Coaster Kingdom


Colossus, Thorpe Park

Thumb through any edition of the Guinness Book of World Records and you’ll see the extraordinary lengths people will go through to break a world record. Although breaking records is evidently a labour of love for some people, theme parks globally endeavour to break world records not only because many people abide by the mentality that bigger is better, but also because the record breaking ride will be rewarded with unprecedented publicity.

Record breaking coasters are often iconic by their very nature, and this is what Thorpe Park needed to debunk the reputation previous owners, RMC, had allowed the park to gain. Stat-savvy enthusiasts will know how the loss of the tallest (and inevitably fastest) record to another park is a near-annual event, and the record for the tallest coaster was one Thorpe Park couldn’t even consider because, as lenient as their planning restrictions were, they simply couldn’t stretch to in excess of 300ft.

One record that seems to have a certain durability to it, though, is the record for the most inversions. Up until 1995, no park seemed to go beyond a maximum of seven inversions. Opening with Port Aventura in 1995, the stalemate was eventually broken by Dragon Khan which tumbled riders head-over-heels eight times.

As the record for most inversions became stale, so too did Thorpe Park. Whilst nearby Chessington was reeling from the effects the Vampire had on their chances of getting permission for any more major rides, Thorpe Park had the luxury of being able to build major rides but had to first shed the reputation of being a glorified water park for kids to make such investments pay for themselves.

The ‘Sensory Overload’ began in 2001 with the addition of three rides; Detonator, Vortex and the somewhat less-thrilling Zodiac. But the park needed a signature ride, and one with the impact to say that Thorpe were now a big player. Breaking world records was the only way to go, and with little over 100ft of airspace to play with it made sense that the record they’d pursue would be for the most inversions.

So far, the record still stood at eight inversions, with Dragon Khan now sharing the honour with Brazilian roller coaster Monte Makaya. This Intamin roller coaster was a small but perfectly formed 100ft tall, but the inline twists in particular are particularly sparing when it comes to the use of gravity, which enabled this relatively short ride to go through a relatively high number of inversions.

Replacing the final helix, two additional inversions were added, both inline twists which meant Thorpe Park would triumphantly steal the record for most inversions by 2001 and therefore unearth a marketing goldmine.

Much fanfare would accompany the construction of ‘Project Odyssey’ that spanned the 2001 season as the park discovered more Lost City remains from which the slender pale-cream supports would rise, topped by a slender aqua-coloured track. In front of the construction site, a model of the ride was displayed with every loop (by the laymen’s definition) marked with a label detailing the inversion number, type and how many inversions each element accounted for.

Come 2002, excited riders would have their very own chance to summersault their way through a record-breaking ten inversions; a vertical loop, cobra roll, a pair of corkscrews before ploughing through an unprecedented four inline twists with only a brief respite before rolling through a final inline twist onto the final brakes.

Lost City is the largest area at Thorpe Park, both in geographical terms and as far as ride counts are concerned. Considering it took even Tussauds years to unearth Lost City, it alone is the single biggest example of how Thorpe Park has grown since RMC sold the park.

Whilst many themes tell stories, Lost City’s theme elects to be merely decorative. The style applied throughout the Lost City is simple consisting mainly of crumbing stone buildings decorated with triangular obelisks, which, when combined with the lush greenery and lakeside setting brilliantly disguises the fact Colossus is essentially a clone with knobs on.

The queue line on busy days will take you onto a peninsula cast under the shadows of the inline twists towards the end of the ride, before heading straight into the centre of the ride, following the lift hill and then splitting towards the station for those who want to do the first two seats.

One of two trains will be your conveyance throughout the ride, each seating riders in a fairly standard 2x2 per car with seven cars per train. Each dark red and gold car features elevated seating in the rear of each car meaning that back seat riders get as much of a face full of the action as those in the front.

The loading of Colossus is neither fast nor efficient. For the computer to register that the ride is ready for loading, every single restraint must be pulled up into the full upright position by staff. Unlike Nemesis Inferno, the ride offers no assistance by popping up off their own accord, and are instead incredibly heavy and time consuming to open.

Not until all the bars are up are the gates then opened for the throngs of thrill seekers.

A degree in osmosis will most certainly help riders of a normal stature get into the rear of each car. Owing to a catalogue of issues including lack of headroom thanks to the restraints design, lack of legroom due to the seats in front, and a floor composed of numerous blocks to form ‘foot holes’, getting into the trains – specifically the back seat – is a palaver at best. Once seated, though, the seat is comfortable although the restraint is designed to keep wayward legs securely pinned down which can be uncomfortable if you pull the restraint down to far.

