People have been seeking out thrilling rides for hundreds of years. In the 1600s, people in Russia built ice-covered ramps up to 21 meters (69 feet) tall. They pushed sleds to the top. Then the force of Earth’s gravity sped them down the hill.
Over time, engineers replaced the sleds with wheeled carts. A second set of wheels attached from below kept the cars from veering off the tracks.
In 1884, one of the first roller coasters, called the Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway, opened in New York City. Passengers coasted along a hilly wooden track. The ride was a hit, even though it reached just 10 kilometers (6 miles) per hour—about as fast as a jogging pace. Engineers have been making coasters faster, taller, and more exciting ever since.