Roller Coasters: History, Physics, and Records Essay

Running head: ROLLER COASTERS Roller Coasters: History, Physics, and records Abstract This paper explains the early history of roller coasters from their rough beginnings in Russia through the migration to the United States. It goes on to emphasize the important physics that go along with how roller coasters operate and the forces that work with and against it. In the end it talks about what records and accomplishments have been made with the usage of roller coasters. Formal Outline I.

Introduction- Roller coasters have been revolutionary to the world from their “ancestry” from eighteent century Russia to more modern times, the challenges faced by designers discovering unique ways to build them in concurrence with the forces acting against it, and the achievements reached by the worldwide use of roller coasters. II. Background A. Definition of a roller coaster B. Types of Roller Coasters 1. Wooden 2. Steel III. History A. Foreign “ancestry” B. Early versions in America IV. Physics and Forces A. Energies and Forces B. Laws and Summarization V. Milestones and Records

A. Milestones through time B. Record holders in the roller coaster world VI. Conclusion Roller Coasters: History, Physics, and records People that have been on a roller coaster can experience one of two things; they will either love them or hate them. The upsides include the excitement it brings, the tension as the people get higher and higher, all the fast twists and turns as the heart beats faster and the blood rushes to the head, and the great experience with everyone as people enjoy it together. Or some people could feel sick on the rides and not like the experience at all.

Either way, roller coasters are a well known source of entertainment in the modern era. Not all roller coasters are the same, as there are different materials, additions, and levels of “thrill” that each individual coaster brings. Roller coasters have been revolutionary to the world from their “ancestry” from eighteenth century Russia to more modern times, the challenges faced by designers discovering unique ways to build them in concurrence with the forces acting against it, and the achievements reached by the worldwide use of roller coasters. Background

Definition of a Roller Coaster There are many words associated with roller coasters, including fourth dimension, pipeline, cyclone, wild mouse, and more. But what is the definition of just a roller coaster? The most direct answer would be an elevated railway (as in an amusement park) constructed with sharp curves and steep inclines on which cars roll (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2010). When put as simply as that roller coasters seem boring. Seeing the definition in words cannot describe the sensation experienced when physically riding a roller coaster. Types of Roller Coasters

Generally roller coasters can be divided up into various small categories but can be guilelessly grouped into two main categories: wood and steel. Wooden roller coasters obviously came first. They are still around but not quite as popular because they are not as capable of certain additions as steel coasters. There are not many types of wooden roller coasters but many variations can be found (Types of Coasters, 2005). Earlier models were not very elaborate and not too thrilling. Side friction coasters were an early type of wooden coaster that did not have the modern wheel design making it more prone to derailing if it went too fast.

In more recent times, with improved safety features, even wooden coasters were able to achieve more extreme additions (Types of Coasters, 2005). Mobius wooden coasters and dueling wooden coasters are in essence the same concept with two coasters racing each other but with a few differences in their design (Types of Coasters, 2005). Mobius coasters race each other with tracks side by side that are mirror images. They sometimes have on coaster facing forwards and the other facing backwards. Dueling coasters are two tracks near each other with sharp turns that look like the two tracks will collide (Types of Coasters, 2005).

There also a few rare wooden coasters include a loop (Types of Coasters, 2005). Many designs, though, are similar to some of the newer steel coasters. Without doubt steel coasters opened up the roller coaster world to a whole new variety of thrills. With steel coasters, the ride is very smooth whereas wooden coasters were somewhat rickety and a bit unstable. Steel coasters can withstand greater heights and berserk designs (Types of Coasters, 2005). A common design between the wood and steel coasters includes the Wild Mouse design, typically not extremely fast but with sharp turns and fun layouts (Types of Coasters, 2005).

New designs to the steel coaster includes the Boomerang style, where you ride the entire ride forward, and then do it again backwards, Diving and Thrust Air coasters, which offer extremely steep hills and drops, and finally Hyper Coasters, which typically reaches its highest peak upwards of 300 feet and gets very fast (Types of Coasters, 2005). History of Roller Coasters Foreign “ancestry” Every history has a starting point and most roller coaster historians agree that the roller coaster’s origins were the Russian Ice Slides (Sandy, 2006).

