Roller Coasters: Wood VS Steel
Roller Coasters: Wood VS Steel


There’s a well known rivalry surrounding
roller coasters. It’s not one of height, speed, or length;
but one of material – wood vs steel. As most of you already know, the first roller
coasters were made out of wood, but as technology progressed, rides evolved, and steel roller
coasters became much more prevalent. And today, the majority of coasters are steel! But what are the differences between these
two materials, why has steel gone onto dominate the industry and most importantly, which is
better? To answer these questions we must first travel
back in time and understand why the original roller coasters were made from wood. The simple answer is ease of use – grab a
few skilled tradesmen and a lot of lumber and you could make your very own wooden roller
coaster. This was easy enough to do back in the early
1900s, but manufacturing and bending steel tubes would have been unheard of at the time. The machinery required to create the hollow steel rails of a modern roller coaster just didn’t exist. In fact, it wouldn’t be done to create a
roller coaster until nearly 60 years later. But up until this time, wooden roller coasters
had been mostly the same. Of course they’d gotten taller, faster and
longer – but the main premise of hills, twists and turns remained common from ride to ride. This was the case for steel roller coasters. As more and more were built, their benefits
began to show. Steel rides were built which sent riders through
multiple inversions, launched them along the track, or even placed them under it. Roller coaster design exploded with a huge
number of new and exciting ways to thrill guests which all stemmed from the new material,
steel. But why, what allowed steel rides to do what
was deemed unthinkable with wood. Though wood is easy to use, it isn’t as
strong as steel, and because wooden roller coasters are made entirely from wood, they
require more support. As a result, they often feature a lattice
support style which holds up the track above. Though while early steel roller coasters used
a similar steel lattice support structure, modern day versions feature cylindrical supports
which are placed periodically along the track. This creates a less dense looking ride, which
is often the most striking difference between the two. But this added strength comes at a cost, literally. Steel is more expensive than wood, meaning
a steel roller coaster will usually cost considerably more than a wooden coaster of a similar scale. The choice of material has many more implications
than just aesthetics and cost however. As you might have guessed the stronger nature
of steel allows designers to build their rides taller and faster than what is possible with
wood. Wooden roller coasters require an ever increasing
mesh of support below as their height increases. This structure in itself becomes heavier and
less supportive the taller the ride becomes. As a result, wooden roller coasters simply
can’t be built as tall as their steel counterparts. Further to this, the lattice style supports of a wooden ride make it impossible to create complex layouts. A vertical loop is a relatively easy element
to design on a steel ride, only requiring a few supports. But it’s hard to even imagine the intricate
system required to support a wooden version. This complexity extends beyond just elements. Steel roller coasters can place riders in
a huge number of different positions, including above, below and to the side of the track. On top of this, some steel rides even allow
guests to spin in circles as they navigate the track. These designs just aren’t realistically
possible with wooden roller coasters. But the main point often cited by lovers of
wooden roller coasters as the main difference is the way it feels. There’s just something different about the experience a wooden ride gives, compared to a steel one. Wooden coasters are often touted to provide
a more wild ride, one which is a little bit shaky and more chaotic. Because of this, the trains often feature
couch like seats which are padded, making the experience more comfortable. A steel roller coaster, for comparison, can
be as smooth as glass, giving guests the sensation of floating along the layout. Just compare the smooth sensation of weightless
gained on Europa Park’s Silver Star, to the fast paced nature of their wooden coaster,
Wodan. This distinction boils down to the accuracy
and precision of the track itself. Wooden roller coasters are often cut and assembled
onsite by a host of skilled trades-people. Naturally, this creates a less precise ride. As the train navigates the layout it often
shuffles along between the rails, following the curves of the track. This is what creates that shaky sensation. Steel roller coasters on the other hand are
