pole plate

Roller coaster elements

Roller coasters are composed of various elements, the individual parts of the design and operation, such as a track, hill, loop, turn, etc. Variations in normal track movement that add thrill or excitement to the ride are often called "thrill elements."

Basic elements

Brake run

A brake run on a roller coaster is any section of track meant to slow or stop a roller coaster train. Brake runs may be located anywhere along the circuit of a coaster and may be designed to bring the train to a complete halt or to simply adjust the train's speed. Contrary to some belief, the vast majority of roller coasters do not have any form of braking on the train itself, but rather forms of braking that exist on track sections. One notable exception is the scenic railway roller coaster, which relies on an operator to manually control the speed of the train.

On most roller coasters, the brakes are controlled by a computer system, but some older wooden roller coasters have manually operated brakes. These are controlled by large levers operated by the ride operators.

Buzz bars

Single-position lap bars on wooden roller coasters are commonly referred to as "buzz bars," a slang term named for the buzzing sound the bars make as they release. Generally only older wooden coasters and junior wooden coaster trains still use these bars. Most parks have switched to individual ratcheting lap bars, similar to the lap bars found on steel coasters. Many enthusiasts agree that single-position buzz bars give better Air time on roller coasters, as ratcheting lap bars tend to lock further during the ride in many installations.

The traditional "pirate ship" style thrill ride often utilizes this type of restraint, as does the Troika.

Drive tire

A drive tire, or squeeze tire (depending on its usage), is essentially a motorized tire used to propel a roller coaster train along a piece of track. Although they are most often used in station areas and brake runs, they can also be used to launch trains at greater speeds. But generally they are used to propel the train at speeds between 5-8 mph. The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure is notable for using drive tires to launch the train up an incline. Some roller coasters, most noticably Vekoma Roller Skaters (Vekoma's version of a junior coaster) also use drive tires instead of a chain or LIMs on lift hills.

Drive tires are also used to power other types of amusement rides, such as ferris wheels and other spinning rides.

Drive tires are often used in one of two ways on roller coasters. When oriented horizontally, drive tires are often put in pairs so as to "squeeze" a portion of the train as it crosses that section of track. In this case, it is usually the brake fin that is used to propel or slow the train with the tires. When oriented vertically, they contact the underside of the train as it crosses a particular section of track. This underside area is a flat area which often has a grated metal surface to increase friction between the car and the tire. One disadvantage of vertical drive tires is that rainy weather can greatly reduce friction between the tire and the train, possibly causing the train to slightly overshoot its intended position and cause an emergency stop.


A headchopper is any point on a roller coaster where the support structure of the ride comes very close to the passengers' heads, or at least appears to. All headchoppers are, of course, designed so that even the tallest rider with their hands up would be unable to touch the structure; although if a rider exceeding the maximum height does board the coaster it could be potentially dangerous. Headchoppers are most common on wooden roller coasters, but are also found on many steel roller coasters.

The inverted roller equivalent is a footchopper. Footchoppers are designed such that rider's legs appear to come close to the ride's support structure, water, or other ride surroundings. Suspended Looping Coasters are known for their footchopper effects due to their compact layout.

Launch track

The launch track is the section of a launched roller coaster in which the train is accelerated to its full speed in a matter of seconds. A launch track is always straight and is usually banked upwards slightly, so that a train would roll backwards to the station in the event of a loss of power.

A launch track serves the same basic purpose as a lift hill—providing power to the train—but accomplishes it in an entirely different manner. A lift hill gives the train potential energy by raising it to the highest point in the track (and not significantly accelerating it). A launch track gives the train kinetic energy by accelerating it to the maximum designed speed (while not significantly raising it).

A launch track normally includes some form of brakes. Depending on the type of coaster, these brakes may be used in every run of the coaster (this is normally found on a Shuttle roller coaster where the launch track also serves as the main brake run) or they may only come into play when a rollback occurs, normally on a complete-circuit coaster such as Stealth, Top Thrill Dragster, Kingda Ka and Xcelerator. In either case, the brakes are retracted to allow trains to launch, and are engaged at all other times.

