Common terminology and definitions as used by coaster enthusiasts
and amusement industry people are the subject of this section of the
CEC website. Terms may vary depending on region, and may also differ
among manufacturers and local enthusiasts; so do not necessarily
take the following meanings to be the definitive, or only, ones.
If you are unfamiliar with a coaster term you run across, look it
up here. Use the Alphabetical Table below or employ your browser's
internal "Search" function to do so; (often invoked by the keys
`Control+F', `Control+S', `Control+W', `F7', `/', etc).
Note that not all terms are necessarily represented here. New terms
are being devised and some old terms are taking on new definitions. These
will be added as they become known.
Links to information on the rides and parks mentioned here may
be found on the CEC Main Page or at the
THE FOLLOWING MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©
- This stands for The American Coaster Enthusiasts.
Officially formed in 1978 and based in Chicago, it had its
first meeting at Busch Gardens - The Old Country (Now
Busch Gardens Williamsburg) in June of '78.
- Instead of using a chain lift to get a coaster up to speed,
compressed air is used to force a piston to move. Attached to
this is a pusher or puller device which accelerates the train.
This device disengages at a set point and the train is free to
roll on its own.
- The sensation of being lifted off your seat when the
coaster descends or ascends a hill where the cars are made to
follow a curvature that is slightly lower than the curvature
they would follow if not held to the tracks. In both cases
the car leaves riders behind in the air while it drops out
from underneath them. An excellent example is La Ronde's
- A device used only if the lift chain should break when
elevating a train to the top of the lift hill. The dogs cause
the familiar clanking, ratcheting sound heard as your train
goes up the hill. The dogs are attached to the bottom of each
coaster car. As the coaster ascends the lift hill, each
dog (which is pivoted) drops into a slot designed to hold the
train from rolling backwards into the station, should the
chain break. Otherwise it slips out as it passes beyond
each slot to be ready to fall into the next slot.
BACKWARD FACING CAR/TRAIN:
- This refers to when one or more cars, or an entire
train is placed to face backwards on the track.
- A section of track (usually a turn) that is elevated
on one side to form an angle from the horizontal. A bank on
a straight-away will cause riders to lean to one side, but
on a curve it will tend to keep riders in their seats instead
of being thrown to the side by the abrupt turn (unless the
bank was to lean toward the outside of the curve).
- A track section in which the train turns sideways
completely around, like rolling sideways down a hill in a
barrel. A true barrelroll is done with a minimum of forward
distance travelled for the turn to be completed. Coasters
like Le Boomerang at La Ronde do a long graceful
barrelroll-like turn over an extended distance, but we
don't consider it to be a true barrelroll (in fact it's
part of the boomerang turn.) Some people would consider a
corkscrew to fit this class of turn, but again we don't.
Examples of real barrelrollers are The "Ultra Twister" at
Astroworld, and Arrow's never commercially produced
- This element differs with different manufacturers. It's
closest to an inside boomerang turn with two inversions
and a resulting direction change.
- A flat seat which spans the width of a coaster train
- From railroading terms. It refers to any section of
track that can be separately controlled by either the
operator or in most modern systems by proximity-switch
relays (usually micro-processor monitored). At the start or
end of each block is a braking section of track. Only one
train is allowed in any block at a given time. Should one
train not have cleared a block before the following one has
entered, one or all trains are slowed or stopped at their
next braking point to prevent collisions.
- A style of coaster where the cars ride on rubber tires
inside of a trough in a manner similer to an ice bobsled.
- (BOH-gee, with a hard `g') The part of a coaster car
that consists of the wheel assemblies and their support
structure. Also refereed to as "trucks".
- Before seeing one, most people think it looks like
an Australian boomerang as seen from above when it's lying
on a flat surface, so that it appears like a more open
horseshoe curve. In fact it is a series of curves in a
vertical mode that allows the coaster to change direction
180 degrees, sometimes very quickly in an unusually small
- There are two types - inside and
outside. The inside boomerang has the entrance and exit
tracks in the middle with the twisting sections towards the
outside; and can be represented by The "Vortex" at King's
Island, Ohio. It works by curving the coaster up vertically
on the incoming track until it is upside down over top of
itself while curving to the outside side. Riders are then
brought down upright up but underneath the incoming track.
