Ups And Downs: The History Of Roller Coasters

By | February 1, 2019

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New Roller Coaster riders at Elitch Gardens. Source: (Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies love the heart-pounding excitement of riding a roller coaster. These behemoths of the amusement park are the stars of the show…so much so that people are willing to stand in line for hours for a roller coaster ride that lasts 90 seconds. While we tend to think of roller coasters as pure fun, their roots are based in practicality. Let’s look at the up and down history of roller coasters. 

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Russian ice slides, the forerunner of today's roller coasters. Source: (

Roller Coasters Descended From Ice Runs and Mine Tracks

In the 16th and 17th centuries, mines operated across much of Europe and Asia. Because these mines went either deep into the ground or opened at the top of a tall mountain, miners needed a way to transport the minerals they mined. In Russia, where some of the mines were bases atop tall mountains, innovated miners build ice runs. They could send the products…and the miners…down the slope very quickly, thanks to gravity and slippery ice. In other areas, wooden tracks were built going into mine shafts and the miners could ride a cart along these tracks to quickly get to the heart of the mine. Once the cart was full, workers at the top could pull it back up.