As part of 2010’s National Science and Engineering Week the University Library in collaboration with the National Fairground Archive are celebrating the engineering feats of roller coasters and theme park rides. The following abstract is Part 3 (Part 1 and Part 2) of a mini-series on the history of going upside-down, compiled by Ian Trowell of the National Fairground Archive.
The looping roller coaster originated as a bold experimental device in 1846 at Frascati Gardens, running as an isolated example for a few seasons. A follow-up device had an accident on its trial run, and so the concept was put on ice. It took until 1975 for the loop to re-enter the roller coaster equation, with Swiss company Intamin joining forces with Germany's Schwarzkopf to build a coaster for the US Six Flags theme Park. The UK joined the craze with Blackpool's Arrow-built 'Revolution' in 1979 – these machines utilising an elliptical 'tear-drop' shaped loop. The Corkscrew provided another method for looping, with 1980 examples at Alton Towers and Whitley Bay.
The 1980s onwards has seen huge developments in both looping fairground rides and looping roller coasters. G-forces are calculated in both the negative and positive, for a combination of all the axes through the body (head to toe, front to back, side to side), with thresholds touched for sustained and instant forces. The fears of this unknown have been banished, the only remaining doubt existing in the mind of the onlooker on whether to take a ride, and the gentle reminder to secure all loose change and valuables. Meanwhile the engineers search for the next thrill…
Check back tomorrow for more and remember that the NFA is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 until 16:30 for anyone interested in seeing more of our NSEW activities.