What Is the Difference Between Steel Roller Coasters & Wooden Roller Coasters?

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A roller coaster sells the thrill of both height and speed as it suspends a group of people in the air while it travels speeds up to 70 mph. Amusement park roller coasters fall into one of two categories: steel roller coasters or wooden roller coasters. The differences between the two kinds of roller coasters go beyond the materials of which they are made because the riding experience differs greatly between the two kinds.

Energy

  • The energy gathered by a roller coaster as it accelerates over its tracks may be lost due to several reasons. Even though many steel roller coasters go much faster than wooden roller coasters, the construction of steel roller coasters may cause a greater amount of lost energy. The plastic tires on steel roller coasters and the loops in their tracks may cause them to lose more energy than wooden roller coasters lose on their tracks. Regardless of lost energy, however, a steel roller coaster generally picks up more energy by the end of the ride than a wooden roller coaster.

Measurements

  • The tallest steel roller coasters with single conventional lifts are just more than 300 feet tall. The tallest wooden roller coasters with single conventional lifts are just more than 200 feet tall. A steel roller coaster of one length is generally taller than a wooden roller coaster of the same length because it is easier and safer to build the steel structure at a larger height than it is to build the wooden structure. Steel of a certain width and length can hold more weight than wood that is the same size.

Riding Experience

  • Steel roller coasters typically go a lot faster than wooden roller coasters, and the ride is often much smoother on steel roller coasters. The riding experience on a wooden roller coaster can make a person feel as though he is jerked around a lot, particularly when riding along a corner on the track. Wooden roller coasters are usually much louder than steel roller coasters because wheels ride more smoothly over steel than wood. Steel roller coasters can have loops in their tracks and suspend passengers upside down, and wooden roller coasters typically remain upright.

Popular Rides

  • The first ride to go as fast as 100 mph was the steel roller coaster of California's Magic Mountain, known as Superman the Escape. The roller coaster takes about seven seconds to go from zero to 100 mph. Superman the Escape stands 41 stories tall. The fastest wooden roller coaster is The Son of Beast, which reaches 78 mph. The longest wooden roller coaster is The Beast, which has 7,400 feet of track. Both The Beast and The Son of Beast are at Kings Island amusement park in Ohio.

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