The train then continues under the outgoing track, is curved
up until the coaster is once again upside down over top of
itself where it curves to the inside and is brought down
upright up on the outgoing track.
- The outside boomerang has the
entrance and exit tracks outside of the twisting sections.
This is represented by Le Boomerang at La Ronde in
Quebec or by The Bat at Canada's Wonderland, Ontario.
They work by curving the coaster up vertically and over top
of itself until it is upside down, then curving it to the
inside while righting itself, twisting it upside down again
(but rotating in the direction opposite to the previous
inversion), and then taking it down and out the exit
track for a 180-degree change of direction. This is
considered a Cobra Roll by many.
- The shape of these turns as seen
from a certain angle resembles a boomerang in a vertical
position. Also the name can refer to the fact that a properly
thrown boomerang will return to the thrower, and this type of
turn will return the rider to approximately the same point as
where he entered it. Both of these facts are best represented
by the inside boomerang models.
- Horizontally rotating tires between the rails that grip
a fin (or similar) under a coaster car to propel it forward.
They may be found on The "Cyclone", Sandspit, Prince Edward
Island, or on "Skyrider" at Canada's Wonderland in Ontario. In
the first case the wheels are used to propel the car from the
station to the lift hill. The second example uses them to
propel the train from the holding brakes to the station.
- An element similar to an inside boomerang, but the train
exits on the opposite side of entry rather than the same
side -- and in the same direction. This is represented in
Dragon Mountain at MarineLand, Ontario, Canada.
- A length of steel on the bottom of a coaster car. The
track brake pads close on these to slow or stop a train.
- This is a series of brakes strung together along a
section of track. They may be used to retard a train that
is approaching a critical speed or to stop a train on the
holding track outside of the station while waiting for a
loaded train to depart.
- Usually on wooden coasters only. At the end of the ride
a set of brakes between the tracks is used to slow the
coaster before it enters the station. Because moisture makes
it difficult to stop a train with wet brakes, this area
is usually covered (most often by a wooden shed) to keep
the brakes dry during a rainstorm. An example is The "Tree
Topper" at Upper Clements Park.
- See: Gravity Humps.
- This is a vertical loop that twists 45 degrees on
the way up, then straigtens. then twists 45 degrees
the other way while completing the downward side of
- A series of two or more small hills, each often slightly
smaller than the preceding. Also, B&M's reference to an
in-line inversion element which can be found on their
sit-down and stand-up roller coasters.
- A unit or part of a coaster train, it typically carries
between two and four passengers, but there are cars which
carry six, eight and ten. "Oblivian" in England carries 16
passengers in three tiered rows.
- This is used to bring coaster trains up to speed as
opposed to a lift hill. A large weight or flywheel is used
to store up energy which is transferred to the train by
a pusher or puller device. This device disengages after
launch to allow the train to continue on its own.
- Device used to engage a coaster train to pull in up the
lift. Also referred to as a "lift sled". See " Le Boomerang"
at La Ronde.
- Old term for a loop-the-loop coaster. From the fact that
the only way the cars were held in the loop was by
centrifugal (actually, centripetal) force.
- A hook-like device under each car that grabs the drive
chain which brings the train to the top of the lift hill.
- Older name for a lift hill.
- The chain moving in a trough that carries the train to
the crest of the lift hill. Some use it to refer to the lift
hill itself, but that has fallen into disuse.
- The metal trough on top and under the lift hill in
which the drive chain runs. It also returns the chain from
the top of the lift to the pulley at the bottom.
- A safety device which allows more than one train to be
on the same circuit. If there is a problem in one block of
track, the check brake will not allow the following train(s)
to continue into the next block.
- A complete journey on a coaster or the track layout
- This term is used to describe a wooden coaster that is
operated and maintained in a manner generally from 1960
and before. These rides have no head rests, ratcheting lap
bars, or seat dividers, and some still use manual braking
- "Classic Coaster" is also a
designation given by The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE)
to coasters operating as just described.
- One who has never been on a roller coaster.
