Classic Coasters From Yesteryear

 

all good things must come to an end

 

Greetings fellow adrenalin junkies and welcome to my special retirement home for roller coasters, where they are celebrated and remembered in all their glory.  All the coasters featured on this page are no longer in operation and have gone to that big scrap heap high in the sky.  I have been on all of the coasters featured on this page and reminisce on my favourite moments.  When I researched the material for this page I was fascinated to learn the reasons why Alton Towers removed the Thunder Looper from the park, and now you can learn too - enjoy!

Thunder Looper

The mighty Thunder Looper was arguably the best ride at Alton Towers prior to the arrival of Nemesis.  I think I only ever went on the Thunder Looper twice but what an experience it was!  I remember seeing the two track ends poking out of the trees whilst on the school coach.  For most people it was the first thing they saw on the approach road to Alton Towers and for me it was when I started to get really excited because I knew we were almost there.  Like everyone else I was really surprised when it was removed from the park at the end of the 1996 season, so I have done some research to try and discover why Alton Towers removed it after just six years of operation.  But before I reveal exactly why it was removed, let us reminisce on Alton Tower's most missed attraction.

 

Thunder Looper was installed in the park for the 1990 season.  It opened up a brand new area of the park for visitors, which was called Thunder Valley (now the Forbidden valley).  It was located right on the very edge of the park close to the car parks and monorail station.  Even when it opened at the Towers in 1990 the ride was actually very old.  It was originally built in 1977 for the Kings Dominion Park in the USAThe ride was pretty good and the format was simple.  It consisted of a long piece of track with steep inclines at both ends and a giant loop in the middle.  The train had simple lap bars (no shoulder restraints) which worried many people because the ride went upside down.  The train would be launched from the station, and would accelerate from 0 - 53 mph in about two seconds. It would then go through the giant loop and then travel up the steep incline, where it lost all its speed and went all the way back again in reverse.

Thunder Looper's large capacity per hour meant that queues were always short.  And the more people that rode it enhanced the thrill of the ride as the extra weight made it slightly quicker.  It was also better on wet days because the extra slip at the launch made it even faster.  It was still operating when Nemesis joined the line-up in 1994, but it was withdrawn in 1996 and was replaced by the Blade and Rip Saw during a re-theme to the area.  The area was also re-named to Forbidden Valley following the Thunder Looper's departure.

So why did Alton Towers remove the ride after just six years of operation?  Well the answer was due to three factors; noise issues, planning permission and reliability of the ride.  Every year Alton Towers receives many complaints of noise from local residents and thus is subject to very strict planning conditions.  Most of the new attractions in the park cannot be built above tree level.  This is why Rita's highest section is painted green, and the Corky's top section was also painted green before it was withdrawn - they hadn't forgotten to paint it like most people assumed; it was so the ride blended into the tree line to prevent it being visible.  This is also why Nemesis was built in a man made pit; to keep the noise levels contained within the pit and so the top part of the ride is not higher than the tree line.  As already mentioned the Thunder Looper could clearly be seen above the tree line and so the ride had to be removed as it breached the planning permission. 

In addition to the planning issues the ride's maintenance was also becoming an increasing issue for the park.  As the ride was old when it opened at Alton Towers it suffered from a lot of breakdowns and subsequent down-time.  It apparently had cracks on the track and the train, and thus had to be repaired more frequently.  I remember I was really disappointed on one school trip because the Thunder Looper was closed whilst the track on the loop section was being welded!

The attraction created far too much noise, hence the name 'Thunder' Looper! The excessive noise annoyed the local people and wildlife leading to hundreds of noise complaints to the local council and Alton Towers.  The cows in surrounding fields reportedly calved at the wrong time of year due to the noise from the ride.  However, fear not Thunder Looper fans as the ride is still operational to this very day!  It now resides in Hopi Hari theme park in Brazil under the name of 'Katapul', and it is now painted in blue as shown in the photos on this page!

