This my favorite time of year, the silly season, when the parks open and new bragging rights are claimed. By bragging rights I mean new world records, and this has been going on now for nearly a century. Back in the 1920s, before speed-measuring radar guns, park operators claimed their new roller coaster went 100 mph (161 kph). These were 90 or 100 foot (27 to 30 m) tall coasters. Just so you understand, a body in a vacuum with no friction would have to fall more than 336 feet (102 m) to reach a velocity of 100 mph. These old coasters went fast, and if the park claimed the speed was 100 mph it must be so.
Bragging rights took on new importance in 1952 with the release of the wide screen motion picture, This Is Cinerama. One scene in the film, pictured here, was taken with a camera mounted on a small coaster (70 feet or 21 m tall) at Rockaway Playland in Rockaway Beach, New York, called the Atom Smasher. With the wide screen projection the audience felt as if they were actually on the ride. The park quickly capitalized on the notoriety by renaming and promoting their coaster as the Cinerama Coaster. Other parks took notice and began to imagine how they might differentiate their coaster from others.
Today, with more than 50 different style and variations of roller coasters it is possible to set world records for that particular version of ride. The simplest claims are the most general, like being the tallest or fastest coaster, but those are only two of many. So operators become more specific, as the tallest or fastest wood, steel, looping, inverted, spinning, racing, and so on. As mentioned, there are more than 50 sub-categories, so it seems everyone can create a bragging right for a new coaster that will last at least one season. Then that claim lives on, even if it is eventually surpassed.
This year Silver Dollar City claimed six new bragging rights for Time Traveler, their new spinning coaster from Mack Rides. For spinning coasters, it’s the tallest, fastest, steepest, most inversions, most vertical loops, and most launches.
Two new first-ever monorail coasters appear this year, Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and RailBlazer at California’s Great Adventure. From RMC, these are deserving of instant bragging rights for their single rail-ness.
Not to be outdone, Cedar Point deserves the bragging rights for being the most inventive park when it comes to creating bragging rights. (Get that?) Upon opening Steel Vengeance, their massive hybrid coaster from RMC, they claimed 15 new coaster and park world records! My favorite? Most roller coaster track at one amusement park. They boast having 60,423 feet or 11.4 miles (18,417 m or 18.4 km) of track.
Silly season indeed. Records are made to be broken, and we’re here to chronicle them. And to experience them. That’s the best part.