- A turn similar to a bowtie where the train exits on the
opposite side of the track configuration, rather than exiting
back the way entered, as is done in a Boomerang element. This
element is represented on Le Vampire at La Ronde in
- This element is aptly named, as it follows the same
inside curvature as that of the cork remover seen in many
kitchen drawers. Each travel from upright, through upside
down, to upright again represents one corkscrew turn. Most
coasters have two turns in the same direction, but different
coasters may have theirs clockwise, others counter
- This is also referred to as a
helix turn, but we prefer not to use this term as it is
often confused with a spiral (also referred to as a helix).
Try "Corkscrew" at Playland in Vancouver, and "Dragon Fire"
at Canada's Wonderland.
- Individual queue lines on a loading platform, separated
by railings, that allow riders to select the seat in which
- This element consists of a single inversion starting
as a corkscrew but after the apex of the turn the track cuts
left or right instead of continuing forward. The effect
is an abrupt direction change of about 180 degrees.
- Now seldom used term referring to a smooth down & up
hill section of track. Popular around the turn of the
- Off the lift hill, the train is rotated upside down,
then dives down and back in the opposite direction, often
for the full height of the lift hill.
- An element similar to a stunt plane manoeuvre. Riders
enter a loop in a forward motion, as normal, are inverted,
then turned sideways to come out of the loop with the exit
track usually travelling under the entrance track. The train
is turned approximately 90 degrees from its entry direction.
- Another version has the train going
up a hill where it rolls upside down and the track dives
back in the direction from which it came.
- This is a rubber-tired wheel stood vertically within
the track, usually in tandem groups. They are used to propel
a train from the station to the lift hill, and sometimes even used to lift the train
up that hill on smaller, light-weight coasters. Squeeze
Tires are the same thing but are pairs of wheels in horizontal
orientations that squeeze flanges on the bottom of the cars
to move it along.
- A section of track which drops down, levels out
and drops some more.
DOUBLE OUT & BACK:
- A coaster layout which travels away from the station,
turns around and heads back; then at the station, it heads
out again (usually on a track which is lower to the ground),
turns around and returns. It essentially makes the ride
twice as long in distance. These rides look like squashed
elipses when viewed from above.
- Two tracks on the same structure which can allow the
coasters to race beside one another, or to take different
routes. See Le Monstre at La Ronde.
- Two separate, but intertwined, coaster layouts run
trains which bring the trains close to one another - often
on courses which appear to collide.
- A turn or inversion in a coaster ride. Each is considered
a component or element of the layout. These are combined in
inovative ways to produce various thrills or illusions.
- A type of train lift used on very high rides. It works
as does an elevator and at the top, the train can roll off
the lift platform into the circuit.
- A quick lift out of the seat which throws the
riders against the restraints.
- One which is wholey or partly inside a structure. When
inside, it may be dark, or scenes and lighting tricks may be
used. Try "Thunder Run" at Canada's Wonderland.
EXCLUSIVE RIDE TIME:
- A block of time which is set aside for special groups
such as coaster clubs or celebrities. The public is excluded
from riding during this time.
- A coaster or element which follows the number `8' as
seen lying on its back.
- This turn appears like a hand fan from past times lying
on a flat surface as seen from above. The curvature is very
nearly the shape of a circle. Some of these curves have
cable supports that even resemble the ribs of the old hand
fans. These curves usually turn the train 180 degrees, but
not always. Le Monstre at La Ronde has an example.
- A carnival term. It denotes a portable ride that is able
to be loaded on to a rail flat car or truck flat trailer.
Today, it is used to denote most rides other than a roller
coaster or dark ride.
- An unbanked turn. It typically gives strong lateral
- The sensation of being gently lifted from one's seat
and kept there for a period of time.
- A setup wherby rides enter the train from one side
and exit from the other.
- On some coasters cars there are handles on the back of
the seat in front of you that can be held onto rather than
the lap bar. They are also helpful when entering or exiting
the car. On loopers there are usually grab bars on the
- Old term for a roller coaster.
