4 February, 2018
Hold on tight and fasten your seatbelts! We’re about to embark on an exhilarating journey to find the answer to the question that’s on every thrillseeker’s lips: which offers the better ride – a steel or a wooden rollercoaster?
Wooden Rollercoasters: The original rollercoaster. The world’s first wooden rollercoaster opened to the public in 1804 in Paris, France. Most wooden rollercoasters have running rails made of flattened steel strips mounted on a laminated wooden track. Many wooden rollercoasters have wooden support structures, but not all. In some cases, steel supports and trusses are also used.
Steel Rollercoasters: The modern rollercoaster. Steel rollercoasters run on tracks made entirely of tubular steel and have steel support structures. The world’s first steel rollercoaster was opened in Disneyland Park in 1959. The introduction of steel tracks revolutionised the industry and was the most significant change to rollercoaster design since the 1800s.
Hybrid: Hold on to your hats, everyone. The new generation of rollercoasters is officially here. Hybrid rollercoasters combine smooth steel tracks with traditional wooden structures, giving riders all the fun of the ‘wooden wobble’, with a far smoother, less bumpy ride.
Modern steel rollercoasters are fast – very fast. The world’s fastest rollercoaster is Formula Rossa, located in Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 149 mph, it uses a hydraulic launch system to take riders from standstill to 62 mph in just two seconds.
The current record for the fastest wooden rollercoaster in the world is held by Lightning Rod, a six-car ride in Dollywood, Tennessee. Lightning Rod can reach speeds of up to 73 mph, and includes a sequence of four consecutive stomach-churning drops.
The construction of traditional wooden rollercoasters might not allow for the same high speeds as steel rollercoasters, but don’t let that fool you. Wooden ones are just as exhilarating as their metallic cousins!
How can that be true? Well, there’s far more to wooden rollercoasters than speed. They’re designed to keep you on the edge of your seat with fear throughout the entire ride. From the way the wooden structure shakes and wobbles to absorb the weight of passing cars, to the loud roar the cars make as they travel over the laminated track, riding a wooden rollercoaster is an adventure you won’t forget in a hurry.
Steel rollercoasters are well-known for their speed, height, and steep drops. They usually have plenty of loops and twists and turns in their tracks too, allowing riders to experience the exhilarating rush and push of gravity many times during one ride.
On the other hand, wooden rollercoasters aren’t really designed to go upside down or take extreme turns in quite the same way as steel rollercoasters. Most of the modern looping wooden rollercoasters we see today are actually of the hybrid wood-steel variety.
Although some traditional looping wooden rollercoasters do exist, the huge weight of their bulky wooden tracks means that most tend to be upright.
It doesn’t matter if they are wooden or steel; all rollercoasters are amazing fun. Whether it’s the stomach-churning fear you feel when you begin a descent or the anticipation you feel as you fly head-first into an upside-down corkscrew, there’s something magical about the design and movement of every rollercoaster.
Here at Oakwood, we’re happy to admit that we love all rollercoasters equally, whether they are wooden or steel. The beauty of rollercoasters is that each one is unique and every ride is different – that’s part of the thrill of the experience.
What’s your favourite kind of rollercoaster and why? Let us know via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Oakwood is home to the UK’s number-one wooden rollercoaster, Megafobia, as well as a steel rival (Speed) and a huge range of thrilling rides and activities for all family to enjoy. What are you waiting for? Book your tickets online today and save up to 20%.