they’ve
become today. The initial concept of roller coasters can
be traced back to 17th Century Russia. Dubbed “Russian Mountains”, these primitive
rides featured large wooden slopes, which stretched close to hundreds of metres. In winter months, the slopes would be packed
with snow, and sprayed with water, creating a slippery surface. Riders, with conventional sleds, would climb
to the top of the slope and then slide down. In the warmer seasons, wheeled carts were
used to go down the ramps, creating the same effect. Often two ramps were built in opposite directions,
creating a half-pipe like structure. The concept of large slides quickly made its
way across Europe, to France, during the Napoleonic Wars. French Soldiers enjoyed the concept of the
russian mountains, and took the idea home. The french quickly began creating their own
primitive roller coasters, named Les Montagnes Russes. Eventually, in 1817, the country went on to
produce the world’s first full circuit roller coaster, in which the start and end points
of the track were joined. On top of this, Les Montagnes Russes became
the first slides to use individual tracks to secure sleds in lanes, effectively becoming
the first roller coaster in the form we know them today. On the other side of the Atlantic, North America
were also developing their own basic forms of roller coasters. In the 1800s, the Mauch Chunk Gravity Railway
of Pennsylvania began taking riders on a 30 minute journey down the side of a mountain. Previously used to transport coal, the railway
stretched for 9 miles, and featured several steep drops. Businessmen were quick to take the idea of
riding carts down slopes and commercialised it. In 1884, LaMarcus A. Thompson constructed
the iconic Switchback Railway, at Coney Island, in New York. Despite being only 15m (50ft) tall, the Switchback
Railway was hugely popular and ushered in a new era for roller coasters in the United
States. Slight modifications were made to the original
design by other businessmen, including the introduction of a full circuit variant, and
a cable to lift trains to the highest point of the ride. As development in the industry occured, Thompson
created his own company, and began selling his roller coasters throughout North America
and Europe. Over time, the name of the rides evolved,
eventually becoming known as Scenic Railways. Several of these rides can still be found
in operation today, including the Scenic Railway at Dreamland, in the United Kingdom. As the Switchback Railway made its way around
the States, entrepreneurs began creating new ways to attract and thrill riders. Lina Beecher opened the Flip Flap Railway,
a roller coaster with an 8m (25ft) tall vertical loop, in 1895. The Flip Flap Railway became the world’s
first inverting roller coaster, allowing riders to go upside down through a tight circular
loop. However, the design ride was flawed. The circular nature of the loop caused riders
to be subject to intense g-forces, resulting in many blacking out during the ride. It was this design flaw that ultimately delayed
the widespread use of inversions on roller coaster for many decades to come. Following the success of the Switchback Railway,
interest in roller coasters across the United States soared. Designers began experimenting with a figure
eight layout, as seen on Leap the Dips; but this was only the beginning. The creators of the time set about designing
the tallest and fastest roller coasters ever seen. Rides such as the Coney Island’s Cyclone,
the Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Giant Dipper,
all opened during this time period. In total, over 2000 new roller coasters were
constructed throughout the era, only a few of which remain operating to this day. The widespread mass production of roller coasters
drove innovation in ride design. In 1919, John Miller patented the concept
of upstop wheels, which vertically secure the train to the track. This breakthrough allowed designers to produce
more aggressive roller coasters; ones in which guests could be given the sensation of weightlessness. Unfortunately, this period of extreme roller
coaster popularity, did not last. During the middle of the 20th century, interest
in roller coasters, and theme parks in general, began to decline. Events such as the Great Depression, and World
War 2, led to many theme parks closing throughout North America, due to a lack of resources
and diminishing visitor numbers. Despite the lack of interest, some notable
roller coasters were built around this time, including Hersheypark’s Comet, and even the
world’s first tubular steel roller coaster, Matterhorn Bobsled at the original Disneyland. Interestingly, it was in fact the opening
of Disneyland in Anaheim, that brought theme parks back into the eyes of the general public. With the breakthrough of steel tubular track,
which saw trains secured to tubular rails, rather than flat rails; a huge number of other
steel roller coasters began being constructed not only in the USA, but also worldwide. The new interest in roller coasters also caused
theme parks to begin creating recording breaking rides, to re-attract members of the public. The Racer, at Kings Island, became one of
the first to gain mass attention for being the tallest and fastest coaster in the world,
in 1972. It was only a few years later when Arrow Dynamics,
a roller coaster manufacturer of the time, unveiled the Corkscrew at Knott’s Berry
Farm, the first modern day roller coaster to feature inversions.The following year,
Schwarzkopf, another manufacturer of the era, produced Revolution, at Six Flags Magic Mountain,
the first modern day roller coaster to feature a vertical loop. Unlike the vertical loops of the past, Revolution
features an elliptical loop, heavily reducing the amount of force experienced by the riders. Since the inception of modern day looping
roller coasters, the entire industry has undergone massive expansion. A record number of new designs and concepts
have been constructed over the past few decades, and this shows no sign of stopping. Models such as the inverted and wing coaster
have changed the way we experience the rides, while 4D and spinning roller coasters provide
guests with unique ride every time. If you’d like the learn more about the history
of modern day roller coasters, let me know in the comments down below. Nevertheless, thank you for watching, and
I’ll see you all next time. A huge thanks to all of the new Patreon supporters,
especially: Joseph Robson, Alexander Richardson, Alex Mann, and Furry Juice. If you want to help the quality of the channel
improve quickly over time, consider becoming a supporter on Patreon, for as little as $1
per month.