- Also referred to as camel backs, or bunny hops. These
are a section of short hills and dips that allow the rider
to experience air time. As the car starts up the hill
riders are usually pressed into their seats. Then as the
car crests and goes down the hill it drops out from
underneath them so the riders are separated from their
seats, giving the impression of floating upwards. On well
designed humps the rider may, by pressing his feet lightly
on the floor, stay in the air for the complete section
similar to riding a horse by putting a portion of your
weight in the stirrups. On the best designed humps, the
rider will rise from the seat with no need to press on
the floor and be kept there for the duration of the
hump. Try The "Mighty Canadian Minebuster" at Canada's
- Note that some hills are designed
to give air time on the way up by using inertia and a track
curvature which follows just under the parabolic curve of
the train, were the track not there. Try the third hill on
The "Magnum XL-200", Cedar Point, Ohio, or ride the front
seat of the front car on Le Supermanage at La Ronde.
- This wheel is located sideways under the car to guide
the train around a curve. Before wheels were used, the
running wheels were flanged like a railroad car, or a
smooth piece of steel would rub the sides of the track
laminations or other side plate. This caused the coaster to
slow too much. The change to wheels allowed the higher
speeds of later coasters.
- Some coasters like the "Wild Mouse"
models, use a center guide called a "mushroom wheel" because
of its shape.
- An illusion given riders as a train drops quickly
under a horizontal structural support.
- The train enters a steep climb, twists slightly to one
side then abruptly back the other way while completing its
climb. On the downward side, the train repeats the manoeuvers
but in opposite order. The result is a 180-degree change of
direction. Try Behemoth at Canada's Wonderland.
- This is similar to a corkscrew but with the track
twisting very tightly, as though a big pair of hands had
wrung it out. As in a corkscrew, the train does travel
forward and rolls, but the center of curvature remains
close to the riders' hearts.
- Defined as a spiral or coil by the dictionary, it has
been used to describe both the corkscrew turn and the
spiral turn. We prefer to not use this term because of this
- A section of track with a brake run that holds a train
outside of a station until the loaded train in the station is
- This is a sharp, usually highly banked turn, bringing
the train around close to, or at, 180 degrees in direction
change but much sharper than a fan turn. It looks like a
horseshoe lying flatly, as seen from above. An example of
one is the bottom of the first drop on The "Cyclone" at
Riverside Park, Massachusetts (though some would argue it
as being a sharp fan turn).
- The train enters a vertical loop which half twists then exits
back the way it came.
- One in which the cars are under the track as in a
suspended coaster (see that entry), but are rigidly
attached to the trucks. Riders are seated 2 or 4 abreast
with their legs and feet dangling similar to a ski-lift.
These are sometimes referred to as "stunt coasters". Since
the cars are not free to swing out in turns, they are
capable of intricate manoeuvres. (See "Suspended Coaster.")
- A partial-inversion loop, it leans to one side.
- Similar to a Heartline Roll, this element spins riders
completely around sideways on a level track section.
- Any coaster element which turns a rider upside down.
- A smaller coaster which allows both children and adults
to ride. Typically, these rides are under 10 metres in
- A small coaster which only allows children to ride.
Typically, these rides are under 5 metres in height.
- The bar that pivots toward you in your seat. It
gives you something to hold onto as well as protecting you
from getting too far out of your seat during air time.
Sometimes used in conjunction with a seat belt. On modern
coasters it is remotely released in the station by an under
track device implemented by the ride operator. Also many
cars have a foot lever so that an attendant may release
just that one cars's lap bars.
- Forces which are directed to the side.
- Also called the chain lift, or chain incline. This
houses the chain, trough, pulleys, and chain-return trough.
Under or near it is the motor house and electrical room to
run the chain drive that pulls the train up the first hill.
From there only gravity "propels" the coaster.
- See: "Catch Wagon".
LINEAR INDUCTION MOTOR/LIM:
- A magnetic propulsion system used to launch coaster
LINEAR SYNCHRONOUS MOTOR/LSM:
- A magnetic propulsion system used to launch coaster
- The area level with the train. It contains the corral
lines which separate riders in queue and direct them to
each seating position.
