From humble beginnings, the roller coaster industry has soared to new heights in recent years — coaster designers and builders are going all out to make their new thrills better than all that came before it. Here, we take a look at some of the current record holders of the roller coaster world and just what makes them so special.
Kingda Ka — Tallest (Steel)
Make sure you’ve got a head for heights if you’re planning on riding Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in the USA — it’s the tallest steel coaster in the world. Reaching a whopping height of 456ft, the coaster offers riders the thrill of their lives as they soar into the sky at speeds of up to 128mph, making it the second fastest ride in the world. Kingda Ka also hold the record for the longest drop, as it plummets riders 418ft.
Colossos — Tallest (Wooden)
If you’re after the exhilarating thrill of riding a now-rare wooden coaster, head to Heide Park in Germany, where you can take on Colossos. The tallest wooden coaster in the world, it reaches a height of 197ft and a top speed of 68mph. It was also created using a different manufacturing technique to many other wooden coasters and as such the characteristic jerkiness of wooden coasters is reduced.
Formula Rossa — Fastest (Steel)
Holding the record for the world’s fastest steel coaster since 2010, Formula Rossa at Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World shoots riders into the air at a top speed of 150mph, reaching its top speed in just 5 seconds. Because of its high speeds and the associated risk of wind and airborne particles, riders are required to wear plastic goggles similar to those worn when skydiving! The ride is also 6,500ft long, making it the 6th longest in the world.
El Toro — Fastest (Wooden)
The fastest wooden coaster in the world, El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure in the USA reaches a top speed of 70mph. When it first opened in 2006, it also held the record for the steepest drop on a wooden coaster, although this was overtaken by T Express (Everland, South Korea) in 2008. A new construction is hot on El Toro’s heels; Goliath at Six Flags Great America is set to open in 2014 and will have a top speed of 72mph.
Steel Dragon 2000 — Longest (Steel)
The longest steel coaster in the world is Steel Dragon 2000 at the Nagashima Spa Land amusement park in Japan. With a track spanning over 8,000ft, a ride time of nearly 4 minutes, and a top speed of 90mph, this ride is not for the faint hearted. It’s been the longest roller coaster in the world for over 13 years, and it seems as though no park is willing to take it on in the fight to be the longest.
The Beast — Longest (Wooden)
The longest wooden coaster in the world, The Beast at Kings Island USA has been open since 1979 and has accommodated more than 45 million riders in its lifetime. With a track spanning nearly 7,500ft, The Beast has a ride time of over 4 minutes, and is consistently rated one of the best coasters in the world. Its ‘sequel’ Son of Beast opened in 2000 and became the first looping wooden roller coaster in the world before two major incidents led to the ride’s closure in 2012.
The Smiler — Most Loops
2013 was a very important year for the Alton Towers Resort here in the UK, as it prepared to open its most expensive coaster yet. World’s first elements had already been announced, although it wasn’t clear until late into its construction that it would contain a stomach-churning 14 loops. Although its opening was delayed and it continued to suffer from teething problems, The Smiler has quickly become a hit with coaster fans around the world who take pleasure in being ‘marmalised’ by the ride.
Leap-The-Dips — Oldest (Operating)
There is some confusion over which ride exactly was the world’s first coaster, with some attributing the title to the Switchback Railway in Coney Island (USA) which opened in 1884 and others giving the title to the associated Gravity Pleasure Road (Coney Island) which debuted in 1885. The oldest operating wooden coaster is Leap-The-Dips at Lakemont Park (USA) which opened in 1902, which is also the only surviving ‘side friction’ coaster in the world.
If you’re not after the ultimate thrills and feel sick just reading about these rides, spare a thought for Richard Rodriguez. A coasterholic, Rodriguez rode the Pepsi Max Big One and the Big Dipper (Blackpool Pleasure Beach, UK) for 405 hours and 40 minutes in 2007, claiming the world record for the longest marathon on a roller coaster.