Comments 100

  • This needs to be mandatory viewing for schoolchildren

  • THE MATTERHORN!!! Thank you!!!

  • i looove how you include lots of videos of coasters from uk theme parks, you really showcase well the great rides we have here :))

  • I swear to god I used to do a series just like this but instead i explained the brief history of a roller coaster. For example stealth or wicker man. Either way nice job 👍

  • Make this a series!!!! Please. Lol

  • Part 2 please!!

  • Fun fact: the french and spanish still call roller coasters 'russian mountains'

  • Love it!

  • My daddy 💦🙈 uploaded 🤤😍🤞🏼😋

  • Nemisis Inferno or Batman the Ride B&M Invert? Btw this is a coaster enthusiast in training’s educational staple.

  • I never questioned their origins. I was like they are here ant that is great.

  • I swear, I learned more from this than in school. Very educational!

  • One of your best videos!

  • Because this video was quite factual and i quite never knew this stuff

  • What is Troy – Toverland

  • Southern California paving the way for roller coaster with Disneyland, Knott’s berry farm and six flags magic mountain!!

  • Very nicely presented.

  • I wish it was longer 🙁 would you consider making a part 2 of this? I would like to see more about the origin of some other coaster models such as the Invert, Launch and RMC

  • 5am: Well I should go to sleep. coaster bot video appears Wait, nevermind

  • It's funny how I could now calculate the profile of a mostly constant G-force loop within minutes. But this, now relatively simple, maths actually delayed the use of inversions for many decades.
    Also 1895?! I had no clue the first inversion was that old!
    Awesome video man

  • Very interesting video! A modern coaster history video would be great!

  • This is moist but not as moist as the ultimate!

  • Great video, and of course we’d like to know more about the history of modern rollercoasters!!

  • Basic History: Keep your hands, legs, and feet inside the car at all times and hold on

    NO NEVER raises hands on the first drop

  • Fantastic as always

  • 1 sub away from 22k!

  • Every corner of the globe.

    The earth is a flat sphere

  • Excellent work. well presented and very watchable 😀👍

  • If you had a time machine, could you go back to the era of the Russian mountains and even ride one?

  • That scenic railway looks fresh… Also gotta give some credit to Catherine II of Russia for building her "Sliding Mountain" in Oranienbaum in 1762

  • Awesome video thanks for sharing and keep on making more videos like this please.

  • Please do history on modern day rollercoasters

  • Cedar Point had a Switchback Railway in 1892.

