About this site

General

This site began with a compilation of roller coaster patents, which was soon expanded to include other amusement rides. The patent section also contains my interpretation of the very early history of the roller coaster in the United States and an examination of several patents containing improvements in the track structure and wheel arrangement of wooden coasters. The non-patent half of the site explores a number of unrelated topics, including the first generation of wild mouse rides popular in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as non-coaster rides from the same period. In general, these pages contain information about roller coasters and other rides which I have not seen elsewhere online.

Patents

I have attempted to include every U.S. patent related to roller coasters. The main table contains more than 470 patents for roller coasters and their appliances, as well as some rides which are not strictly roller coasters, but which appear to be relevant to the development of roller coasters. A number of variant forms of ride that never succeeded are included in the table. However, I have removed many other variant rides to one of the other tables. Rides removed include most powered rides, alpine slides and related rides, many helical gravity rides, and rides in which the vehicle imparts oscillating, rotating, or cycloidal motion to the passengers. The official patent classifications do not distinguish gravity from powered rides, and it was not always possible from a cursory examination to decide whether a ride was powered or not, so it is possible that some patents are placed incorrectly or inconsistently in my tables.

Numerous additional ride patents are placed in tables on several additional pages. I have ignored those that consist of bicycle tracks, playground-size or rider-propelled rides (except a few typically located in amusement parks), and miniature models or toys. Even with these omissions, the site has grown to more than 2600 patents. My knowledge of most of these rides is limited, and I have not identified many of these patents by their standard or trade names. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Access on the USPTO site to patents older than 1976 is strictly by patent number, date of issue, and classification. There is no online index by title or author. US Patents from 1920 to the present can be searched via the European Patent Office site. Some patents are present but lack the associated bibliographic information, and can be found in this resource only by patent number. As of 2007, patent text can be searched via Google Patents. This facility is extremely useful, even though the conversion of images to searchable text is quite error-prone. Google discontinued links to new patents about October, 2014. Links have since appeared, but (as of July, 2015) without patent images. However, at this time, patent images on the USPTO website are easily accessible. I have thoroughly searched patent class 104/53 and its subclasses, which generally cover amusement railways, very broadly defined. However, this misses many specialized appliances applied to roller coasters, including rolling stock classified under heading 105. My initial searches found only about half of John Miller's roller coaster patents. L. A. Thompson's obituary in the New York Times claims nearly thirty patents from 1884-1888, but I have only found 23 for the entire period until his death in 1919. (I suspect that the larger number includes non-U.S. patents in the total, even though most of these are essentially duplicates of the U.S. patents.)

There are a number of examples of technology for which I have not found patents, such as rail-bending machinery and the track systems used for older Wild Mouse rides, Schwarzkopf Wildcats, and Pinfari Zyklons. Patents whose utility is not restricted to rides are likely to have eluded my search. Some advances may have been patented only in other countries or not at all. Joseph McKee of Palisades Park, for example, has been credited with making improvements in roller coaster technology which he never sought to patent.

I have listed patents with their date of issue. Filing dates, which are a more reliable guide to the date of invention, can be found by examining the published patents.

About the Patent Links

Searches of the USPTO site return lists of patents in which the URLs are approximately 180 characters long, with the patent number occurring three times. Since some of this information is unnecessary, I have been able to simplify the links. However, changes in the USPTO site may cause these links to fail. It is now also possible to link directly to the patent images using the USPTO full-page image viewer page.

Simpler links return the Google Patent pages for each patent (if available). With the addition of links to full-patent pdfs, this source became the easiest way to view or download patent images, except for patents issued after October, 2014.

Revisions

(Some older and minor revisions are not indicated here. Ongoing updates of newly issued patents and recently published applications are not specifically noted.)

Released 1-Mar-2001 with table of roller patents, list of patent firsts, and essay on early history

25-Apr-2001
completion of additional pages including most ride patents through 2000

2-May-2001
added a few more design patents; added a couple of non-patent roller coaster pages

15-May-2001
added a page devoted to the old Wild Mouse rides in North America

13-August-2001
added page for Klaus Roto-, Strato-, and Satellite Jets; added kiddie coaster page

17-September-2001
added roller coaster topology page

27-Nov-2001
added page for rides of c1960

6-Dec-2001
added wooden track page

3-Jan-2002
updated patents and applications to end of 2001

29-May-2002
completed substantial revision of wild mouse page; added long-overdue acknowledgments page

19-July-2002
added brief page with recent non-U. S. roller coaster patents

23-Feb-2004
minor updates to non-patent pages; improvements to histories of Scramblers, Skywheels, Paratroopers, Wild Mouse rides, and Roto-Jets

2-March-2004
addition of about 90 previously overlooked patents; addition of about 50 patents for previously excluded park-scale passenger-propelled rides

3-March-2004
added patent number locator page

14-April-2004
added Terraserver park locator page

20-June-2006
fixed patent urls so they would work properly with recently changed USPTO site

3-Jan-2007
added mention of Google Patents

18-Jan-2007
added about 50 additional previously missed patents; removed a dozen inadvertent duplicates

29-Jan-2007
added page with newspaper accounts of early roller coasters

6-Feb-2007
added another 50 previously missed patents

18-Feb-2007
minor html format changes to most pages; improved within-page navigation

9-April-2007
added page with the Rocky Mountain News editorial campaign against Denver's 1885 roller coaster

31-May-2007
added links to Google Patents to the main patent tables

23-July-2007
added scaled plans of wild mouse rides to wild mouse page

9-Nov-2007
added page with early accounts of the invention of the roller coaster

13-March-2008
added pages with accounts of early European gravity rides and early centrifugal railways

1-May-2008
altered interface to Google--ongoing corrections are a continuing necessity

12-Dec-2008
fixed broken links to non-U. S. patents

16-Dec-2008
added page for early coasters shown on large-scale maps

2-July-2009
removed entries for patent applications corresponding to issued patents, and relocated their links to the issued patent tables

14-Aug-2009
reformatting for html4 and css

12-Sep-2012
addition of about 40 patents for wave pools and other wave generators

July-2013 to June-2015
offline
zipline patents moved to separate section, and more patents added

2-July-2015
addition of separate page on Rotors

Acknowledgments

Numerous people have provided information that was useful for assembling this site. I have tried to list them on the Acknowledgments page. Special thanks to Jeff Stanton for finding patents I have overlooked.

Disclaimer

This entire site should be considered a work in progress. My sources are not always accurate or complete. My interpretations and extrapolations may be invalid. I regard my conclusions in many cases as provisional. Errors are subject to correction without notice.

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