John Miller: The Roller Coaster Designer

Posted by MichaelSimon on Monday, October 25th, 2010

Kennywood Park's Racer Roller Coaster

John A. Miller was one of the most important figures in the development of roller coaster and theme park technology, due to his persistence and his desire to defy limitations, extending the boundaries of technology.

Miller’s imagination was first piqued immediately after the birth of the roller coaster, an event that encouraged the then 19-year old to seek work with LaMarcus Thompson, the creator of the first United States roller coaster. Miller was dedicated to his craft and quickly rose to be respected among the ride engineers. His dedication and prolific nature made his rise in the theme park world an easy one, and complemented his imaginative and inventive nature perfectly.

During his lifetime, John Miller was awarded over 100 patents for his ingenious roller coaster technologies. Among his most important inventions was the safety ratchet, a device that prevented cars from rolling backwards and the mechanism that creates the familiar clacking noise that roller coasters make when moving uphill. Miller also patented underfriction wheels that would force cars to stay locked onto the tracks, an innovation that is present in almost every modern roller coaster. Miller also created many safety devices for coaster cars and tracks which are still in use, or were the basis for more modern safety technologies.

One of the primary reasons Miller pursued the creation of these safety technologies was to help him achieve the lofty goals he had imagined in his wild and innovative coaster designs. Miller constantly pushed roller coaster technology to the limit by finding ways to make his coasters faster, bigger, and more exciting than anyone could imagine. He also pictured the roller coaster as a way to simulate other experiences and help people transport themselves to exciting new worlds, helping pioneer the idea of the themed roller coaster ride.

Top: The Racer, designed by Miller. Image: Larry Pieniazek

One response to “John Miller: The Roller Coaster Designer”

  1. Lorraine Whitmore says:


    Our mission to collection to discover, preserve interpret and share the Great Britain historical heritage of the roller coaster for present and future generations. It is a small step but we believe in the mission and can now see the light at the end tunnel. We hope that you join us in our effort to save the irreplaceable parts of the amusement industry, some of has already been lost.
    We would like to collection unwanted with articles, Photographs, train model information, commentary, etc.
    Introducing new historic details from lost and forgotten rides well as the latest stories on the modern classics.
    It is our objective to create an enjoyable and informative site, one that you want to continue to support.

    From Lorraine Whitmore

    Thank you

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