The History of Rollercoasters

An American tradition since the 1980s, the UK’s love of rollercoasters is now so strong, that the day of celebrating the ultimate thrill seekers’ ride will make its debut here tomorrow. But where did rollercoasters originate?

The direct ancestors of rollercoasters, Ice Slides first surfaced in Russia in the 16thCentury. The Mountains – long, steep, wooden slides covered in ice, some as high as 70 feet – were popular in Russia throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Riders flew down the slope in sleds made out of wood or blocks of ice, crash-landing in a sand pile at the bottom.

It was also in Paris where the phrase ‘roller coaster’ originated, with the first modern rollercoaster opening in 1817, and the first looping rollercoaster appearing 30 years later, also in Paris. The early rides used tracks made of rollers and sleds with runners – creating roller coasting. The name then remained after runners were replaced with wheels.

Riders would have received the ultimate adrenalin rush, with your life very much at risk due to wheels often falling off and the cars not always stopping at the end of the track, while broken necks were a common occurrence on the first looping rollercoasters as they hadn’t discovered a safe way to keep people securely buckled in.

The first roller coaster in America was the Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway at Coney Island, New York. The UK closely followed when they launched their own Switchback Railway in 1891, which was followed by The Big Dipper in 1923, both at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Since then we’ve been a nation obsessed, with research released today by Alton Towers Resort showing the average person has been on 19 rollercoaster rides in their life, while almost 40% of us have been on at least one rollercoaster in the last year. Almost half say their main emotion when getting on a rollercoaster is excitement, while almost a third admit to being in a state of fear. However more than 40% reveal they get off at the other end feeling exhilarated with more than a third saying they feel full of adrenalin.

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