Coaster Enthusuasts of Canada


    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 CEC Midway.


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Y   Z
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 Goliath.

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.

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 "Pipeline".

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 car.

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 area.
    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 the loop.

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 itself.

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 systems.
    "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 Quebec.

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 clockwise.
    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 they sit.

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 century.

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.

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.

Dual Track:
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.

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 forces.

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 shoulder/breastplate restraints.

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 Wonderland.
    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 confusion.

A section of track with a brake run that holds a train outside of a station until the loaded train in the station is dispatched.

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 height.

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".

A magnetic propulsion system used to launch coaster trains.

A magnetic propulsion system used to launch coaster trains.

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 down.

A roller coaster that loops.

Coasters are launched by Linear Induction or Synchronous motors.

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 Wonderland, Ontario.

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 La Ronde.)

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 movement.

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.

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.


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 1950's.
    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 swooping feeling.

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.

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 frightened novice.

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 excessive.
    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 Island, Ohio.

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.

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