  • Awesome Harry great Video👌😀

  • Am I the only one who got a little uncomfortable or confused when he said “Every corner of the globe”

  • Yes please I really liked this video

  • I wouldn't mind a more in-depth sequel!

  • Of course i want another video!

  • Yay. Disneyland.

  • Always learn a lot here. Thanks for the awesome history!

  • Funny story, I was snooping through my grandpa's computer and I found my 8th grade research paper on roller coasters (I don't even remember writing it. Also funny because I was terrified of roller coasters at the time). It had a lot of this info!! Turns out I was into roller coasters before I was into roller coasters.

  • I like this. we need videos about the history of the world's famous thrill parks (parks including rollercoasters)

  • I definitely think you should do a modern day version, maybe showing the progression from the 80s to today! Great video as always!

  • Can you do "Disneyland Explained?"

  • Great video, very informative and nice to see UK and US rides featured.

    Do you do an overall video that shows the history of manufacturers over the years?

  • Thank you 😀 this makes my day again!

  • Nice summary. But one question:
    I have heard of mine railways that were misused for the workers of the mine. Not sure how ledit this information is.
    i have read it in a german book about Themepark history a decade ago or so,, but i forgot the name (and the lable)

  • this video is very educational and great! i was into roller coasters ever sense i was very little and been studying them ever sense. having so much fun riding the coasters of today and excited to see what is to come in the future!

  • Hashtag bring back the outtro music

  • Glad to see The Racer get a mention :). It did have a role in coaster history, and some people don't give it credit.

  • More pls

  • Great video Harry.We want more

  • Yes please also make a video on the history of modern coasters (and talk about launches and lifts a bit more please, I missed that a little in this video)

  • Oh. Oh. In French, rollercoaster is montagne russe, meaning russian mountain. It makes sense with the origin….

  • Fantastic video, highly informative! Have you ever thought about doing a video or series on infamous roller coaster/theme park accidents? While it’s obviously a grim and morbid topic, those accidents gave rise to the adoption of new safety technologies and failsafes in order to ensure that they never happened again.

  • When they invented the corkscrew loop, Arrow Dynamics was still known as Arrow Development.

  • So much Hershey Park…


  • Every time I see a coaster bot upload I immediately watch it. Good video!

  • This video is awesome! I love learning more about the history of my favorite things, which are rollercoasters! Harry if you did more videos on rollercoaster history that would be amazing! 🎢

  • This was great! I have been on a few of the coasters that you showed in the video Storm Runner, Leap the Dips which is sad that it hasn't been run in over a year and I've gone to a few Altoona Curve games and I can see Skyliner deteriorate due to them just ignoring it while they renovate the rest of the park, and if that's happening to Skyliner, I bet that's happening to Leap the Dips too. I have been on SooperDooperLooper, Dominator and Comet. When you were saying about Racer at Kings Island being the fastest roller coaster of it's time is pretty cool fact because I experienced that on it's clone Rebel Yell, that coaster blew me away at how fast it was for a wooden roller coaster. It's faster than some steel coasters.

  • Can you do a series of coaster trap accidents, amputation accidents and death tolls in major theme park? I wanna see the chart if you can provide… I really wanna see an enthusiast would lay out the risk for us rather than how sweet the ride is… Thx! 🤗

  • Arrow are the in the origins of all steel rollercoaster because they invented them.
    But now a lot of people don't like Arrow/Vekoma coasters because they're rude. So they invented them but it wasn't well done. Intamin (and B&M) used steel better than arrow/vekoma.

  • You have forgotten to mention the first steel rollercoaster…

  • am i 2 days late? if not then im happy. OwO

  • 2:58 – why is that one guy in between cars?

  • Can you do twisted cyclone explained

  • Frog hopper explained

  • This was a very cool video!!!

  • Please do what is giga coaster

  • Hello there, Coaster Bot. Cool video. Glad you finally got to meet Logan from Koaster Kids during your European tour (of which you are currently still on till 06/29/18.) Met him for the first time just this Spring. He's an awesome young man (and his dad is also very cool.) He's changed the world one Koaster kid at a time (and one Koaster adult at a time, as well) and there is no end to it. My wife and I were so impressed by this, and when we heard Logan was going to go to Europe, we decided to throw in a little cash flow and donated some money to help with his tour. Well, my wife Natalie and i finally saw what you looked like (we saw the live stream just recently) and are so glad you joined in on that tour. Anyway, hope to run into you at an amusement park here in the states.

