The 16 Different Types of Roller Coaster & Where the Drop Will Take You

Different Types of Roller Coaster

Life is a roller coaster. But which one? It turns out there are many different types of ups, downs and around-we-go’s to choose from. 

While some may be more suited to the little ones and others to the thrill-seekers hoping for a bolt to come loose somewhere on the track, there’s always going to be the best rollercoaster in the UK with the perfect ride for you.

As we’re never ones to miss out on an opportunity to bring the fun and adventure to you, your friends and your family, the team here at The Hobby Craze has got the ultimate fact-file roller coasters here and rearing to take off. Look at what’s covered in this guide to the 16 different types of roller coaster and where the drop will take you:

  1. What Is a Roller Coaster?
  2. Are the Different Types of Roller Coaster Safe?
  3. How Do the Types of Coaster Design Work?
  4. The World’s First Roller Coaster Track
  5. The 16 Different Types of Roller Coaster and Where the Track Leads
  6. The Best Roller Coaster in the UK 

Before we start chugging up the coaster climb, there is something new we could teach you about yourself.

Your brain chemistry is what will determine whether or not you’ll enjoy the various different types of roller coaster!

While it may, in one respect, seem obvious and, in another, seem silly, this is completely true. There have been numerous studies and pieces of research conducted linking a brain’s natural chemistry and make-up of endorphins to the enjoyment of a thrill-seeking adventure. This can apply to all the bucket-list thrills such as base jumping, cliff diving, bungee jumping, rock climbing and so on. 

Our brains have a chemical make-up of endorphins and hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin and – more specifically – dopamine. They are released as a reward-motivator response that provide feelings of euphoria (which can be quite addictive). With this, the more fun activities we do, the more levels of these so called ‘happy hormones’ are in play and the more people will want to thrill-seek to get more of them. 

Therefore, the more levels of dopamine you have in your brain chemistry, the more likely you’ll want to head out to the world’s largest roller coaster to enjoy the dipper of a lifetime!

What Is a Roller Coaster?

What Is a Roller Coaster

By the definition of things, a roller coaster is an amusement ride built to carry individuals or groups of people around a designated track. This track could be a steel frame, a water slide, a wooden coaster track or a curved boardwalk.

When on the best roller coaster in the UK or anywhere else in the world, you could be going around in circles, chugging up, racing down, spinning around, travelling through, loop-de-looping in, or anything else when it comes to being thrown around all in the name of spontaneous fun.

In terms of the different types of roller coaster around the world, there are some that are entirely electric powered, some that feature pulley systems, some that rely on sheer momentum after the first drop and others that use magnets to travel around the loops. 

As well as this, the categories can be given even more sub-types from the original 15 that we’ll delve into later in this article simply because of the cart type. Some carts can run using the traditional style of the mining or train cart, while others will have dedicated seats. As well as this, there are some roller coasters that feature train (or snake) style travelling while other use individual carts for groups of six or less such as the log flume. 

So, when it comes to defining a roller coaster, it can vary so much from materials and theme parks all the way down to the track layout and the carts. Yet, each one still throws you about as if it were trying to get you out of your seat. That said, the time your sibling ‘drives’ you in their new car on the empty streets could probably somehow also be classed as a sit-down roller coaster.

Are the Different Types of Roller Coaster Safe?

Are the Different Types of Roller Coaster Safe

The long story made short is that all rollercoasters in designated theme parks have been designed by engineers, built by specialists and thoroughly tested for safety by all the park staff before you get your tush in the seat.

Despite the odd accident here and there, the chances of a ride failing and resulting in injury is extremely low. In fact, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions says the chance of injury on any of the types of coaster designs is one in 24 million. 

For perspective, the chance being eaten by a shark is 1 in 11.5 million, making it more than twice as likely to happen. As well as that – without trying to deter your next flight booking – the chance of being in a plane crash is 1 in 5.4 million and they’re one of the safest modes of transport. 

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Different types of roller coaster need different checks in order to pass safety measures, but they all rely on forensic engineers to put their noggins together and determine the safety of a ride before letting anyone take a spin. When checking, these forensic engineers will test the quality of the steel framing and safety harnesses in case any repairs or replacements need carrying out.

A roller coaster is a pretty safe thrill-seeking hobby to have (even safer than camping), so we definitely recommend just one spin and dip in a lifetime.

However, a top tip from the team here at The Hobby Kraze is to check with your GP before heading out on the Big Dipper coaster track (or any others for that matter) if you have any of the following:

  • Heart Conditions
  • Respiratory Illness
  • Pregnancy
  • High Blood Pressure
  • A Pacemaker

How Do the Types of Coaster Design Work?

How Do the Types of Coaster Design Work

Rollercoasters don’t have engines. It’s amazing as it makes them one of the most environmentally friendly ways to get around. But you really do just get around from ‘point A’ all the way back to ‘point A’. So, we’re not quite at the stage of using rollercoasters for the daily commute. 

However, to explain how they work (without that all-important engine) we’re going to use some fun words. Including: inertia, kinetic energy, gravitational pull, crest and friction.

Everything begins with buckling up and being pulled to the crest of the first hill by an electrically motorised chain lift which runs under the coaster track. 

When the roller coaster reaches the crest, gravitational pull will force the roller coaster to fall at a constant (but fast) rate. As the coaster comes to the end of a drop, friction in the track takes over, kinetic energy begins to build and the laws of inertia slows the roller coaster down. 

Inertia is one of those fantastic laws of physics outlined by Sir Isaac Newton who found that every object has a state of motion (mostly at rest) and has a level of inertia (or force) required to change the state of motion relating to the mass of the object. So, longer categories of roller coaster will have more inertia than smaller categories.

Sometimes, modern types of coaster designs will have the electrical motorised chain lift in more than one hill while others will only need the extra tug on the first hill before allowing gravitational pull and kinetic energy to do the rest. 

You might also be wondering about the whole ‘inverting’ aspect of so many thrilling rides out there. Luckily, roller coasters have wheels that encompass the track in a way that enables the roller coaster to stay attached even on the loop-de-loop.

Finally, when it comes to the end of the ride, the air brakes in the coaster track will provide the right level of inertia to change the state of motion of the roller coaster enough to stop right at the station.

The World’s First Roller Coaster Track

The World’s First Roller Coaster Track

Now we know how the modern coaster track works and that it’s completely safe to buckle into, we can take a throwback to the start of all the different types of roller coaster out there.

Unlike many of the stories through time here at The Hobby Kraze, the amusing world of roller coaster rides didn’t take off in the Ancient Egyptian world. In fact, we only need to go back 18th century Russia.

Today’s roller coaster rides are inspired by the ‘Russian Mountains’ of ice and snow that featured reinforced wooden routes to slide down to the bottom with wheeled carts or sleds. These particular attractions were called ‘Katalnaya Gorka’, directly translating to ‘sliding mountain’.

These early types of coaster designs were very popular among the higher classes of Russia with Catherine II of Russia having her own Katalnaya Gorka built near her palace gardens in St Petersburg. 

Heading into the 19th century, in came the boom of scenic railways. As the closest ancestor of the modern rollercoaster (with some still chugging along the track today), they were simple mining cart tracks carrying coal downhill. However, one in particular – Mauch Chunck in Pennsylvania – began offering rides to paying thrill seekers. 

Eventually, these scenic railways would find their way into amusement parks around the world as the first sit-down roller coaster we would come to know and love today.

The 16 Different Types of Roller Coaster and Where the Track Leads

The 16 Different Types of Roller Coaster and Where the Track Leads

Roller coasters, as it turns out, come in all shapes and sizes as well as the various lengths and speeds in order to provide the right kind of thrill. From the world’s longest types of coaster designs in Japan all the way to the best roller coaster in the UK (whose reputation has – ironically – been a little up and down). Have a look at which of the 16 different types of roller coaster you want to get strapped into first.

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Accelerator Coaster

Accelerator Coaster

Just like any other water sport, there are clothes that you should never wear to paddleboarding. One of those clothes is cotton clothes. Cotton easily absorbs water. This makes you heavier, thus, making it harder for you to move. If you fall on the water, you’ll realize that you feel twice as heavy. 

Another clothing no-no is a pair of rubber shoes or sneakers. You don’t want your shoes to get ruined by water. Besides, most shoes aren’t waterproof. You will just damage them. They will also be heavy once they get wet. 

If you’re unsure about what to wear and what not to, a good point to consider is whether or not you’ll be comfortable with your clothes when you get wet. As a beginner, you will most likely fall on the water. Are you comfortable wearing a cotton shirt when you do? If you don’t, then don’t wear it. The same goes for other fabric types. 

Alpine Roller Coaster

Alpine Roller Coaster

Also known in the stunning white-wash alpine mountains as the toboggan, these small coaster track designs have a one-bum per seat policy and its own break lever. They typically only travel downwards, sideways and straight-on without any notable ups or downs. They also don’t feature any ‘go’ mechanism as it relies solely on the gravitational pull and friction of the stunning mountains.

An alpine roller coaster that simply can’t be missed is Switzerland’s Pradaschier Toboggan in the town of Churwalden. Not only is it the longest toboggan in all of Europe, but it also features unbelievable views and family fun experiences.

Bobsled Roller Coaster

Bobsled Roller Coaster

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up because – you guessed it – it’s bobsled time! Having a think about France’s Trace Du Hourra in Parc Astérix and you might wonder about the coaster track (or lack thereof) and how the bobsled could be considered one of the types of coaster designs. 

These types of coaster run on wooden half-pipes with a train of cars freewheeling down the barrel much like the ice sporting bobsled would. However, they’re still a roller coaster as they’re on a specific ‘track’ designed to keep people enjoying their thrills without any spills.

Classic Train Cart Coaster

Classic Train Cart Coaster

Thinking back to those historical scenic railways, they always featured the classic car resembling either a line of coal carts or a train. These different types of roller coaster are generally much slower than those with the loop-de-loops, accelerator functions, big dippers and so on. This is because, with the name, they are built to make an enjoyable experience out of a viewing bonanza. 

A great example of this is the world’s second-oldest roller coaster still in operation: The Great Scenic Railway in Australia’s Luna Park. Now a heritage listed track, The Great Scenic Railway was first built in 1912 and is still going strong at speeds of 60 mph today. All the while providing fantastic views of Luna Park with the whole family (and a breakman in the middle of the train!).

Corkscrew Coaster Track

Corkscrew Coaster Track

If you can picture a corkscrew, you can probably picture the type of coaster designs that can be classed as a corkscrew. These types of roller coaster are built to invert passengers multiple times throughout the entire ride. 

The Smiler at Alton Towers, for example, holds the world record for the highest count of inversions (14) in just one ride. While it’s had its moments in the media, it still remains a safe ride to enjoy at the theme park. Most of these inversions are corkscrew (hence the roller coaster type) but there are some heartline rolls, dive loops and sea serpents thrown into the mix for a little spice on the track.

Dive Coaster

Dive Coaster

A dive provides exactly what you might expect: a dive into the ground. With many different types of roller coaster around the world featuring the synonymous drops, dips, falls and fast-moving tails from the crest, there must be something more that can classify a roller coaster as a dive coaster. And there is.

Let’s consider Kingda Ka, the roller coaster featuring the world’s tallest drop based in the US resort of Six Flags. It takes a vertical journey into the sky and after crawling with the electrical motorised chain for what may feel like an eternity, you’re met with a supersonic drop of 418 ft. Yes, that is as tall as it seems.