bent precisely into shape using high-tech machines, before being welded together. The wheels of the train fit relatively tightly
around each rail, allowing for it to accurately follow the gradual and winding layout of the
track. This difference not only affects how smooth
a roller coaster can be, but also how loud it is. The shuffling sensation of a wooden ride sends
heavy vibrations into the track. This, coupled with it’s dense support structure,
causes wooden rides to often be louder than their steel counterparts. To counter this, parks use sound tunnels, or padding between the rails, to isolate some of the noise. While, for steel roller coasters, the track
and supports can be filled with sand, damping the vibrations sent through it by train. The trains themselves can differ between the
wooden and steel rides too. Traditional wooden roller coaster vehicles
often exclusively feature comfortable yet safe lap bar restraints, while steel rides
feature trains with a wide range of restraint types, some better than others. This includes over the shoulder restraints, lap bar restraints, and even over the shoulder lap bar restraints. One thing we are yet to discuss is the longevity
of roller coasters. As you might have guessed, both wooden and steel rides can’t last forever, even with regular maintenance. As steel attractions are stronger and more resilient in nature, they usually require less maintenance. While wooden rides on the other hand are much
cheaper to initially construct, but require a lot more regular maintenance. Often parts of the wooden track and supports
will be replaced on a yearly basis. By continuing to replace small sections of
an old wooden roller coaster year after year it can be kept in good condition. This is how so many wooden rides built during
the early 1900s are still in operation today. Steel roller coasters sadly don’t have the
same luxury. It’s not cheap or easy to replace a portion
of a steel track or supports. Often if a ride requires extensive maintenance
new track and supports will be fabricated to replace the original ones – at great expense;
or if the park can’t spare this expense, it will close to the public. As a result, even well maintained steel roller
coasters often close after anywhere between 20 to 40 years of operation. This happened to Vortex, a steel attraction
located at Kings Island, in 2019. Originally opened in 1987, the ride lasted
only 30 years before reaching the end of it’s service life; while The Beast, a wooden roller
coaster at the same park opened nearly 10 years earlier and still operates to this day. Despite all these differences, the line between wooden and steel roller coasters has recently begun to blur. Technological advancements have led to the
development of more precise and complex wooden roller coasters, such as Intamin’s prefabricated
roller coaster model. This type of ride uses accurate machinery
to cut track pieces perfectly into shape, before they are assembled together on-site. This has allowed the company to produce wooden
attractions of greater heights and speeds than was previously possible. Other amusement manufacturers have created
hybrid roller coasters, which utilise both materials to provide new experiences. Rocky Mountain Construction has been a key
contributor to this development, producing steel tracked roller coasters held up by a
lattice of wooden supports. This allows the attraction to be as smooth
as a steel roller coaster, while featuring some of the additional chaotic feel of a wooden
ride. On top of this, they can also place riders
upside down through multiple inversions. Originally, the company would upgrade old wooden roller coasters to make them more exciting to guests. However, the rides have become so popular
that parks have begun to construct hybrid roller coasters from the ground up. It’s safe to say that roller coasters have
come a long way since their debut – of which the introduction of the steel attraction was
a huge milestone. Since then, rides have become bigger, better
and more unique; allowing guests to experience a huge range of new and exciting sensations. And though the steel roller coaster could
be considered better on paper, newer developments, such as the hybrid roller coaster, have allowed
wooden rides to be just as versatile. Only one question remains; which do you prefer
– wood or steel? Thank you for watching, and we’ll see you
all next time. If you enjoyed this why not check out our blog! We post interesting articles about roller
coasters developments, hold competitions, and give our tips and tricks to get the most out
of your theme park visits. Check it out – head to coasterbot.com for
more