In the eighteenth century, ice slide riders in Russia shot down the slope in sleds made out of wood or blocks of ice, crash-landing in a sand pile (Harris, 2007). These ice slides were thought to be the earliest forms of and inspiration for the more modern roller coasters humanity has seen over the past century. According to most historians, “The most widespread account is that a few entrepreneurial Frenchmen imported the ice slide idea to France” (Harris, 2007). The warmer climate of France tended to melt the ice, so the French started building waxed slides instead, eventually adding wheels to the sleds.

There is some dispute as to who actually added wheels to the equation and created a rolling coaster. Robert Cartmell, who wrote the book The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, gives the Russians credit for building the first wheeled machine. According to Cartmell, “… it was in the Gardens of Orienbaum in St. Petersburg. Cartmell says that this ride was built in 1784 and featured carriages that undulated over hills within grooved tracks” (Sandy, 2006). It is unknown if the Russians truly did build the first roller coaster therefore it is now understood that the French created the first one.

It is known that by 1817 two coasters were built in France called the Les Montagues Russes a Belleville (roughly translated: the Russian Mountains of Belleville) and Promenades Aeriennes (The Aerial Walk), both of which featured cars that locked to the track in some manner (Sandy, 2006). The French continued to expand on this idea, coming up with more complex track layouts, with multiple cars and all sorts of twists and turns. The first looping coaster was located in Frascati Gardens in Paris, France. The hill was forty feet high, had a thirteen foot-wide loop and was tested with everything under the sun before humans were allowed on.

The layout was simple: the rider rode down the gentle slope on a small cart and through a small metal circle (Sandy, 2006). Early versions in America At that time the roller coaster made its way to America in the form of the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway in the mountains of Pennsylvania. “For one dollar, tourists got a leisurely ride up to the top of the mountain followed by a wild, bumpy ride back down” (Harris, 2007). It was forty miles long and reached speeds just under 100 mph (Bowers, 2007). Over the next thirty years, these scenic rides continued to thrive and were joined by wooden roller coasters similar to the ones people know today.

These coasters were the main attraction at popular amusement parks throughout the United States, such as Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania and Coney Island in New York (Harris, 2007). By the 1920s, roller coasters were in full swing, with some 2,000 rides in operation around the country. Haverhill was the American incarnations of the French slides. These were built inside buildings (often associated with roller-rinks) and consisted of getting into a toboggan sled with other riders, being pushed into an elevator that was hoisted to the top of the building, then pushing the riders out of the elevator and onto a series of rollers.

These rollers made a figure eight path that sent riders rolling quickly back and forth across the rink, until they landed on the ground floor, next to the elevators (Bowers, 2007). These rides cost five cents per ride and operated in the late nineteenth century and lasted until the early twentieth century. Physics and Forces Energies and Forces One thing that most people do not think about is that the coaster itself has no engine. To begin, “The car is pulled to the top of the first hill at the beginning of the ride, but after that the coaster must complete the ride on its own” (Annenberg, 2010).

This means that a lot of unseen energies must act with the cars to keep them going. There are three basic kinds of energy, and roller coasters use two of them. Potential energy is the energy with respect to the position of the object, also known as stored energy. Kinetic energy is the energy with respect to an object’s movement, also known as energy in motion (Annenberg, 2010). Together with these two energies, “The conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy is what drives the roller coaster” (Annenberg, 2010). The motor that gets people up the lift hill (the first hill) is storing up potential energy to be used all through the ride.

It first changes to kinetic energy when riders go down the first hill. They feel the kinetic energy as speed. People have the most kinetic energy at the bottom of the hill. All of the kinetic energy one would need for the ride is present once the coaster descends the first hill. They decrease speed when they’re going up the next hill, and gaining potential energy. Another factor on keeping the car moving is its wheels. Different types of wheels help keep the ride smooth. Most people do not realize there are more than one set of wheels in operation of the coaster’s movements.

The three types of wheels are “Running wheels guide the coaster on the track, friction wheels control lateral motion (movement to either side of the track), and a final set of wheels keeps the coaster on the track even if it’s inverted” (Annenberg, 2010). To slow down and stop the car, there are two main ways of doing it. Compressed air brakes stop the car as the ride ends. The other way of slowing is deceleration. In fact “All roller coasters have acceleration. If you get faster while going down a hill, you are accelerating. If you get slower while going uphill, you are decelerating, which is still a form of acceleration” (Peikert, 2001).

