The Tale of The Wild Mouse Roller Coaster

Posted by Staff on Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Sand Serpent Wild Mouse Ride at Busch Gardens Tampa

The Wild Mouse roller coaster is one of the smaller specimens in the kingdom of roller coasters, but it is by no means to be overlooked. Its compact size and low cost have made it a staple at amusement parks all over the world since the 1950s. Though very few of the original wooden Wild Mouse coasters are still in operation (one is at Pleasure Beach Blackpool featured in the video below), you’ll find their steel cousins at both major and minor amusement parks.

A Wild Mouse ride’s most distinctive mark is its tight and flat turns. Unlike most roller coasters, the turns aren’t banked which effects the rider’s experience in a couple of different ways. To begin with, the unbanked turns have to be taken at a modest speed in order to keep the car from tipping over. However, the feeling that your car might tip over at any moment is part of the thrill. The completely horizontal turns produce high lateral G-forces so that riders feel as though they are going to fly right off the rails. Wild Mouse rides usually feature a number of tight turns through a switchback section, which mercilessly whips the cars back and forth. Besides these quick turns, it is also common for these types of rides to include a series of “bunny hops,” quick rolling sections which yield sudden negative G-forces.

Wild Mouse ride at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with ocean in background

Two-seater Wild Mouse at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 1958

The way in which the cars of a Wild Mouse ride are designed also contributes to the impression that the ride is out of control. They are small, usually seating four or less, and are often designed wider than the tracks so that it appears to riders as if their car is off the rails.

'Wilde Maus' Wild Mouse ride by Mack Rides

Wilde Maus by Mack Rides

The history of the Wild Mouse ride is unclear up until the late 1950s. Before then, there were some similar rides that appeared in Europe, such as Devil’s Coach, built by the German showman, Heinrich. It was in 1957 that the German roller coaster company, Mack Rides, produced the first wooden Wild Mouse (Wilde Maus) ride as we know it today. This ride became extremely popular in both Europe and the States throughout the late 1950s, prompting a number of companies to build their own versions. Other companies that began producing Wild Mouse rides during this time included Heinrich, Zierer, Conklin, and Schwarzkopf.

The Wildcat Roller Coaster at Cedar Point

Schwarzkopf’s Wildcat

In 1960, Anton Schwarzkopf made a name for himself with his steel version of the Wild Mouse, called the Wildcat. Like the Wild Mouse ride, it was compact and featured tight runs and small hills. The Wildcat’s small size and easy assembly made it one of the most popular rides of the day among amusement park owners and helped Schwarzkopf launch his long and successful career. One of his beloved Wildcat roller coasters is still in operation today at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.

During the boom of mega-coasters that took place during the 1970s and 1980s, many Wild Mouse rides fell by the wayside. Yet, when the fervor and funds for extreme coasters cooled a bit in the early 1990s, amusement park owners relied on smaller and cheaper Wild Mouse rides to bump up their coaster count without breaking the bank. To this day, the Wild Mouse gives both riders and park owners the most bang for their buck.

Image at top: Sand Serpent Wild Mouse Ride at Busch Gardens Tampa

3 responses to “The Tale of The Wild Mouse Roller Coaster”

  1. Ellen says:

    As of May 12, 2012, the Wildcat is no longer in operation.

  2. Vinnie Me says:

    I remember my grandfather taking me on the wild mouse in Santa Cruz California Boardwalk. In mid seventies.

    I was Maybe 6-7 but I remember it being terrifying and it did look as though we were going to fall off every corner right into the haunted house or bumper cars or both.

    I’d love to find one to see if it was as terrifying as I remember.

    I also remember New York and the coasters that came down the streets on trucks like the ice cream man. Early seventies Brooklyn.

  3. Nikolai says:

    How does the Wild Mouse get the speed to make the turns? Is there an external vector forcing it (like a motor in the car or gears on the track) or is it just gravity?

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