Oldest Operating Wooden Coaster in the U.S.
Leap-the-Dips at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania, was in operation for 83 years before closing in 1985. Many people thought that was the end of Leap-the-Dips, but people rallied to bring the coaster back and managed to raise enough money to have the old girl restored. It re-opened Memorial Day weekend, 1999, meaning that it has now been in operation for a total of 93 years. Leap-the-Dips isn't going to impress anyone with its speed (the fastest it gets is about 18 mph) or its crazy tricks, but it definitely has the nostalgia factor and people form huge lines just to ride it. Want to give it a shot but doubt you'll be making it to Pennsylvania anytime soon? Try the virtual experience:
Oldest Operating Steel Coaster
Fellow Disneyphiles already know this - it's the Matterhorn at Disneyland. It opened on June 14, 1959, about four years after Disneyland first opened its gates. Disney apparently got the idea when he visited Switzerland to film the movie Third Man on the Mountain. Although the Matterhorn has gone through a few renovations over the years, the operating mechanisms really haven't changed. What was probably the biggest refurbishment took place in 1978 and was really just to theme the ride better. Prior to the renovation, the inside of the ride wasn't very impressive - it was just barely disguised as rock, but that was about it. The '78 redo made the inside look like ice tunnels and caves.
Fastest and Tallest Wooden Coaster
Son of Beast takes both of these title, and it also happens to be the wooden roller coaster with the biggest drop. This makes sense, since the point of the high spots of most roller coasters is to send riders plummeting dramatically. Son of Beast is at King's Island near Cincinnati and is billed as the sequel to the same park's "The Beast" rollercoaster, which, incidentally, is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. Son of Beast reaches a maximum height of 218 feet and drops 214 feet, reaching speeds of up to 78 mph. Not bad! Up until 2006, it was also the only wooden roller coaster in the world to incorporate a loop. The loop was removed in December 2006, ostensibly to ensure that they could use lighter trains. But after an incident that caused 27 injuries to riders just a few months earlier, you have to wonder if the loop was deemed unsafe. Photo via Shawn Kay of Coasterglobe.
That particular honor goes to the Colossus at Thorpe Park in Surrey, England, with a total of 10 inversions. Well, technically the Colossus is tied for the honor with the Tenth Ring Roller Coaster at Chimelong Paradise in China, but that ride is an exact replica of the Colossus so I'm not sure it counts. Here's what it looks like if you're in the front seats:
Most Naked Riders
You gotta love this one, and yes, the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it. In 2004, 32 people consented to ride the Nemesis roller coaster in at Alton Towers in England buck naked. "Why?" would be a suitable question, and it appears the only answer is, "To break the previous record." Before that, the Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park held the record for nude riders with 28. No video of that one... Sorry! Photo via ThemeParkReview.
First Rollercoaster with a Vertical Drop
VERTICAL vertical. Not "pretty straight down," but literally straight down. This first goes to the Oblivion, also at Alton Towers. The steel coaster opened in 1998, and it's not the fastest or the highest - at 68 feet tall, it's a a third of the height of Son of Beast. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for in adrenaline rush. The cars actually plummet into a tunnel into the ground, as you might imagine, but that doesn't make it any less scary when you're sitting at the top of the plunge.
What's your favorite roller coaster? They're definitely not death-defying, but I love Disney coasters. The zero-to-sixty in less than three seconds of the Aerosmith Rock 'n' Roller Coaster delights me every time, and Space Mountain is actually terrifying if you've ever seen it with the lights turned on - the tracks are so close together it's a wonder no one has lost a hand from putting their arms in the air during the ride. The only roller coaster to ever make me sick was the Sidewinder at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa. It sends you backward through some rolls and loops and I just couldn't deal with the backward motion. Share your experiences in the comments!