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Guess Why The Roller Coasters Were Invented!

by Kareena Dodeja

Guess Why The Roller Coasters Were Invented!

February 13, 2021

While some people get a buzz from sitting on the whizzing roller coasters, others get the urge to puke from the sudden changes in motion and few even faint on those rides (admit it, we've all enjoyed those videos). But what almost no one knows about is why were roller coasters made in the first place. Well, let's find out.

Believe it or not, roller coasters were invented to “get rid of sin” in the 1880s. A hosiery businessman, LaMarcus Thompson, was disgusted that hedonistic places like saloons and brothels were tempting Americans into doing “vices”. He hated the sinful behaviour of fellow humans who engaged in sex, drinking and going out for “fun” (talk about a party pooper).

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Rollercoasters are designed to get rid of sin.

Roller Coaster- An Alternative For Fun-s

To counter the happy-go-lucky activities the people around him were engaging in, he decided to go down to Coney Island in New York, the site of all the fun used to happen. He thought he would give the sinful people there a “thrill” so they wouldn’t go to immoral places like brothels.

Thompson was looking for a way for Americans to stay away from gambling, taverns, and brothels as these spots became increasingly popular after the Civil War. Americans were concerned with ‘wealthy and urban culture’, and he thought of “it” as a bad influence.

He wanted to provide the people with some joy in their lives that would distract them from sinning. He was concerned that people who visited those places would be in the eternity of hell. And thus, to avoid people’s eternal damnation, he invented the first roller coaster.

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La Marcus wanted to give people a thrill adventure .

Roller Coaster Went By Many Names

The rollercoasters were named ‘Dare Devil Dive’, ‘Steel Vengeance’, and ‘The Beast.’ The rides were created to be a distraction from Satan’s temptations (so Thompson thought). While creating the roller coaster, Thompson probably had not fathomed the possibility of his invention becoming one of the world’s most popular pastimes that will bring more than just thrill in people’s lives.

Well, it was successful, and still is, as people continue to ride them to experience speed and the seeming danger accompanying it. In 1884, Thompson invented the Switchback Gravity Railway, a patented roller coaster. The townsfolk could get a ride of the roller coaster for just five cents.

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An illustration showing Switchback Gravity Railway

The roller coaster was situated at Coney Island, the land of fun, and naturally, Thompson was referred to as the ‘Father of the American Roller coaster.’ He gave people the thrill through slow-moving, downward going circular rides. Thompson constructed one of the Swiss Alps and another of Venetian canals to emulate his beautiful landscapes.

How Were Roller Coasters Created, You Ask?

Thompson came across an oddly named town called ‘Mauch Chunk’, and there he saw people riding an old mining railway- just for fun. The Mauch Chunk railway was constructed to transport coal to the nearby docks on the Leigh River and the steel mills of Bethlehem.

The railway was converted into a fun experience. That was his Eureka moment; he decided to create a similar experience. Thompson was influenced by Coney Island and built the roller coaster in the spring of 1884. Coney Island was the place to be at.

It had theatres, restaurants, and amusement parks. He thought these places were the houses of pleasures and came up with the roller coaster idea. His ‘Switchback Railway’ was invented so families could be together and avoid taverns and brothels.

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Mauch Chunk railroad was the inspiration behind rollercoasters.

Roller Coasters- An Advent From Lack

At that time, there were no cars or planes; the only mode of transport was bicycles. Thompson’s idea of a ride was six hundred feet in length, which was one of a kind back then. His idea boosted, and within three weeks, he was making 600 dollars a day, and he made additional improvements to the roller coaster.

This led to him increasing the speed, which made it even further famous. He began building more across the country and added novelties like tunnels, lights, fake mountains next to the track to produce more amusement for the people. He found inspiration to the idea from Disney’s famous Space Mountain with dark tunnels.

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A look at Disney's space mountain.

Here is a fun fact!

Thompson was not actually the inventor of roller coasters. Similar gravity rides had existed in France but never gained popularity, so they were a thing of the past. Thompson died at the age of 71 in 1919. His rides gave people the time of their lives, and he will forever be remembered to bring amusement to another level.

Roller Coasters Are Never Circular

The loop isn’t perfectly circular, and it is roughly where two circles overlap, making it the middle of a Venn diagram. Centripetal force holds it from keeping us fall off the roller coaster when it is upside down.

We are travelling on a curved path and velocity pushes us forward. Roller coasters are designed in a way to establish how fast they want it to be. Taking centripetal force into account, they decide the shape and size of the loop.

So, the next time you are on a roller coaster ride, while feeling dizzy and having the adrenaline rush, you’ll probably be able to figure out why Thompson thought this ride can divert people from “vices”. 

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