Acceleration of a roller coaster depends on the mass of the roller coaster and how strong the force is that is pushing or pulling on the car. The effective acceleration due to gravity depends on the angle of the track. Therefore, the steeper the track, the greater the effective acceleration (Peikert, 2001). Another force that effects a coaster occurs on a loop; centripetal force. In easier terms “A loop in a coaster acts like a slide on a playground. Gravity wants you to go strait, but because the slide is curved, you curve along with it” (Peikert, 2001). Laws and Summarizations

Generally there is one specific law of energy that applies to roller coasters; “The Law of Conservation of Energy: Energy can’t be created or destroyed, It just changes from form to form” (Peikert, 2001). Friction works a great deal into this whole system, too; “Friction is a part of a force that works in the opposite direction of the roller coaster car. The main thing friction does is it resists motion. It always does this, even though there are many types of friction. The main thing that decides what type of friction is used are the materials used in the roller coaster and the car.

Friction accompanies all motion” (Peikert, 2001). In any circumstance: “No surface is all the way smooth, anything that rubs against another thing has friction. Weight and surface pressure also affect friction. The heavier an object, the more friction produced when it is rubbed. All coaster designers know that friction plays a part in how the rollercoaster works. To keep the coaster going, the designers and engineers make each hill lower than the one before it so that the car can keep going. Friction is also used at the brakes to slow and eventually stop the train” (Peikert, 2001).

Inertia works in with the mass of the car. In all cases “If something is standing still, it’s not going to move unless something else applies a force on it. This resistance to move is called inertia. The amount of inertia is determined by the amount of mass the object has. In short, the more mass = the more inertia. In the same way, if an object is moving, it will keep moving in the same direction, unless something changes its speed or direction. This resistance to changing velocity is another form of inertia. The same law applies to the second form of inertia as in the first: More mass= more inertia” (Peikert, 2001).

Momentum and velocity also go hand in hand with their affects on the coaster. “Momentum is an object’s mass multiplied by its velocity. An object’s mass and/or its velocity affect its momentum. The amount of an object’s momentum makes it harder or easier to stop the object” (Peikert, 2001). “Velocity is an object’s speed in a certain direction. Velocity changes with the direction. The higher the amount of velocity, the less time it takes for an object to travel from one location to another” (Peikert, 2001). “Velocity is speed and direction.

Say a coaster is going through a turn, even though the speed may not change, it’s velocity does since it changed direction” (Peikert, 2001). Milestones and Records Milestones through time Clearly when roller coasters started becoming more popular and multitudes of them were being created throughout the world, there were bound to be records made and crushed as time went on. The roller coaster world was still very young in the 1800s so many “firsts” occurred in this time. In 1840, “The world’s first “looping” roller coaster is designed and built in Britain. The coaster is exported to Frascati Gardens, Paris.

The 13-foot diameter loop is at the base of a 43-foot drop” (Sandy, 2006). In 1873 “The Mauch Chunk Railway in Pennsylvania becomes the first ride to form a complete circuit” (Sandy, 2006). In 1884 “The first Switchback Railway named “The Switchback” opens at Coney Island, New York. The public for the first time pays to ride a car down a wooden track. The first switchback railway with a complete circuit, built specifically for an amusement park, opens at Coney Island” (Sandy, 2006). This roller coaster design meant that it went in a straight line one direction and went back the other way for the next riders.

In 1885 “The first switchback railway utilizing a chain lift opens in San Francisco” (Sandy, 2006). In 1887, “The first ride with a Figure-8 layout opens at Haverhill, MA” (Sandy, 2006). This opened up building to a new way with twists and turns instead of just hills. In 1891, “The first ride with a vertical loop is built and opens. Due to excessive positive G-Forces that snapped riders’ necks, the ride soon closes” (Sandy, 2006). Safety obviously was not very effective at this point. In the 1900s a few new designs were made but mostly they made improvements to previously discovered methods.

In 1907. “Drop-The-Dips roller coaster opens and is the first to use a lapbar style restraint” (Sandy, 2006). That was the beginning to the modern safetywear for nonlooping coasters that we have today. In 1927 “The Racer at Kennywood opens. It is the first roller coaster with a mobius track” (Sandy 2006). This was the design where two coasters run side by side as if racing. In 1953, “The first major roller coaster opens in Japan. It was designed and constructed by TOGO” (Sandy, 2006). This showed the worldwide influence roller coasters were making.

