5. Definitions of Roller-Coaster terms

Discussions among coaster enthusiasts can soon become awash in jargon. Below is a list of coaster terms used by enthusiasts when discussing their favorite subject. This should help in following along with the discussions live and in rec.roller-coaster. It'll also help you impress friends and relatives with your knowledge of roller coasters. Cross-references to other definitions in the list are enclosed in angle brackets <like this>.

References to images at the ftp site, gboro.rowan.edu, which do a good job of illustrating the point being defined are listed in square brackets, like [Images: WHATEVER.GIF]. In the hypertext version, many of the image references have a hyperlink; in these cases, the image displayed is a modified (often smaller) version of the actual photo. This is not an exhaustive list of all images that show a "whatever," but indicates those images which do the best job of illustrating the definition.

Describes the sensation of coming out of your seat when riding a coaster. This effect is usually felt while riding in a front seat when cresting a hill or in a back seat when descending.

Banked Turn
A turn in which the tracks are tilted laterally to allow trains to turn at high speeds without undue discomfort to the riders due to lateral gravity. Note, of course, that enthusiasts like lateral gravity.
[Images: CB_CYC01.GIF, GA_CYC01.GIF]

Arrow's name for an element just like a Boomerang, but a mirror image of Vekoma's design.

A section of track which is divided from other sections by brakes, chain lift, or some other mean of preventing forward progress of the train. The safety system prevents two trains from occupying a block at the same time.

There are two different meanings for this term.
  1. A type of coaster manufactured by Vekoma. It is a variation of the shuttle loop where you are hoisted up an incline, released and sent through the loading station into a semi-loop arrangement (as in definition 2 below) that inverts you twice, then into a vertical loop. After this the train heads up another incline and stops. The train is then pulled further up the second incline and released backwards, goes back through the loop and semi-loop and returns to the station.
  2. An element used in a looping steel coaster that inverts you twice and also acts as a turnaround. You enter going up and to the left, then the train twists upside down and follows through in an upright U-shape, you twist upside down and to the left again, exiting upright heading back in the direction you came from.
    [Images: DRACHEN2.GIF]

Booster Wheels
The rotating wheels used to move the train near the station, pushing it along on flat track.

An element similar to a boomerang, but which you exit in the same direction entered, rather than making a 180 turn as in a Boomerang.

Every coasteraholic's nightmare! ...used to slow the train, they are located strategically in the circuit to control speeds in areas where excessive speed may be undesirable (note that "undesirable" and "unsafe" are not necessarily synonymous in this case, see also Theme Park Mentality). Brakes are usually located in the center of the trackwork, and not on the cars themselves. There are several different types of brakes used on a coaster, they are:
Check Brake
A safety device that allows more than two trains to be on the same circuit, as part of the "block" safety system. These are usually brakes on a ride which don't necessarily slow down the train, but separate one block from another. Should a train try to enter another block when it is occupied, the safety system will set-up the ride.

Scarf Brake
Used only to slow down a train, and are usually pre- set. The difference between a Scarf brake and a Trim Brake is that a Trim Brake can stop a train if needed, while a Scarf brake can only slow one down.

Trim Brake
A brake used to slow the train running the track. This is used when the coaster exceeds recommended operating margins. It is also used when the train is causing too much wear on the track from excessive speed.

Brake Run
A flat stretch of track, usually two to three train lengths, at the station approach, where inbound trains are halted. Since it is very difficult to stop a train with wet brakes, this area is usually covered to keep the brakes dry during a rainstorm.

Camel Back
A series of two or more hills, each slightly smaller than the preceding one.

A unit or part of a coaster train, it usually carries between two and eight passengers.

Chain Dogs
A catch or pawl device beneath the train cars which engages into the chain lift.

Chain Lift
The rolling chain that carries the train to the crest of the lift hill.

Check Brake
A safety device that allows more than two trains to be on the same course. If there is a problem in one "block" of track, the check brake will not allow the following train(s) to continue the trackwork.

A completed journey on a coaster track.

Classic Coaster
A term used to describe a coaster which is operated and maintained in a "classic" sense. These coasters usually run traditional trains, void of ratcheting lap bars, seat dividers, head rests, side bars, and other modern restraint/safety devices. "Classic Coaster" is also an official status given by the American Coaster Enthusiasts to coasters operating in the above manner. (The list of ACE's Classic Coasters appears later in this FAQ.)
[Images: JKRABT_C.GIF]

Cobra Roll
B&M's version of a boomerang element, slightly altered to accomodate B&M 4-across trains. B&M has slightly different versions of the Cobra Roll for their sit-down and inverted coasters.

A coaster configuration that includes a horizontal spiral or helix in which riders are turned upside down one or more times.

An Arrow-designed element which consists of a single inversion in a 180-degree turnaround.

Dog Leg
A left or right jog or offset in the otherwise straight, flat portion or trackwork.

Double Dip
A hill that has been divided into two separate drops by a flattening out of the drop midway down the hill.