- This element takes the coaster up vertically and
completely upside down. It is not in the shape of a circle
as many people think, but more of a partial ellipse called a
clothoid loop. This is to allow the center of gravity of
the train to cross the highest point of the loop and allow
the weight of the front cars to pull the rest of the train
through the loop. A circle curvature could be dangerous as
the train would have to travel further around the circle
before gravity could take over. If there wasn't enough
momentum, the coaster would stand more of a chance not to
make it through the loop. Also, a circle curvature would put
Examples are "Dragon Fire" at Canada's Wonderland and The
"Mindbender" at Galaxyland.
- Note: The term "loop" should not be
used to denote other elements which also turn riders upside
- A roller coaster that loops.
- Coasters are launched by Linear Induction or Synchronous
OUT & BACK:
- A type of coaster track layout that approximates a
squashed ellipse. The train would go "out" to the farthest
point from the station, circle around and come "back" on a
track almost beside the outgoing. It did no fancy turns or
figure 8's. Try The "Mighty Canadian Minebuster" at Canada's
- A sled or arm pulls the train to the top of
the first incline and releases it. La Ronde's
Le Boomerang uses this method.
- A sled or arm pushes the train to the top of
the first incline and releases it. See "Time Warp"
at Canada's Wonderland.
- A switch located near the track that is tripped as the
train passes. Its closure signals the ride operator's
monitor board to show that a train has passed a certain
point. It's called proximity because it is close to the
train but does not have to be touched to be tripped.
- The section of track on which rest the wheels of the
coaster cars. It can be just a flat piece of steel about 10
millimetres thick X 100 millimetres wide as in the case of
the old style wooden coasters. An I-beam type similar to,
but smaller than a conventional railroad rail is used on
some single car coasters. And then there are the tubular
steel rails used by modern loopers.
- Two or three trains travel the route on separate tracks
beside each other to give a racing feeling. Most racers
have identical layouts and run beside each other the entire
time. (The "Gemini", Cedar Point, Ohio.) Others part ways
after racing for part of the layout. (Le Monstre at
- Traditionally made of wood, this type uses the
terrain of the area for some of the coaster's hills and dips.
This adds an extra surprise to those not expecting such drops
as judged by the height of the lift hill. In Canada try The
"Tree Topper" at Upper Clements Park, Nova Scotia which
because of the hills it's built on, has a very short lift
hill for the length of its main drop.
- The section of track located in the station that allows
the operator to release all restraints simultaneously.
- 1/ A pedal located on the side of a car so that an
attendant may release just that car's restraints to allow
passengers in or out, or make adjustments.
- 2/ The operator's master release
remotely operated from the booth, that releases all
restraints simultaneously on any cars in the release
block located in the station.
- Early roller coasters were called this. They ran very
slowly (10 - 15 kmh), and would have painted scenes or
props along the route. A modern version of this is "Space
Mountain" at Disney World, Florida.
- As in an automobile, the seat belt crosses your hips to
hold you in your seat. Most coaster buffs dislike them as
they prevent riders from rising out of their seats when
cresting a hill.
- On modern loopers - a padded, U-shaped bar that pivots
down over the head and rests on your shoulders and breast
plate. It prevents you from excessive upward or sideways
- A type of switchback coaster, often in a straight line
with a catapult instead of a lift hill, and one big loop.
The catapult's power is derived from a tensioned cable and
flywheel or weight. At each end of the run are steep hills,
one of which sends the train back through the loop, while the
one at the other end dissipates the train's energy and returns
it to the station. Try "Montezooma's Revenge" at Knott's
Berry Farm in California, U.S.A.
- Another type is raised above the
ground with flat end tracks and the loop below them. The
coaster is propelled to the edge and gravity takes it down
through the loop and up to the other side.
- A third type, though not necessarily
a shuttle `loop', has the steep ending-hills beside one
another and uses winches or a tire drive to raise the train
to the top of each hill where it is released to run the
circuit. The Moonsault Scramble in Japan and Le
Boomerang at La Ronde represent this type.
SIDE FRICTION WHEEL:
- Old term for a guide wheel.
- Riders enter a vertical loop, twist 90 degrees
and exit to one side.
- These consist of flat steel ribbons which rise to
contact like skids on the bottom of the coaster cars.
- There are several types: electric, booster and pusher.
