Flamingo Land14th July 2002
Flamingoland is not a park I would have taken any notice of before this trip. However, I'm now better informed. It seems that one of the most successful coaster designers of all time was a German engineer called Anton Schwarzkopf, and two of his unique attractions can be found in a small park in Yorkshire. Apparently these rides are gradually being phased out due to their age, making it a real rarety that two different ones are still operational in the same park. So now you know!
The first of these rides was Bullet (#43), or to give it is original name, Wiener Looping. The course began with a powerful backwards launch out of the station and up a spike, which left enough potential energy for the train to make it through a vertical loop, round a few corners, and up a parallel spike. From there, riders repeated the whole experience in reverse. The layout was fiendishly intense, with the forces pinning me into the seat throughout. Half way through the course had me well on course to nominating a new favourite coaster when my restraints abruptly closed an additional notch. This left my shoulders taking the full weight of a heavy bar, and the strong forces didn't help. The net result was acute pain and no desire to ride this apparent masterpiece again.
Restraint design appears to have been quite a problem for Herr Schwarzkopf, as the original harnesses had been completely removed on Magnum Force (#44), formerly Dreier Looping. Instead, the trains had been fitted with an elaborate four point restraint system. On the positive side, this ensured riders security without any possibility of being hurt by the harnesses. On the negative side, each passenger took so long to secure that a train was going out every ten minutes or so, hardly ideal for a such a major attraction. Fortunately the wait proved well worth it; once again the ride was loaded with powerful forces, particularly as we traversed the three vertical loops.
A quick ride on Wild Mouse (#45) brought us to a rather hideous contraption by the name of Corkscrew (#46), a ride that felt very much like it was operating with square wheels. The cars started bouncing on the rails from the moment the train picked up any speed, to the point that the small child occupying the seat next to me started whinging loudly about how rough it was. There was certainly no good excuse for the ride to be this violent, especially when compared to Magnum Force.
We had two more coasters left to ride, quickly ticking off Dragon Coaster (#47) and Thunder Mountain (#48). The latter was my first experience of a normal roller coaster (thus excluding X:/No Way Out) operated completely indoors and in the dark. If it had been outdoors it would likely have been nothing special, but the pitch darkness made a relatively minor ride much more exciting, as it was impossible to see what was coming next.
Lightwater Valley14th July 2002
For the afternoon we relocated to Lightwater Valley, another relatively unknown park. I'd been warned to start my visit with the Bat Flyer (#49), a single rail suspended roller with exceptionally low capacity. Some high speed walking put me in the queue with just twenty people in front of me, but that was still almost an hour to wait. By the time I'd disembarked there were at least one hundred people waiting, making it very clear that this was one credit some of our group would be missing. The ride itself was interesting albeit missable. It was certainly not worth walking up several flights of stairs for!
The long wait for this ride had left me without a group, but this wasn't a problem. The Ladybird (#50) and Twister (#51) were ticked off in short order, bringing me over to the The Ultimate (#52). This ride is currently the longest roller coaster in the world outside of Japan, with a track length approaching one and a half miles. The first half of the ride was relatively good fun, with some decent drops. However, the second half proved positively vicious, with the train taking some sharp turns at close to full speed, throwing riders from side to side. Apparently engineers from British Rail were responsible for building some of this ride; it seems unlikely that it was one of their finer achievements.
The only remaining coaster was, in my opinion, the best in the park. Sewer Rat (#53) was completely enclosed, and featured some superb theming. The queue area brought me through the expected concrete pipes that were just about tall enough to stand in, with dripping water (I hope!) falling from the ceiling in strategic places. The ride itself was our third Schwarzkopf design of the day and the only one with sensible restraints, namely bars across riders laps. If only the others had been the same!
South Pier14th July 2002
The coaches arrived back at our base in Blackpool far too early to go to bed. It took me half an hour to cover the distance between Pontins and South Pier at a brisk pace. Later it became apparent that others had made the same trip, but it seems that most of them took public transport; the concept of healthy exercise seems to be sadly alien to some of my comrades. The only coaster at this park was the Crazy Mouse (#54), which was nothing new to me at this point having ridden a clone of it earlier the day, but it was still one more entry for the credit list!