What the First Roller Coaster Attractions Looked Like Back in the Day

Yana Bostongirl

Some call Russian Mountains the forefathers of the modern rollercoasters. It is said that back in the day, Catherine the Great ordered the construction of these wooden ice slides at one of her residences for some coasting fun. Roller coasters have come a long way since then.

In 1873, Pennsylvania's Mauch Chunk Switchboard Railroad came into operation. According to an article published by AAA, it was a repurposed coal mine that took visitors on an 18 mile trip up and then down the mountain. The ride down was entirely powered by gravity and therefore was not for the faint-hearted. An article published in railstotrails.org claims that at one point, only Niagara Falls topped this roller coaster as a tourist attraction. Here is an excerpt from the article:" During non-peak hours, the railroad offered rides along the route for the public, in specially outfitted cars. Following the line's dramatic descents and loops, these cars could attain speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. One patron described it as a "hair-raising trolley ride."

The Mauch Chunk Switchboard Railway closed its doors in 1933.

Some years later, in 1884, another ride named the Gravity Switchback Railway was opened at Coney Island by LaMarcus A. Thompson which was basically a structure made of wood and had wooden benches for the guests who were taking the ride. According to the AAA article, this ride traveled back and forth down a series of gentle hills.

Again in 1899, a vertical looping roller coaster called the Flip Flap Railway came into the business. Unfortunately for it, this roller coaster only lasted only 3 seasons due to the fact that several of the guests suffered severe injuries due to the G forces of the ride.

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