Lift hill

A lift hill, or chain hill, is often the initial upward section of track on a typical roller coaster that initially transports the roller coaster train to an elevated point. Upon reaching the top, the train is then disengaged from the lift hill and allowed to coast through the rest of the roller coaster's circuit.

Lift hills usually propel the train to the top of the ride via one of a few different types of methods: a chain lift involving a long, continuous chain which trains hook on to and are carried to the top; a drive tire system in which multiple motorized tires push the train upwards, a cable lift system as seen on Millennium Force or a LIM system as seen on Maverick . .

Launch lift hills are like launch tracks, but instead of having it flat, it is rather at an incline. Sometimes, launch lift hills serve the same purpose as lift hills, but faster transportation of the ride vehicle to the top of the lift hill, but sometimes also to power the train up into an element, like the Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Orlando. Launch lift hills use mostly LSMs or LIMs, but sometimes drive tires.

Linear induction motor

The linear induction motor is a very simple but powerful type of electric motor used to propel the cars. Rather than using a standard enclosed spinning rotor and drive wheels, there is a long flat magnetic pole plate with closely-spaced electric coils. This pole plate mounts on the track underneath the car, and a matching metal plate attached to the car moves across the magnetic pole faces. By applying a multiphase alternating current to the poles, the pole plate induces eddy currents into the moving plate, and can be used to accelerate or brake the car.

Compared to other drive mechanisms, the linear motor is typically maintenance-free. The pole faces on the track and moving plate attached to the car do not need to touch, and the gap between them can be quite wide to accommodate any side-to-side car motion, so there is no friction or wear between them. Further, the magnetic coil assembly on the driving pole plates are either potted or sealed in a weathertight enclosure, so that rain, vibration, and dust does not affect motor performance or cause drive motor slippage.

On-ride camera

An on-ride camera is a camera mounted alongside the track of a roller coaster (or a similar ride) that automatically photographs all of the riders on passing trains. They are usually mounted at the most intense part of the ride, resulting in the funniest possible pictures. The pictures are available for viewing and purchase at a booth outside the ride's exit.


A roller coaster train describes the vehicle(s) which transports passengers around a roller coaster's circuit. More specifically, a roller coaster train is made up of two or more "cars" which are connected by some sort of specialized joint. It is called a "train" because the cars follow one another around the track -- the same reason as for a railroad train. Individual cars often vary in design and can carry anywhere from one to eight or more passengers each.

Some roller coasters, notably Wild Mouse roller coasters operate with individual cars instead of trains.

Thrill elements


A batwing is a heart-shaped roller coaster inversion that consists of two loops that turn riders upside down twice. The train goes into a mini-reverse sidewinder, followed by a mini-sidewinder. This inversion is the inverse of a cobra roll.

Like other inversions, the batwing has different names depending on the manufacturer. This element is called a batwing on Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) coasters, such as Afterburn at Carowinds or Montu at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida. On Arrow Dynamics coasters, such as Great American Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure, it is called a boomerang.

The first roller coaster to use the batwing element was Orient Express at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, where it was called a "Kamikaze Curve." The ride was demolished after the 2003 season.

Butterfly inversion

A butterfly inversion is sometimes found on Vekoma roller coasters. A butterfly begins like a normal loop, but as the track goes up, it twists 45 degrees to one side or the other, and then when it is headed down, the track twists back. The maneuver is then repeated, but in reverse. An example of this is found on Goudurix in Parc Asterix in Plailly, France.

Cobra roll

The cobra roll is a roller coaster inversion which resembles a cobra's head. Riders traverse forward through an upwards half-vertical loop, corkscrew perpendicular to the first direction, enter another corkscrew that merges into a downward half-vertical loop that exits in the parallel but opposite direction of the entrance. It takes riders upside-down twice.

There is much confusion pertaining to the correct naming of this inversion. This is because different roller coaster manufacturers give their own names to inversions. Cobra Roll is the standard name used by Intamin and B&M for this type of inversion. On Vekoma coasters, it should be referred to as a boomerang. On Arrow coasters, it is called a Batwing.

