1 / 10
Flashback: Historic American Roller Coasters That Changed How We Get Our Thrills
1. Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway Location: Mauch Chunk, Pa. Year it opened: 1827The founding father of roller coasters was actually a working railway built to transport anthracite in Pennsylvania’s coal country. A “gravity railway,” it was powered only by pack mules that pulled it up the steep inclines. Downhill momentum took care of the rest. Word of the exhilarating ride spread, and soon the railway was accepting paying passengers who rode just for the thrill of it. It eventually became one of the biggest tourist attractions in America, spending its last five decades in service solely as a source of amusement.

What to Read Next

Flashback: Historic American Roller Coasters That Changed How We Get Our Thrills

August 7, 2014

By Alan Finn

Although a European invention, roller coasters have been an all-American obsession ever since the first one appeared on these shores 130 years ago. Today, there are more than 650 working coasters in the United States. America, it seems, is the land of the free and the home of the adrenaline junkie.

“People love the thrill of feeling on the edge or even out of control, yet they also need the security of remaining safe,” says Robert Niles, founder and editor of the website Theme Park Insider. “Roller coasters offer a rare chance to enjoy both at the same time.”

But American coasters weren’t always scream machines. They evolved over time, with specific coasters paving the way for those that followed. Ten rides in particular show how coasters in the United States went from humble beginnings to the towering speed demons of today, changing the way thrill-seeking Americans get their kicks.

More from Mental Floss

14 Hidden Things to Look for at Disneyland

10 Stunning Travel Photos From a Former Bond Trader

The Day the Mountain of Fire Was Born