Rollercoasters have become synonymous with high adrenaline fun for the whole family. They have brought entertainment to the masses for over a hundred years, with some of the earliest modern variations created in the 19th century. The idea of the rollercoaster originated in Russia, where elaborate sleds constructed of cut lumber and tree trunks hurtled down man-made snow and ice hills. This was brought to France in 1804, with a ride called ‘Russian Mountains’ created in Paris. Wheels were added to the sleds, kickstarting a development process which would eventually result in the rollercoasters familiar to us today.
Coney Island played a crucial role in the 19th century in popularising the theme park ride across the United States, and some of the country’s earliest rollercoasters are still in operation after over a century.
Here we discover the six oldest roller coaster in the United States.
Located at Lakemont Park near Altoona, Pennsylvania, Leap-The-Dips is the oldest still operating roller coaster in the world. The wooden structure was opened to the public in 1902 and would be in continuous use until 1985, when it was closed down because of structural integrity concerns. A fundraising campaign helped to restore the old roller coaster to its former glory, with a grand-reopening taking place in 1999.
2. The Wild One
The wooden roller coaster, opened on 1917, was originally from Paragon Park, Hull, Massachusetts. With 30 metres in height, it was the tallest roller coaster in the world until 1925. The Wild One was eventually bought up by Wild World (now Six Flags America) in 1984 and transported to Prince George’s County, Maryland. The roller coaster was reopened two years later, entertaining passengers to this day.
3. Jack Rabbit
The Jack Rabbit wooden roller coaster has been in operation for over 100 years, with the first passengers taking a ride in 1920. Situated at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it is known for its unique 70-foot (21 metre) double-dip drop and being one of the first roller coasters to feature under-friction wheels.
4. Zippin Pippin
Made out of pine wood, the Zippin Pippin is a beautiful and fun historic ride. Built during the 1910s, the roller coaster was operational at Montgomery Park, later known as the Mid-South Fairgrounds. Until 2005 it was incorporated as an attraction in the now-closed Libertyland amusement park. In 2010 the Zippin Pippin was installed at the Bay Beach Amusement Park with a new wave of passengers being allowed the following year.
5. Giant Dipper
The 800 metre long roller coaster was built in only 47 days and opened on 17 May 1924. It miraculously survived an earthquake in 1989 and went on celebrating its 50 millionth passenger in 2002. The wooden construction has the distinction of being the oldest roller coaster in California.
6. Wildcat (Lake Compounce)
Built in 1927 as the centrepiece of the Lake Compounce amusement part in Bristol, Connecticut, the Wildcat is an award winning family attraction, receiving the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Coaster Landmark Award for its historical significance. The entire structure was renovated in 1985, replacing the old frame with new wooden elements.