If you’ve ever been on a modern looping roller coaster, you’ve probably experienced a thrilling, safe, and most importantly, comfortable ride. But this was not always the case. A little over 100 years ago, loop-the-loops were painful, not sturdy, and much more dangerous than they are today.
Between 1840 and early 1900, loops on roller coasters were perfectly round – meaning riders would go from a fairly straight line into a corner. This rapid onset of curvature caused extreme G-force peaks that rattled passengers to their core.
The first looping roller coaster in North America – Coney Island’s Flip Flap Railway – can exert up to 14 Gs on a person. For reference, astronauts in a spaceship launch experience 3 G’s. Fighter pilots with very special equipment and training can handle 10 Gs for a short time. Fourteen G’s were (and still are) great.
More people paid to see others ride these early roller coasters instead of riding themselves. Without continued success, most looping coasters closed within their first decade of operation.
Looped coasters would not find success again until the 1970s with a new loop shape, new materials, many more cars – and thankfully fewer Gs. In this video, we discuss all the developments that have helped make loop roller coasters the popular ride they are today.
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