The History of Roller Coasters
Everyone remembers their first ride on a roller coaster, an experience of terror, joy and excitement, as you tower over amusement parks going through curves and loops. From wooden wonders and steel coasters to twisters and corkscrews, the great rides began with the Russian ice slides in the 17th century and have developed into the ultimate thrill machines of today. The origins of the roller coaster will probably never be a settled issue, historians and coaster enthusiasts could argue where it all began (Harris). The success and evolution of the roller coaster and white-knuckle ride has inextricably mirrored the growth and changing perception of the amusement park industry over the years. A period of intense innovation and development in roller coaster science have been interrupted by long periods of decline and neglect, but with each era comes a new success for coasters. Many inventors have aided to the progression of roller coasters and what they are today and it is important to understand what they have done.
There are many inventors who have contributed to the advancements of roller coasters and each of them have had a huge impact on what roller coasters are today. The earliest inventor would be August John Mueller, known as John Miller professionally, who was born in Homewood, Illinois in 1874. At the age of 19 Miller started working with a man named LaMarcus Thompson and became his chief engineer. By 1911, Miller was a consultant to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC), where he designed more than a dozen coasters for PTC, including the mammoth Giant Coaster at Paragon Park in Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts. During the late twenties and the Depression years Miller was associated with the Dayton Fun House and Riding Device Manufacturing Company, which later became the National Amusement Device Corporation. Out of this Dayton relationship and a partnership with Norman Bartlett came the great Flying Turns ride. The prototype ride opened in 1929 at Dayton's Lakeside Park. In 1930, a larger version opened at Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, Ohio. Miller died in Houston while designing a coaster for the city of Mexico (Throgmorton 72-93).
Miller held over 100 patents, and he invented many of the safety devices used in today’s coasters. One of his contributions was the safety chain dog, which prevents the train from rolling backward if the lift chain breaks. Miller patented this ingenious device, which is the cause of the clanking sound heard when the train is pulled up the hill, in 1910. Two years later, Miller patented the brilliant invention of the under friction wheels. Coaster cars have three sets of wheels: a weight-bearing set riding on top of the track; a set inside the track keeping the cars on course; and a third set - the under friction wheels under the track, which lock the cars to the track (Harris).
The next pioneer to be looked at would be Fredrick Church, who along with...