(WHTM) — Now that you know what the five oldest steel roller coasters in Pennsylvania are, now it’s time to find out what the oldest wooden coasters are.
Wooden coasters were some of the very first types of roller coasters that were built. The first true roller coaster was built in 1817 and was wooden. It was The Promenades-Aériennes or The Aerial Walk in Paris. Passengers walked up a set of stairs to ride a bench down the 600-foot track at 40 mph.
Nowadays, wooden coasters are still a staple in many amusement parks, especially in Pennsylvania. Here are the five oldest wooden coasters in Pennsylvania.
5. Racer- Kennywood
This coaster is one of the oldest wooden racing coasters in existence. It opened in 1927 and is called a Möbius loop roller coaster. This is a racing coaster that is built as a single connecting track, as opposed to two separate tracks. Because of this, if the train leaves the left side of the station, it will arrive at the right side of the station at the end of the ride.
It is one of four Möbius loop coasters in operation. The ride was designated as an American Coaster Enthusiast (ACE) Landmark in 1995 and was re-tracked for the 2021 season.
The ride was designed by John A. Miller and features a 50-foot drop with speeds up to 40 miles per hour, with an hourly capacity of 1,400 people.
4. Thunderhawk- Dorney Park
This coaster will be turning 100 years old in 2024. The ride is the oldest coaster operating in all of the amusement parks that Cedar Fair (which owns Dorney Park) operates.
The ride opened in 1924 and features a 65-foot drop with speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. The ride was originally built as an out-and-back coaster, but in 1930 it was reconfigured to the figure eight layout that exists today.
The ride was also designated as an ACE coaster landmark in 2021. The coaster was designed by Herbert P. Schmeck and was called ‘Coaster’ from 1924 to 1988. In 1989, it was renamed to Thunderhawk. The Thunderhawk structure was maintained by carpenter Paul Hottenstein from 1961 until his death in 2001, and a plaque in the ride’s station honors him and his work on the ride.
3. Thunderbolt- Kennywood
This coaster opened the same year as Thunderhawk in 1924. The ride originally opened as Pippin. The coaster was expanded and renovated in 1968 with what ride we have today.
The ride uses Centry Flyer Trains which were built by the National Amusement Device Company, and have been on the ride since the late 1950s. The coaster uses the natural terrain to its advantage and features a large drop right out of the station.
The ride is also famous for being the only ride in the park that requires guests to ride with a partner, due to the lateral g-forces towards the middle of the ride. The ride features a 90-foot drop and reaches speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. It was also designated as a landmark Ride by ACE.
2. Jack Rabbit- Kennywood
A Kennywood classic, this ride recently celebrated 100 years old in 2020. The ride was an engineering marvel back in 1920 since it was one of the first roller coasters to feature under-friction (also called up-stop) wheels.
It’s one of the only roller coasters in the world to feature a double-dip drop. This 70-foot-tall element is very quiet as it gives extreme airtime during the second part of the element. Like the Thunderbolt, this ride also uses the terrain to its advantage.
In Pittsburgh, riding Jack Rabbit is considered a rite of passage and cost $50,000 at the time of its construction. The ride is 70 feet tall and reaches speeds of 45 miles per hour.
1. Leap the Dips- Lakemont Park
The world’s oldest operating coaster is right here in Pennsylvania.
Leap the Dips was designed by E. Joy Morris and is truly one of a kind. The Figure eight design was built at American amusement parks between 1885 and 1922, which is according to the American Coaster Enthusiasts.
The coaster closed in 1985 and was slated for demolition, but local preservationists and members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts were able to save the coaster from the wrecking ball. The coaster is 1,420 feet long, has a height of 41 feet, and hits a top speed of 18 miles per hour.