We left our overnight hotel early in order to catch a lift to the airport with George, who was ostensibly going there for a business meeting in Italy. Our official plan was to take the Heathrow Express into London, something I've never done mainly due to cost; apparently it is more expensive per mile of travel than Concorde. The pricing on the tube system is much more friendly for full time students!
As we walked into the terminal I asked Andrew if he'd be interested in visiting another amusement park, and he responded in the affirmative. In retrospect I'm not sure what would have happened if he said no, but as it was, I told him I'd arranged something, and handed him a copy of the schedule for the European Coaster Club trip to Germany. His initial response of disbelief coalesced into a string of insults in my direction for concocting the alternative scenario he had been expecting! I think the disbelief only began to disappear when I took his photo in front of the Lufthansa flight that was to bring us to Hamburg. With over one hundred people travelling the club members were split across two flights, one of which was due to land almost two hours before ours. However, a rather insane mixup by British Airways resulted in both groups arriving at Hansa Park with five minutes each of each other; go figure.
24th July 2004
The park now known as Hansa Park opened in 1973 as Legoland Sierksdorf. It was sold a few years later and transformed into Hansaland, before being rebranded again almost a decade later. The name derives from the Hanseatic League, a medieval league of towns in northern Germany for promotion and protection of commerce. The three coasters currently in the park were all added after the Lego company made its exit, and a fourth, the Seeschlange, is now operating in Magic Park Verden just a hundred miles away.
The star attraction was always going to be the classic Schwarzkopf design, a single looping coaster named Nessie (#298). Though the ride dates from the late seventies it was no surprise to find it the smoothest in the park by a large margin. It was also being operated with a superb display of leistungsfähigkeit; a single middle-aged man wearing a smart bow tie was keeping two trains moving around the course with no stacking whatsoever. In any other country in the world there would be several staff members on duty and the trains wouldn't be dispatched as quickly.
Rasender Roland (#299) was installed to replace the aforementioned Seeschlange. Rather than go for an off the shelf design the park elected to think outside the box, resulting in a track layout that threads through Nessie's loop twice. While there may be no major drops the ride does achieve some powerful lateral forces, the result being almost like a family version of Titan. Intertwining coasters like this improves them immeasurably, even if it does make them slightly challenging to photograph!
Photographers were much better catered for at the Crazy Mine (#300) thanks to a large staircase located at one end of the ride. This was arguably the best feature of the attraction overall; sharp turns and ridiculously hard braking resulted in a coaster which was more painful than fun. The picture across was shot as the car crested the lift hill with four new victims passengers; they were not quite as happy by the final brake run!
Andrew wanted to try out the Blaue-Berge, a giant bouncing castle style ride for adults. Standing beside it with a camera seemed like the best plan for me, though quite a few club members joined the fray, many of them bouncing high into the air. I'm reliably informed that this was particularly hard work, not least due to the outside temperature which by this stage was approaching the thirty degree mark. The best way to cool down seemed to be the Rio Dorado spinning rapids ride, only my second encounter with the genre after Astroworld last year. The colour of the water was just a little suspect, but other than that the ride was top notch. The Wildwasserfahrt flume was also quite good, and in this case utterly drenching, thanks to a certain mancunian dentist adding his own large splash to the one generated by the ride.
The only really disappointing attraction in the park was the Giant Drop, a motor driven model by Maurer Sohne. The problem with controlled cars is that they take fifty feet or so to accelerate to something approaching free fall, meaning that a fairly large tower (such as Power Tower 2) is essential if the ride is to be worth the queue time. Unfortunately the ride here was no bigger than ninety feet, meaning that the car was already slowing down before it reached the expected speed. The experience was largely pointless, though on the plus side it did take people out of the queues for everything else!
24th July 2004
German fairs are nothing like those found elsewhere in the world, both in their presentation and their sheer scale. While all the usual fairground attractions tour the country the real star attractions are a number of massive roller coasters, most of which can be moved in a week or less. All the big fairs attract at least one of these coasters, and we were privileged to find two at the fair this evening. Alpina Bahn (#301) is a portable coaster designed by Anton Schwarzkopf that weighs well over six hundred tons, yet it is moved several times per year. We were taken to meet Angela Bruch, the ride owner, who generously allowed groups of us to take some photographs from inside the structure of the ride. There were only three provisos; vatch your head, vatch your step, und don't touch anything!
The most interesting thing for me was seeing the electrical switching room inside the coaster itself, which was vastly more complicated than I'd have anticipated. The task of operating a coaster with five trains seems relatively simple on paper; no more than one train can be in a block at a time, problem solved. Unfortunately this ride was built before computer technology became widespread, and as a result this relatively simple problem involves an impressive amount of of mechanical switches and sensors which seem oddly anachronistic in the early twenty first century. Having said that, if it ain't broke... The coaster itself rides like a dream, particularly in the front seat. There was a small amount of vibration towards the back but not enough to complain about. Maybe one day we'll see a ride like this touring in Ireland.
A rapid walk across the ground brought us to the other coaster, a partially enclosed Zierer named Black Hole (#302). The general consensus on this ride was that about a seven out of ten, at least one of those marks coming from it being almost completely in the dark. Moving a roller coaster from place to place is a big job in itself, which makes me wonder why anyone would want to move a big building to go around it too. Not that I'm complaining!