- Wooden roller coaster
A wooden roller coaster or woodie is most often classified as a
roller coasterwith laminated steel running rails overlaid upon a wooden track. Occasionally, the structure may be made out of a steel latticeor truss, but the ride remains classified as a wooden roller coaster due to the track design. Due to the limits of wood, wooden roller coasters in general do not have inversions (when the coaster goes upside down), steep drops, or extremely banked turns ( overbanked turns). However, there are exceptions; Son of Beast at Kings Islandhas a 214 foot high drop and originally had a 90 foot tall loop until the end of the 2006 season, although the loop had metal supports. Other special cases are Hades at Mount Olympus Water and Theme Parkin Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, featuring a double-track tunnel and a 90 degree banked turn, The Voyage at Holiday World(an example of a wooden roller coaster with a steel structure for supports) featuring three separate 90 degree banked turns, and T Express at Everlandin South Koreawith a 77 degree drop.
Decline and revival
Once a staple in virtually every
amusement parkin America, wooden roller coasters appear to be on a slow decline in popularity for a number of reasons. Steel roller coasters, while having larger up-front costs, cost much less in ongoing maintenance fees throughout the years of operation. Wooden roller coasters, on the other hand, require large amounts of devoted funds annually to keep the ride in operating condition through regular re-tracking, track lubrication, and support maintenance.
Wooden coasters are also becoming less marketable in today's media-driven advertising world. Superlative advertising in which the "biggest", "tallest", or "fastest" ride is what brings in crowds often cannot apply to new wooden roller coasters, especially since a large majority of record-holding rides are steel. Amusement parks are always looking to add attractions which can be presented in commercials and ads as incredibly tall, fast, or extreme which eliminates many wooden roller coasters.
However, the arrival of several new wooden coasters has bucked the downward trend. In 2006, a trio of giant wooden coasters opened in the United States: The
Kentucky Rumblerat Beech Bend Park, The Voyage at Holiday World, and El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Another wooden coaster, Renegade at Valleyfair!, opened in 2007. It remains to be seen whether or not these new coasters mark the beginning of a wooden coaster revival, but they do indicate that amusement parks continue to show interest in wooden roller coasters. This may be owed to the fact that rides like El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventureactually feel like steel coasters, due to prefabricated track.
One of the most significant recent developments in wooden coaster design is
Intamin AG's use of prefabricated track. This design essentially applies the principles of steel coaster manufacturing to wood.
Traditional wooden coaster track is built on-site. It is nailed layer-by-layer to the support structure, then it is smoothed to the proper shape and steel running plates are mounted on top. Prefabricated track, on the other hand, is manufactured in a factory. It is made of many thin layers of wood that are glued together and then laser cut to the exact shape needed. The track is made in 25 foot sections which have special joints on the ends that allow them to snap together like
Legopieces. This process allows for far higher precision than could ever be achieved by hand. In addition, the trains for a prefabricated wooden coaster have wheels with polyurethane tires, just like a steel coaster. In contrast, traditional wooden coaster trains have bare metal wheels.
This design results in a ride that is nearly as smooth as the smoothest of steel coasters, and much smoother than any traditional wooden coaster. However, some coaster enthusiasts may find this smoothness to detract from the experience, as it would not have the same character as a traditional wooden coaster. Despite this, all three existing prefabricated wooden coasters are consistently rated among the best wooden coasters in the world.
Prefabricated wooden coasters also benefit from faster construction and reduced maintenance compared to a traditional wooden coaster. The track is simply bolted to the structure, which takes an insignificant amount of time compared to actually building the track. The track also stays smooth much longer than traditional track, which becomes rough rather quickly and eventually must be replaced.
Wooden versus steel
Wooden roller coasters provide a very different ride and experience from
steel roller coasters. While they are technically less capable than a steel coaster when it comes to inversions and elements, wooden coasters instead rely on an often rougher and more "wild" ride as well as a more psychological approach to inducing fear. Their shaky structures and track, which usually move anywhere from a few inches to a few feet with a passing train, give a sense of unreliability and the "threat" of collapse or disregard for safety. Of course, this assumption is purely mental and wooden roller coaster supports and track systems are designed to sway with the force. If the track and structure are too rigid, they will break under the strain of the passing train. The swaying of the track reduces the force applied per second (see impulse), like a shock absorber.
Like steel roller coasters, wooden roller coasters usually use the same three-wheel design, pioneered by John Miller. Each set of wheels includes a running wheel (on top of the track), a side friction wheel (to reduce side to side movement known as "hunting") and an upstop wheel (beneath the track to prevent cars from flying off the track). Some wooden coasters, such as
Leap-The-Dips, do not have upstop wheels, and are therefore known as side friction roller coasters. As a result, the turns and drops are more gentle than on modern wooden roller coasters. Scenic Railwayroller coasters also lack upstop wheels, but rely on a brakeman to control the speed. A handful of wooden coasters use flanged wheels, similar to a rail car, eliminating the need for side friction wheels..
