When you think about Southern Yellow Pine, you almost certainly picture rows of straight, clean dimensional lumber at the lumberyard or home improvement store, all lined up for your next project. Most of us think only as far as building a deck or swing set — or maybe framing a shed if you’re feeling extra handy.
But did you know that some intrepid builders look at SYP and see thrill rides?
It’s true! Southern Yellow Pine is the lumber of choice for building wooden roller coasters. And if you’ve ever built a project with SYP, you won’t be surprised at why engineers love it for coasters.
SYP has always been a favorite with builders thanks to its superior strength. Even though pine is technically a softwood, this designation actually comes from the fact that the tree is a conifer that maintains its needles and reproduces with pinecones. Hardwoods, by contrast, are from deciduous trees that lose their leaves and reproduce with seeds.
So while SYP is technically a softwood, it is extremely dense, making it a hard, strong wood to work with — and that’s critical for building a wooden roller coaster that soars hundreds of feet into the air! It’s easy to cut with power tools, and SYP takes pressure treating better than just about any other wood around, so a wooden coaster built today can withstand wind, rain and snow for decades to come.
These features of Southern Yellow Pine are why it has been used to build wooden roller coasters all over the world, from Six Flags New England to Wild Waves & Enchanted Village in Washington State — and even in Europe. Great Coasters International, a wooden roller coaster design firm in Pennsylvania, also makes sure to use SYP from renewable forests to make sure their coasters are as environmentally friendly as possible.
From the day the first wooden roller coaster opened on Coney Island in 1884, people have been in love with the rush of whooshing down the hill. Though many coasters are now made of steel, enthusiasts love the ways a wooden coaster sounds and feels as riders rattle down the tracks. You can experience the thrill — made perfectly safe by SYP — by visiting some of these incredible wooden roller coasters:
The next time you’re on a wooden roller coaster, take a moment to take in all the lumber it took to construct — odds are good that SYP is what makes your fun possible!
(Images via Shutterstock)