Elevated Curve
A type of curve, usually found on an Out-and-Back, where the curve descends in height as it curves. These curves are normally banked as well (See Banked Turn).
[Images: WILDONE4.GIF]

Exclusive Ride Time
Usually part of an organized Coaster Club's event. An "ERT" consists of a block of time, usually before and/or after a park is available to the general public, in which only the members of the coaster club are allowed to ride. This allows the hard-core enthusiast more rides in less time. Parks usually make sure their coaster(s) are running better for such events, making them even more appealing.

Fan Curve
There are two somewhat different meanings of "fan curve" floating about. A curved called a "fan curve" could actually meet definition 1 below, or definition 2, or both. Confused? Good. ;^)
  1. A curve with spoke reinforcements radiating from a central point to the circumference of the track.
    [Images: RUSA.GIF]
  2. A curve that enters the turn while ascending, and exits the turn while descending. These are usually more thrilling than a flat turn (See Elevated Curve).
    [Images: CB_CYC02.GIF]

Figure Eight
Layout of a coaster resembling the numeral eight, thus allowing both right and left turns.

Fine' Del Capo
A portion of track that quickly ducks under an overhead support in such a way as to give the rider a feeling of imminent decapitation. Can also refer to the portion of track that first enters a tunnel or covered brake run. Those of you who've studied music or Italian may recognize the term as Latin for "end of the head." :^)
[Images: WILDONE2.GIF]

First Drop
Usually the highest and most exciting drop on a coaster, most often following immediately after the chain lift. First drops are usually angled at about 50 degrees.

Flat Turn
A turn in which the trackwork remains virtually flat (i.e. the opposite of a banked turn). It usually gives the riders the feeling that the coaster may tip over, due to lateral gravity.
[Images: RUSA.GIF]

Flying Turns
A term from the original trackless coaster design. This coaster resembles a bobsled run with the trains running in a U shaped trough. The flying turns from the 1920s and 30s used Cypress wood for its trough and maintenance was high. Newer versions of this type use steel for the trough.

General Public
Literally refers to the non-enthusiasts who attend a park. The term is used to connote those park patrons who like their roller coasters a little (or a lot) less wild than the average enthusiast does.

Gully Coaster
A coaster that makes use of the natural terrain and gives an added feeling of speed by keeping the track close to the ground through the ups and downs.

Heartline Flip
An element on B&M Inverted coasters which rotates the train in a very small diameter corkscrew, producing a rotation about the rider's "heartline". This is very similar to a barrel roll.

Corkscrew-shaped loops on either a vertical or horizontal plane. The usual meaning is of spiral turns either descending (like going down the bathtub drain) or ascending.
[Images: WILDONE5.GIF]

Sometimes used in reference to a coaster hill.

Any part of a steel roller coaster circuit that turns you upside down.
[Images: DRACHEN3.GIF and many others]

A coaster that rides below the track rather than on the track. The cars on this type of coaster are rigidly connected to their wheel assembly (Compare with Suspended).
[Images: BATMAN01-05.GIF, GADVBAT1-6.GIF, TOPGUN01-03.GIF]

Interlocking Loop
Two vertical loops that intertwine like two links on a chain. An example would be the two loops on the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.
[Images: NESSC01.GIF]

Lateral Gravity
Those forces which pull you to the side of the car (or slam you, as the case may be), often found on flat turns, and often eliminated with banked turns (especially on newer roller coasters).

Loading Platform
Portion of the station where passengers board the coaster trains.

Long Line
2400 people waiting in front of you to ride a coaster!

Term sometimes used in reference to a roller coaster.

Manual Brake
A hand-operated station brake, where the train is stopped by the muscle power of the operator. Most often found on classic coasters. Sometimes, the operator may not apply enough force and the train will overshoot the station. If you're on board when this happens, you'll be one of the lucky ones getting a free ride!

Negative G's
(Short for "Negative Gravity") See Airtime.

Out and Back
A style of roller coaster. The name describes the general configuration of the ride, basically an elongated oval in which the train goes out to a turnaround and then returns to the station. The truest form of this would have no other curves besides the turnaround. Another way to do this would be to put a couple of 90 degree turns (see dog leg) in the ride giving it a L-shape. In general out and backs have higher speeds than designs with more tight turns.

A coaster hill that has an almost continuous curve and very little, if any, straight track.

Pay One Price
An amusement park admission which includes all rides and shows. The alternative is for every ride to require a separate ticket (or tickets, as the case may be).

A coaster design by Arrow Dynamics in which the cars ride between the rails, allowing such maneuvers as "barrel rolls" to be performed. No pipeline coasters have been built yet, but similar designs are the TOGO Ultra Twister and Mega Coaster, and the B&M Inverted coasters feature a flip, which is similar to a barrel roll, though not exactly the same.

Positive G's
Those forces which pull you downward, often appearing at the bottom of hills, and in steel looping elements.

