February 19th, 2010

1939 World's Fair

25% electricity to 75% gravity, and gravity's free

This here is a Modern Mechanix article from 1931 about the Thrill Makers of Coney Island. You get a crash course on amusement safety and learn some fundamental roller coaster design while you're at it. While some of the specifics are rare nowadays (newer roller coasters feature fin-and-caliper brakes instead of the older friction skids) the fundamentals stay the same. Upstop wheels are still what keep your train from flying off the track (thanks, John Miller!) and coasters still rely on diminishing returns to help slow themselves down. (Well of course they would; you really can't argue with the laws of thermodynamics.)

The article also gets points for a monstrous description of a Ferris Wheel (something tells me the author hated 'em), for the observation that in modern, jaded 1931 the merry-go-round was seen as boring and trite, and for offhandedly pointing out that midway games of chance are really games of averages.