The electric lift is seen in the Schwartzkopf "Jumbo Jet"
rides; the booster on Galaxyland's "Mindbender", and the
pusher on "Tomb Raider" at Canada's Wonderland. All follow
a spiral path up to the point where the train is released
to start its run.
- A very round turn, usually in the shape of a circle.
There are several types of spiral turns, some layered one
turn on top of another ("Cyclone", Sandspit, Prince Edward
Island), some concentric, where the diameter decreases as
you negotiate the turn ("Skyrider", Canada's Wonderland,
Ontario), and some at an angle to the ground such as The
"Beast", King's Island, Ohio.
- See: DRIVE TIRE
- The covered area housing the on and off loading
ramps/platforms and the individual corral lines for each
seat on the train. Also located here are the operator's
booth and the train attendants. Underneath is usually
located the maintenance shop.
- There are two types - The first is a steel structure
with an I-beam steel track and flanged wheels on the cars,
such as the little portable "Wildcat" used by travelling
carnivals. This type is believed to have first appeared
in the 19-0's or 1910's.
- The second type is the modern steel
supported structure with tubular steel track. This coaster
usually, but not always is of the looping type and has nylon,
polyurethane, or composite wheels. It first appeared in the
- Note: There are also some steel
coasters which have wooden support structures.
- One in which the riders are 2 or 4 abreast and semi-
stand, semi-sit on a little bicycle-type seat with shoulder
and waist restraints. Most are loopers. Examples: Le
Cobra at La Ronde, Quebec. and The Skyrider at
Canada's Wonderland Ontario.
- One in which the cars are underneath the track. Outside
of the station the cars are free to independently swing out
on the curves giving a sensation similar to that of flying
in a small plane. Examples are The "Vortex" at Canada's
Wonderland, Ontario; and The "Ninja", Magic Mountain,
California. See also Inverted Coaster.
- One in which the train travels the length of the track,
stops and travels it again backwards. An example would be
The "Bat" at Canada's Wonderland. (See Shuttle Loop.)
- There was also an older type that
at the end of the line would curve back on itself, go through
a switch, and travel the same track but with the riders
again facing forward on the return trip, or to the opposite
side for side-facing seating.
- A turn which has a smooth dip part way through to give a
- A brake used to slow a train to the designed speed before
a track element.
- The part of a coaster car that consists of the wheel
assemblies and their support structure. Also refereed to as
"bogeys" (BO-gees, with a hard `g').
- This starts with a Corkscrew that goes immediately
into a 180-degree banked turn and directly into a second
Corkscrew that rotates riders in the opposite direction
of the first one.
- Used by carnival people to denote the riding compartment
of flat rides.
UNDER FRICTION WHEEL:
- Old term for an up-stop wheel.
- A wheel situated under the track to prevent the car from
leaving it at the crest of hills, or in looping coasters to
support the car when upside down should centrifugal force
ever fall to 1 gravity or less. Before wheels, an under
friction safety bar was used to grip the under side of the
track at the crest of a hill. It fell into disuse as speeds
increased and too much drag was encountered.
- On a stand-up coaster, it's the equivalent of a lap bar.
- The practice of gripping the lap bar or grab handles
very tightly during the ride. Usually associated with a
- Lovingly referred to as "woodies", they were the first
type built in modern times. This type of coaster consists
of a wooden trestle-like or steel-frame support on which
wooden laminations of 2 X 10's, 2 X 8's, and 2 X 6's were
put. On top of this a flat steel rail about 10 millimetres
thick and 100 millimetres wide was screwed.
- The cars had steel flanged wheels
similar to a railroad car to help negotiate the curves. Some
designs also had a flange underneath as a safety to prevent
the cars from leaving the track. Later, wheels were added to
the side and bottom as speeds, curves, and dips became
- Famous wooden coasters are The
"Flyer" at the Canadian National Exhibition (now gone), The
"Cyclone", Coney Island, New York, and The "Beast" at King's
- This is like a very tight Corkscrew element on a downward
slope where the train simply rolls around a point roughly at
the riders' hearts during a point when the riders are in free
fall. Try Le Vampire at La Ronde.