91 thoughts on “Roller Coasters: Wood VS Steel”

  1. Tony Santero says:

    Nice 👍

  2. Hernjplays says:

    First First Comment

  3. Alfred Karlsson says:

    i think wood is better

  4. B L A C K P I N K says:

    I like both :))

  5. M Light says:

    Early 🙃

  6. Tie Dough says:

    I don’t know why but this is my favorite coaster channel

  7. COASTER BOT says:

    Did you know that all theme park enthusiasts have a lanyard? Why not grab yourself a Coaster Bot lanyard, pin badge and stickers from our recently updated store! https://coasterbot.com/store

  8. AirTime Myke says:

    I prefer the woodies. They provide a different ride each time. Steel make some great coasters at well.

  9. *ORANG* says:

    You know what would be awesome?
    If Harry made a livestream playing no limits 2 or planet coaster.

  10. Thorax Changeling says:

    Great Video.

  11. TTTMusic says:

    As a German enthusiast, we don't have the classic old wooden coasters. The oldest wooden coaster in Germany is actually just over 20 years old. So we just don't have that nostalgia.

    Having said that, I just love smooth rides. B&M, Intamin, modern Vekoma, Gerstlauer… And in my opinion, the smoothest wooden coaster is still miles away from a decent steel coaster. The only woody I enjoyed in the last few years was Joris en de Draak at De Efteling.

  12. Adolf Hitler says:

    I personally prefer steel but I understand why people also like wood

  13. icedfire gd says:

    I dont care if its a wooden or an steel or an i Box coaster
    Main thing is that it is a (good) coaster
    (^_^)

  14. Mystic Mind Analysis says:

    I'm not the bravest rider of roller coasters, and that's partly why I prefer wooden ones. They're a little easier to grasp if I can tolerate them or not. Though I will admit that I'm somewhat bias, since Blackpool Pleasure Beach is my nearest themepark, and they maintain most of their historic wooden coasters in addition to new ones.

    Were it not for the long ques, I'd love to ride on a steel coaster like Air at Alton Towers!

  15. Journey On Rails says:

    Wood will always reign supreme for me.
    And I am still 14.

  16. Jason Heath says:

    Vortex closed because of the brakes having to be replaced

  17. Edo Vlogs says:

    I prefere steel

  18. Dexter Frebish's Electric Roller Ride says:

    Coaster Bot: "On top of this, some steel rides even allow guests to spin in circles as they navigate the track. These designs just aren't realistically possible with wooden roller coasters."

    Virginia Reel: "I'm about to end this man's whole career!"

    Yes, yes. I am aware that Virginia Reel's use side friction, an outdated track type, instead of rails to spin riders through the layout, but was just making a joke. Spinning cars would not be possible on modern wooden coasters, or so we think…

  19. Airtime_Tom says:

    Keep up the great content harry and zoe / coaster bot team 😁 love your content and your amazing merch 🤗

  20. Truniek K says:

    Me: does homework
    Coaster bot posting this: I’m gonna end this men’s whole career!

  21. Will Snyder says:

    I’ve only been on 1 wood roller coaster, The Hurler at Carowinds

  22. ThemeParkChallenge Official says:

    I really like wild coasters with strong ejector air or other high-speed elements. So when it comes to how good a coaster is, the layout is actually more important to me than the material, even though wooden coasters often appear faster to me.
    However, most of the modern wooden coasters seem to be much wilder than the steel ones, so I really like those as well.

  23. Shawn Gilbride says:

    The classic Woodie is my favorite kind of coaster. Just something about the rumbling of the ride as you go through the layout is really appealing to me

  24. PttyBlue43 says:

    RMC – “Why not both” 🤷🏽‍♂️

  25. RemixedVoice says:

    10/10 rides are possible with both types. I can't even decide if my favorite coaster is I305 or El Toro, anyways lol.

  26. Chocolabtastic Smith says:

    So, wood or steel?

    RMC: “Yes”.

  27. Iceman F-14 says:

    I love the Looks of a wooden Coaster!

  28. Dexter Frebish's Electric Roller Ride says:

    If steel coasters can be as smooth as glass, does that mean rough steel coasters are as smooth as broken glass?

  29. Kelpy G says:

    Is it possible to make a wooden inverted coaster?

  30. Kelpy G says:

    7:01 😪😪😪😪

  31. Coaster Fusion says:

    I’m on team Hybrid.

  32. El_Ectric says:

    RMC's iBox hybrids aren't steel coasters, they're steel-tracked hybrids. Gnd Gravity Group's steel-structured coasters aren't wooden, they're wood-tracked hybrids.

  33. technoandrew says:

    Very nicely put together. The bit about different coasters' service life was particularly interesting. As for me, I think Steel is always gonna win out.

  34. Craycray For Coasters says:

    Speed no limits has concrete inside the track to amplify the sound

  35. Revolution says:

    I am clueless as to how many people adore wooden coasters way over steel. I guess it's just a preference, but I like my rides smooth, I don't want bruised hips and shoulders or neckpain (yes some steel coasters may give you that as well). But overall, most wooden coasters I've ridden are too forceful, in a bad way. That and (in my opinion) steel coasters can have way more variety. To each their own, I guess. I do enjoy hybrids but I would say that rather classifies as steel instead of wooden.

