Miller in 1910 designed a device that prevented cars from rolling backward down the lift hill in the event the pull chain would break. It attached to the track and clicked onto the rungs of the chain. Known as the safety chain dog, or safety ratchet, it evolved into the device on the underside of cars that makes that distinctive clinkety-clank sound of wooden coasters.
Miller's most important contribution to coaster technology, though, was the underfriction wheel. In 1919, he patented the "Miller Under Friction Wheel," also called the "upstop wheel," which consisted of a wheel that ran under the track to keep the coaster cars from flying off. This allowed the designers to use very steep drops, sharp horizontal and vertical curves and high speeds. These are still found on nearly every roller coaster in operation.
Besides patenting ingenious inventions for coasters--including several types of brakes and car bar locks--Miller built his share of unusual "scream machines." In 1920 Miller went into business with Harry Baker as "Miller & Baker, Inc." and over the next three years, they built popular coasters all over North America. Characteristics of their roller coasters are camelback hills (multiple straight or slightly angled drops that went all the way to the ground) and large, flat turns.
After 1923, Miller continued to design and build coasters for his own company, "The John Miller Company." The Dip-Lo-Docus (c. 1923), billed as "The Jazz Ride," featured revolving three-seater cars, whereas the Flying Turns (1929) consisted of cars with swiveling rubber wheels tearing through a half-cylindrical chute like a toboggan. The legendary Cyclone (1928-1958) at Puritas Springs near Cleveland, Ohio was honored with a place on the Smithsonian Institution's list of Great Lost Roller Coasters. It was hidden so much by foliage that only the boarding platform was visible to riders before they began to race through the ravine. This 1928 ride was considered one of the golden-age classics of the period.
Although many of his most famous coasters were built during the 1920s, Miller never stopped building coasters. He continued to travel to supervise site installations and consult on roller coaster design until his death. He died on June 24, 1941, while working on a coaster project in Houston, Texas.
|Greyhound||Lakewood Fairgrounds, Atlanta, Georgia||1915-1974|
|Coaster||Riverview Park, Des Moines, Iowa||1920-1978|
|Dip-Lo-Docus||Riverview Park, Des Moines, Iowa||ca. 1923-?|
|Cyclone||Puritas Springs, Cleveland, Ohio||1928-1958|
|Greyhound||Celeron Park, Jamestown, NY||1924-1959|
|Flying Turns||Euclid Beach Park, Cleveland, OH||1929-1969 -||Screeching Eagle|| Americana Park/|
LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park,
|Ravine Flyer||Waldameer Park||1922-1938 -||Thunderbolt||Revere Beach||1921-1930|
|Thunderbolt||Coney Island||1925-1982 (torn down 2000)|
|Big Dipper||Blackpool Pleasure Beach||1923|
|Big Dipper||Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom||1926 (Currently SBNO)|
|Coaster Thrill Ride||Western Washington State Fair||1935|
|Roller Coaster||Lagoon Amusement Park||1921|