The first roller coasters were patented by LaMarcus Adna Thompson in 1885 (Wikipedia), but roller coasters existed long before their paten. Back in late sixteenth century Russia there was a sport known as ice sliding where one would start at the top of a 70-foot wooden structure and pummel down a 600 feet long track on one’s 2-foot-long sleigh (Throgmorton 10). Ice sliding was only available during the winter months, so in the warmer months the Russians would affix wheels to their sleighs so they could enjoy sliding year round. Then in the late eighteenth century a French traveler built a conveyer-like coaster by placing rollers on a wooden track so that riders could coast down the track, thus came the name Roller Coaster (Throgmorton 10). These early roller coasters were very unsafe since the first roller coaster to have guide rails wasn’t developed until the early 1800s, it was known as The Promenades Aeriennes (Throgmorton 11). The Promenades Aeriennes was built in 1812 by the French and was the first wooden roller coaster to feature locked wheeled cars and guide rails. The Promenades Aeriennes was also one of the faster roller coasters at that time, able to clock in speeds of 40 miles per hour. Also, The Promenades Aeriennes was the first wooden roller coaster to allow for the cars to complete the whole track and return to the starting point only relying on momentum (Throgmorton 11). After a few years the roller coasters lost their popularity in Europe until LaMarcus Thompson designed and built the Gravity Pressure Switchback Railway at Coney Island in 1884 (Wikipedia) which had small waves and could only go about 6 miles per hour and had to be pushed up its final hill so that the passengers could complete the ride (Throgmorto...
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Throgmorton, Todd H. Roller Coasters of America. Osceola, WI: Motor International, 1994. Print.
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