Cliff House Project
A Program of Western Neighborhoods Project

Ocean Beach Pavilion ] Seal Rock Hotel ] windmills ] Club Swim ] Sand Sculptures ] 380148736728 ] [ Roller Coaster ] treasure ]


Roller Coaster / Gravity Railroad

We know very little about this roller coaster beyond the clippings and photos posted below.  I suspect it didn't last long given how few photos show it.  If you have any additional information, please email me.



"Seal Rock House, Ocean Beach Pavilion, Gravity Train Roller Coaster, 1884"
"Photographer C. R. Savage"
San Francisciana Photographs of Playland



"View of Pavilion and Sutro Heights, Taber Photo, San Francisco"
Note the tracks, right-middle edge of photo




The Street Committee of the Board of Supervisors met this afternoon at 2 o'clock. A protest signed by several well-known citizens was read, asking for the discontinuance of the building of a "gravity railway" at the ocean beach. The petitioners allege that the proposed railway will be a public nuisance and would tend to frighten horses. A gentleman connected with the railway was allowed to speak on the matter and claimed that the protest was the outcome of jealousy among other people doing business on the beach. The matter was taken under advisement for one week, and the builders were permitted to proceed at their own discretion.

Daily Evening Bulletin - April 23, 1885
Source: Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents


SF Examiner - Apr 24 1885


Report of Committees
Daily Alta California - 12 May 1885

Hover mouse over above image.  Is this the board fence referenced above?

Courtesy of Dennis O'Rorke

Close-up of fence structure


I believe there were at least two other roller coasters in San Francisco, concurrent
with the Ocean Beach coaster, listed below for reference...


The Gravity Pleasure Railroad
San Francisco Roller Coasting and Gravity Co.
Bounded by Oak, Page, Stanyan and Schrader
Owners: Philip Hinkle & George Dawson

S. B. Schloss et al., leases to P. Hinkle, block 700, bounded by Page, Oak, Shrader and Stanyan streets, (for 5 years from October 1, 1884, first six months $100 per month, last fourth and fifth years $300 per month).

Daily Evening Bulletin - October 10, 1884
Source: Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents

"San Francisco Items" column
Sacramento Daily Union - 13 November 1884

Daily Alta California - 30 May 1885

SF Examiner - Oct 11 1885

San Francisco Chronicle - 06 Feb 1892


The California Gravity Railroad Co.
Roller Coaster and Circular Gravity Railway Co.
Central Park, Eighth & Mission/Market
Owners: Moore (sp?) & Reynolds

A petition was received from Jesse A. Melcher, the School Director, asking for a franchise for five years, permitting O. S. Mame of Kansas City, Mo., and H. H. Reynolds, to operate the roller-coaster and circular gravity railway upon such premises as they may buy, lease or control. The petition stated that the coaster is a means of popular amusement quite common in Eastern cities. It is not propelled by steam, but by force of gravity, upon the principle of the inclined plane. There is no danger of collision, as but one car at a time is allowed to run, and the second is not started until the first has reached its destination. It is patronized by adults as well as children, affording healthy exercise. The petition was referred to the Street Committee.

Daily Evening Bulletin - September 9, 1884
Source: Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents

San Francisco Chronicle - Sep 9, 1884

Daily Alta California - 30 September 1884

San Francisco Chronicle - Oct 7, 1884

Daily Alta California - 21 October 1884

A Circular Railway

At the corner of Eighth and Mission streets is to be seen in operation something decidedly new for San Francisco. It is called the circular gravity railway. It is a rather complicated machine, being circular in shape and about 200 feet in diameter, elevated at one end to about twenty-five feet, and descending to the ground on the opposite side, when it begins to ascend. Upon this is placed a car or settee, capable of seating ten or twelve persons, which, when a fare of five cents is collected from each person wishing to ride, is pushed off down the incline at an alarming rate of speed. The momentum is so great, and the track is so arranged that the car ascends again on the other side till it reaches the starting point, where the passengers are discharged to make way for others.

Daily Evening Bulletin - November 11, 1884
Source: Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents

The San Francisco Examiner - Nov 12 1884

Daily Alta California - 27 November 1884
Formal Opening

Daily Alta California - 15 November 1884

Central Park

This new place of amusement, on Market and Eighth streets, which is destined to become very popular, will be formally opened to the public today. ... The gravity railroad, on the grounds, is a novelty that will prove a great attraction.

Daily Alta California - November 27, 1884
Source: Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents

Daily Alta California -18 December 1884

San Francisco Chronicle - Dec 18, 1884

Daily Alta California - 11 April 1885

SF Examiner - Apr 28 1885

Daily Alta California - 14 May 1887


San Francisco Chronicle - Feb 19, 1885


Reference website:  Roller Coaster and Other Ride Patents