Here, take a look back at ten vintage roller coasters from the early 1900s — in New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Massachusetts — and admire the courage of the riders who sat down in those rickety little cars and sped off into the wild blue yonder.
One of the oldest coasters here, seen in the video below, consisted of just rows of plain wooden benches in a car — no seat backs, no belts, and only a little handle to hold on to. Still, people back then loved the rides! (The speed was probably even more exciting to folks in the days when cars were still a novelty.)
The roller coasters at Coney Island in New York (1910)
From the simple toboggan was gradually evolved the highly complex safety coaster. S E Jackman built most of his structures within the dimensions of a good-sized house or amusement pavilion. The look of even the newest one reminds the spectator of nothing so much as of the good, old, substantial framework joiners put up for big barns and dwellings before the days of steel beams and concrete reinforcement.
A myriad sticks of seasoned timber, bolted and nailed; a wilderness of cross pieces, supports, and stays; a car track that quickly mounts to a height of 75 or 100 feet, circles the level top, dips suddenly for a partial descent, rises again in scary flight, makes a second circuit lower than the first, and so on circles, dips, and rises til like a bird or an aeroplane, it strikes the ground level at last.
A loading lever at the start attaches the car to the chain which carries it up: another lever unloads the car from the chain; and other grips, likewise operated from the ground below, elevate track brakes, which, by pressing the wheels from beneath, reduce the speed on the curves. An emergency brake is supposed to stop everything when required.
Heights and descents are so calculated, or so tried out by actual experiment, that the unconducted car returns, after its swift flight, at snail’s pace to its starting point. – Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah) – July 30, 1910
1. Coney Island’s Flip Flap looping roller coaster (c1900)
2. Coney Island, New York: Vintage roller coaster (c1910-1915)
3. Coney Island, New York: Loop the Loop (1903)
4. Atlantic City’s old wooden roller coaster
Atlantic City, New Jersey: Looping the Loop (1901)
5. An old roller coaster in action – location unknown (video from 1898)
6. Massachusetts beach roller coaster
Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts: Roller coaster at Paragon Park (c1890-1910)
7. Ohio amusement parks & their old roller coasters
Euclid Beach, Cleveland, Ohio: Roller coaster (c1890-1910)