Blackpool's quirky coasters
Pleasure beach Blackpool has an awful lot of history:
Since the industrial revolution, the people living in the cities travelled on the new railway network to get away from the polluted, busy, smelly, dirty centres.
They travelled to the countryside, to see the beautiful unspoiled hills of the Peak District, for example. Visited country houses and their landscaped and flowered gardens. This is originally how Alton Towers got onto the tourist map.
They also travelled to the seaside. Brighton in the south, Great Yarmouth in the East and Blackpool in the North West. The salty sea air was considered healthy, an everyone could enjoy paddling in the shallows of the sea, eating ice cream and enjoying the promenade.
The pleasure beach made profit from the captive audience by offering sideshows, fun houses, parades and thrill rides to the masses.
Pleasure beach Blackpool is in the middle of the town, stuck between the seafront, hotels and housing estates. It cannot expand, this means rides there are one of two things; historic or removed and repurposed.
The historic rides in Blackpool, I think are what makes it so special, no other place in the world is there such an eclectic mix of roller coasters. And they are packed in tight! Here is my thoughts on the more quirky roller coasters Blackpool has to offer.
The Big Dipper.
In many ways this is just a classic wooden roller coaster that is approaching a century old. An out and back layout, Art Deco style station and large, upholstered, creaky trains that rattle their way down the track. However there are a few things that set it on the far side of quirky. It has a very tight turn out of the station. So tight that the metal wheels have to skid diagonally along the well greased rails in order to navigate the turn. It then has a small shallow lift hill (with no clickety clack of an anti rollback dog) and a turn right then left to start you up the main lift hill (which is a continuation of the chain from the first lift hill but in the opposite direction, confusing).
If the first turn out of the station didn't worry you, the next bit will. At the top of the lift is the same tight turn that has to be skidded around, but this time you are high in the air on an Art Deco monument. After the turn at the top, the layout is pretty much standard out and back with the added interest of intertwining with all the other rides along the way.
One of the rides it intertwines with is the Steeplechase.
The Steeplechase is a health and safety nightmare. Three tracks of single rail roller coaster "jumping" over hedges and fences, racing the other two participants in your very own horse race. The vehicles which transport you on this race are basically carousel horses bolted to wheels attached precariously to the rail. This wouldn't happen in America. Riders get on and there is no lap bar, no over the shoulder restraints, no ankle locks, just a seatbelt. There are stirrups for your feet and handles to hold onto. You never really go fast enough for it to be dangerous if you are following the regular instructions of no standing up, hold on at all times. But this ride seems like it's just a way of making sure people use common sense so they don't die and in this race against two other riders, it's not the winning, or the taking part, but the getting to the end that counts.
For a large number of people over a certain age in the north of England, this will be the first looping roller coaster they went on. It is an early arrow shuttle loop and differs from schwarzkopf shuttle loops in that it is launched both ways, there is a reason for this.
To ride Revolution, first you must climb about 8 flights of stairs. The ride, perched atop an arching latticework of steel must have looked very futuristic 30 years ago.
The ride course is thus: launch, drop out of the station, loop, hill to second platform, repeat.
Loud speakers announce that this is the most thrilling ride experience of your life. It isn't.
So I bet you are wondering, why launch out of the station straight into a drop, well, launch is a very loose term, to say I have seen cruise ships accelerate faster might be unfair however after a long hiatus of not riding it, (and riding Stealth, Rita, rock'n'rollercoaster) the launch wasn't a launch. It is barely faster than kicker wheels, which is why you need to climb so high to have the drop to get round the loop.
I find it very interesting that a loop was all the ride (at the time) needed to make it popular and ground breaking, yet I feel shuttle loops from schwarzkopf have a lot more to offer in terms of thrills and ride completeness.
The Grand National.
Much has been said about the fact that the grand national is a möbius loop roller coaster (one continuous track with two loading stations, but asides from entering a different side of the station to the one you left, it doesn't make a difference to the ride. The ride is however, great. Starting off with a double-down first drop with both trains head to head, it is bunny hills intersperse with flat turns. The turns at the start are slow, so the train on the inside slowly creeps past the other, but as the ride continues, those turns are taken faster and faster until by the end you are flying past the other train at the corner. This is how racing roller coasters should be, the speed, intensity and rivalry building towards the end of the ride. It's a great ride!
The Wild Mouse
Uncomfortable, brutal, painful, unsafe, absurd. All these words can be used to describe the wooden wild mouse. Incredible, intense, unique is how I would describe it.
For those who played Rollercoaster Tycoon and stared baffled at the Virginia reel and side friction coaster wondering which century did these contraptions originate, the wooden wild mouse looks exactly like it did in the game, from the lattice woodwork down to the little mouse shaped cars careening around the corners leaning precariously all the way.
It's not often you get a "mind your head" sign on a ride, let alone whilst you are climbing the lift hill of a roller coaster. And this isn't a theming element, directly after you have to duck to miss the track passing over you.
The wild mouse has it's quotient of box turns, taken more violently than a steel wild mouse, with the cars leaning out of every turn. The drops are just as violent as the turns, plummeting downwards and invariably you leave your seat (and there is only a very loose seatbelt). The reverse side to this is at the bottom of the drops you return to earth with a bump.
The wild mouse is intense, it is painful. It is out of control and unique. It is one of my favourite rides in the world, even if I do come off with bruises!