Pennsylvania amusement parks feature world’s oldest roller coasters

ALTOONA, Pa (WHTM) — Pennsylvania has plenty of roller coasters for adrenaline junkies to try. But did you know that some of the world’s oldest operating coasters also call Pennsylvania home?

A small amusement park named Lakemont Park in Altoona is where the world’s oldest operating coaster is located.

This roller coaster, called Leap the Dips opened in 1902 and is one of the last “side friction” coasters. A side friction coaster is one that usually has a wooden track and a lack of up-stop wheels. This lack of up-stop wheels means the train cannot travel too fast up hills, or the train can derail.

Leap the Dips was designed by E. Joy Morris and is truly one of its kind. The figure eight design was built at American amusement parks between 1885 and 1922, which is according to the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit has been thrilling guests since 1920 (Photo: Kennywood)

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.

Pennsylvania is also home to the fourth and seventh oldest roller coasters in the world.

The fourth oldest coaster is the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood. Opening in 1920, the ride is known for its 70-foot double drop. Designed by famed coaster designer John Miller, the coaster uses the terrain and features a lift hill in the middle of its layout. In Pittsburgh, it’s a rite of passage to “ride the Rabbit” according to Kennywood.

Thunderhawk opened 99 years ago in 1924. (Photo: Dorney Park)

The seventh oldest coaster in the world is in Dorney Park in Allentown and is called the Thunderhawk. This coaster opened in 1924 and features a unique figure 8 layout. Originally just called The Coaster, the ride features small airtime hills and a figure 8 turnaround and features speeds up to 45 miles per hour.

Manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, the ride features a 65-foot drop and was designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck. The coaster originally opened with an out-and-back design. In 1930, this was changed to the Figure 8 design that is featured today.