There are several names synonymous in the roller coaster and theme park community: Karl Bacon, Ed & Dana Morgan, Anton Schwarzkopf, Walter Bolliger & Claude Mabillard and Walt Disney, among many others.
But one in particular seems to have fallen by the wayside – Eric Laithwaite. And yet every enthusiast who’s ever enjoyed a modern, launched roller coaster owes those very thrills to him, because he is “the father of linear induction.”
Laithwaite’s most famous work centered around using magnetism to provide frictionless travel, on maglev trains. He had figured out that if you uncoiled a standard, electrical motor, an object could simply glide over it on an electromagnetic wave – and it would stay on course with the attraction and resistance already natural to those magnets.
Perhaps his most famous work of the time was the magnetic river from “The Spy Who Loved Me”
But for parks, chain lifts were just fine modes of gaining potential energy – and the technology wasn’t seen for amusement purposes until 1975, with the debut of Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland Transit Authority. While it kept a consistent pace to the ride – it’s hardly a thrill ride, too.
People at the time did not see the true potential of the futuristic, potential acceleration system. Computer control systems were still rudimentary by today’s standards – plus the weight drop and flywheel launches of Schwarzkopf and Arrow were doing the job just fine.
It would take over two decades before amusement ride manufacturers would take the technology to it’s full potential, with the debut of Premier Rides’ “Flight of Fear” indoor coasters at (then) Paramount’s Kings Island and Kings Dominion in 1996.
And, after a year of technical issues, the technology would reach it’s top speed, with the debut of Intamin’s spectacular Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It still holds the record for fastest linear launched coaster on Earth at 100 mph (on a good day).
With the explosion in launched coasters over the past two decades, just remember to add the name Eric Laithwaite to your coaster lexicon. Because without him – you would literally be going nowhere, fast.
Yes, it’s been awhile since our last episode of “Lost Parks of Northern California” but I can assure you – the wait is worth it.
Presenting the first teaser trailer for our next episode, the 1915 San Francisco Pan Pacific Exposition (World’s Fair). We expect to wrap on the episode and debut it before #CoasterCon this summer.
If you’re a fan of amusement parks, roller coasters, history, organs and trains – you cannot afford to miss this episode!
Follow the journey by searching #LostParks on your favorite social media network!
If you’ve been to Universal Studios in Hollywood, the odds are pretty good you’ve taken the famous “Studio Tour.” A mainstay of this attraction since 1988, “Earthquake: The Big One” allows unsuspecting tourists to experience a simulated magnitude 8.3 tremor.
Speaking from experience – it’s more like a solid 5.0 to me – but I digress.
Anyone who’s lived in the Bay Area however, will take note that the show in Soundstage 50 show might seem a bit TOO familiar to them. That’s because the designers of this attraction took many pains to recreate a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station.
Now, by today’s standards – the effects are okay, but dated. Maybe it was just me as a kid, but I seem to remember things happening a LOT faster back in the day. What I’ve always wanted to do, though – is experience the show like this video depicts, with full cinematic effects going and a cast. Oh, and at 24 frames per second, so it’s more dramatic. Cost prohibitive? Most definitely. Bad ass and awesome? You better believe it:
Notice how they got the train right, and the station’s “Brutalist” style architecture? Heck, they even got the BART horn just about right, too! Note all the similarities in this, the SFO station built in the 1990’s:
So the next time you’re at Universal Studios Hollywood – take a CLOSER look at Earthquake: The Big One. And the next time you’re in a BART station in the Bay Area – pray for no major quakes.
When it opened in 1998, Roar! was the first modern wooden coaster to feature “Millennium Flyer” trains. Using patents and designs from the 1920’s, Great Coasters, International were able to make this version of Roar! with tighter curves and sharper transitions, simply because the trains’ were able to negotiate them better. All GCI installations since now feature these “throwback” trains.
Sadly, this coaster has deteriorated rapidly in the past few years – and is so rough, that I’d have to recommend a PASS on riding it – which is hard to do, considering it’s amazing layout and speed.
Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.
Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills
View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills
Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills
Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry
+1 me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/115502587437263155125/posts
Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry