Commemorates Opening of ‘Switchback Railway’ in 1884
Coney Island history was celebrated Thursday, June 16.
At around 2 p.m., rollercoaster enthusiasts rode the new Phoenix at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Coney Island to participate in the World’s Largest Coaster Ride, a day organized by the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE).
Those taking part in the celebration included riders from several theme parks around the country. It was the largest simultaneous dispatch of coasters, and it commemorated the anniversary of Switchback Railway, which opened in Coney Island on June 16, 1884.
The Switchback was created by LaMarcus Thompson, who was known as the “Father of the American Roller Coaster.” It was America’s first modern roller coaster.
D.J. Vourderis of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park was excited that the family’s coaster was part of the celebration.
“Roller coasters bring joy,” he said. “And like so many great things in this world, the first one was invented right here in Brooklyn. We were honored to be part of American Coaster Enthusiasts, World’s Largest Coaster Ride, celebrating the opening of this milestone in momentum.”
According to heartofconeyisland.com, Thompson’s Switchback Gravity Railway is the precursor to modern rollercoasters.
“Passengers climbed up stairs and rode a gravity-powered cart very slowly down tracks at roughly 6 miles per hour,” the site continues. “They faced out instead of forward so that they could take in the surrounding scenery. At the bottom, the passengers would get off, attendants would push the cart up to another set of tracks (hence the name “switch-back”), and passengers would get back on and ride back to the starting point while facing the opposite direction.”
ACE is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1978. It has more than 6,000 members, and its mission is to foster and promote the preservation, appreciation, knowledge and enjoyment of all types of roller coasters.
ACE’s Communications Director Elizabeth Ringas said the day was a special one for those who love coasters and their history.
“Roller coasters fill us with fears, thrills, laughter and screams, but most importantly, they offer us the opportunity to make unforgettable memories with family and friends,” she said. “ACE is proud to take this moment to celebrate this anniversary with parks across North America during World Roller Coaster Appreciation Month.”
The Phoenix officially opened July 1 last year. It was included on USA Today’s list of the most-anticipated roller coasters of 2021.
The Phoenix is 68 feet tall and features a speed of around 34 miles per hour. According to the Deno’s team, riders will feel like they are flying around the Wonder Wheel with views of the beach and the Riegelmann Boardwalk. It features intense twists and turns.
Other participating parks and rollercoasters represented a wide area of the U.S., from Alabama to Atlanta to Texas to Pennsylvania, as well as Mexico.