  • I’m a huge fan of Arrow Dynamics I have rode the Carolina Cyclone and Carolina Gold Rush but I hope to ride X2,Gemini, 200 Magnum XL and the Lochness Monster.

  • Wow I had an erection when you started talking french, oh god so marvelous.

  • When were transfer tracks invented?


  • In Spanish we call roller coasters "montaña rusas" which of course also works for Russian mountain

  • you showed Silverwood for corkscrew!!!!!

  • I really can't wait to visit an international park with a scenic railway. I don't believe we have any in the US.

  • do you live in the uk? you seem to like to use footage for alot of rides at thorpe park and alton towers…

  • 3:30 Son of beast was a 30s coaster gasping noises MINDBLOWN

    obviously sarcastic

  • LaMarcus Adna Thompson Called His Company

    LA Thompson

  • You know who we have to thank for Mass produced steel coasters.

    The One, The Only

    B.A. Schiff

  • Great Video ( like every video ), would you mind doing a history of how modern themeparks came about please, if that's okay ? 🙂

  • Thorpe park :3

  • Just because it bothers me, Mauch Chunk is pronounced "maw chunk." Great vid though!

  • But what about Giant Dipper at Belmont Park

  • The first roller coaster with a loop element was actually built in France, 1846

  • of course it was russia

  • Some notes I took for research purposes
    The 1600’s- Russians created “flying mountains” ice ramps up to 5 stories in height

    1804- french created their own version with track and wheels, Idea retrieved during the Napoleonic

    1817- first full circuit rollercoaster Les Montagnes Russes, first to use individual tracks

    1884- Marcus a Thomson created the switchback railway, at Cony Island in New York

    4 circuit variant and cable added

    Called scenic railway

    Flip Flap railway, first inverting railway with loop, design flaw caused some passengers to black out

    In the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s figure 8 layouts, taller faster roller coasters 2000

    Cyclone- Coney Island

    Big dipper- Black pool pleasure beach

    Giant dipper- Santa Cruz beach boardwalk

    1919, upstop wheels allowed the feeling of weightlessness

    Mid 1900’s interest in theme/amusement parks decreased a lot

    Disney Land brought amusement back into popularity

    Steel tubular track secured to tubular rails (not flat rails), the huge number began to be built worldwide

    Record-breaking in the 1970s

    (Aerodynamics company) Corkscrew at Knocksberry farm, the first modern roller coaster to feature inversions

    Revolution- Six Flags, elliptical loop, much less g’s experienced

    Roller coaster construction has undergone a revolution of innovation

  • Russian mountain translates into La Montaña Russa, in case any of you guys have Spanish speaking friends and ever heard of it that way.

  • I went to Knott's Berry Farm this past saturday April 27 2019 i love the wooden coaster Ghost Rider and the Pony express what a ride!

  • Thank you I needed this for a science project 🙏🏻

  • 1:13 damn that guy ha sgood balance

  • The way you pronounce "montagnes russes" is soooooo cute! Anyway, congrats for pronouncing the "u" right, I know Americans and Brits still unable to pronounce it correctly after 20+ years living in France.
    Very interesting video as always!

  • Yes!!! Teachers please listen to Brendan Ferris!

  • So that's why they are called "Russian Mountains" in my language haha
    Really well put-together video!

  • My first one was the Python in Efteling back in the days it was Europe's biggest rollercoaster. Now we have hybrids, inverted, flying, dive, wing, stand up, mega, hyper and 4D coasters . And you know what ? I love it how rollercoasters are evolving. The higher the faster the longer the better! 🎢

  • So many Thorpe park roller coasters were included in this video. Nice. 😀

  • I would like to help the quality of the channel by suggesting that you don't use passive voice.

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