The first coaster to use a cobra roll was Vekoma's Boomerang model, the first of which was built in Mexico in the early 1980s.

All Vekoma Boomerangs, Drachen Fire, the Tornado at Särkänniemi Park in Tampere, Finland, and almost all B&M 7-inversion coasters have a cobra roll.


The corkscrew (B&M: flat spin/ wing over) is a roller coaster inversion which most often resembles a loop that has been 'widened' in terms of the element's entrance and exit points being a distance away from each other. The main difference is that riders are inverted at a point angled 90° horizontally from the incoming track, whereas in a loop, the inversion comes parallel to the track, but traveling in the opposite direction.

It was named due to its resemblance to the corkscrew tool used to remove corks from bottles. Riders enter the corkscrew element and are transported significantly to the left or right while being flipped upside down 360 degrees.

Due to them being much smaller than many elements, corkscrews are normally found towards the end of layouts, and often exist in pairs. This may take the form of a double corkscrew, where the end of one leads straight into the next. It is also common to see interlocking corkscrews, where the entrances and exits are parallel, but both corkscrews cross over the other corkscrew's track.

Corkscrew is also the name of several roller coasters, including a three-loop coaster at Valleyfair in Shakopee, Minnesota, a three loop roller coaster at Cedar point in Sandusky, Ohio as well as a two-loop coaster at Genting Highlands theme park, Malaysia, and a double-corkscrew coaster at Alton Towers, United Kingdom.

The first roller coaster with a corkscrew element was the Arrow Dynamics designed Corkscrew, opened in 1975 at Knott's Berry Farm. In 1989, the ride was relocated to Silverwood where it continues to operate today.

An interesting note is that B&M design their corkscrews so that the train "snaps" through the top of the inversion, whereas Arrow Dynamics and Vekoma design their corkscrews with constant curvature.

See also Screw axis.


A cutback is a roller coaster inversion similar to a corkscrew, except that the two half-corkscrews are in opposite directions so that the train exits the inversion in the same direction from which it entered. The defunct Drachen Fire at Busch Gardens Europe, Williamsburg, VA was the only roller coaster to have a cutback inversion. Roller coaster designs today tend to incorporate overbanked turns, which are a much more fluid way of performing an exciting turn than cutbacks. Drachen Fire was closed on July 11, 1998, and subsequently demolished.

Diving loop

A diving loop (also, dive loop) is a type of B&M roller coaster inversion whose inspiration was taken from a stunt plane maneuver. In this inversion, the track twists upwards and to the side, and then dives toward the ground in a half-vertical loop. This element is seen on B&M sit-down, stand-up and floorless coasters. Arrow and Vekoma use a similar element known as a Reverse Sidewinder. Just as a Dive Loop is the reverse form of an Immelmann loop, the Reverse Sidewinder is the reverse form of a Sidewinder element (Arrow and Vekoma's version of an Immelmann). It can be seen Arrow's Cyclone at Dreamworld in Australia (Formerly Big Dipper at Luna Park) and Vekoma's Ninja at Six Flags over Georgia near Atlanta (Formerly Kamikaze at Dinosaur Beach).

Inclined Diving Loop

An inclined diving loop is similar to a dive loop although it is exited at an angle instead of vertically. It is essentialy a dive loop that has been tilted. The only example is on Hydra at Dorney park.

Hammerhead Turn

A hammerhead turn is a maneuver similar to an overbanked turn except the formation of the turn is modelled to look loosely like a hammerhead shark's head. The train enters the element with a steep slope up, a slight curve to the right, and then a turnaround to the left and finally another turn to the right on the downward part of the element. Hammerhead turns are found on some Bolliger and Mabillard hypercoasters. Examples of these coasters are Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure, Behemoth at Canada's Wonderland, and the upcoming Diamondback at Kings Island.

Heartline roll

A heartline roll is a roller coaster inversion in which the rider performs a 360-degree roll. Heartline rolls are commonly confused with inline twists.

