Why Do We Love Wooden Coasters?

Find me a roller coaster enthusiast who doesn't love wooden roller coasters and I will show you a liar. For all the things we bicker about in this weird and wonderful niche of ours, we can always be sure of the fact that we all ultimately agree that wooden roller coasters rock. Wooden roller coasters are put up on a pedestal by coaster enthusiasts the world over and I'd argue it's one of the few times we do this that actually feels justifiable. Wooden roller coasters DO rock. Even the old crappy ones that give you splinters from riding. Even the painful, skull-bashing ones. Even the DULL ones that's ride more like a monorail than a thrill ride. 

But why? Why are wooden coasters the one coaster type that unites us in a see of pedantic differences and extremely specific tastes? Why do we hold wooden coasters to such high regard and worship at the alter of RMC, GCI and Gravity Group? Let's get into it. 

I think, especially here in the UK, wooden coasters are viewed as 'proper' or 'true' coasters given their heritage and the fact that without the originals our favourite steel coasters today wouldn't exist. There's just something authentic feeling about a wooden coaster that one doesn't get with a steel coaster. A rawness to the experience, to almost feeling every nut, bolt and beam of timber as you roar around the track. There's a grit, akin to making a meal from scratch yourself or driving a dirt road off the beaten path. If you want to feel like you've REALLY ridden a roller coaster, really had your bones rattled and your nerves tested, wooden coasters are where it's at. 

Especially here in the UK in the year of our lord 2021, wooden rollercoasters are something of a rare breed. Despite these being the original coaster type, as years have gone on and technology has developed the construction of new wooden coasters has all but flat-lined whilst steel became the preferred material of choice to create thrills with. At the time of writing this, less than 5% of existing rollercoasters are wooden, which goes to show just how much of an anomaly they are these days. There's something exciting about riding something so rare, it makes it feel all the more special for some reason. Interestingly of my infamous 'Top 136' coasters, 25% are wooden, which to me says a lot about the overall quality of wooden coasters vs. the overall quality of steel coasters. I think that has a lot to do with age - of the really ancient/older wooden coasters only the truly iconic have been worth putting the effort into saving therefore the general mix of quality is elevated.


This point is kind of a continuation of my first point about wooden roller coasters being considered 'true' coasters but I wanted to separate this specific out as I feel it warrants a bit of a stand alone discussion. The snobbery associated with wooden roller coasters is equal parts funny and fascinating to me. In the coaster community there's this toxic idea of 'GP' (enthusiast slang for 'general public' eg not an enthusiast) vs. coaster enthusiasts, and a lot of the hatred towards GP comes from their perceived attitude towards wooden roller coasters. It's generalised that new wooden roller coasters are not built that often because 'GP' don't GET or appreciate what wooden coasters are about, therefore they won't ride them, therefore parks won't build them as they won't attract new customers. Given the success of coasters like Wicker Man at Alton Towers this is a concept I wholeheartedly disagree with, but it exists nonetheless. My point is that there is this weird snobbery around wooden coasters in that you're only a true coaster enthusiast if you love and idolise wooden coasters and actively hold the opinion that all theme parks around the world would be better if they had a wooden coaster. 

The history of the roller coaster is a fascinating one, especially when you consider the TRUE original coasters were pretty much slopes of ice reinforced with wooden supports (BRING BACK ICE COASTERS AMIRITE?!) but it is true that there's an allusion to roller coaster heritage evoked by the existence of the modern wooden roller coaster and the classic wooden roller coaster alike. The modern coaster with its peak in perfecting the design and what we can do with wood nowadays reminds us just how far we've come from the humble Russian Mountain days of the 17th century whereas the remaining classic coasters that have been in operation for only 100 years are living pieces of a history of people having fun. There's something inherently joyful about that. Personally I find walking through places like Tivoli Gardens, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Kennywood an unusual experience because the presence of such living relics forces my mind to picture these same pathways 100 years ago, hoards of people screaming and laughing and enjoying themselves just as I am. I find it humbling and pleasant in a most unique way. 

And I mean awesome in the most literal sense of the word. For me, wooden roller coasters are quite literally awe-inspiring. The way hundreds and thousands of nuts and bolts and beams of timber are bolted together to create these behemothic structures takes my breath away. They are a sight to behold because even the smallest of wooden coasters feel colossal when you stand underneath and take into account each individual piece, how it all laces and weaves together to create a powerful tapestry whose sole purpose is to deliver fun. It's incredible to me the time and effort that goes into conceiving these things, and to them translate this from paper to physicality. And yes of course the same applies to steel coasters as well, but for some reason wooden coaster construction always strikes me a little more as it feels invocative of the past, of an old world way of doing things that feels less modern and detached and therefore feels more human and relatable. 


For me, personally I am a huge fan of wooden coasters. Forever may they unite an otherwise perpetually bickering and divided community with their awesomeness. 

What do you think - do you love wooden coasters? What's your favourite thing about them? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,