The debate rages as to which type of coaster is better; wood or steel. This is unlikely to ever be settled, however, because each category distinguishes itself from the other in a number of ways, in addition to also providing a substantially different and unique ride.
Examples of wooden roller coasters
*American Eagle at
Six Flags Great Americais the longest, tallest, and fastest racing coaster in the world.
Le Monstre, in La Ronde, is the biggest double track wooden roller coaster in the world.
*Balder at Liseberg Amusement Park,
Gothenburg, Sweden. This was the second "prefabricated" wooden coaster to be built.
*The Beast at
Kings Island, Ohio, USA. "The Beast" holds the world record for being the longest wooden roller coaster in the world.
*Bjergrutschebanen (Wooden Roller Coaster) at
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark. Built 1914 and still run with brake men.
*Coaster at Playland in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This signature attraction was built in 1958 and has speeds up to 75 km/h (48 mph). Featured in the movie Riding the Bullet.
Heide Park, Soltau, Germany. "Colossos", built 2001, is one of the largest wooden coasters in the world.
*The Comet at
The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom, Lake George, New York. Originally built in 1927 for the amusement park in Crystal Beach, Ontario, it was purchased and relocated to Lake George in 1993 after Crystal Beach closed down. It is commonly considered one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world.
The Cycloneat Coney Island, New York, USA- One of America's most famous roller coasters, opened in 1927.
*El Toro at
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey, USA- Opened in 2006 with the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the world (76 degrees).
GhostRiderat Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA, USA- It is the longest wooden coaster on the West Coast.
*Grand National at
Pleasure Beach Blackpool, United Kingdom- One of three Möbius loop roller coasters
*Hullámvasút [ [http://www.rcdb.com/id1086.htm Hullámvasút] ] at
Vidámpark, Budapest, Hungary- Wooden roller coaster built in 1922 after the plans of Ervin Dragon, is 17m in height and travels 980m in five minutes. It is one of the few remaining side friction roller coasters in the world, and is an ACE Coaster Classic [ [http://www.aceonline.org/CoasterAwards/?type=1 ACE Coaster Classic Awards] ] , operated since 1926, and still running.
Leap-The-Dipsat Lakemont Park, Altoona, PA, USA- the world's oldest operating roller coaster (opened 1902).
Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh, PA, declared "King of the Coasters" by the New York Times. Kennywood is home to two other woodies: The Racer (a Moebius Loop) and the Jackrabbit, featuring a unique double-dip.
The Scenic RailwayOpened 7/3/1920 The oldest wooden coaster in the UKand the 3rd oldest in the world is located at Dreamland Margate, Kent. In 2002 the ride became a Grade II listed building - the first UK amusement park attraction to achieve this status. It closed in 2005 and 25% of it was destroyed by fire on 7th April 2008,however plans are a foot with English Heritage to restore it.
*Rebel Yell at
Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginiais a racing roller coaster, featuring two individual tracks that parallel each other. From 1993-2007 the Rebel Yell had one side of the tracks traveling forwards and one side traveling backwards.
*Scenic Railway at
Luna Park, MelbourneAustralia Built in 1912, the Scenic Railway is the oldest continually-operating roller coaster in the world, and one of only 2 in existence requiring a brakesman to stand in the middle of the train. For these reasons, it is regarded as an American Coaster EnthusiastsCoaster Classic.
*Boulder Dash Wooden roller coaster voted the world's #1 wooden roller coaster by the National Amusement Park Historical Association at
Lake Compounceamusement park in Bristol, CT.
*Shivering Timbers Fourth longest wooden roller coaster in the world and consistently well-rated in the Golden Ticket awards. Located at
Michigan's Adventurenear Muskegon, Michigan.
*The Voyage at
Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana, USA- features three 90 degree banked turns.
Zippin Pippinat Libertyland, Memphis, TN, USA, reported to be Elvis Presley's favorite roller coaster
*Son Of Beast at
Kings Island, the world's tallest wooden roller coaster, and was once the only wooden coaster to have an inversion (loop) before being removed in 2007 after an accident in July 2006.
Kings Dominion, Doswell, VirginiaThe grounds of the ride are densely forested, with the intended thrills heightened from the illusion of inadequate clearance between the track and trees.
Mission Beach Roller Coasteris one of two original oceanfront roller coasters still operating on the west coast. The Giant Dipper was originally built 1925. It is at Belmont Park in San Diego, California.
* [http://www.rcdb.com Roller Coaster Data Base] Guide to all coasters everywhere.
* [http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com/coasters/history/ History of Roller Coasters] at Ultimate Rollercoaster.com, series on roller coaster history includes photos and historical information about wooden roller coasters.
*Pictures of the [http://www.themeparkreview.com/europe2005/tivoli/tivoli2.htm Scenic Railway] at
Tivoli Gardensin Copenhagen, showing the brakeman and the inner workings of the ride.
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