Once everyone is sat comfortably or otherwise, the train slowly advances out of the station and immediately onto the 100ft lift hill. As the back of the train starts the climb and the train behind enters the station, the lift moves up a hear as you climb away from the ground affording excellent views of Loggers Leap below, Nemesis Inferno stage right and beyond the edge of the park to your left.

With a clatter of anti-rollbacks, the train dips into a sweeping 180-degree bend which slyly evolves into the first drop.

The train makes an ungainly exit from the summit plummet, making a bid for the sky but not without turning riders’ heads groundwards as the train circles through a teardrop shaped vertical loop.

Falling from orbit, the train buries itself underneath the main pathway through Lost City arching over the queue-line below through a sublime bunnyhop. As you head towards a shop window of waving children, almost as an afterthought the train is pulled down an into a cavern beneath the souvenir shop before sensationally erupting from the ground arcing up into a snappy cobra roll – as the train plateaus above the walkway below, it abruptly curls back into the opposite direction, plunging back beneath the shop, climbing up through a sweeping curve which peels away from the ground, tearing the train to the right hand side through a clockwise corkscrew.

The track takes on almost a needle and thread-like quality to it as it threads itself up, over and through the fabric of Lost City. As the corkscrew curls over the queueline below, the track threads itself underneath the main pathway as it lurches into a second corkscrew, itself rolling over the pathway below.

Head choppers abound as you pass through a forest of columns supporting the first turnaround as you make a 180-degree turn regaining as much lost height as possible before the ride changes from what has so-far been pre-amble into a remorseless looping machine.

The ride rolls its sleeves up by lining the train up with a perfectly circular tunnel of inline twists, unveiling a quintet of inversions enough to make even the most devout thrill seeker slack-jawed.

Like staring into a washing machine on spin cycle, everything in your sight soon becomes a kaleidoscope of colours as the train tumbles over, and over... and over. And over.

The restraint suddenly transforms itself from an obtrusive straightjacket to a much appreciated lifejacket as your entire weight falls into the restraint as you cartwheel through this horizontal steel vortex over water, over the pathway, over the shrubbery below.

Nearly quarter of a minute later, having travelled the entire length of the ride somersaulting through inline twists, the train manages to break free from this whirlpool and stumbles into a scenic turnaround, where the track slowly climbs up and over the pathway right below.

With execution like an afterthought, lest we forget the final inversion. Just as you are able to start making out the detail on the back of the train in the station, the train coils its way through a ground-hugging anti-clockwise inline twist with the front of the train hitting the brakes as the back is almost still upside-down.

Colossus most certainly isn’t a passive experience, and takes you for a ride from the outset. Whilst many criticise Colossus for being rough, you have to ride with it to get the most out of it, and only then does it show it’s true colours.

The ride is at its most feisty at the base of the first drop which is the only unexpected moment of roughness, and even so, this isn’t roughness at the hands of Lucifer, just a sharp transition from a curved first drop into a straight vertical loop.

Meanwhile, the cobra roll is sharp and snappy, but is an element that is even laterally forceful on B&M rides such as Superman Ride of Steel (Movie World Madrid).

If you do prefer your rides to be passive and less forceful, then a front seat ride most certainly is worth the wait. Unlike the rest of the train, the driving seat is as smooth as glass, yet still maintains this unyielding sense of recklessness.

Colossus gets off to a familiar and conventional start, but the inline twists that abound the second chapter of this story really give Colossus an identity of its own. Say what you will about multi-looping roller coasters, but Colossus is quite unlike anything else in the world.

Whilst many coasters fizzle out, Colossus literally explodes onto the brake run by rolling through one last inversion, low enough for you to almost pick daisies off the ground.

Even beyond the subjective, Colossus is a success in every meaning of the word. The ride succeeded in putting Thorpe Park on the map, and remains the parks’ main workhorse in that respect. Furthermore, whilst many immediately write off multi-looping coasters, to the public they remain a unique phenomenon, especially Colossus which is quite unlike any coaster in Europe.  

MS 22 January 2004

Good points:

Has set Thorpe Park up well to be one of the best parks in South England
▪ Very unique to almost everyone who rides it
▪ Powerful first half and unique second half

Bad points:

Trains are poorly designed
▪ Some people find the ride uncomfortable



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Thorpe Park
Thorpe Park Reviewed
Loggers Leap
Nemesis Inferno

No Way Out
Rumba Rapids
Tidal Wave

Including Giovanola
Congo River Rapids
Expedition Ge-Force
Indiana Jones
Lethal Weapon Pursuit
Ribena Rumba Rapids
Rio Bravo
Tutuki Splash
Wild Wild West

Record Breakers
Both current and former
Big One

Dragon Khan