Read the following passage and then answer the 10 questions at the end of the text.
Whose 'Hills' are they anyway?
One of the first things I learned when I came to live in Russia was that Russians have a different name for the fairground ride that I know as the 'Roller Coaster'. It seems that in Russia this attraction is called the 'American Hills'. For some reason I could never understand, it was a great source of amusement to my students that the Americans apparently call them the 'Russian Hills'. This puzzled me somewhat since I had never heard them called anything but 'Roller Coasters' and had always understood that the term came from the United States. I even went so far as to check with my American colleagues. They assured me that they had never referred to the Roller Coaster as the Russian Hills. Over the intervening years I have been told or have overheard my students telling each other about this on numerous occasions. I remained puzzled until really quite recently when I came across an article on the development of the Roller Coaster.
It is generally accepted, by the experts that the 'Roller Coaster' had its origins in the 'Ice Slides' that first made their appearance in Russia during the 17th century. These 'Ice Slides' were huge man-made slopes or 'hills' built almost entirely from wood. They were covered with thick sheets of ice, and people would slide down them in large sleds. A typical slide could be anything up to twenty-five metres in height and might stretch for a hundred metres. They were very popular with the Russian aristocracy of the time. Apparently, Catherine the Great herself really enjoyed the thrill of riding down these Ice Slides in her sled and even had a number of them built on her estate.
According to the article, there is some dispute as to who actually added wheels thereby creating the first 'rolling' coaster. Robert Cartmell, who wrote the book The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster, gives the Russians credit for building the first wheeled machine. He says that a wheeled version was built in 1784 in St Petersburg. Other historians disagree and say it was the French who introduced wheels. What is known for certain is that by 1817 there were at least two Coasters with wheels in France.
The first looping Coaster was located in Frascati Gardens in Paris, France. The slope was 12 metres high, had a 4 metre-wide loop and was tested with everything under the sun before humans were allowed to ride on it. The layout was simple: the rider rode down the gentle slope on a small cart and through a small metal circle. This Coaster was fabricated in England and then set up in Frascati Gardens in 1846. The ride ran for about twenty seasons before such railways went out of fashion. A similar railway was also built in the Circus Napoleon, but owing to an accident on the trial run was quickly shut down. There was another looping coaster built in England two years later than the one in Frascati Gardens which had only a two-metre diameter. At the time the French were very proud that their Coaster was on a much bigger scale.
It was at this point in the article that I came across something interesting. It mentioned a coaster in France called the Les Montagnes Russes a Belleville (roughly translated: The Russian Mountains of Belleville), which featured rollers that were locked into the track. At last, I could sense a possible solution to the problem of why Russians believe that the Americans call the Roller Coaster The Russian Hills. Perhaps it is not the Americans who do so, but the French because the word for 'hill' in Russian is the same as the word for 'mountain'.
The above, however, raises a further question: Why do Russians call The Roller Coaster The American Hills if the Americans didn't invent it? The only answer I can offer is that perhaps the modern version came to Russia via the United States. It was, after all, in the USA that a man with a French-sounding name, La Marcus Thompson, created the modern-day Roller Coaster.
Yet another question concerns the origin of the American term 'roller coaster'. In my opinion, the author Robert Cartmell provides the answer. It involves a small US town and a wooden ride. According to him, "The Sliding-Hill and Toboggan" was built around the inner walls of a skating rink situated in a circular three-story brick building in Haverhill Massachusetts. The 500 metre tracks ran around the walls from the roof to the ground floor crossing the rink in a spiraling figure-of-eight formation." The ride used a sled that ran on a track made of wooden rollers laid side by side. The coaster only survived for three years and had nothing to do with the development of the modern roller coaster apart from furnishing it with a name.
In England no one much cares much about the origins of Roller Coasters, only about how thrilling the ride is. This is probably true everywhere, as shown by the fact that every year sees the introduction of higher, faster and more complex versions.
Whose 'Hills' are they anyway? – Questions
Choose the best option to complete the sentences
1. In the first paragraph the writer is puzzled about ________.
2. A typical Ice Slide was ________.
3. Catherine the Great ________.
4. According to the article _______ built the first wheeled coaster.
5. The first looping Roller Coaster in England was erected in ________.
6. The coaster in Frascati Gardens was shut down because ________.
7. An American ________.
8. The ride at Haverhill, Massachusetts ________.
9. The Track of the Roller Coaster at Haverhill ________.
10. The nationality of the writer is probably ________.
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