In late March I decided to book a trip to Finland to coincide with what I hoped would be the first few weeks of Taiga, a launched coaster from Intamin that was under construction at the time at Linnanmaki. A number of other enthusiasts from around Europe figured the second weekend in June to be a safe gamble, but we were all equally wrong; while our target ride started testing at the end of May an extended commissioning phase meant that we were in the country ten days too early. It would be dishonest of me not to admit to a little disappointment at the miss, but the embuggerance was minor in the grand scheme of things as I'm quite sure the ride will still be around when I'm next in the vicinity.
My trip began with an evening flight after a day in work, followed by an overnight in the Holiday Inn at Helsinki Airport. The location was fine and the staff were friendly, but the room was definitely in need of renovation. There was no light switch next to the bed, and the power sockets were linked to the ceiling lights which made it impossible to charge my phone in the dark. The standard was definitely not what I've come to expect from the IHG chain, though on the plus side my stay didn't cost me anything as I was able to book in on loyalty card points.
6th June 2019
Nokkakivi Park is located a little over three hours by road from Helsinki in an area that really is the middle of nowhere. The only city of any size in a fifty kilometre radius is Jyväskylä, which has a population of just over 140,000, and the major population centers are between two and four hours away by road. The sole geographical advantage that the park has is its position adjacent to European Route 63, a dual carriageway that runs virtually the entire length of Finland; one suspects that quite a few passing vehicles make impromptu stops after seeing the larger rides from the road.
The park was set up almost fifteen years ago by a member of the European Coaster Club, and it has grown steadily since. The additions have been carefully acquired with the aim of preserving the relaxed atmosphere, which has been inspired by the golden age of amusement parks in the early twentieth century. The official web site highlights the fact that around half of the attractions have been imported from the United States, and indeed the park is probably the only place outside of the lower forty-eight where you can find an Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel, an Allan Herschell Sky Fighter, and an authentic Sellner Manufacturing Tilt-A-Whirl at the same location.
I picked up a wristband on arrival and made my way to Cyclon (#2680), an Interpark machine that began life at Freizeitpark Familienland at the turn of the millennium. After thirteen seasons there it was sent to Wasalandia, a children's park located near the Vaasa ferry port that closed at the end of 2015 after years of declining attendance. Today the ride had a single car that made a great deal of noise on its way around the track. The comfort level was fine, however, and there was an unexpected surprise at the end; the first brake was not in use, enabling a bonus airtime drop (albeit one not quite as dramatic as that at Borjomi). I managed three laps.
My other hit today was the Ghost Train, which can be found in the south-eastern corner of the park. The ride is located within a very plain looking castle building with a few scattered theme elements in front of it, not least a collection of toilets with skeletons poking out of them. Though the outside doesn't look like much the interior is in a league of its own, with a number of quite unusual scenes, not least a motorcycle with a sidecar driven by a horror in a gas mask. There are also some more traditional scenes featuring a workshop influenced by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The ride was developed by Markku Hakola, and more can be read about it on his web page.
6th June 2019
Vauhtipuisto is a small children's park in Oulu, a city of two hundred thousand located roughly five hundred kilometres north of Helsinki. The place wasn't even close to being on my radar despite the presence of a roller coaster, as I'd ticked off the ride in question some years earlier at its infinitely more accessible former home. Readers will be well aware that I do silly things for my hobby on a very regular basis, but even I'm not generally prepared to drive for several hours for the privilege of riding a relocated Wacky Worm. What moved the proverbial goalposts was the presence of a travelling fair with two coasters and a whole bunch of other rides just one hundred metres away; had that not been present I would have made more intelligent use of my time.
The park is free to enter and walk around. Those who want to partake of the rides can purchase individual tickets for €4, and unlimited wristbands and season passes are also available. It is a measure of the place that tickets for children cost more than those for adults, and indeed only a subset of the attractions are suitable for taller visitors. One of those that is is Mato Mainio, a standard layout family coaster that has the curious distinction of being the oldest SBF MX48 in operation. I had the entire train to myself, and with a free choice I chose the back row for my three lap cycle.
Suomen Tivoli Oulu
6th June 2019
One of the last coaster designs produced by Pinfari prior to its bankruptcy was the MMM29, a respectably large family coaster that shoehorned 230 metres of track into a compact 17x29 metre footprint. The build quality and indeed the lively layout represented a significant step forward for the manufacturer, and thethreeversions that appeared in the United Kingdom during 2003 received generally positive reviews. I'd assumed that there were no more out there given that the company closed in early 2004, but I was wrong; the final model off the production line was a transportable unit that went to Suomen Tivoli in Finland.
I decided to begin my visit to the fair with a thorough exploration of the site. The setup was quite a bit larger than I'd anticipated, with almost thirty different machines laid out across two intersecting midways. Roughly half of the attractions were old school children's rides that looked absolutely pristine despite the fact that they would be equally at home in a museum. The adult selection was somewhat more modern, and respectable; I spotted a PWS Sizzler, a SBF Musik Express, a Technical Park Street Fighter, and a Wisdom Rides Gravitron. Individual tickets were priced at €5, with five for €20 and ten for €34. Wristbands were also available; a one day band cost €33, and a two day band was available for the true enthusiast for €60.
My first hit was Crazy Worm (Suomen Tivoli) (#2681), a Sartori model with the manufacturer brand embossed on the rear of each car. My preferred seat in the back row was out of action due to a restraint issue, but I was able to claim the fifth car for three standard laps. With that done I joined the short queue for the ride that I'd driven north for in the first place. Roller Coaster (Suomen Tivoli) (#2682) was running with a two lap cycle. My first ride towards the back was excellent, delivering to a sense of speed that was amplified by the tight knot of track. I decided it was worth going back for a second round, and as luck would have I scored a front seat that was even better.
With the credits ticked off I boarded the Giant Wheel, which was positioned ideally for overview shots of both the fairground and of Vauhtipuisto next door. I considered doing the thirty metre Fun LightStar Flyer copy for some alternative angles, but it was surrounded by trees and in any case had a lengthy queue that I didn't feel like waiting in. Instead I wrapped my visit with the Dark Ride, a SBF creation that looked very much like the identically named machine at Sincan Luna Park. The cars creaked their way up two levels, then descended back to earth passing a grand total of four forgettable effects on the way – and one of those was out of service. The only scene that sticks in my mind as I write this is a skeleton sitting up in a coffin, a token effort that wasn't good enough to rescue an embarrassingly bad ride.