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Loop the Loop: 1903

Circa 1903. "Loop the Loop at Coney Island, New York." Watch out for pickpockets. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.

Circa 1903. "Loop the Loop at Coney Island, New York." Watch out for pickpockets. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.


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Beware of Pickpockets

How come modern amusement parks don't have such helpful signs? Maybe it's because our pockets have already been cleaned out getting into the park.

Loop the Loop

According to Ultimate Roller Coaster's article on Early Coney Island coasters:

Edwin Prescott's Loop-the-Loop was built at West 10th Avenue, Coney Island in 1901. The ride showcased engineering that greatly improved on the Flip Flap. The track was made of steel, the loop was larger, but most importantly it was an ellipse which pulled relatively few g's and provided a safe ride. Sadly, the public was more inclined to watch than ride. The Loop-the-Loop limped along until World War One, making money by charging people admission to the viewing area. Many more paid to watch than to ride and the coaster faded into bankruptcy

Circular Loops of Doom

Notice that the loops here are circular. If you look at modern roller coaster loops they are more oval, almost a teardrop shape, known as a clothoid loop.

The G forces on riders in these circular loops is very intense, much more so than some of the most intense coasters out there today. My guess is, like many intense coasters of the time, that this one probably had a nurse on staff. Nosebleeds were probably common on this ride as well as graying out or blacking out.

What could be safer?

I'd have no problem riding that, since I'm sure they adhered strictly to the no-doubt comprehensive roller-coaster-construction rules of the time. And since it's so unlikely anyone got paid to look the other way when it was inspected -- for surely it was inspected! -- what could be the danger?

Hot Wheels - Lifesized

This ferocious loop-the-loop was a large part of the magic of Hot Wheels that our sons experienced in the 60s and 70s. They happily spent hours clamping their track to anything sturdy in the house and ran their cars from room to room, finishing with a huge jump out the window into the flowerbed.

While it was great fun helping them set up and listening to their verbal descriptions of the driver's derring do, we were all too chicken to ever try a real rollercoaster loop.

Go Whitefish

Congratulations kid, you just passed Physics.

New York Times, 28 July 1901

Sorry about the neck and all, but you're in the minority, bub.

Temporary Injunction Against Police Interference Secured
Ex-District Attorney Foster L. Backus yesterday obtained from Justice Hooker, in the Supreme Court, Brooklyn, an order directing Police Commissioner Murphy to show cause to-morrow why the police should not be permanently restrained from interfering with the operation of the amusement enterprise known as the "Loop the Loop," at Coney Island, which was stopped a few days ago by Deputy Commissioner York, on the ground that it was dangerous. ...
A mass of affidavits was presented to the court to show that many thousands of persons had taken the trip on the Loop the Loop without any having received personal injuries.

New York Times, 28 July 1901

It's a Mess

I prefer the warning sign to the left. From the look of the begloved woman in the high hat, the sign likely reads:

"Beware: high likelihood of fouling yourselves"

Oh! How brave of them!

I guess early rollercoasters didn't have safety bars. Those passengers look to be just bracing themselves going upside down!

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