 

Facts & Figures

 
Theme Park: Alton Towers
Opened: 1990 by Frank Bruno
Closed: 1996
Length: 220m
Height: 41.8m
Weight: 190 tonnes
Max Speed: 53mph (85km/h)
Trains: 1 train 4 seats per row, 7 rows - a total of 28 guests per ride
Capacity: 1, 400 riders per hour

 

   

 

Cool Videos

 

Archived Footage Of The Legendary Ride

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEsQC_8BLMA

 

The Beast & Thunder Looper

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZG_6I4Vx6k

 

Photos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twTv0mbJRCg

Tower Of Terror

Camelot's Tower of Terror is no longer operational

The Tower of Terror was Camelot's star attraction for many years.  It was the first coaster I have ever been on, so by default it holds a special place in my heart.  It featured a loop-the-loop inside a fake castle ruin, which was the only theming to the ride.  The Tower of Terror was removed in 2000 to make way for a new attraction called Invertigo.  But this new attraction never got planning permission and therefore couldn't be built.  The Tower of Terror was also removed for financial issues as the ride was leased along with another of Camelot's attractions.  While the ride was being dismantled, the castle shell was burned down when some sparks from the dismantling equipment landed on it.  The ride itself was a bit scorched in places but mainly unscathed.  The ride was then sold and re-located to Dreamland in Margate where it stayed for a brief period.  It was then moved again to Loudoun Castle in Scotland where it is now operating under the new name of Twist N' Shout. 

In the late 90's I had the opportunity to ride on the Tower if Terror again.  I was in my late teens and went to the theme park with my friends Joy and Paul.  It was interesting how my vision of the ride had dramatically changed from the last time I had been on it when I was 12 years old.  The ride was smaller than I had remembered it and not as intense as I originally remembered it being as a child.  It still packed a punch but was definitely aimed for a younger audience, just like Camelot is aimed at young families.  However, I must give credit to this ride as it is responsible for getting me into coasters.

 

Facts & Figures

Park Camelot Theme Park, Lancashire
Opened: 1989
Closed: 2000
Type: Steel - sit down
Height: 60 ft (18m)
Length: 1,817 ft (554m)
Max speed: 41 mph (66 km/h)
Inversions: 1; loop-the-loop
Duration: 1:48
G-force: 3.5
Capacity: 1500 riders per hour
Relocations: Ocean Beach Amusement Park as Looping Star, Camelot Theme Park as Tower of Terror, Dreamland as Looping Star, Loudoun Castle, Scotland as 'Twist N' Shout' (current location and operating since 2003).

 

Cool Videos

On-ride

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTHeypElFoo&feature=related

 

Camelot Theme Park

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfBF1PFq8UA

Corkscrew

Note that the top of the track is painted green to blend into the tree line

The good ol' classic Corky was Alton Tower's signature attraction for many years.  It was used in the TV adverts, which showed the train going through the double helix while the catchy song, #Alton Towers, where wonders never cease# played.  The most memorable moment of the Corky for me it was hearing it before I actually saw it.  The droning noise from the lift-hill could be heard all around the surrounding area, especially as the train got to the top and started to roll. 

The Corkscrew was installed for the 1980 season - the year I was born!  At the time it was Alton Tower's biggest ride and Europe's first roller coaster to feature a double corkscrew.  For many years it sat completely un-themed in Festival Park, until the area was re-themed into UG Land in 1999 - a prehistoric theme.  I think this was the time when the old trains were removed from service and replaced by two new ones.  In 2004 it was closed while Rita - Queen of Speed was being constructed next to it.  The Corky was fine but the park decided not to run it, so it was classed as Standing But Not Operational (SBNO).  In 2005 when Rita opened next to the Corky, it had a new paint job but remained classic yellow in colour.  As mentioned already the top of the Corky was painted green to blend into the tree line, due to planning conditions.

Alton Towers iconic Corkscrew is also no longer operational

The ride itself started with a slow, droning climbing lift hill.  Once at the top the train took a small dip and turned around before the 'big drop'.   The train then went into a banked turn and then travelled through the double helix.  The two consecutive corkscrews were the ride's signature section.  Several banked turns and helixes later the train entered the brake run and then returned to the station.  In it's final years the ride was certainly showing its age and felt quite rough at times.  Towards the end of the 2008 season Alton Towers announced that the ride was coming to the end of its life and had taken the tough decision to permanently remove their the iconic ride.  The area it occupied is now being used for Alton Tower's new ride, called Thirteen (Secret Weapon 6) and the area has been re-themed yet again, this time into the Dark Forest.  Some of Thirteen's theming including a massive 15m tree contains recylced steel from the Corky to pay homage to the ride.  The rides double helix has also been saved and the park intend to put in on permanent display by the main entrance as an art feature!  While the Corky was old and rough it still packed a punch and was directly responsible for putting Alton Towers on the theme park map and turning it into the success it is today.

