As for safety measures, they consisted of a rope fastened to the sleigh for you to hold on to as you careened down the track at what was typically a 50-degree angle and the period's most technologically advanced stopping mechanism:
The greatest achievement in 17th-century engineering.
The straw was actually sprinkled in small layers at the end of the slide to provide friction, a measure that typically allowed at least one of the several riders to survive any given trip.
Roller Coaster History
"You know, Yuri, at this point a revolution might kill fewer people."
Since they relied on ice, Russian Mountains were only available during the winter -- that is, until thrill-seeking Russian Empress Catherine the Great (the Michael Jackson of the 1700s, apparently) decided to have her own personal slide built in her back yard and demanded that it be usable during the brief portion of the year that Russia isn't a depressing ice sculpture, laws of nature be damned. Her terrified subjects solved the problem by using wheeled carts instead of ice tracks, thus inventing the modern roller coaster.
"Now great lines shall form in front of the structure, and men shall dress as mice and ducks."
When French entrepreneurs witnessed this invention during the Napoleonic Wars, they brought the idea back to their home country, where news of the fantastic thrills spread throughout the land via slender, mustachioed men. In the mid-1800s, a version of the dry slide made a debut on Coney Island in the United States -- but it wasn't the first American roller coaster, or the most insane ...