The history of rollercoasters and steel

We love the rush a rollercoaster brings us, but have you ever stopped to consider the origins of the ride? As experts in steel cutting in Brisbane, we love thinking about all things related to steel – including rollercoasters. It’s uncertain where the idea for the first rollercoaster came from, but it’s thought that it possibly originated from coal mining. Coal miners had fun zooming downhill on the tracks of their delivery carts, and found that it gave them a good stress release from a high pressure and dangerous job.

But do rollercoasters have Russian origins?

In the 17th century, the Russians built a giant slide made from ice. They constructed these with wood and then covered the slide in ice a few inches thick, creating a slope with a drop of 50 degrees. These could be the very first examples of ‘thrill seeking rides’.

The original rollercoaster in the US

The first roller coaster in the US was constructed in the 1850s by a mining company in Pennsylvania. It was a downhill track that stretched for more than 14km and was first used to deliver coal. However, its popularity soared, and soon the owners were charging thrill-seekers 50 cents for a ride.

Steel makes rollercoasters more popular

Although many rollercoasters were first built with wood, these didn’t last long because they wouldn’t wear well. So soon designers shifted to making steel rollercoasters.

To create rollercoaster steel, manufacturers would mix iron with carbon and the more carbon mixed in, the harder the metal becomes. However, if the steel is too firm then it won’t flex and this will make it prone to snapping. So it’s important to get the mix right for bending the steel.

Once engineers discovered the right steel, it revived the popularity of rollercoasters. Steel manufacturing is best for rollercoasters because it can take the weight of passengers and also the speed of the machine. Of course, safety is paramount when building rollercoasters, and steel is the safest material to build them from.

Rollercoaster popularity increases

At the end of the 1960s, non-inverting steel rollercoasters started to become popular. These don’t twist upside down but are still considered essential in most theme parks as they are more family-friendly and popular with younger children.

Corkscrew rollercoasters are invented

The first tubular steel-tracked coaster was Disney’s Matterhorn Bobsled Ride, built in 1959. Steel rides were quieter — but more importantly, they allowed designers to build twists, turns and other thrills not possible with wood coasters.

Roller coaster fans mark the advent of a corkscrew-shaped ride in 1975 and a perfected, tear-drop-shaped loop in 1976 with the same passion as historians mark the Renaissance.

These normally have a 25m drop but aren’t considered to be as thrilling as multi-inversion rollercoasters or hyper coasters.

Hyper coasters

Hyper coasters are possibly the most thrilling type of steel built rollercoaster. These normally have a huge drop off at the start of the ride and are frequently very tall and sometimes more than 1.5km long.

Steel for multi-inversions

Modern grades of steel allowed for the development of Multi-inversion rollercoasters following the desire for rollercoasters that have lots of different innovations in their design. These could include loops and corkscrews. These type of rollercoasters are normally the sit-down style, although some are floorless.

Rollercoasters of the future

Steel is continuing to be improved as carbon-fibre composites allow rollercoasters to become lighter. The future of rollercoasters is exciting and we look forward to seeing the new steel designs that are invented. If you are looking for the largest range of stocked plates of all steel grades and sizes and thickness, get in touch with ShapeCUT now.