Coaster Kingdom


Shockwave's Shockwaves

As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Drayton Manor's famous stand up roller coaster, Shockwave, we look back at life before the Shockwave, and how the park has changed since the ride has opened.

See right for more features and in-depth reports on the Shockwave, and other rides celebrating their anniversaries. 

Article by John Phillips | Timeline by Marcus Sheen

It is difficult to overstate the extent to which Shockwave changed the look of Drayton Manor Park. Until 1992, visitors were met with a variety of disparate ride set around the edges of the lake. These were almost always presented exactly as the manufacturer left them, with no effort to create a unique look. The most extreme case of this was the Pirate Ship, which was presented exactly how it would appear on the German fairgrounds, even to the extent of having a huge name sign giving the ride's German name, "Pirat". The only major unique ride was the Log Flume, which had opened as a standard model one-drop ride, and latter extended to feature two further drops and a section running through the lake.

Other rides came and went, including the Jumbo Jet (actually a Schwarzkopf City Jet), and Vekoma Para Tower, a relatively tame drop ride, the short lived Quasar and Octopus spin rides, and various incarnations of the Ghost Train / Haunted Crypt. The park's first foray into custom designed coasters was 1987's Buffalo Mountain Coaster, a powered ride consisting of a helix over the lake, and another in a nicely landscaped garden.

Although the park saw a great number of small rides appear and disappear over the years, the area that now forms Shockwave's entrance remained relatively stable. The Pirate Ship occupied the area where Shockwave's corkscrews now stand, while the Jumbo Jet and Log Flume stood in the places now taken by Klondike Old Mine and Storm Force 10. In the mid 1980s, the Jumbo Jet was replaced with the Python, a coaster identical to Klondike, albeit totally unthemed. Beyond this trio, a large area of grassland stood empty.

Although Shockwave opened in 1994, the landscape actually changed in 1993, when the first phase of the park's grand plan was completed. The empty space had gone, replaced by "Splash Canyon", the park's new Intamin rapids ride. It also marked the park's first attempt at real theming, albeit on a relatively small scale. A frontier-town look greeted riders, while the ride itself passed various scene of wild-west buildings and the occasional animatronic cowboy. While the theming may not have been exactly world-class, Drayton Manor was on its way to becoming a major theme park.

When 1994 arrived, Shockwave dramatically changed the park's skyline. From a park whose only major coasters had been compact portable affairs, Shockwave towered over the surroundings and sprawled itself across the park like none of its predecessors had done. In terms of looking imposing, it surprisingly managed to hold its own against the main competition, the equally new Nemesis at Alton Towers and Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Although not themed as such, it continued the wild west style of Splash Canyon.

If the arrival of Splash Canyon and Shockwave changed the look of Drayton Manor, they were only the beginning of something much bigger. In 1995, Python was replaced with the heavily themed Klondike, and almost every year has seen some new features that have continued the transformation into a major theme park, notably the elaborately themed Stormforce 10 in place of the ageing Log Flume; Apocalypse, the world's first stand-up drop tower; Maelstrom; and 2003's Excalibur A Dragon's Tale in place of the old Jungle Cruise.

The Drayton Manor of today is a very different place to the Drayton Manor of old. It has transformed itself from a quaint group of amusements, to a highly respected modern theme park, while managing to enhance its sense of identity rather than destroying it. If ever you needed evidence of what a major coaster can do to trigger wholesale evolution of a park, look no further than Shockwave.

Python is replaced by Klonedike, a single-looping Pinfari Zyklon coaster

The Haunting opens, the UK's first modern haunted swing ride, manufactured by Vekoma

Stormforce 10 opens, the first flume in the UK to feature a backwards drop

Apocalypse opens as the first stand up Giant Drop ride in the world, manufactured by Intamin

2000 Cont.
Also in 2000, Golden Nuggets Wild West Shoot Out, an interactive family dark ride

Floorless stand up opens on Apocalypse, and Maelstrom, an Intamin GyroSwing opens

Excalibur A Dragon's Tale, a family towboat, replaces Jungle Cruise.

2003 Cont.
Also in 2003, Cyclone, a new Huss Enterprise opens opposite Apocalypse
A new entrance area, and Pandemonium, a Fabbri spin ride opens

Anniversary Features

Flying Machines

Maxim's Captive Flying Machines are reviewed

Time Flies
A brief look back at how Blackpool Pleasure Beach has evolved around the timeless Flying Machines

Maxim Biography
A look back at master inventor, Sir Hiram Maxim

Big One

The Pepsi Max Big One is reviewed

The Big Ten
A look at the Big One over the last ten years and the impact it's had

Making a Molehill out of a Mountain
Building the tallest coaster in the world in a park where it just won't fit 


Shockwave is reviewed

Shockwave's Shockwaves
Drayton Manor before Shockwave, and how Shockwave has changed the park

Colin Bryan Interview
Exclusive interview with Park Manager and family owner of Drayton Manor