In a heartline roll, the center of the train rotates on one axis. The track itself changes in elevation so as to keep the train moving in the same line in which it started the element. In an inline twist, the track with the 360-degree twist remains straight. As such, the train moves downward and then back up during the twist. In some cases, such as Vekoma's Flying Dutchman coaster, the degree to which the train deviates from the line in which it enters the twist is so great, the element is indistinguishable from a corkscrew.

There is also some confusion over the difference between a heartline roll and a zero-g roll. A zero-g roll is basically a standard hill with a 360 degree twist at the top. The trains ascend, twist, and then descend again (providing a brief moment of airtime). In a heartline roll, once again, the trains do not leave the line from which they entered the inversion.

Immelmann loop

An Immelmann loop (colloquially, "Immelmann") is a popular inversion found on many roller coasters. In an Immelmann, riders enter a half loop and then go through a half twist and curve out in the opposite direction in which they came. The inversion is very similar to the sidewinder. A sidewinder consists of a half loop and a half corkscrew, and comes out closer to 90°, while the Immelman comes out in more of a straight line back to where it started. An Immelmann traveled in reverse is a diving loop. It is most commonly found on B&M roller coasters.

The name "Immelmann" comes from Max Immelmann, a German pilot, who created the similar aircraft maneuver in World War I (see Immelmann turn).

Inline twist

An inline twist is a roller coaster inversion in which the rider performs a 360-degree roll. The inline twist is often found on flying coasters, such as Air, Batwing, Superman: Ultimate Flight, and Firehawk (formerly X-Flight at Geauga Lake) at Kings Island. It can also be confused with a heartline roll. In a heartline roll the center of the train rotates on one axis so the height of the average rider's heart never changes, whereas during an inline twist the train rotates around the track and there is usually little to no elevation difference in the track. Inline twists are sometimes also known as "barrel rolls".

Interlocking corkscrews

Interlocking corkscrews are a type of roller coaster inversion found on B&M coasters. In this inversion, two separate corkscrews spin around each other; one turns riders upside down over the other. Despite being close to each other, the two corkscrews are not necessarily taken consecutively.

Examples of coasters with interlocking corkscrews:

Interlocking loops

Interlocking loops are an element which consists of two vertical loops. This element has been used on only two complete-circuit roller coasters. The first was Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Europe, and the second was Orient Express at Worlds of Fun. A pair of shuttle coasters, Lightnin' Loops at Six Flags Great Adventure, also had interlocking loops. With the closing of Orient Express and Lightnin' Loops, Loch Ness Monster is the only coaster in the world to have this element.

Norwegian loop

A Norwegian loop is an element made out of two elements: a Dive Loop, then an Immelmann; forming an inversion that looks like two side by side loops. This element is similar to the flying coasters pretzel loop, except that the train goes through a twist when entering and exiting the loop. It may also been seen as a normal loop entered from the top. It was first introduced on Speed Monster in TusenFryd, Norway.

Overbanked turn

An overbanked turn is an element common on large steel roller coasters, particularly those built by Intamin AG of Switzerland. This element is a turn or curve in which the track tilts beyond 90 degrees, usually in the 100-120 degree range. Two examples of an overbanked turn in the United States are the first turn-around on Superman: Ride of Steel at Six Flags New England, and Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, which features three separate overbanked turns.

Pretzel loop

The pretzel loop is a large inversion found on B&M flying coasters. It consists of a downward half loop and upward half loop. Since they overlap at the top, the entrance and exit points create the look of a pretzel, hence the name; however, the pretzel shape is only visible from one particular viewpoint.

There are only seven roller coasters that include the pretzel loop: the trio of Superman: Ultimate Flight roller coasters (all 3 of which have the same layout) at Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Over Georgia, and Six Flags Great America; Crystal Wings at Happy Valley (which is also a clone of Superman);, "Viper", Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain. While going through a pretzel loop, the rider is upside down at the beginning and on their back and going backwards at the bottom. The rider then regains normal flying position at the exit of the loop.

Raven turn

A raven turn is a ½ inversion on a roller coaster which looks like half a loop followed by a drop and then levels out near the same height as it began. The raven turn is only usable on either flying roller coasters or 4D roller coasters at the moment and has, so far, only been used on two 4D coasters.