 
 

Facts & Figures

Theme Park: Alton Towers
Opened: 1980
Closed: 2008
Manufacturer: Vekoma
Length: 750 m
Weight: 350 tonnes
Height: 23 m
Duration: 90 seconds
Capacity 1,200 per hour
Speed: 65km
Train: 12 cars per train - 2 people per car - 24 people per train.  2 trains in operation

 

Cool Videos

Going Live Visit

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQn7bcKWsbU

 

Archived Photos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO41BlC8edU

 

Corky Tribute 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc176lCYWVY

 

On-Ride 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFYXjCM_9KA

 

On-Ride 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1Idr7_ACOU

 

Corky Tribute 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXfW1d1Ga-w

 

Corky Tribute 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWQ_HPYyASA

Black Hole

The Black Hole was another one of my favourite roller coasters at Alton Towers and usually the first ride we went on each time we visited the park.  This was because it wasn't too intense and was located away from the main entrance, so the queues were not usually very long in the morning.  The rides concept was simple; take a journey through space and travel through star systems, black holes and nebulae into the great unknown.  It was Alton Towers second roller coaster (the corky being the first) and opened for the 1984 season.  During the rides construction over a quarter of a million tons of earth was excavated to make way for the ride.  The Black Hole was shrouding in mystery because it was housed inside a giant tent and therefore the track layout was hidden from view.  However, it is widely believed that the layout was very similar to the layout of the New Beast, which was located on the current Air site in the Forbidden Valley.

The coaster was very well themed and exploited the darkness well.  Strobe lights and other lighting effects enhanced the ride and created the deep 'lost in space' atmosphere.  During the mid-nineties the whole ride was allegedly removed off site and transported to Europe where it had a major overhaul.  This allowed the ride to use dual car trains, improve capacity and thus reduce queue times.  The tent also received a major paint job when Fantasy World became X-Sector in 1998 with the introduction of the Oblivion, the world's first diving coaster.  The tent's original colour was a hideous green and yellow, compared to the improved black and silver during the late nineties.

 

Being shrouded in complete darkness, the Black Hole is one of the most difficult rides to describe.  I remember queuing for the ride and walking into the claustrophobic tunnel that took you down into the tent and loading station.  The ride also started in a very dark tunnel painted black and white with a strobe light running down the side.  Then you entered the main room where you slowly spiralled up the lift hill.  You spiralled up for a few minutes, which seemed like an eternity.  Special lighting effects made the ascent interesting and teased you by revealing parts of the track very briefly so you could just make them out and calculate how high you had left to climb before the big drop.  However, when you actually got to the top you really didn't know when the drop was coming until you started hurtling into the great dark unknown.  In the very early years (before my time) a voice told you to hold on tight just before the drop.  I remember going on the ride for the first time with my best friend Joy.  I was still new to roller coasters in those days and was quite nervous.  Joy sat in front, which was a big mistake for her because I accidentally bear hugged her when the train started to drop as I was so nervous and didn't know what to expect!

I remember in those days there were two astronauts and a strobe light in the main room where the train spiralled up the lift hill.  I also remember lots of star lights passing over your head in one section to give you the illusion you were travelling much faster than you actually were.  This was a very cool effect and the lights I'm talking about are the ones people hang up on the gutters of their houses during Christmas time.  I also remember the train slowing down and just when you were wondering what was going to happen next a bright light came on from far down below you and then out of nowhere you were dropping, hurtling down towards it at speed.  Then just at the last second the train banked and turned away from the light and into a helix.  This was the beauty of the Black Hole; the unexpected - not knowing when the drops were coming.  Eventually the train reached the brake run, where once again you headed towards a very bright light.  It turned the people in front of you into silhouettes, or if you were sitting at the front it disorientated you as it was so bright.  The train came to a stop and then moved slowly towards the light, then just at the last minute the train turned to miss it and entered the unloading station.  The Black Hole had separate loading and unloading stations, which was actually one long station divided into two.

