Rollercoaster Types

Categorized by coaster style. Classifications are divided into two broad groups, steel and wood.


Steel Coasters

Tracks are made of steel rails, supported by relatively open column structure. These coasters feature smooth, fast rides, and may contain loops, corkscrews, and other inversions. Coasters with inversions usually have trains with "over the shoulder" restraints which are more limiting and can be uncomfortable on some coasters (many newer coasters have smoother layouts that avoid the discomfort.)

B&M Steel
Hypercoaster
Hypercoaster status (over 200 ft high) with 4 across seating. No overhead harnesses, open style cars, seats slightly tipped back. Heavy "T" lap bar is only restraint and only handhold.
B&M Steel
Inverted
Cars suspended below tracks, overhead harnesses, legs dangle, "skilift" style. Inversions are traversed around the outside of loops. Because the cars are rigidly attached to the track (unlike Arrow's "Steel Suspended" style) impressive maneuvers such as flips, banked turns, rolls, and loops are possible.
B&M Steel
Seated
(with inversions)
"Traditional" steel seating with overhead harnesses, except riders are seated 4 across in each car rather than the usual "2 rows, 2 across" style cars.
B&M Steel Stand Up
Trains ride above the tracks, passengers harnessed in standing up position. Riders typically straddle a small bicycle-type seat with their back against a pole fastened to the floor of the car. The pole and seat move up and down to adjust for rider height and then lock into place. An overhead harness fastens the riders in tightly on the midriff and over the shoulders. Circuit may include some typical B&M elements: vertical loop, corkscrew, Immemlan dive, etc.
Steel Bobsled
Coaster in which cars, rather than riding ridgidly on a convential track and wheel structure, travel in steel "troughs" in which they are free to roll side to side while they are traveling the downhill course. Turns are typically highly banked allowing cars to move high into them as they move through them. Think "luge" as well as "bobsled."
Steel Enclosed
A coaster located entirely or partially within a building. Ride may be completely dark or may include lighting and visual effects.
Steel Kiddie Coaster
Smaller version coaster for young riders. Lower speed, lower drops, and smaller cars accomodate smaller riders. Policy often does not permit adults to ride without special permission, some coasters allow one adult to ride with a child.
Steel Launched
An unconventional style of rollercoaster, which uses a rapid launching station to provide the initial propulsion to the trains, rather than using gravity to draw the trains down a hill after being pulled to the top by a cable or chain mechanism.

Launched coasters provide the additional thrill of rapid acceleration, often forcefully propelled directly from the boarding area, which can be an incredible sight to watch while waiting.

Early examples of launched coaster propelled trains along a straight section of track terminated at both ends located high in the air. The trains would reach the top of the first post and then fall back to earth travelling backwards toward the raised track at the back end, and then drop forward again into the station. Many coaster enthusiasts do not consider this type of ride a true rollercoaster as it does not complete a full circuit.

Other launched coasters feature a complete circuit with loops, hills and turns. Some enthusiasts do not classify this type as a true rollercoaster either, as the propulsion is not provided by gravity and a lift hill.

Several methods of propulsion are currently being used, identified by the way they store power and transmit it to the trains:

  • LIM (Linear Induction Motor): Uses a series of powerful magnets attached to the undercarriage of the train, aligned with electromagnets lining the track over the launch area. Large currents are supplied to the electromagnets in timed sequence to forcefully propel the train during the launch.

  • Hydraulic: Uses pistons and hydraulic oil to store energy using a compressed gas. Upon launch, the energy is released and transfered to a cable connected to the undercarriage of the trains.

  • Compressed Air: Uses compressed air to power a subsystem that transfers power to the train.

  • Drive wheel: Uses a series of rubber wheels within the track that engage a protrusion on the underside of the carriages. This drive system is commonly used to move trains from the braking area of a ride into and out of the boarding station. B&M has adapted this system to propel a train with enough force to complete the coaster circuit.

  • Rotating Block: Used on early launched coasters, energy is stored by powering a heavy cylindrical block of concrete of other heavy material, causing it to rotate beneath the station while the cars stop and load. When the trains are ready to launch, a cable is connected to the block using a fast clutch mechanism, transfering the energy of the rotating block to the train. While the train completes the circuit, the block is brought back up to rotational speed to prepare for the next launch.
Steel Gigacoaster
Coaster exceeding 200 ft in height and/or first drop. Typically has no inversions, straight "out and back" style run. The turnaround point at the far end often has a high speed banked spiral.
Steel Hypercoaster
Coaster exceeding 200 ft in height and/or first drop. Typically has no inversions, straight "out and back" style run. The turnaround point at the far end often has a high speed banked spiral.
Steel Corkscrew
Short, simple steel layout with a corkscrew element (riders traverse through a twisted helix including an inversion.) May also include vertical loops.
Steel Mine Train
Coaster themed with a "runaway mine train" atmosphere. Circuit typically styled with surprising banked spiral turns rather than drops and airtime.
Steel Racing
Steel coaster with two tracks running side-by-side. Two sets of trains, often launched simultaneously, run the circuit. Sometimes hills and valleys are varied on the two tracks so that the trains do not run side-by-side through the whole circuit.
Steel Suspended
Cars suspended below narrow tracks. Unlike the B&M Inverted style, cars are pivoted below the suspension point and so are free to swing left to right as the track turns. Riders are held in by shoulder harnesses, but inversions are not possible on this style of coaster.
Steel Wild Mouse
A compact ride featuring small cars, course typically includes a series of switchbacks (zigzag motion with parallel runs and very tight turns) ending in a series of drops.
Steel Wildcat
A compact, often "prefab" ride with a tightly twisted layout. A number of single cars travel over the course simultaneously.

Wood Coasters

Classic style wood structure, wood track. Rougher ride than steel coasters, banked turns, hills and airtime, no loops (with the notable exception of "Son of Beast" at Paramount King's Island in Ohio.)

Wooden
Dueling
Two tracks with two sets of trains in a twisted layout, during some parts of the circuit trains my run side-by-side, during other parts the trains turn in different directions and run toward each other creating a "near miss" experience.
Wooden
Figure Eight
Classic style wooden with a figure eight layout. This classification lies somewhere between "twisted" and "out and back" style woodies.
Wooden
Out and Back
Classic style wooden with long, straight layout. Trains typically traverse layout straight through large hills, banked turnaround at the far end, and a series of smaller hills or "bunny hops" in a straight layout back to the station.
Wooden
Racing
Straight "out and back" or twisted coaster, with two tracks running side-by-side. Two sets of trains, often launched simultaneously, run the circuit. Sometimes hills and valleys are varied on the two tracks so that the trains do not run side-by-side through the whole circuit.
Wooden
Terrain
A coaster with a layout that follows the natural hills and valleys of the land on which it is built. Hills and drops may be more surprising and the sense of speed increased due to track more closely following the ground.
Wooden
Twisted
Classic style wooden with convoluted, twisted layout, lots of track over/under crossings. Riding a twisted woody often includes part of the circuit passing through and within the dense track structure.