1920s footage of one of the world's oldest surviving roller coasters

Originally published at: 1920s footage of one of the world's oldest surviving roller coasters | Boing Boing


Despite not having as much altitude or upside down twists as modern ones, old wooden roller coasters are more terrifying because they feel so rickety you are sure you’ll die at any moment.

This looks similar to the Zippin Pippin (Elvis’ favorite!) was built in the 19-teens, and is still running though it is no longer in its rightful place in Memphis.


My parents were from Pittsburgh, and I spent every summer there as a child. The highlight of the summer was visiting Kennywood Park. Kennywood is one of the last remaining Trolly Parks:


Nowhere near as old, but I have fond memories of riding the wooden rollercoasters at Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA as a kid and as an adult. The Rebel Yell (called Racer 75 now) was built in 1975 and The Grizzly was built in 1982. The Grizzly will the beat the hell out of you and has always felt terrifying whipping around that old creaky wood track.


They also just beat you to hell because of how rough they are- especially the turns. Most of the ones I’ve ridden leave me with a mild headache and totally exhausted. Going to a place like Six Flags Magic Mountain is great for seeing the evolution, because they have a wooden coaster, early gen steel coasters, and fully modern ones. The wooden one makes you feel like you lost a fight. The early steel ones like Viper are fast and fun but you still like maybe somebody punched you. Then mid-gen ones like Goliath are crazy fast and you feel fine afterwards. The latest ones, like X2 are so smooth and comfortable you hardly know you’re on a rollercoaster except for your spleen exiting through your mouth. Awesome to see how much better the technology has become.


Been to lots of parks, but Kennywood still has the best mix of coasters if you like the old stuff. Jackrabbit, Racer, and Thunderbolt are required rides if you consider yourself an enthusiast.


This is the oldest coaster I’ve been on:

It’s pretty rickety as of the last time I rode it (probably more than a decade ago?).


Many a terrifying ride as a kid on this great wooden coaster.


I’m not a roller-coaster person; so I really sympathized with, and enjoyed, this Tom Scott video. The screaming dies down after a bit, and it is worth sticking around to the end.


One day, some friends and I took a day trip, mid-week early in the season, to an amusement park near NYC, now closed and I forget the name, The park was essentially empty, so when we got to the roller coaster, an old wooden one, the attendant just let us ride for as long as we wanted, stopping only if someone signaled they wanted to get off or if people were waiting to get on. I think we rode for a solid hour uninterrupted before we got hungry and broke for lunch. After you’ve ridden one for a while, you start to see where they’ve replaced bits and pieces, and where maintenance is obviously overdue (is that beam . . . cracked? Shouldn’t there be more bolts in all those holes?). A great way to spend a late spring day.


As someone with experience working on a variety of roller coasters I think that claim is a bit exaggerated, but it was still an important innovation.

Most coasters now use an “upstop” device of some kind to ensure that the train can’t leave the track, but it’s not always a lower set of wheels, either on wooden or steel coasters.


Shoutout to the Cyclone at Lakeside in Denver, CO:

The oldest roller coaster I’ve been on and you can still ride is the Blue Streak at Cedar Point. Great coaster that beats the heck out of you.

My other all time favorite is The Beast which is still the longest and held all other wooden coaster records for years. We rode it the year it opened. The last time we rode it was in 2017 on our way to ground zero for the 2017 total eclipse. The eclipse was the greatest thing ever.

When our daughter was very young we went to Kings Island, she had never been on a roller coaster and didn’t want to start riding them. We convinced her The Beast was a baby roller coaster and not scary at all. You can’t see any of the coaster while standing in line or from the park. We had taken along a young college girl that lived with us in the summer. She was a great live in baby sitter. Our daughter wanted to ride with her so 4 of us got in the first car. As we went up the first hill I was still lying through my teeth about it being a baby coaster.

As we went down the first drop into a tunnel under ground I looked back and boy was in trouble.

But… when we got of at the end I got an excited “daddy can we ride it again”. That’s the day I created a roller coaster nut like me.

After my heart attack I told my cardiologist we were hitting two amusement parks for some extreme coasters and I asked if it was safe for me to ride. He asked why, because I enjoy it, is it safe, he said he didn’t understand why I want to. Is it safe, he finally said I guess you’re gonna find out and let him know how it goes.

The scariest wooden roller coaster of my lifetime is GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm. I had not been on a roller coaster of this magnitude for more than 20 years. After a 2-hour wait in line, I noticed that riders looked haggard as they exited the coaster cars, shaking their heads, bowing down to kiss the ground. I road it anyway. It was extremely frightening, but in a good way, locked in next to my 10-year-old daughter, who was screaming insanely, her least favorite and most favorite ride of the day.

The riding experience made the long-ago memory of riding on this other wooden roller coaster, the Timber Wolf, seem like a joy ride.

Likely the oldest one I’ve been on as well. Much longer than a decade since I’ve been on it. Even so, the ricketyness unnerved me more than any other ride in the park.

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Yes, the geometry of the tracks is I think the key point here. Modern roller coasters use track geometries that reduce the g-forces on the riders. Usually, loops are not circular anymore, but have a clothoid shape where the curvature gently increases. Banking and spirals are much more bearable using the principle of “heartlining”, i.e. rotating the track around the rider’s heart line, rather than rotating the track around its own center. (See the illustration on Herzlinie – Wikipedia). German engineering at its best! (I hate, hate, hate the German car industry and its firm grip onto German politics and administration as evidenced, e.g., through Dieselgate.)

Our one is still going here in Melbourne Australia, built in 1912! A park worker comes along on each ride to manually use the giant brake lever The Great Scenic Roller Coaster Melbourne

You all realize the world’s oldest roller coaster, Leap the Dips (1902) is also in Western Pennsylvania (Altoona), right?

What makes that coaster scary to me was that it isn’t just some old relic that’s always been that way. It was way smoother when it was brand new in 1998 than it was in later years, so something changed. They did a major refurbishment including reprofiling parts of the track around 2016 and I haven’t been on it since then, so I don’t know if it’s better now.


Mine was a Herbert Paul Schmeck creation from 1949, which is probably why I was afraid of coasters until I tried some of the new steel ones at places like Worlds of Fun in Kansas City.

One of my favorite childhood memories has gone to pieces…