Also in1955 “Walt Disney opens his first theme park, Disneyland in Anaheim, California” (Sandy, 2006). In 1959 “The world’s first tubular track steel roller coaster, the Matterhorn Bobsleds opens at Disneyland” (Sandy, 2006). In 1964 “Serpent of Fire at La Feria Chapultepec Magico in Mexico City becomes the first roller coaster to stand 100-feet tall. It remained the tallest ride in the world for over a decade. It was also the third and last coaster built with a mobius track” (Sandy, 2006). In 1975 “The world’s first modern looping roller coaster opens at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA.

The Corkscrew designed by Arrow Dynamics featured two inversions. It was removed in 1989 and relocated to Silverwood Park in Athol, Idaho in 1990 where it continues to operate today” (Sandy, 2006). In 1979 “The world’s longest roller coaster The Beast (7,400 feet) opens at Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio” (Sandy, 2006). In 1982 “The world’s first stand-up roller coaster opens in Japan” (Sandy, 2006). In 1989 “Magnum XL-200 opens at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. It is the first roller coaster to stand more than 200-feet tall” (Sandy, 2006). Record holders in the roller coaster world

In modern times, steel coasters seem to be the way to go. But only the best of the best earn worldwide ranking making the above the rest. Kingda Ka, built in 2005 at Six Flags Great Adventure, is probably the most impressive coaster in the world to date. It currently holds three world records. The first is for being the tallest coaster in the world at 456 feet above ground. The second is for having the largest drop at 418 feet. The third and final record is for being the fastest at 128 miles per hour. Refer to Picture one in the appendix. The record for the world’s longest roller coaster surprisingly is not in the United States.

The record goes to the Steel Dragon from Nagashima Spa Land amusement park in Japan. Built in 2000, this roller coaster track is 8,133 feet long; well over one mile long. The record for the steepest angle of descent is actually a four-way tie between two countries. The Vild-Svinet from BonBon Land in Denmark, the Typhoon from Bobbejaanland Family Park in the UK, Speed: No Limits from Oakwood in the UK, and finally the Rage from Adventure Island in the UK all tied at a ninety seven degree angle; steeper than straight down. The record for the roller coaster with the most inversions goes to the Collosus from Thorpe Park in England.

This ride contains ten inversion; two more than the roller coaster with the second highest amount of inversions. The record for the oldest roller coaster still in use is Leap-the-Dips from Lakemont Park in Pennsylvania. This ride was built and has been in use since 1902. The most popular amusement park is given to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. This park, dubbed “the Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” has seventy five rides, more than any other amusement park, and includes seventeen roller coasters, four of which are over 200 feet high. Conclusion

This paper helped show different aspects that go into the entire roller coaster world that many people do not think about often or even at all. Roller coasters have been revolutionary to the world from their “ancestry” from 18th century Russia to more modern times, the challenges faced by designers discovering unique ways to build them in concurrence with the forces acting against it, and the achievements reached by the worldwide use of roller coasters. Roller coasters have had a huge impact on the lives of everyone who have used them creating memories for generations past and generations to come.

Appendix Picture 1 Note: This picture shows the revolutionary roller coaster “Kingda Ka” at Six Flags Great Adventure. It currently holds three world records. Dales, A. (2010). 10 Best Roller Coasters. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from http://dalesdesigns. net/coasters. htm References Annenberg, M. (2010). Amusement park physics. Retrieved on Oct. 13, 2010, from http://www. learner. org/interactives/parkphysics/coaster. html Bowers, D. (2007). History of roller coasters. Retrieved on Oct. 9, 2010, from http://www. coasterville. com/history. htm Harris, T. (2007, August 09). How roller coasters work.

Retrieved on Oct. 9, 2010, from http://tlc. howstuffworks. com/family/roller-coaster1. htm# Peikert, B. (2001). Retrieved on Oct. 13, 2010, from http://library. thinkquest. org/C0113822/ Sandy, A. (2006). Roller coaster history: How it started: The beginning. Retrieved on Oct. 4, 2010, from http://www. ultimaterollercoaster. com/coasters/history/start/ The Merriam- Webster Dictionary. (2010). Retrieved on Oct. 25, 2010, from http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/roller+coaster Types of Coasters. (2005). Retrieved on Oct. 25, 2010, from http://www. coasterforce. com/Types_of_Roller_Coaster