Coaster Craver

Roller Coaster Types – What are the differences?

We all love roller coasters as they are one of the reasons we visit amusement parks every year. Your home park may have a few different roller coaster types, but you might not know that there are many different ones at parks all over the world which you might not have ever heard about. I’m going to provide a list of some of the types detailing their features and the names of some of them.

Wooden Roller Coasters

  • Standard wooden – This is the standard type of wooden coaster that has been around for years. Trains of cars sit on 2 tracks and follow the course from station and back to the
    station. During
    the years modifications and
    improvements have been made to make the rides smoother and more exciting, but the concept hasn’t changed dramatically. One of the most famous wooden roller coasters is the Cyclone at Luna Park in Coney Island Brooklyn, NY
  • Hybrid – Similar to a wooden coaster except that (in most cases) the wooden supports hold steel tracks. This makes it not only a smoother ride, but can also allow elements that wouldn’t normally be available on standard wooden coasters, like inversions. Rocky Mountain Construction is famous for converting older
    wooden coasters into hybrids like Goliath at Six Flags Great America in Illinois.
  • Some wooden coaster layouts:
    Out and back – This is a classic layout in where the train leaves the station, usually makes a 180 degree turn, goes up the lift hill and proceeds forward for half the course traversing hills and then making another 180 degree turn, traversing more hills until reaching the brake run and then into the station. American Eagle at Six Flags Great America is an example of this.
    Figure 8 – Another classic layout in which the train follows a course that is shaped like a figure 8, possibly multiple times, before returning to the station. Woodstock Express at Kings Dominion is an example of this.
    Dual track – This type of coaster has 2 “separate” tracks in which 2 trains can traverse the course separately and in most cases, you are riding 2 separate courses. The most common type is the racing coaster in which there are 2 tracks in the station to board the trains and they are released at the same time to race around their respective course. Rebel Yell at Kings Dominion is a type of racing coaster. Another type is the Mobius loop coaster in which there are 2 trains racing, but it is one continuous track. the train leaves the station and rides one course and then returns to the station to ride the other course – the riders never leave the train until both courses are completed. Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain is an example of this.
    Terrain – These coasters take advantage of the changes in the terrain and use these to their advantage. They could have natural drops and weave through forests. One of the most famous of this type of coaster is The Voyage at Holiday World.

Steel Roller Coasters

Steel roller coasters are coasters in which the track and supports are made fully of steel which allows them to have elements that most wooden coasters cannot have. It also allows there to be so many different roller coaster types due to the innovation which continues to happen.

They can have layouts similar to wooden ones, but sometimes have even more elaborate courses like Twister layouts where the track winds around itself like Poltergeist in Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Beyond layouts there are many types of steel coasters some of which are listed below:

  • Hyper, Giga, Strata – These terms designate the height of the tallest drop on the ride (might not be the first drop, nor the height of the lift hill as some drops go below the ground level of
    Hyper coasters are ones that are 200 –
    299 feet such as Nitro in Six Flags Great Adventure, Giga coasters are ones that are 300 – 399 feet such as Fury 325 in Carowinds, and strata coasters are those over 400 feet such as Top Thrill Dragster in Cedar Point. Currently the tallest coaster is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure which is 456 feet.
  • Stand-Up – This coaster is one in which the
    “seats” are made so that you are in a standing position the entire ride. This is achieved by having you sit on a bicycle type seat and a shoulder restraint is lowered to your particular height and then a restraint covers your legs. This position provides an unusual sensation when riding the course. An example of this type of coaster is Green Lantern at Six Flags Great Adventure.
  • Suspended – This coaster has cars in which the rider sits down and are enclosed and they hang from the track instead of sitting on it. This allows for the cars to swing freely to-and-fro as they traverse the course. An example of this is The Bat at Kings Island
  • Inverted – Like suspended coasters the cars hang from the track, but they are not enclosed cars – your feet hang freely from the seat and they don’t swing. This type, however can have elements which include inversions and banked turns. A perfect example of this type are all of the Batman coasters at many Six Flags parks.
  • Flying – This type of coaster has the rider fixed in a prone position while the train rides below the track and this simulates a “flying” sensation. There are two types of flying coasters with one being the Flying Dutchman where you board the train and the car lies back down on the track and once you leave the lift hill, the track flips you over so you are in the prone position. The example for this one is Nighthawk at Carowinds. The other type is the Flying Coaster (B&M) in which you board the train (cars are already attached under the track) and then the cars lift up to get you to prone position. An example of this is Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Wing – This coaster has its cars attached to either side of the track in which there is nothing above or below the rider. There are usually to boarding queues for these trains as you load from either side. Many of these coasters feature a dive drop in which the train flips over after the lift hill and dives down the drop. An example of this coaster is X Flight at Six Flags Great America.
  • 4th Dimension – This coaster where the cars sit on the side of the track similar to the wing coaster, but riders are rotated independently of the orientation of the track, generally about a horizontal axis that is perpendicular to the track. The cars do not necessarily need to be fixed to an angle. The first 4D coaster controlled how the cars spun so it always faces the same direction every time you ride it. An example is X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Newer models now are free-spin meaning there is no control on how they spin which makes it a different ride every time. Examples are the Joker coasters at various Six Flags parks.
  • Single rail – This is a type of coaster where there is a single rail that a train sits over and there is only one rider in each car that straddles the rail. The coaster track can twist and turn in ways that a two track coaster cannot, making it a very exciting ride. An example of this is Railblazer at California’s Great America.
  • Shuttle – This refers to a coaster that does not make a complete circuit and usually starts going forward and halfway through rides the same track, but in reverse until it reaches the station. Examples are the Boomerang coasters that you can find in many parks around the world.
  • Spinning – This is a sit down coaster where the cars rotate on a vertical axis in the center. Some of these rides have riders facing inward towards each other, some have them facing outwards, and some have them facing in all of the same direction. There are versions that spin freely throughout the ride like the Pandemonium coasters at some Six Flags parks while some control the direction the car is facing or the spin itself like Cobra’s Curse in Busch Gardens Tampa.

Specialty Roller Coasters

  • Toboggan – These coasters were small units that could also be portable and were very unique. The cars had you sit with your legs extended in front of you and a gate was closed
    over your
    head. The car entered a cylinder and rode a
    vertical lift chain until it reached the top and then traversed the outside of the cylinder spiraling down it until it reached the bottom where it had a circuit with some small drops. It was quite an experience and you might be able to find one of these still operational.
  • Bobsled – This ride has a train of cars that were brought up a chain lift hill, but when it reaches the top it rides freely on wheels down a curved track that has some sharp turns causing some banking. You can find these in a few parks like La Vibora in Six Flags Over Texas
  • Summer toboggan – This is a mountain style coaster in which you ride a sled that is on 2 rail tracks up a lift hill and once you reach the top, you go down a track that follows the terrain of the mountain. You may also be able to control the speed and braking of your sled.

Different Types – All Fun!

We’ve taken a little time to learn about many roller coaster types that can be found in amusement parks all over the world. This list is not exhaustive as there are other types of roller coasters in theme parks all over the world. And as innovation in the industry becomes more and more inventive, we’ll be seeing even more amazing creations for us to ride.

Do you have a favorite type? Is there one that is not included in this list? Why not share in our comments section below.

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