  36. The Corrected says:

    That 20-40 year life span terrifies me. Imagine a U.K without Nemesis and the Big One? I know people said that about the Corkscrew, but seeing the end of the country's first Great Coaster War would be grounds for the declaration of a national holiday.

  37. The United Flight says:

    On a GCI:
    Wood: Haha I am the track
    Steel: but I support you, I am more important.

    Rmc: We will make u both useful

  38. _Papyrant_ says:

    I saw Wicker Man like 5 times

  39. Thijs Bleesing says:

    Wood lives

  40. Isolated says:

    I can't decide, RMC does both 🙁

  41. Isolated says:

    Harry : Wood or steel?
    Me (an rmc fan) : Both

  42. Jameson Thomas says:

    This was the most relaxing thing I've ever seen, and I'm not sure why.

    But Steel.

  43. nitefly99 says:

    4th – 90's style steel ("we have THIS many inversions!!!"). Dragon Khan style rides feel super dated now.
    3rd – wooded coasters (for out of control lulz)
    2nd – modern steel non-inverting hypercoasters+ (for zomg speedz)
    1st – RMC conversions (they will eat your soul – twice)

  44. Bert2theJack says:

    I pick stone rollercoaster

  45. Petra Wolff says:

    Early

  46. Disney Mousey says:

    I’m a steel coaster fan all the way! Wooden ones are good too but STEEL!

  47. YeetMelon says:

    Wood or steel
    B&m: steel
    Gci:wood
    Rmc: i agree

  48. StamfordBridge says:

    You should actually do a wood versus steel preference poll. I’m pretty sure steel would win, but I’d be interested to see the percentages.

    I love both but definitely tend to love woodies most.

  49. general bacon says:

    I don’t think I’m allowed to say wether I prefer wood or steel because the only wooden coaster I have ridden is coastersaurus at Legoland Florida until I go back to Alton Towers when I hope to ride Wicker Man

  50. Time4Coasters 18 says:

    Vortex at Kings Island lasted 32 years, not 30

  51. Time4Coasters 18 says:

    Beast is 8 years older than Vortex, not 10

  52. Ewan2005 Tennant says:

    I think that wood could become more popular if companies try to add more advanced features and element like when RMC built a launched wooden coaster

  53. Jay Starr says:

    1. Hybrid
    2. Steel
    3. Wood
    Why? My FROAT is Hybrid. My first 10 coasters were steel. And wood is there.

  54. Ethan Model T-200 says:

    I mean, really I would choose both
    Because I like twisted colossus which is a wooden rollercoaster, and I definitely like x2 which is steel

  55. SURTUPPETS says:

    Gp be like. Wooden rollercoasters are so boring thay can't even go upside down.

  56. SURTUPPETS says:

    I like wood the best!

  57. Ejector Air Coasters says:

    Woodies all the way. I love the head choppers, shaky airtime, and lats on woodies that isn't found on hybrids or steel coasters.

  58. Sebo says:

    To me the visual aspect is one key difference…if you compare Colossos at Heide Park with EGF they are about the same height but Colossos just looks a lot more intimidating and massive.

  59. Ejector Air Coasters says:

    I like the satisfying shake when you get airtime on a woodie, like the way Voyage does

  60. Zac G says:

    Of course the wood vs steel (vs hybrid) question is just for fun and there is no straightforward answer. I think parks need both. When a steel coaster becomes rough it doesn't mean it feels like a wooden coaster. It just means that it gives you a headache. And depending on the restraints it may also pound on you uncomfortably. So you can't really mimic wooden coasters by just having steel coasters that are rough. There are some very smooth wooden coasters that still have the out of control feeling so they don't feel like steel coasters.

    Conversely, there are many things that wooden coasters just can't do. And steel has added a greater variety than what you see from wood. And while there are some super smooth wooden coasters, most are at least a little rough and many are painfully rough.

    A park with only steel would be missing out on the fun of wood. A park with only wood would miss out on variety and would probably end up being a park that guarantees you a headache.

  61. Reilly Walker says:

    It's interesting to think that the regular maintenance required for wooden roller coasters is ironically why they have longer service lives than steel roller coasters. What I wonder now is if using modern treated wood like BluWood would help reduce maintenance demands of wooden rides without increasing their overall cost.