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Flying Roller Coaster

Flying Roller Coaster

With the first being built in the UK in 1997 named Skytrak, the flying roller coaster has been a growing trend to see in theme parks around the world. This is because they provide an inverted and floorless sensation into the world of flying. 

One of the most popular flying roller coasters is based in the Orlando Sea World resort with a track called Manta. Simply embark in your seat (with the track overhead) and your seat will be pulled backwards so you’re essentially facing the ground going head-first into the wind (hence, flying).

Giga Roller Coaster

Giga Roller Coaster

Opening in the year 2000, A.K.A “The Year of The Dragon” was Nagashima Spa Land’s Steel Dragon 2000. A roller coaster built with 8,133.2 ft of steel framing with a ride duration of 4 minutes and speeds of 95 mph. This roller coaster was first in the Guinness book of records for the being the world’s tallest complete circuit, the world’s fastest complete circuit and the world’s longest complete circuit. Hence, a giga roller coaster. However, since then, Steel Dragon 2000 has only managed to keep hold of the world’s longest complete circuit title.

In reality, this type of coaster design was coined by creators Cedar Fair and Intamin AG to describe one of their builds (Millennium Force). Though, any coaster with over 300 ft in height should be classed as a giga coaster. Meaning Kingda Ka also classifies as a giga roller coaster. 

Half Pipe Coaster Track

Half Pipe Coaster Track

A half pipe coaster track is a type of open-ended track where the carts simply go back and forth. Rather than the usual closed circuit coaster track where you go around the bend and back into the station, the view of the half-pipe looks a lot like someone stood a giant horseshoe up and had a fantastically fun idea to throw some people around on it. 

A great example of this is Finland’s Half Pipe at Särkänniemi Amusement Park. It features the half pipe and two groups of seats on top of a giant ‘skateboard’. The ride increases in speed and height as the momentum from the linear synchronous motor takes over allowing for a constant adrenaline-filled ride of drops.

Log Flume Ride

Log Flume Ride

Historically a way for the lumberjack to efficiently transport tree logs down the mountainous terrain, the concept of the log flume has infiltrated our amusement parks in all the best ways. 

In this sit-down roller coaster, you’ll bob along the river calmly and enjoy the sights and flowing river. Here and there your log may be taken up a ramp using a motorised and magnetic belt before heading downhill for a soak. In fact, every log flume is characterised by a splash at the end and an ungodly picture of everyone drowning in the flume. One of the most recognised log flumes by all the family has to be the magical trip through Splash Mountain at the Disneyworld Florida Resort.

Motorbike Coaster Track

Motorbike Coaster Track

If you’ve ever wondered what it could possibly feel like to be in Hagrid’s motorbike as he rides through the sky, there is something you can do for a taste. There are motorbike coaster tracks all around the world where you ride the coaster as if it were a bike (but much faster and without any speed cameras).

In fact, Universal’s Islands of Adventure has just the ride for you: Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. You can either be at the helm on the motorbike or sat comfortably in the sidecar as you take a long route through the magical kingdom hunting creatures, fixing bikes and taking a drop in a cave to safety.

Pipeline Roller Coaster

Pipeline Roller Coaster

Pipeline types of coaster designs work very differently when it comes to the coaster track and attachment. While many traditional coasters have tracks below, some inverted rides have the track above and others, such as the log flume or the bobsled, won’t have a track at all (per se). Yet, the pipeline roller coaster has the tracks on either side of the cart.

These kinds of tracks favour the heartline rolls (much like the Smiler at Alton Towers but with many more) which resemble a sideways barrel roll. A very colourful example of the pipeline types of roller coaster is Nagashima Spa Land’s Ultra Twister which opened in 2012 with a speed of 44 mph, 3 inversions and 1,421 ft in steel-constructed length.

Stand-Up Roller Coaster

Stand-Up Roller Coaster

As you may have guessed, these types of roller coaster feature the riders being stood up. Although you’re strapped in nice and tight, it might be best to swerve this coaster track for a sit-down roller coaster in the case of wobbly knees.

