Today’s youth is filled with thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies. People try jumping off bridges, jumping out of planes, and trying some seriously extreme sports to get their thrill fix. Although they may be fun, some of these activities can be dangerous.
Roller coasters are a great way to experience the thrill of a dangerous activity without a lot of risk. The good news is, roller coasters are everywhere. You can’t go to an amusement park today without seeing roller coasters.
In the early days of the roller coaster, these rides were made mainly out of wood, steel, and nails. According to AZO Materials, these early coasters were “composed of steel strip running rails mounted on a laminated wooden track. Common types of wood used include Douglas fir and southern yellow pine.” The wood was then painted to make the contraption more attractive to the thrill-seeking masses. Wooden roller coasters supported the track through large, trestle-style pieces made of construction grade wood.
While you can still find wooden coasters on boardwalks around the country, these rides are more of a novelty today. Plus, even these retro-style rides now utilize more modern materials. Modern wooden roller coasters require an immense amount of parts in their construction, and today only the underlying structure supporting the coaster is made of wood. Everything else consists of fiberglass or metal. This style of coaster construction was standard until around 1959 when engineers started using more advanced materials in their designs.
Just before the 1960s began, Disneyland introduced the Matterhorn Bobsled, the first roller coaster to take advantage of stainless steel machinability. What is stainless steel, exactly? Stainless steel is a common metal alloy, which typically contains a combination of steel and chromium, nickel, aluminum, molybdenum, or carbon. Iron is another major component of stainless steel, while chromium is used for its anti-corrosion properties. The number one most common grade of stainless steel is Stainless Steel 304, which has a particular level of iron and carbon.
The stainless steel machinability factor makes it a great product for roller coasters. Because the steel composition can be easily manipulated during construction when heat is applied, the metal can be shaped into a wide variety of bends, twists, and loops. On top of that, these stainless steel parts are much more precise and have a longer lifespan. This is not necessarily possible with wood construction
According to AZO Materials, modern roller coasters utilize the most advanced steel and aluminum alloys in addition to fiberglass and other mechanical parts. In fact, a single roller coaster can contain more than 2,215 tons of stainless steel.
We’ve certainly come a long way from the wooden roller coasters of the past. Fortunately, that means your modern coaster is also much safer and durable than their wooden predecessors.