  62. Daniel Harrison says:

    Wood=Airtime
    Steel=Intensity
    Steel and Wood=Airtime and Intensity

  63. timeparadox says:

    I've only ridden Wood Express in terms of wooden coasters, but I remember it being exactly as you described – out of control. Wood Express is absolutely mental. Trust me, you doing a France trip? Get to Parc Saint Paul. Two PAX coasters and a GG woodie. You simply cannot go wrong.

  64. CA Bay Area Thrills says:

    Hybrid coasters should not be considered as wood or steel – they should be their own type of coasters separate from those two. also, u forgot to mention that gravity group has opened a few wooden coasters with an inversion in the past couple years. while these arent talked about much, the reviews ive heard have been good on those. cedar point should get a gravity group rather than a gci to create more competition in the wood coaster industry

  65. L3mmy says:

    I like myself a good fiberglass coaster sometimes ^^

  66. Hjortsater says:

    Loads of Liseberg footage this time, which I quite like 🙂

  67. LukeE94 says:

    Great video Harry! My top three coasters are The Voyage, El Toro and Eejanaika, but the ever growing possibilities with Steel are what I enjoy most. 😊

  68. William Vannucci says:

    When is the episode on the Matterhorn Bobsleds going to come out??? It was the first steel roller coaster, soooo… just saying. But all the same, love your videos👍

  69. tastyfish1 says:

    As long as I am having fun then either is perfectly fine.

  70. rcb3000 says:

    Coaster Bot: Wood or Steel?

    Me: Yes.

  71. ungesagt says:

    What I would prefer? Both, if it's a good ride.

  72. Jonathan Adams says:

    Do Dorney Park: Explained

  73. GamerBros says:

    I prefer steel because of the huge potential they have, but wooden coasters I think look more iconic

  74. Patrick Cadiz says:

    Shortest 9 minutes of my life

  75. icd_ gamer says:

    How RMC was born
    The people: wood or steel?
    The people: why not both?
    RMC: Great idea!

  76. GalacticDan says:

    Brilliant informative video as always, Great job!

  77. Josh Green says:

    I don't know anyone who likes one type of coaster over another. I think we all just enjoy an awesome ride. And I've gotten them on wood, steel, and wood/steel hybrids. 🙂 The rides that are highest on my bucket list include both wood and steel coasters!

  78. Kenepo4u says:

    I would like to see you do a new series called Coaster Bombs. This will be about failed coasters like Drachen Fire and Batman and Robin: The Chiller.

  79. PeepNSheep says:

    PVC, obviously

  80. CollegeChick818 says:

    I love both wood and steel.

  81. Irish Coaster Fan says:

    Gravity Group: Sorry what did you say about wooden coasters not having inversions?

  82. Paolo says:

    I could go on forever with details, re entire life story riding coasters, But for now I'll just sum it up by saying if the stats are the same then wooden is better, but if one is blind to the stats, then perhaps steel is better. My two favourite wooden coasters I've ridden are Coaster at Playland and Ghostrider at Knott's berry Farm , but my two favourite metal coasters I've ridden are Millennium Force and Steel Vengeance. But what I'm saying isn't fair considering I've never ridden an Intamin wooden prefab or The Voyage. However: then again again I've never ridden a B&M hyper oversized, undersized or actually in between ( with a drop between between 200' and 300') You've got the best questions! I only wish I could give you better answers.

  83. Bricklaying With Steve and Alex says:

    Love it Harry , brilliantly explained 🎢🎢🙌🏽🧱👍🏽

  84. J says:

    Hi, you make really good videos! Just asking advice: are different theme and amusement park firms' videos copyright free or how you can use them?

  85. Coaster Genius says:

    Steel, i have ridden almost all thr wooden coasters in california and they are all a little too rough except for Ghostrider, i still like wooden coasters but i like riding them in the front way more than the back except for Ghostrider cause it is much smoother in the front

  86. Luke MASSEY says:

    Watch this video at 1.25 speed saves time and is cool watching coasters go fast.

  87. Thorpe coaster photos says:

    Hybrid

  88. Coaster Boi says:

    Love the vids ❤️

  89. Fame Lord says:

    Steel obviously

  90. Hayati Channel says:

    That was very useful thanks

  91. Don’t Subscribe says:

    Can you do “What is Pantheon” with its high speed switch track it would be very interesting

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