Lamarcus Adna Thompson

Topics: Roller coaster, Switchback Railway, Coney Island Pages: 2 (790 words) Published: May 31, 2009

The most influencing person in my life would have to be the inventor of the first gravity-powered roller coaster in the United States by LaMarcus Adna Thompson, also known as the “Father of the Gravity Ride” for his Switchback Railway at Coney Island, New York City and became famous for the Scenic Railway on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1887. Thompson was born on March 8, 1848 in Jersey, Ohio. At the age of 12, he built a butter churn and an oxcart, and was a master carpenter by the age of 17. In 1866, Thompson graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan. He worked in a wagon and carriage business then made a mint for the manufacture of seamless women’s hosiery.

In the early 1880s, Thompson almost had a nervous breakdown and thus sold his share in the hosiery business and returned to his first passion of inventing. Thompson was inspired by the designs of other inventors and the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway in Pennsylvania. In 1884 in Coney Island, he had successfully built his version of the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway, which he just simply called it, the Switchback Railway. Within the next four years, he had built about fifty railways all over the nation and in Europe.

As more sophisticated coasters were beginning to be built, Thompson’s business was starting to go downhill. So Thompson paired up with James A. Griffiths, a designer, and produced his most famous attraction the Scenic Railway in 1887. It was a rolling tour of some elaborate artificial scenery with vividly colored tableaus, biblical scenes and flora-illuminated by lights triggered by approaching cars. This ride was the foundation of the Space Mountain of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA and other theme park journeys.

Between the Switchbacks and his death on May 8, 1919, in Glen Cove, New York, Thompson had built many other scenic railways such as the masterpiece of faux-mountain and the Egyptian imagery in Venice, CA in 1910, which faced competition with his old...
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