Are you struggling to understand roller coaster terms? This (by no means comprehensive) glossary should help you better understand roller coaster types, well known manufacturers, and inversion types.
Though roller coasters all have many things in common, there are many classifications that set them apart, like their lift height, train type, and track material.
4th dimension – A coaster with cars on the sides of the track that spin freely with the ride’s movements.
Bobsled – A coaster with a sloped trough similar to a bobsled track. The trains are allowed to drift freely around turns.
Dark ride – A coaster that is indoors. Most dark rides take riders on a journey through several thematic scenes before ending with a thrilling finale.
Dueling – A coaster that features two individual tracks and two trains that run simultaneously to simulate a race or a duel.
Floorless – A coaster with an open train allowing riders to look straight down at the track beneath them.
Flying – A coaster with trains that suspend riders in a lying position.
Giga – A giga coaster is one that has a height of 300 or more feet. Millennium Force is noted for being the first of its kind.
Hybrid – A coaster with a wooden structure and steel track or vice versa.
Hyper – A hypercoaster is a coaster that has a height of 200 or more feet. Magnum XL-200 is noted for being the first of its kind.
Inverted – A coaster with suspended trains that travel beneath, instead of above, the track.
Poler – A polercoaster is a coaster whose track is supported primarily by a central pole. Polercoasters are able to achieve great heights while maintaining a comparatively small footprint.
Sit down – A traditional coaster with trains that travel above the track.
Shuttle – A coaster that travels one direction before reaching a midpoint and returning to the station on the same track by which it came. Most shuttle coasters begin with a launch and feature one or more inversions.
Spinning – A coaster with cars that rotate during the ride.
Stand-up – A coaster ridden in a standing position. The ride’s cars feature bicycle-like seats whose height can be adjusted for rider comfort.
Strata – A strata coaster is one that has a height of 400 or more feet. Top Thrill Dragster is noted for being the first of its kind.
Suspended – A coaster with trains beneath the track and cars that are allowed to swing freely.
Steel – A coaster with track made of steel. Steel coasters are often noted for being smoother and more diverse than wooden coasters.
Virtual reality – A coaster that features an option where riders wear virtual reality (VR) headsets during the ride and participate with a themed virtual environment.
Wing – A coaster with cars on either side of the track, rather than above or below it. Riders enjoy flight without anything above or below them.
Wild mouse – A coaster with one-car trains and a layout with very tight turns designed to create high centrifugal forces.
Wooden – A coaster with track made of wood. Wooden coasters are often noted for being more rough and traditional than steel coasters. Until recently, wooden coasters did not feature inversions.
Roller coaster manufacturers are the companies responsible for designing, selling, and constructing rides for amusement parks. Though many of the following manufacturers are now defunct, they are worth mentioning as many of their contributions to the coaster industry are still in operation today.
Arrow Dynamics (defunct) – The first manufacturer to develop tubular steel track, providing a smoother ride experience and allowing more flexibility for complex elements such as inversions. The company went on to create the first suspended coaster and the first hypercoaster. Today, Arrow Dynamics is widely regarded as the primary innovator of the modern steel roller coaster.
Bolliger & Mabillard – A Swiss manufacturer famous for glass-smooth steel coasters. B&M designed the first inverted coaster, the first floorless coaster, and the first dive coaster. The company’s signature track has a hollow box-shaped spine, creating a unique roaring sound when a train passes over it.
Chance Rides – A manufacture that specializes primarily in other types of amusement rides but has designed a few coasters as well.
Custom Coasters International (defunct) – A wooden coaster manufacturer that built many acclaimed rides before facing bankruptcy in 2002.
Dinn Corporation (defunct) – A coaster manufacturer that built many large wooden coasters seemingly designed to break records rather than to last. Most of their rides have since been closed and removed.
Gerstlauer – A German manufacturer famous for the “Euro-Fighter” style coaster, which features a vertical lift and beyond vertical drop followed by a spaghetti-bowl layout.
The Gravity Group – A wooden coaster manufacturer founded by the former engineers of Custom Coasters International. The company’s best known rides are The Voyage at Holiday World and Hades 360 at Mt. Olympus.
Great Coasters International – An acclaimed wooden coaster manufacturer known for its coasters’ smooth layouts and comfortable “Millennium Flyer” trains.
Intamin – A Swiss manufacturer that is known for their extremely thrilling and innovative coasters. Intamin designed the first hydraulic launch system, which is used Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. The manufacturer is also known for towering Giga coasters, pre-fabricated wooden coasters, and drop towers. However, many of Intamin’s rides are notorious for reliability issues, and for that reason many US parks have stopped buying them.
Mack Rides – A German manufacturer that has designed a variety of high-quality steel coasters and water rides. The owners of Mack Rides also run Europa Park, voted the best amusement park in the world, which serves as a showcase for their rides.
Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters – Founded in 1904, PTC is one of the oldest manufacturers still in operation. The company designed countless classic wooden roller coasters and carousels.
Premier Rides – A US-based manufacturer that was the first to use Linear Induction Motors on their coasters. Premier Rides is famous for shuttle coasters, launch coasters, and their compact Sky Rocket II design.
Rocky Mountain Construction – An innovative company famous for their wild hybrid designs. Perhaps the youngest manufacturer on this list, Rocky Mountain Construction is owned by Fred Grubb and Alan Schilke, a former Arrow Dynamics designer. The two developed I-Box and Topper Track, two new track types that allowed wooden coasters to become even wilder than steel ones.
S&S Worldwide – A reliable manufacturer known for their drop towers, Free Spin coasters, and compact El Loco models.
Schwarzkopf (defunct) – A German manufacturer that built many early looping coaster designs.
TOGO (defunct) – A Japanese manufacturer that created the first stand-up coaster.
Vekoma Rides – A Dutch manufacturer that builds Boomerang coasters, Flying Dutchman coasters, and Motorbike coasters. Many coaster enthusiasts dislike Vekoma-designed coasters due to their uncomfortable restraints and rough track.
Zamperla – An Italian manufacture known for small roller coasters and thrill rides.
Found in many shapes and variations, inversions are found on many roller coasters, and are used to create a disorienting effect as riders are turned upside down.
Batwing – An inverted cobra roll shaped like a heart.
Cobra roll – A half loop, followed by two corkscrews in opposite directions, exiting through another half loop. The inversion resembles the head of a cobra.
Corkscrew – A helix-shaped spiral that inverts riders with a forward motion.
Cutback – Two half corkscrews traveling in opposite directions.
Dive loop – A half twist followed by a half loop.
Heartline roll – A 360-degree roll with an axis of rotation near the rider’s heart.
Immelmann loop – A half loop followed by a half twist. Named after a similar aircraft maneuver.
Inline twist – A 360-degree roll with an axis of rotation found near the track.
Pretzel loop – A downward half-loop followed by an upward half-loop. Usually found on B&M flying coasters.
Twisted horseshoe roll – A half corkscrew followed by a half corkscrew in the opposite direction.
Vertical loop – A traditional teardrop-shaped loop. These loops are the most commonly found inversions.
Zero-g roll – A 360-degree roll that crests a hill to produce zero-gravity.