Linnanmäki

22nd October 2023

My morning began in a hotel room adjacent to Helsinki Vantaa Airport. The weather outside was dismal, with murky skies, light rain, and a forecasted peak of 4ºC – to the point that I wondered whether it'd be best to stay in bed for the day rather than risk a repeat of the situation at Furuvik. After some contemplation I decided that I could at least go be a tourist in the Finnish capital and, if all else failed, drown my sorrows in the mobile bar. As such I put on my thermals, two pairs of socks, and two outdoor coats before heading to the train station inside the airport terminal.

The airport is served by I and P trains that head in different directions before converging for the two final stops, named Pasila and Helsinki. Those heading to Linnanmäki should disembark at the former, located roughly fifteen minutes walk from the park or about five minutes away on one of the many rental E-scooters scattered around the city. The journey is straightforward, and easy to follow as many of the park’s taller rides are clearly visible from the station exit, including Ukko, Raketti (S&S Space Shot), and Kingi (Moser Rides Gravity Tower).

Taiga from road

I arrived at the main entrance roughly half an hour before the advertised 1:00pm opening, and as the gate had yet to open I decided I might as well kill some time by walking the length of the park's northwestern boundary in search of interesting photographs. The main visual was of Taiga (#3100), an Intamin launched coaster that replaced Vonkaputous, a short and utterly uninspired Premier Rides Liquid Coaster that was guaranteed to soak all those crazy enough to ride. It’s telling that both examples of the type were retired before their time, the stateside installation metamorphosing into Powder Keg after just four seasons.

In due course I returned to the front gate, and having acquired a wristband joined the back of the queue for the ride that had I’d gone to Finland for in the first place. I didn’t have to wait long; after two test launches I was able to take a seat in the back row for the first public train of the morning. Today the ride operators were asking all passengers if their pockets were empty before checking restraints, and a spoken answer was apparently required, though this might have been because the operator was a polyglot and wanted to show off; at least three languages were attempted before we got to English.

With that hurdle overcome I was dispatched into what clearly had the makings of a top notch coaster. From the rear of the train however I found it difficult to enjoy, due to a persistent shake and rattle that continued throughout the circuit. There may well have been airtime but it wasn't particularly memorable amid the bouncing, and the train barely seemed to make it over the top hat element – though some of that might have been due to the cold. A second lap twenty minutes later in the front seat was much smoother and a lot more enjoyable, helping me understand why some enthusiasts proclaim it to be their number one, though I’m not going to even consider it for that accolade personally given that the quality of the experience is apparently very dependent upon where you sit.

One interesting feature of the ride is the way that the trains have running lights on the side of each car. These look really good after darkness falls, though it would be remiss of me not to record the fact that those in use today had at least one car where this system wasn’t working properly. I also noticed that only half of the track area was illuminated, which struck me as a bit bizarre especially given that the adjacent Rinkeli ferris wheel gives a clear overhead view of the entire layout. (I rode the wheel twice for photo purposes, once during daylight and a second time after dark when it had picked up a three quarter hour queue; the things we do for the perfect photograph.)

Taiga from inside

The park’s oldest steel gravity coaster was rebranded a few years ago to Linnunrata eXtra, the adjective referring to the fact that guests can choose between a number of different virtual reality overlays. As the ride was more or less walk on I elected to try them all as part of my research for a comprehensive trip report, followed by a non-VR cycle (call that the “control” sample) that I found to be considerably less nausea-inducing. I was pleased to see that dated but effective physical theming remains in place, though the lighting level was pretty low today, perhaps to minimise interference for those using headsets. (As a fun aside, while writing this trip report I discovered that the ride building is a former water tower that is protected by city ordinance; fitting a roller coaster inside it without causing damage and/or political upset must have been quite a feat.)

Those wearing headsets can choose between the different options by looking up at a menu in the virtual sky. A distinctive chirp noise plays to confirm that a choice has been made, and it's also possible to validate the selection by looking down at your own lower body and legs, as you will have been given a suitably themed virtual outfit. The selection on offer today consisted of three choices:

  • Halloween Horror. I thought this to be the best of the three overlays. The first of two lift hills was mapped to a staircase in a spooky-looking castle, and the route from that point forth toured different rooms at high speed. The occasional phantom made a guest appearance, but not in a frightening manner; those of a nervous disposition would have been fine.
  • Space. This overlay did nothing for me; it was bright, colourful, and cartoony, with nothing resembling what a typical planet might look like. I could see the visuals appealing to younger visitors, but everyone over the age of ten or so would do far better to pick a different option.
  • Wing Suit. This overlay began in a virtual rendition of the park, with you apparently running up the lift of Vuoristorata (I’d love to try that in real life….) before diving off the side into adjacent mountainous terrain that does not in fact exist, but then I guess that's the point of VR. The experience concluded with us landing back on the roof of the ride building a good five seconds after the real-life train came to a halt in the station.

