Do you love roller coasters? Or are you scared of them and wonder why other people love them? Rawan, a Writing 6 student from Saudi Arabia, explains the appeal of these rides in this research paper.

This is the final student writing post from our July/August term. You can read work from all of our writing students in the July/August issue of The Globe, IEI’s student newsletter. View previous posts for featured work from out level 2, 3, 4, and 5 students.


Introduction

A roller coaster is an amusement ride that is designed to stimulate the human sensory system. The users of roller coasters are subjected to high speed in which the size, time and rate of change of speed is controlled. A roller coaster is an amusement ride that has been enhanced for amusement parks and other contemporary theme parks. In most cases, roller coasters have a considerable number of cars in which the riders sit and are controlled. In a roller coaster, a train is formed when two or more cars are joined together by a hook. However, some roller coasters operate with single cars only. Amusement parks fitted with roller coasters provides a family-based surrounding which gives the consumer unique products and services (Burgan 4).

What Is a Roller Coaster?

Amusement parks all over the world have many types of rides. Roller coasters are the fastest rides in most amusement parks. Some roller coasters can travel at a speed of about 100 miles per hour (161 km/hr.). Today, more than 1,000 coasters exist throughout the world. Among the 1000 coasters, more than half of them are located on the Northern parts of America. At times, roller coasters are called scream machines because the riders usually scream as they enjoy riding the coasters (Burgan, 5). Consequently, the rides on roller coasters can be exciting and at the same time scary. There are two main types of coasters; the wooden and steel coasters. A wooden coasters track is supported by beams which are wooden posts. Piles (steel posts) give support to a steel coaster’s track. The tracks are made up of a series of metal or wooden sections which are always on top of a roller coaster’s beams or piles.

Engineering and Design Of A Coaster

The first ever roller coaster was constructed in Russia in the 1600s. The forerunners of the current roller coasters were big blocks of ice fashioned into sleds. The huge blocks of ice had straw or fur placed on the icy seat to make the passenger comfortable. The pioneers used sand to help reduce the speed of the sled at the end of the ride to keep it from crashing down; the technique applied was based on the law of friction (Weisenberger, 28). During the later years, more enhanced wooden sleds were constructed; they had iron runners to increase the thrill and speed of the rides. It is argued that the origin of coasters started in the Russian ice sleds in the early years of the 17th century. It is not yet clear as to who invented the first roller coaster on wheels. Other people have believed that it is the Russians, while others assumed that it was the French that came up with the first ever roller coaster with wheels. However, it is true that Russia was the first country that came up with the idea of roller coasters.

Various enhancements were made on roller coasters and by the year 1817. The Belleville coaster in France was the first one to have cars that were locked to the track. The cars were constructed in such a way that the axle of every car was fixed into an open area that was twisted towards the side of the track. The first ever complete and looping coaster was situated in the Frascati gardens in France, Paris. Franscati Gardens had a hill that was about 43 feet tall and about a 13 feet width loop. In later years, America’s amusement park history started in 1875 on Coney Island. Most railway companies had come up with various ways in which they could keep passenger usage high during the weekends. Therefore, they set up parks at the end the rail lines and introduced various weekend and summer activities. Carousels made the first rides of these parks. However, the first gravity switchback train was unveiled in the year 1884; it was the first realistic roller coaster in the United States of America (Throgmorton and Throgmorton, 28).

In the mountains of Pennsylvania the Haunto Tunnel was located which was mainly created as a means of transporting coal down the mountain through a 2,330 foot track. Later on in the year 1883, the railroad started to carry passengers rather than coal. The railroad was more or less like a run a way train rather than a modern roller coaster. In most cases, it is considered the pioneer of modern roller coasters (Sandy).

Riders of roller coasters sit in the cars of most roller coasters. The cars are usually connected to one another to form a mini-train. The cars are usually made of metals that are coated with plastic. All the cars that form the roller coaster have benches or seats on which the riders sit on while they are enjoying their ride. The cars may have lap bars or shoulder harnesses on which the riders hold while riding on the coaster. The roller coaster cars are designed in such a way that they have three sets of wheels. The wheels are attached to a track’s rails and the rails lie on the top of the tracks. The rails are formed by a pair of steel bars that are located at the edges of tracks. One set of a car’s wheels goes through the top of the rails and another set runs in line with the rails. The last set of wheels runs underneath the rails (Burgan, 7).

