Back When the Rotor Rides Were Fun and Dangerous!

The Rotor is an amusement park ride, designed and patented by German engineer Ernst Hoffmeister in 1948. The ride was first demonstrated at Oktoberfest 1949, and was exhibited at fairs and events throughout Europe, during the 1950s and 1960s. The ride still appears in numerous amusement parks, although traveling variants have been surpassed by the Gravitron.


The ride itself was a scientific experience as riders felt the force of centripetal acceleration seemingly sticking them to the wall. What is happening on the rotor falls in line with Newtonian physics in that a body in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by a resisting force.

A rider traveling around the drum of a rotor is constantly changing the direction of their motion but at any given point Newtonian laws state that they would prefer, if unhindered, to continue traveling in the direction they are traveling at that particular moment in time. However, every split second whilst the ride spins the planar vector that defines what is perpendicular keeps changing, thus the rider feels that they are being pushed outwards against the wall of the drum.

The sequence of the ride varied in the early machines. Some loaded at the top with the floor dropping as the riders are pinned to the wall and as the ride slows the riders slip ungraciously down to the floor and exit in the pit of the drum. Others saw the floor lower and then return to allow riders a bit more dignity as they left via the top of the drum. Finally some machines loaded at the bottom, pushed the riders up with an elevating floor, which then descended and re-ascended to pick up the riders.

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