My next stop was at Kyöpelinvuoren Hotelli, a haunted dark ride that nominally dates from 1950 but has been overhauled several times since, most recently by Gosetto for the start of the 2013 season. The majority of scenes were made up of animatronics, though there were a handful of digital displays in the mix, one of which was accompanied by a dramatic and effective wind effect. I also tried Taikasirkus, a circus-themed dark ride produced by Rex Studios and WGH Transportation. The first two scenes made me think that this was a few minutes of my life I’d never get back, but things picked up after that with brightly coloured animatronics accompanied by a not entirely obnoxious soundtrack.

Taikacircus

I enjoyed my own private cycle on the Panoraama observation tower, which in defiance of all expectation (and tradition) had completely clean windows. The cycle time here was quite lengthy for whatever reason, giving me a plenty of time to take the pictures I wanted. Reflections limited the overall calibre, though; an open-air cabin would have been much more photographer-friendly.

The most popular ride in the park, according to signage at least, is a classic Scenic Railway dating from 1951. The queue for Vuoristorata (which, strangely enough, shares its name with my laser printer) is decorated with a wide variety of information boards that talk about its history and staffing. I was particularly interested in one that had photographs and length of service of the various brakemen, one of whom has apparently been working on the ride since 1999. I’d be genuinely curious to know how many laps he completes in an average year; as much as I love a good wood coaster, I’d have thought that 24 years of the same layout repeated ad nauseam would begin to get tiresome. For the occasional visitor like me, however, the ride was perfection; there was even some airtime to be had over some of the hills. I enjoyed two laps before moving on.

Next on my to-do list was Salama, one of a relatively small number of custom-layout spinning coasters from Maurer Rides. My car didn’t manage a lot of spinning today, covering perhaps two rotations around the course, but the tracking was smooth so the overall experience wasn’t too bad. (One of my few regrets as an enthusiast is that I never made it to the spinning coaster on the hillside at Habtoorland in Lebanon, which looked spectacular. If time travel ever becomes practical then a visit to that ride will be high on my to-do list.)

The park is home to what is now the third oldest Mack powered coaster in operation. It's probably kindest to describe Pikajuna as a product of its time; though the build quality is perfectly respectable the layout really doesn't do all that much. The train completes three laps of a course consisting of two helices connected by a fairly straight track section. There is no theming of any kind. Today the train felt like it was struggling during the ascents, to the point that I’m not at all convinced that it was hitting the published top speed of 23mph.

Tulireki

The only other coaster on my to-do list today (I was fine with skipping both Kirnu and Ukko) was Tulireki, the only remaining example of a Mack E-Motion Coaster. The ride looks at first glance like a custom wild mouse, akin to the various members of the Gerstlauer Bobsled family, though it has a unique feature: deliberately flexible suspension that allows the car to rock slightly in all directions. This sounds more exciting than it actually is (the same effect is achieved accidentally by many elderly Pinfari rides) but one should at least credit the designers for trying something different.

That said, one has to wonder how much longer this ride will be in service. Today just one of the original four cars was in use, and while a second could be seen under obvious maintenance behind the station, the remaining two were conspicuously absent. The resulting queue moved very slowly indeed, as one might expect with a six passenger dispatch every four minutes or so, though on a happier note the ride was enjoyable. The gravity section was shorter than I'd have preferred, but having said that with one train operation it's probably just as well that it ended when it did.

The park demolished its classic Vekkula funhouse at the end of 2017 due to structural problems, replacing it (after a fashion) with Pellen Talo, a fairground model from Gosetto that was allegedly intended to be temporary (but is now concluding its fifth season). The experience today was utterly undistinguished, with several effects out of action, including the moving steps and a few of the moving floors. The end result was disappointing, and unbecoming of a major park that is otherwise filled with high-quality attractions. I hold out some hope that it will have been replaced by a proper fun house by the next time I visit Finland; time will tell.

I made my way back over to Taiga for a night ride, but baulked at the length of the queue. Instead, I decided to wrap up my day with the Kammokuja walk-through ghost house, which featured illuminated walls and effects triggered by sensor. 3D glasses were available for those who wanted them, but after a few moments I decided to remove mine as they didn’t appear to make any obvious difference.

Kamnokuja