The two types of coasters (wooden and steel coasters) can be out-and-back or at times referred to as twister coasters. The out-and-back coasters have elongated and straight tracks with few turns. The tracks are constructed in such a way that they form a long oval shape. On the other hand, tracks on twister coasters are wrapped over and under themselves. Besides, they usually have many sharp turns. A circuit is the entire length of a roller coaster’s track, and it may include twists, turns and inversions. A loop is one type of the inversion and most loops usually form circular shapes. Also, a corkscrew is another type of twist and most sections of the tracks are twisted into spirals (Burgan, 8).

In most instances, the roller coaster circuits start with a lift hill. Usually, a chain pulls cars up the steep hill. Once all the cars have arrived at the top of the hill, the chain releases the cars while they are at the top of the hill. Then, gravity pulls all the cars down the hill. Gravity force is the force that pulls all objects and items down to the surface of the earth. At all amusement parks, it has been observed that riders usually enjoy traveling up the hill and then down the lift hill. Notably, the cars reach their highest speeds when they are near the bottom of the hill. The circuits usually have a considerable number of hills after the lift hill. However, the lift hill is usually the tallest of all these hills (Burgan, 9).

G-Force Enjoyment On a Coaster

G-force refers to the total force of reaction that is being inflicted on us at any specific point in time. It is usually expressed in terms of the gravitational force that various individuals experience when doing various activities. The gravitational reaction force might come from the floor that we are standing on or a seat, or any other thing that is holding us up on the surface of the earth. The G-force and the force of gravity are not the same. However, the force of gravity on the surface of the earth is used as a reference point for measuring the G-force from acceleration to deceleration. When a person is sitting down, the force that is keeping him or her attached to the seat is the force of gravity. The amount of the force is estimated to be ‘1G’. Studies reveal that the G-force increases if a person is in a roller coaster that is moving at a high speed while at the same time accelerating. Consequently, as the person pulls more Gs, their body weight increases proportionally (Eager, 32).

The body of the rider feels a continuous increase in speed in a fascinating way. At the time when a roller coaster is accelerating, the actual force that is acting on the rider is the seat that is pushing your body forward. However, due to the rider’s body inertia, he/she feels a force in front of him/her and therefore pushing him/her into the seat. The rider always feels the push of acceleration that is coming from the opposite direction of the real force that is accelerating the rider. A roller coaster puts all this into good use as it continuously changes its acceleration and its location on the ground; thus making the forces of gravity and the increase in speed interacts in various fascinating ways. When the rider drops down a steep hill, the force of gravity pulls him/her down but the force acceleration seems to pull you in the opposite direction. Therefore, these forces cancel each other out thus, making the rider feels some sense of weightlessness. In the event that the roller coaster moves downward fast enough, the upward acceleration force outweighs the downward force of gravity, thus making the rider feel like he/she is being pulled upward (Eager, 32). The reverse is true.

The Effect of Adrenaline Hormone on a Coaster

The increase in G-forces increases the secretion of a naturally occurring hormone known as adrenaline hormone. Consequently, the rider’s sense of awareness is enhanced. The rider becomes more active and alert; the body reacts in a physical manner searching for safety or defense. The secretion of adrenaline makes the body of the rider make a number of physical changes. The physical changes include an enhanced heartbeat (pulse rate) and faster breathing (Eager, 32). All these physical changes are meant to prepare the body of the rider for any possible action in order to defend him or herself.

The secretion of adrenaline leads to the secretion of another feel-good chemical known as dopamine. It makes people feel contented after a delicious meal; for instance, after achieving a goal that has been sought for long (Eager, 33).

The Future of Roller Coasters

The future of roller coasters depends on the number of technological advancements that will come up to make various changes which will make roller coasters more thrilling and joyful. Technology will transform the main objective of the amusement thrill ride. It will enhance the global competition to invent the fastest, highest and most scary roller coasters that the world has ever known and experienced. People from diverse backgrounds enjoy riding on roller coasters throughout the world.

Conclusion

For this research, we have learned when the G-Force increases the adrenaline junkies increase, and the sense of the riders become more active. Also, the hormones secretion makes people feel a sense of thrill.  Because of all these factors, I understand why people enjoy roller coasters.

Works Cited

  • David, Eager. Australasian Parks and Leisure – Spring 2013, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Burgan, Michael. The World’s Wildest Roller Coasters. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Books, 2001. Print.
  • Throgmorton, Todd H and Throgmorton, Samantha K Roller Coasters (2015). Print.
  • Wiesenberger, Nick. Coasters 101. Leipzig: Amazon Distribution, 2013. Print.
  • Sandy, A. (n.d.). http://www.ultimaterollercoaster.com. Retrieved October 08, 2010.
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