Any coaster that runs two trains that leave the station at the same time and "race" other, most often on parallel tracks.

A claw-toothed steel bar running on certain inclines that prevents a train from rolling backwards. The ratchet causes the clanking sound associated with the chain lift (also referred to as the "anti-rollback" device or "Ratchet Dogs"). The ratchet itself does not stop the train. This is done by a device affixed to the bottom of the car which catches in the ratchet.

Any occurrence which causes trains to stop outside of the station. This may include shutdowns initiated by the safety system, the operator, or some other cause.

Shuttle Loop
A type of coaster where the train travels forward out of the station through a vertical loop then up an incline of track that ascends high into the air. The train then plummets backwards through the loop and through the station, usually to another steep incline, which returns the train to the brake run.
[Images: PYTHON1.GIF]

Side Friction
A coaster with guide rails located above and on the outside edge of the running rails, instead of using guide wheels.

One half of Arrow's version of a boomerang element, which makes a 90-degree turn.

A very abrupt, rough drop that sometimes occurs after a major hill (an extreme example of Airtime).

Speed Dip
A small hill taken at high speeds usually lifting riders off their seats (see Airtime).

Speed Run
A series of speed dips, usually on the way back from the turnaround on an Out and Back coaster.

A 360-degree turn.

Standing But Not Operating
A roller coaster which is no longer operating but has not been destroyed. Preservation efforts by the American Coaster Enthusiasts, and others, often will focus on these coasters because of their status. They could be torn down at any time, and the lack of maintenance will cause their condition to deteriorate rapidly.
[Images: CI_TBOLT.GIF]

A steel roller coaster, often with one or more inversions, where cars are designed for the riders to ride standing up instead of sitting down.
[Images: SHOCK.GIF]

A building that houses: ride operators, brake and chain lift controls, brake run, loading and unloading platforms, train storage area, and often, the train maintenance workshop.

Station Brake
Standard gear on EVERY coaster. Used for deceleration on return to the station (See Brake Run).

Steel Coaster
Generally, any coaster with tubular steel rails supported with steel framing. Some coasters classified as steel actually have wooden framing. Cars usually have nylon wheels that impart a smooth, quiet ride.
[Images: GASM01A.GIF and many others]

A coaster that rides below the track rather than on the track. The cars on this type of coaster are designed such that they are free to swing relative to their wheel assembly (Compare with Inverted).

Swoop Turn
A fast turn that incorporates a dip and a return to the crest of the next hill while turning.

Theme Park
A park, usually of large size, which has one or more "themed" areas, with Rides and Attractions keyed to the theme of their location within the park. Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Fiesta Texas are all excellent examples of theme parks.

Theme Park Mentality
A derogatory (but sometimes applicable) term which implies a set of overly strict, safety conscious rules and operation procedures.

These policies are there to please the general public and the park's insurance company, not the hard-core enthusiast. :^)

Traditional Amusement Park
A park which still holds aspects of its origins in today's modern society. Most Traditional Parks grew out of "Picnic Parks" which were located at the end of trolley lines. Kennywood, Whalom Park, and Lakeside are all excellent examples of Traditional Parks.

A series of two to seven cars hooked together to make a circuit of the coaster track.
[Images: RACER2.GIF]

Usually the turn located farthest from the station (usually on an Out-and-Back style coaster) after which the trains begin their return.

Just like it sounds. The configuration of this type of coaster is varied and has multiple turns, often in a Figure 8 layout. The Coney Island Cyclone, the Riverside Cyclone, Mr. Twister, and the Texas Giant are good examples of a twister. You can expect the unexpected. A good twister will disorient you!

Unloading Platform
Portion of the station where passengers unload from the coaster train. Modern coasters have combined the loading and unloading platforms into one quick-moving operation.

Vertical Loop
A nearly closed vertical turn of 360 degrees in which riders are turned upside down in a transitional curve in a near- vertical plane.
[Images: PHANTOM3.GIF]

A coaster car uses 3 different types of wheels:

  • Guide Wheel - A set of wheels which guide the train so that it does not leave the track sideways (also known as Side-Friction wheels).

  • Road Wheel - A wheel that actually rides on the top of the track.

  • Upstop wheel - A set of wheels which ride underneath the track to keep the train from jumping off or leaving the trackwork (also referred to as "Undershot" or "Underside" Friction wheels).

Wild Mouse
A small steel coaster featuring small cars (big enough for two adults); sharp, unbanked turns; quick, steep drops (heavy on the airtime); and, in general, a very rough and wild ride.

An element on B&M coasters similar to a corkscrew, but more like an extended vertical loop.

Wooden Coaster
Generally, any coaster with laminated wooden rails, to which flat steel rails are attached. Supporting members are usually wooden, however, some coasters classified as wooden actually have steel framing (e.g. Crystal Beach Cyclone, Coney Island Cyclone, and Frontier City's Wildcat!).
[Images: CYCLONE1.GIF]

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