by Paul Ruben
The new TEA/ERA Attendance report – now available here – is filled with Top 10 lists. What a great idea! It seemed like time to compile my own Top 10. But of what? I could offer my own Top 10 list of parks, Top 10 waterparks, Top 10 dark rides, even a Top 10 of terrific, tried and tested alliterations.
But I choose to go with something near and dear to my heart. Yes, Top 10 coasters was tempting; but instead I will regale you with my Top 10 recent rollercoaster innovations. Here goes:
10) Flying Coasters, those in which you lie face down, arms outstretched, and soar like an inebriated eagle.
9) The resurgence of sit-astride rollercoasters. They often take the form of a small motorcycle or horse. Maybe a frog?
8) Spinning coasters, abandoned after the demise of the Virginia Reel, have found new life from a variety of suppliers. They’re fun, and modest enough in size that the entire family can ride together.
7) The Maurer Söhne X-Car vertical lift that offers an electrifying backward roll in an inverted position. Now who wouldn’t enjoy that?
6) Diving Machines. I love these towering demons from B&M, especially how they play with your mind, hesitating before the first straight-down drop.
5) Fourth Dimension Coasters. Originally from Arrow, now offered by S&S (think X/X2 at Magic Mountain), the ability to change the seat orientation independent of one’s expectations is a delight. Imagine remaining upright through a loop then doing a back-flip upon exit.
4) Launch coasters, the faster and higher the better. I love the force of the classic flywheel catapult, the rocket-sled air launch from S&S, or the heights reached by Intamin’s powerful hydraulic launch. The possibility of both an initial launch and a mid-course boost from electro-magnetics is also a great thrill, as experienced on Maverick at Cedar Point, shown behind me in the picture above.
3) Laminated wooden coaster track. I’ve often complained about the discomfort of wood coasters that aren’t sufficiently maintained. Werner Stengel’s invention of laminated wood track, currently found in several Intamin rides, has delivered some of the smoothest-riding woodies to be found.
2) Soft and flexible shoulder restraints. I love to go upside down. I hate to have my ears boxed during the ride. Now, finally, there are soft restraints positioned away from the ears.
1) The resurgence of double-downs. Now why was this so hard? Double-down elements, in which a coaster car descends, levels off for a moment, then descends some more, have been around for 88 years, but are often ignored. Now, finally, there are five (or should that be 10?) to choose from across the globe, including Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit, Blackpool’s Grand National, Gulliver’s World’s Antelope, Six Flags St Louis’ The Boss, and new this season, Evel Kneival, giving Six Flags St Louis the distinction of being the only park anywhere with two double-down coasters, and my enduring gratitude.