Roller Coasters

The need for speed. Some people have it. Others of us don’t. To set the stage for today’s roller coaster tour, here is an animation titled simply “Roller Coaster.” Can you feel the ride?

Coasterville4 stars

Roller coasting began with the Russian ice slides found at fairs in the 1700's. Riders road icy hills on slides of wood or ice. Occasionally a creative designer would add a series of small bumps. While these slides grew in popularity in Russia, a French businessman decided to build one in France. To accommodate the warmer weather, he built an all-weather version using a waxed wooden slope with wooden sleds on rollers. In addition to coaster history, Coasterville offers a Dictionary of Coasterese to you help "talk coasters with the pros."

Discovery Channel: Roller Coasters5 stars

Join journalist Vince Rause, a recovering "rollerphobe," as he tackles his fear by returning to the site of his "childhood humiliation" to ride every coaster there. In addition to Vince's well-written and engaging dispatches, two not-to-be-missed clicks are the Build Your Own Coaster (requires a Java-enabled browser) and the Video Rides (RealVideo or QuickTime). Rounding out this outstanding site is Coaster Talk where you can share your roller coaster experiences with other roller coaster groupies. If you have time for only one site on today's tour, make it this one.

Energy of a Roller Coaster3 stars

This QuickTime animation, created for a high school physics class, demonstrates the gravitational potential energy (GPE) and kinetic energy (KE) of a roller coaster as it goes from the first hill to the end of the ride. As in most simple roller coaster designs, the first hill is the largest. Once the roller coaster is pulled to the top, it operates entirely on its own energy. The coaster's total energy (TE) remains constant throughout the ride as TE = GPE + KE. Remember these basic principles as you design your own coaster at the Discovery Channel site listed above.

Joyrides3 stars

Joyrides is a photo gallery "celebrating the joy and beauty" of roller coasters and other amusement park rides. Organized by theme park (from Adventure World to Valleyfair), the photos give a good overview of the current state-of-the-coaster, from woodies to steelies. Each coaster photo is annotated ("A wooden coaster can't perform the maneuvers that a steelie can, but its organic structure often provokes a more primal feeling of excitement.") and includes a link to the official theme park site.

ThrillRide!4 stars

Caution! Expectant mothers with bad backs and heart arrhythmia "are urged to take caution before boarding this site." All kidding aside, the ThrillRide! site is a compendium of roller coaster news, rumors and feature stories. One such feature is a look back at the glory that once was Coney Island's Thunderbolt. "John Miller, one of coasterdom's early geniuses, was responsible for designing the Thunderbolt, which opened in 1927." It was closed in the late seventies and now stands covered in vines. But the story hasn't ended yet. A redevelopment plan that would restore the entire Coney Island project is in the works.

Honorable Mentions

The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!

Ultimate Roller Coaster

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Roller Coasters." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 24 Jun. 1998. Web. 5 Aug. 2015. < >.

About This Page

By . Originally published June 24, 1998. Last modified June 24, 1998.

American Coasters: A Thrilling Photographic Ride
American Coasters: A Thrilling Photographic Ride
Price: $6.92
The 50 Most Terrifying Roller Coasters Ever Built
The 50 Most Terrifying Roller Coasters Ever Built
Price: $7.07
Roller Coaster
Roller Coaster
Price: $3.29