Sure, we have the X-Games and X-treme Cheese Nachosplosion Doritos now in our modern age, but the extreme skateboarders and snowboarders and parkourists and whomever aren't fit to boil parrafin for the extreme sportsmen of a century ago. Take these fellows here, who, as a 1912 copy of Popular Mechanics tells us, rode railroad tracks down a freaking mountain at 120 miles per hour.
Oh, but don't be too impressed. If you look at the protective gear they had, you can see they were wearing hats, and their rail-sleds were made of advanced materials like wood, or as they called it "tree pork."
As the article says, the formula to make a sport attractive is "two parts novelty and one part danger." I suspect the exchange rate of danger must have changed dramatically over the past century, since sliding on a cogged railroad track down Pike's Peak (now Pikes Peak) is a hell of a lot more than one part danger. The toboggans used appear to be composed of a sitting board with a steel cleat to engage the center, cogged rail, and a long perpendicular bar for hand grips and to rest on the rails on either side. Oh, and what looks to be a foot rest.
No belts, seats, padding or any kind of protection at all, and these are used on nine miles of track, which drops nearly a mile. It's not surprising top speeds of around 120 mph, two miles a minute, were recorded on the steepest sections of the track.
Rail Tobogganing was started by railroad employees looking for a more exciting, lazier way to get down the mountain rapidly, and as their balls transformed into spheres of tempered steel, became a sport of sorts. Another article from the September 9, 1911 Telegraph shows that "shooting the peak" had been popular for a while, but railroad officials wanted to stop it because "the fool killer got on the job too often."
So the next time you're impressed by some bonkers skateboarding jump or see a moron train sledding, remember: barely-literate badasses were doing crazier shit a century ago. And in dress shoes.
(Hat tip to our old friend Ben Wojdyla!)