Blackpool Pleasure Beach 5&6 July

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Here's a brief review of my recent weekend at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with the European Coaster Club:

The Saturday started with an hour-long ERS on The Big One. With two trains running, there were just a few empty seats on each train, which meant that we were playing the coaster equivalent of musical chairs on the unloading platform. Those of us who stayed on the platform and filled the remaining empty seats on each train got twelve rides before the public joined in the fun. TBO was running very well, and is surprisingly smooth for an Arrow hyper – much smoother than Magnum just a few weeks ago. Sure -–there is less airtime on TBO, but you don't have to worry which seat you get – I rode in all parts of the train without a single bruise! A great way to start the day.

We were due to meet up at Valhalla for a photo shoot at 11:30, so I got in a ride on three of the woodies. First was the Big Dipper, which gives a classic dogleg out-and-back ride. The left turn during the third drop really slams you into the side of the car (make sure you sit on the right if you are a single rider!)

The Wild Mouse is still as smooth as a wooden Wild Mouse can be following its re-tracking a few years ago, and when you ride this one on your own the airtime really hits you. I was floating above my seat several times – riding with your legs crossed is great fun!

Next up was the Grand National – a real treasure. The double-dip on the first drop was giving ejector-seat airtime as always, and the lap bars were locking at a respectful distance from my lap. I miss the old trains with their low sides and buzz-bars, but the new trains still allow plenty freedom of movement. The second double-dip is part of an airtime combo that has you bouncing in your seat like a frog on a space hopper!

Time for Valhalla – we have a group photograph taken with a bunch of "real" Vikings – a group of people who dress up in Viking gear and go around staging mock Viking battles. The huge waterfall that covers the front of the ride was switched on and the line started building up, but we were allowed on first. This ride is one of the best dark water rides ever. Nearly all the effects were working, except for the snow (this ride has REAL snow falling inside the sub-zero "Frozen Wastelands" scene). The water vortex was in action – a tunnel of water jets about twenty feet long. Unfortunately, the jets were more like sprays, and the effect was like being in a torrential downpour – great fun! The fire effects towards the end of the ride were going full blast – it's quite a sight when you thunder down the biggest of the drops to see a wall of fire across your path. The spray from the water extinguishes the flames just long enough for the boat to pass through. I had three rides before I was soaked to the skin – back to the hotel for a change of clothes before a pizza buffet lunch with the rest of the club.

During the afternoon I tried to get on all the coasters – I managed the Revolution (Arrow shuttle loop), Steeplechase (Arrow), Avalanche (Mack bobsled), Grand National (again) and even the junior woodie Zipper Dipper before our ERS on the Roller Coaster (no lap bars or seat belts, but still some good airtime on the return trip). This was followed by an ERS on the Superbowl Dodge'ms – these cars are so fast that they had to be installed with padded lapbars to hold you in!

In the evening, I made my usual visit to see Eclipse – one of BPB's brilliant live shows. Eclipse features a fascinating mix of circus acts, gymnastics, ballet and aerial acts all joined up seamlessly to form a truly great show. I then met up with some other coaster clubbers at Pizza Hut (yes – I do like pizza!;-) before nipping off to the Horseshoe Showbar to watch Ken Webster – Comedy Hypnotist in action. I can't relate any of what happened in the show, as this is a family Website, but I laughed so hard my head hurt! Finally got to bed at 2:30…

The Sunday morning started with a joint ERS on the Grand National and the Wild Mouse – two crazy woodies in one session! This was the last official club session, and I spent the rest of the day trying to get on as many flat rides as I could. As I was riding the Hiram Maxim Captive Flying Machine, two thoughts came to my mind. First, that this huge ride would be 100 years old next year and, second, that even at 5 rpm, the carriages were swinging out over the Pleasure Beach midway at an angle of more than 45 degrees… It was great to ride the Whip and Water Chute as they operated sporadically last season, and there was some question over their future.

To get the credit, I went on the indoor Space Invader roller coaster, which has become progressively lower capacity over the years: The number of people per car dropped from 4 (in line) to three (in line with separate headrests and seatbelts) to 2 (separate headrests and OTSRs). One word – Ouch! This was the only ride with a significant wait (40 minutes) – all the other rides were virtual walk-ons.

The dark rides at BPB are great, and every time I ride the Gold Mine I wonder just how they manage to fit so much track into the space available!

A great weekend all round! Since BPB started selling ride-all-day wristbands, this park has become the best value for money anywhere. All they need now is a 500 foot tall rocket coaster…

Good trip report. BPB is a truly great amusement park. I was there the last Wednesday in June, the final week of the ride all day wristbands for just £15. The airtime on the Grand National even rivals that of the Phoenix, though the lap bars at times I find uncomfortable. The Wild Mouse has to be the finest Wild Mouse ride in the world, so much superior to its steel counterparts. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a wonderful experience for young and old and, in my opinion, can certainly hold it's own with the best of the American parks.

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