A steel roller coaster is a roller coaster that is defined by having a track made of steel. Steel coasters have earned immense popularity in the past 50 years throughout the world. Incorporating tubular steel track and polyurethane-coated wheels, the steel roller coasters can provide a taller, smoother, and faster ride with more inversions than a traditional wooden roller coaster.
As of 2006, the oldest operating steel roller coaster in North America is Little Dipper at Memphis Kiddie Park in Brooklyn, Ohio and has been operating since April 1952. The oldest operating steel rollercoaster in the world is Montaña Suiza at Parque de Atracciones Monte Igueldo (Spain). It has been operating since 1928.
A close-up of the tubular steel tracks. (Galactica at Alton Towers)
Steel coasters have a generally smoother ride than their wooden counterparts and due to their strength rides can have more complex and faster turns and twists without injuring riders. However, some coaster enthusiasts prefer wooden coasters due to the jolting ride feeling more dangerous and giving a larger adrenaline rush.
Almost all world records for tallest, fastest, and longest coasters are currently held by steel roller coasters.
The fact that fewer supports are needed means steel roller coasters have made a large variety of features possible, such as loops, barrel rolls, corkscrews, zero-G rolls and beyond 90° drops.