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Built in 1902, Leap The Dips is the world’s oldest operating roller coaster

David Goran

Lakemont Park, located in Altoona, Pennsylvania, houses the world’s oldest surviving roller coaster. Leap-The-Dips North America’s last surviving side friction roller coaster, built in 1902 by the E. Joy Morris Company of Philadelphia. Leap-the-Dips operated until 1985 when it closed due to disrepair. A fund-raising campaign led to a restoration starting in 1997 and a reopening on Memorial Day 1999.

The entrance. source

The entrance. source

 

The roller coaster operated until 1985, when it closed due to disrepair. source

The roller coaster operated until 1985 when it closed due to disrepair. source

The park opened in 1894 as a trolley park and became an amusement park in the summer of 1899. It is the 8th oldest in the United States. The park was owned by the Boyer Candy Company from May 23, 1986 until July 1, 1988, when it was called Boyertown USA.

The World's Oldest Wooden Roller Coaster, Leap-The-Dips, at Lakemont Park. source

The World’s Oldest Wooden Roller Coaster, Leap-The-Dips, at Lakemont Park. source

 

The coaster was the latest in roller coaster technology at the time of construction. It was 41 feet tall and contained 1,170 feet of wooden track. source

The coaster was the latest in roller coaster technology at the time of construction. source

 

Leap-The-DipsTracks. source

Leap-The-Dips Tracks. source

Leap-The-Dips features a simple design consisting of ten-foot drops followed by a turnaround. Although the ride is quite tame by today’s standards, being only 41 ft (12.5 m) in height and having an average speed of 10 mph (16 km/h), many people still ride it.

The entire ride only lasted one minute, but people enjoyed it none-the-less. Jeremy Thompson/Flickr

The entire ride only lasted one minute, but people enjoyed it none-the-less. Jeremy Thompson/Flickr

Side-friction wooden roller coasters are held on the track by the friction that the wheels generate. In fact, some riders have reported that the wheels of the cars in the rear have even left the track during some of the dips.

Car Storage. source

Car Storage. The cars don’t have under wheels securing them to the tracks, allowing for a quieter and smoother ride than most modern-day roller coasters. source

 

There were seven cars, each with four seats and no safety restraints, which traveled at a top speed of 10 miles per hour through an interlocking figure eight track. source1 source2

There were seven cars, each with four seats and no safety restraints, which traveled at a top speed of 10 miles per hour through an interlocking figure eight track. source1 source2

 

The wooden supports for the sides of the track often need replacing, and often the cars will stall before completing the ride. source

The wooden supports for the sides of the track often need replacing, and often the cars will stall before completing the ride. Martin Lewison/Flickr

At one time there was a “twin” coaster called Leap the Dips at Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana. This ride was installed around the great mound in 1908 and visitors said at the top of the ride you could see all the way down to the river.

The roller coaster, along with the entire park, suffered some hardships over the years. The Great Depression struck the nation and because very few people had any money for frivolous things like amusement parks, attendance dropped. The next disasters to strike the park were a flood on St. Patrick’s Day in 1936 and following that, an ice storm in 1950. Luckily, neither of these did significant damage to the roller coaster. The park made it through these rough patches, remaining open and eventually thriving again.

This coaster stood without operating for 13 years. source

This coaster stood without operating for 13 years. Inferno Insane/Flickr

The Leap-The-Dips is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1996 was designated a National Historic Landmark. It is also an American Coaster Enthusiasts Coaster Classic and Coaster Landmark.

Leap the Dips, side friction roller coaster, oldest roller coaster in operation, registered as a National Historic Site. Lakemont Park, Pennsylvania, USA. source

Leap the Dips, side friction roller coaster, oldest roller coaster in operation, registered as a National Historic Site. Lakemont Park, Pennsylvania, USA. source 

Leap the Dips is now one of only a few remaining side-friction wooden roller coasters in existence today. People from all over the United States and the world still come to visit this historic landmark.