So why was it removed?  Well there were a few reasons behind the Black Hole's removal.  Firstly the ride was old and had a poor hourly capacity of 900 people, meaning the queues would often build up for the attraction.  According to some websites the average queue for the ride was between thirty minutes to an hour.  A critical factor in sealing the Black Hole's fate was new, tougher health and safety legislation for fair ground rides; all roller coaster's lift hills needed to have evacuation exits and walkways on them.  If you look at Nemesis it has a walkway on each side of the lift hill and wire mesh underneath.  Air has a separate lift and platform system at the foot of the lift hill, which can be used for evacuating guests if the ride breaks down, and you will notice some of Oblivion's staff wearing harnesses next time you ride it - this is if the ride needs to be evacuated whilst it is on the lift hill; it has evacuation stairs on both sides.  As the Black Hole was located inside a tent it was not feasible (due to the space constraints and financial implications) to put emergency walkways and exits along the spiral lift hill.  Any new structure would have to be located outside the tent, so the Black Holes fate was sealed and it was withdrawn from operation in 2005.  To this day the tent is still present in X:Sector but it is currently empty, although there are rumours something is going inside the tent for the 2011 season - watch this space! 

 

Facts & Figures

Location: Alton Towers
Type: Steel (Jet Star 2) - enclosed
Opened: 1984
Closed: 5th March 2005
Lift hill: Electric spiral lift
Height: 44.25 ft (13.49m)
Drop: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Length: 1,919.25 ft (584.99m)
Speed: 32 mph (51 km/h)
G-force: 2.9
Inversions: 0
Duration: 1:50
Capacity: 900 riders per hour
Train:

2 cars per train, 3 seats per car, 2 persons per seat; one in front of each other as the trains were only 1 person wide

 

Cool Videos

On-Ride With The Lights On

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdhiIYj6BZ0

 

Going Live Visit

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQn7bcKWsbU

 

Archived Photos 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO41BlC8edU   

 

Archived Photos 2

http://gallery.towersalmanac.com/thumbnails.php?album=114

 

Archived Photos 3

http://ridemad.com/inside-alton-towers-black-hole-tent 

  

 

Cyclone

 

The Cyclone was a classic, traditional out n' back wooden roller coaster, located at Southport's Pleasureland.  It was the fair's main attraction for decades before the introduction of the Traumatizer (which has now been relocated to Blackpool and re-named as Infusion).  The Cyclone featured several big drops and the track layout was in the classic figure of eight style.  Pleasureland and the Cyclone were closed from 1941 to 1943 due to the park being used for military purposes during World War II, so the ride was classed as Standing But Not Operational (SBNO).

Sadly the Cyclone's fate was a grim one as it was completely demolished by chainsaws in November 2007 when the fairground permanently closed due to financial problems.  However, the trains were saved and taken to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  It was a very sad end to a classic old fashioned British wooden coaster.

 

Facts & Figures

Park: New Pleasureland, Southport
Type: Wooden coaster
Opened: 1944
Closed: 9th May 2006
SBNO: 1941 to 1943 (during World War II)
Designer: Charles Paige
Length: 2500'
Height: 60'
Inversions: 0
Speed: 42 mph
Duration: 1:45
Trains:

2 trains with 3 cars per train. Riders arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 18 riders per train.

 

Cool Videos

Ride The Cyclone

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnQcFqD4epE

 

Southport Fair

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYuI3YQt5Zw 

The Beast

In 1988 Alton Towers installed 'The Alton Beast'. The track was painted green and the ride consisted of a spiral lift-hill followed by a steep drop and straight into a very tight, rib-hurting helix, which pulled an incredible 4G's on the riders (the same g-force Nemesis achieves).  This meant riders felt four times heavier than they actually were.  The trains then went through the rest of the 560m track, through corners, turns and helixes.  At one point the coaster was said to have the steepest drop in Britain (obviously before Oblivion and Saw The Ride!).  In 1992 the ride was relocated to Thunder Valley, painted red and renamed as 'The New Beast'.  The coaster remained operational until the end of the 1997 season when it was removed to make space for Alton Tower's next big roller coaster, which arrived in 2002 as Air - the parks most technologically advanced coaster to date!

 

Facts & Figures

Park: Alton Towers
Opened: 1988
Closed: 1997
Length: 872m
Make: Schwarzkopf
Height: 14m
Weight: 170 tones
Speed: 44 mph
G-force: +4
Train: 4 trains in total, 12 riders per train
Capacity: 2, 000 riders per hour

Cool Videos

 

Archived Photos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iMn-ASMWl8  

 

The Beast & Thunder Looper

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZG_6I4Vx6k

 

control the music above

Page Last Updated: 02/01/10   ><><><><><><