Man builds roller coaster for grandfather

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WJAR) — The year 2020 has certainly been a year of “ups and downs,” so it was only fitting for a man to construct a roller coaster in his grandfather’s yard in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

Elliot Ryan, 20, attends St. Michael’s College in Vermont.

In March, he was sent home because of COVID-19, so he went to stay with his grandparents, where he spent the rest of the summer.

It was during the beginning of his stay that he decided to turn a dream into a reality.

“So, it actually really started when I was 8 or 9 years old and I always wanted to build a roller coaster,” said Ryan. “My little brother brought it up while we were in quarantine and I thought, ‘Well why not’?”

Ryan said he approached his 83-year-old grandfather about the idea.

“I asked my grandpa and he was like, ‘Will you build it for me?’ I said, ‘sure,’” he added. “My grandfather, when he puts his mind to something, he does it, and I wanted to do the same.”

“He decided to live a dream which he always wanted to do and that was to build a roller coaster,” said his grandfather, Dr. Fred Silverblatt.

Silverblatt is a practicing doctor in South County and a professor of medicine at Brown University.

He’s also a triathlon athlete, so the thought of a roller coaster to him sounded amazing.

“I am a very young 83,” said Silverblatt. “But I didn’t do any of the work. He did everything all by himself, that’s the amazing thing about it.”

From April through August Ryan constructed the coaster.

He purchased about $1,500 worth of lumber and nails to put it together and spent countless days and hours outside building it.

“I’m studying to be a civil engineer, but I’m not one yet so I really didn’t know where to start,” he said. “I watched a lot of videos, YouTube videos, and figured out how to do it.”

The roller coaster is more than 100 feet long and runs on gravity.

The original roller coaster he started to build had to be taken down after a few weeks of working on it.

Ryan said the second time around he tested it along the way to make sure it was working properly and safe, but the first person to get on besides him, was his grandfather.

“It was very exciting, probably more exciting than I anticipated,” said Silverblatt. “I felt I fulfilled my duty to test it out and ride the roller coaster, and I haven’t been back on it since.”

“It was crazy,” said Ryan. “I was a little nervous, I could tell he was a little nervous, but I knew it was going to be fun for him and fun for everyone to watch him do it.”

“It’s actually pretty exciting that the initial drop was more than I was looking forward to,” Silverblatt told NBC 10 News. “The rest of it was very, very smooth and it has caused a lot of excitement when I show the video to my friends and co-workers.”

Fun is exactly what this did for their family, who like many others have recently been dealing with a roller coaster of emotions since the pandemic.

“It was difficult … we were not used to living together for as long as we were and this really provided some enlightenment, and joy and excitement,” said Silverblatt.

Ryan said he is grateful for his grandfather’s guiding encouragement to help push his project to perfection.

“What he does is crazy. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing at his age, but it’s probably not going to be that,” he said. “When I think of him it gives me a kick in the butt, like, I can do this, my grandfather would.”

The pair said they hope to make the roller coaster even bigger as next summer’s project.

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