Originally a feature of the Japanese park, they’ve been popping up in other amusement locations around the world such as Drayton Manor Theme Park. Using the stand-up types of coaster designs, the Drayton Manor park was able to implement Shockwave: the first roller coaster with a zero-gravity roll.

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Wild Mouse Roller Coaster

Wild Mouse Roller Coaster

Also known as the ‘Mad Mouse’ or the ‘Crazy Mouse’ roller coaster, these fun-sounding rides have very simplistic and rowdy turns that keep the rider on their toes. Most of a wild mouse ride takes place on a flat surface, you may have a ramp and a drop here and there to get between levels, but all the tight turns seem to miss something the other coasters don’t: banked turns. Instead of banking on a turn, the wild mouse adventure keeps the track flat, so you’re left flailing around the track feeling out-done by the prospects of an innocent-sounding mouse. 

They can be the perfect ride for families with younger children as many wild mouse manufacturers like Reverchon and Zamperla keep the height relatively low (as well as the overall speed). They’re also one of the most popular roller coasters to keep within a travelling or temporary amusement park such as the Zürich Knabenschiessen fair.

Winged Roller Coaster

Winged Roller Coaster

A winged roller coaster is designed to take passengers either side of the track, having the body of the coaster roll along the track and the riders feel the wind through their hair while acting as the wings of the ride. As poetic as it sounds, it still yields a good scream when heading round the complete circuit.

Most winged roller coaster designs around the world have actually been manufactured by Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M), totalling around 15 since 2011. If you want to ride a wing, your best bet is to head to Thorpe Park near London and streamline toward The Swarm for over a minute of 59 mph flying.

Zipline Roller Coaster

Zipline Roller Coaster

Finally, we have the zipline roller coaster taking all the amazing fun of the zipline and turning it into a complete circuit (and sometimes an electrical motorised chain for a bit of a push on the uphill climb).

However, this is the newest of the 16 different types of rollercoaster with the first zipline roller coasters opening in the last ten years. They’re mainly hidden away in forest trails where you can experience open nature while flying between the trees. A fantastic example is the Bol d’Air Line taking you on a tree-top slalom through the French Vosges mountains.

The Best Roller Coaster in the UK

The Best Roller Coaster in the UK

Without a doubt, if you’re looking for the biggest thrill without having to seek an overseas and afar adventure, then you ned to head to Thorpe Park and get in line (the long, long line) for Stealth (it’s worth it). Being the fastest roller coaster in the UK and spanning just 1312ft long, the ride takes you through a mouth-rippling acceleration of 0 to 80 mph in under 2 seconds.

This is an example of the ever-popular accelerator types of coaster designs as it is a sit-down roller coaster with an initial air-burst acceleration and a whopping 205 ft drop. 

Here’s a fun fact from a member of The Hobby Kraze team: Stealth – as the best roller coaster in the UK – was actually designed and built in Switzerland!

If you’re not feeling a little queasy after every twist, turn and tummy-tickling drop in this article, you’ll probably be one to take-on all the different types of coaster designs. Each having their own ‘world’s best’ in one thing or another. And, if you do decide to tour the world on some of the most famous coaster track designs, you’ll have to share every terrible snapshot with the team on social media.

Here at The Hobby Kraze, we endeavour to always bring you adventures and hobbies that are sure to keep that spark of joy glowing bright. So, if you’re looking for new ways to light the spark, then have a look at some of our other articles lovingly written by the tried-and-tested team here at The Hobby Kraze. (Some stomachs were turned upside-down for the making of this article, but it was worth it!).

If you liked this thrill-seeking written journey, we think you’d also like:

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  • Discovering Reiki: Using Healing Energy to Boost Your Mind, Body and Self
  • Wandering Through Earth’s 18 Different Types of Waterfalls
  • 17 Different Types of Resort and Finding the Holiday to Suit You

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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