11 August 2011

Alton Towers: Better in the good old days?

I'm willing to guess the most common answer being yelled at the screen right now is "NO, OF COURSE NOT YOU MISGUIDED FOOL, WHAT WITH THE VERTICAL DROPS, 0 TO 62 MPH IN 2.2 SECONDS AND THE FREAKIN TRACK BREAKING FROM UNDER YOU...WITCHCRAFT I TELL YOU ) or something along those lines...

However some of Alton Towers greatest ever rides are no longer at the park, or even exist anymore!. Journey with me if you will to a time when Henry Hound called the ever derelict Towers his kennel, entrance fees were still affordable without needing to re mortgage, and health and safety wasn't the over-bearing parent figure it is today.

The closest many of us could get to aristocracy in the 80's.

Thunderlooper (1990-1996)

Lets start with the big one. The most fondly remembered of all who rode her, the basic formula of "go real fast from a standstill into a big loop, then back again" was a sure fire winner, especially in the wet when the speed of the ride was vastly increased. RITA may claim to be the queen of speed, but back in the day this gravity powered coaster launched from 0-60 in about the same time. It was a sad day when they dismantled the coaster allegedly due to the height of the ride (Alton Towers is governed by strict guidelines stating all rides must be obscured by the naturally surrounding trees) and the daily score of terror sung out by its many brave riders. Take a ride below if you reckon you've got the minerals...

Fear on steel rails. And then again. Backwards.

                             The Mississippi Showboat (1985-1991)

Health and Safety would have a field day with this. Billed as a "Fun house" (fun if you like getting your ankle mangled 3 times over before you find the exit) it was a walk through attraction that included moving plank floors, rotating floors and trying to kill you floors. All of this had to be contended with in the dark, and with a brass band fanfareing every trip to the park First Aid department.

Mississippi Deathtrap in all her "I wont really claim your foot as my own" glory 

                                  The Alton Mouse  (1988-1991)

Fairly common around the country Alton Towers version was no different. Spinal trauma, whiplash and a fear of tightly knit tracks, cheaply knocked together roller coasters were all to be expected.

Although actors, the fear in their eyes that they might exit the track on the next corner is very real.

Doom and Sons (1981-1992)

A personal favourite of mine, this makes the latest incarnation of the classic ghost house (Duel) look like a pixie picnic. In Wonderland. With the cast of "in the night garden". With a free bar and no hangovers. It. Was. that. Brutal. Another walk through attraction (though many ran) it scared the bejesus out of countless visitors until it was removed (possibly via exorcism) in 1992.

                 This was brown trouser time to an 8 year old Don Venucchi.

                             Around the World in 80 days (1981-1993)

The best geography lesson I ever had. You traversed the globe in your boat, meeting every racial stereo type imaginable all in the time it takes to boil an egg (or to tweet your shock at seeing racial slurs as a major theme park attraction LOL). Possibly removed to avoid the lawsuits that were looming menacingly on the 90's horizon.

                                        Such naive times the 80's...

                                        Alton Beast (1988-1997)

One time the steepest drop in Britain. It hit you with 4G in the first corner (as does Nemesis) oh and at the time I was riding it (towards the end of its days) there were no seat belts. Yep, I'm that hardcore.

                                            Where I got "Core"

                                     The Blackhole (1984-2005)

Another personal favourite with myself and the many others and not just because it was how they got their first awkward fumble with a girl whilst queuing in the dark, the "Blackhole" was a simply awesome experience. Sometimes lit, sometimes ridden in pitch black and sometimes ridden where you seemingly follow nought but a red line (my favourite) you careered around a similar track layout as the Beast, but indoors (where science somehow increases the illusion of top speed). I said similar though, as its a common misconception the the "Blackhole" and the "Beast" are the same ride. This is untrue they are indeed very similar as they were made by the same company (Schwarzkopf - not the hair product company, though that would be awesome!)but the "Blackhole" was the older, somewhat smaller of the two rides. Still it kicked huge amounts of ass and is sadly missed. The tent holding the old ride remains, possibly in homage to a true coaster legend.

                                I can feel the tears welling up...sob...

                                   The Corkscrew (1980-2008)

The original money maker, at the time Alton Towers killer ride and Europe's only double helix looping coaster. Fondly remembered by cosater aficionados as being "a bit rough", never the less the ride buttered the bread of the Towers for many years and helped shape the park the way it is today. The Famed double helix is proudly displayed at the main entrance to the park, a reminder of a fallen patriarch to all who visit today.

                      Pictured: many peoples first ever roller coaster ride

Granted I haven't covered all of the past greats, 1001 nights, the energizer, gravitron and the Swan boat ride are all in the heart, but alas did not make the final cut. So, Is Alton Towers better now than it ever has been? I'm not so sure, a mix of past and present rides would for me, make it the ultimate theme park. Doesn't hurt that its local either eh?


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