The general term "Raven Turn" refers to any inversion that follows the design described above however there are two types of raven turn. Assuming the train is going round the half-loop first, an "Inside Raven Turn" is where the rails are below the train at the start whereas an "Outside Raven Turn" is one such that the rails are above the train at the start of the element.

Roll out

A roll out is similar to a sidewinder. However, while a sidewinder consists of a half loop followed by a half corkscrew, a roll out consists of a launch into an extended vertical section proceeding into a quarter loop and a loose half-corkscrew. As of 2008, the roll out element is unique to Volcano, The Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion, where it takes the ride to its highest point (155 feet) and is known as the inversion where riders are blasted out of the former Lost World mountain.

Sea serpent roll

A Sea Serpent Roll (Vekoma: Roll Over), is a roller coaster inversion related to the cobra roll, except the two halves face in opposite directions. It can also be viewed as a Reverse Sidewinder followed by a Sidewinder. The trains exit the track element in the same direction as they entered, unlike a Cobra Roll in which the trains get turned around 180°.

The sea serpent roll is not as common as many other inversions, like the vertical loop, corkscrew, or cobra roll. It is a common element on most Suspended Looping Coasters. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's Medusa was the first roller coaster with a sea serpent.

Top hat

A top hat is an element common to launched coasters. A standard top hat consists of what is essentially a hill with a 90 degree ascent and descent, the train exits going in same the direction from which it entered. The track twists and the train does not go upside down.

In a top hat inversion, also called an inside top hat, when the train approaches the top of the "hat", it makes a 90 degree twist so that it is on the inside of the element (hence the name), and once it reaches top hat's apex the train is upside down under the track.

Twisted horseshoe roll

A twisted horseshoe roll is a roller coaster element in which there are two inversions (much like a cobra roll or batwing). It begins with a clockwise corkscrew, a 180 degree banked turn, and ends a second corkscrew, this one going counter-clockwise.

Despite having a similar name, this element bears no real resemblance to the roller coaster element known as a horseshoe.

The only roller coaster in existence with such an inversion is Maverick at Cedar Point, which opened in 2007.

Wraparound corkscrew

The wraparound corkscrew is a roller coaster inversion by Arrow Dynamics. It begins as a corkscrew, then transforms into a 180-degree downwards curve. The defunct Drachen Fire at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was the only coaster to ever have a wraparound corkscrew; this element was incorporated into the coaster’s first drop. Drachen Fire has since been demolished.

Vertical loop

The generic roller coaster vertical loop is the most basic of roller coaster inversions. Specifically, the loop refers to a continuously upward-sloping section of track that eventually results in a complete 360 degree circle. At the top-most piece of the loop, riders are completely inverted.

Inclined vertical loop

An inclined loop is a 360° loop that has been tilted. It is not entered vertically, like a vertical loop, or horizontally like a helix. Instead, it is usually entered at an angle between 45° and 80°. In other words, it is a normal loop except for the fact that it is leaning to one side. The inclined loop can be found on B&M stand-up roller coasters, and Top Fun sit down roller coasters.

Examples of roller Coasters with inclined loops

Zero-G roll

A zero-g roll is a roller coaster inversion found on B&M, sit-down, and floorless. On inverted coasters, this inversion is alternately called a "heartline spin" because its center of gravity is placed on the center of the rider's heart. On sit-down and floorless coasters, it is alternately called a Spiraling Camelback. The name for the roll comes from that fact that the rider feels a zero g-force, giving the feeling of weightlessness.

Essentially, a zero G roll is a hill with a 360 degree twist in the middle.

There is confusion over the difference between a zero-g roll and a heartline roll. In a heartline roll, there is no change in elevation as contrasted to the zero-g roll, which is often called a camelback because the track goes upwards, twists, and comes back down.

Visual Elements


A Splashdown is a visual effect used in Griffon and SheiKra and will also be used in a future coaster Diamondback at Kings Island in which water scoops on both sides of the train scoop up vast amounts of water and expell the water up into the air behind the train. The act of scooping up the water also slows the ride to a prescribed speed that can be adjusted due to the amount of water in the pool.


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