April 13th was considered the 200th anniversary of the first roller coaster. These very simple early roller coasters were inspired by the ice slides of Russia.

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.

Promenades Aeriennes first roller coaster - france
I joined NPR’s afternoon radio show All Things Considered to give my take. You can listen to the interview or read the transcript here: 200 Years Ago, The Word’s First Rollercoaster Debuted In Paris

Early Roller Coasters

I didn’t expect the focus of the interview to be on how dangerous some of the early roller coasters were, but I did want to share one major way that the roller coasters of today differ than those from 100 years ago. As designers tried to experiment with early looping coasters and extreme elements, safety wasn’t always a key consideration. More on early looping coasters here: National Roller Coaster Day Celebrates Patent of First Loop

What’s Your Take?
What do you think of the 200th anniversary of the first roller coaster? Leave a comment below.

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

One Response

  1. Matt McIrvin

    Cool! Congratulations on your radio appearance!

    There’s a claim that the *phrase* “roller coaster” comes from a ride in my own town of Haverhill, Massachusetts: not what we would call a roller coaster, but a three-story indoor toboggan slide that briefly existed in the late 19th century, in which the sleds rode on a track that was literally covered with hundreds of rollers. The building had a roller-skating rink in the middle, and the slide wound around it.

    As far as I can tell, there’s little evidence for this etymology and it’s probably not true, but the ride was real. It closed down after just a few years. The Haverhill Roller Toboggan Company went on to build some more conventional side-friction coasters. A while back I did some poking around and figured out where their slide was–it’s a public parking lot now, on Essex Street downtown. Some sources mention a building on the site, but it was knocked down years ago.


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