remember once, a few of my despairing colleagues at work watched as I
crawled under my desk to rescue a stray biro that had rolled off the
edge. Predictably, I was subject to much ridicule as I thumped my tender
noggin on the underside of the desk before attempting to regain my
dignity by clambering back onto my feet.
sustained a fairly hefty whack to the head, the whole saga reminded me
of a similarly painful ride on the Corkscrew at Alton Towers. In fact,
my immediate comparisons between me hitting my head on a desk and a
roller coaster left me favouring the former, not the latter, which for
someone who has a certain penchant for roller coasters is a worry.
dear reader, I’m not suggesting that you embark on a tireless regime
of self-harm instead of visiting Alton Towers, but I hope you appreciate
that to retrieve my biro, hitting my head in the process, I did not have
to queue, nor did I have to sustain more than one thump to my gentle
cranium. Furthermore, I got a biro out of my escapades, and my
colleagues enjoyed watching me hit my head, a pastime they cannot
partake in with such intimacy at Alton Towers.
before I embark on a fairly thorough condemnation of the Corkscrew,
I’ll admit that the Corkscrew is, in loose terms, historical. In fact,
in 1980 when the Corkscrew first opened it was only the second looping
coaster to open in the country (Blackpool’s Revolution taking the
honour), and the first to summersault riders twice. It’s fair to say
the commotion surrounding the rusty relic two decades ago belittled even
the hype preceding Nemesis and Oblivion.
Blackpool’s historic roller coasters were a well-matured vintage wine,
The Corkscrew is milk that went sour ten years ago. The Corkscrew only
offers sentimentality, where-as Blackpool’s historic rides are not
only steeped in history, but decades on are still amongst the best
coasters in the country.
the vintage of the Corkscrew, it has had a remarkably serene history. In
1996, the sharp red white and blue trains were replaced by curvier red
rolling stock – imagine a VW Beetle without a roof and you have the
only other significant change – if you want to call it that, is Ug
Land, which is two boulders short of a lawsuit from Fred Flintstone.
Alton Towers used just as many Flintstones clichés that they could just
about get away with for their stone age fairground, and touted The
Corkscrew as giving you the opportunity to “find
yourself racing dinosaurs and escaping from Ug Beasts on the Corkscrew,
which takes you through rocky swamps”.
we rejoiced at the prospect that the Corkscrew would be given a new
lease of life by some TLC from Alton Towers. Unfortunately, the Ug
Swamps date back to the John Broome period (many millions of years after
the Triassic period), consisting principally of a sea of weed-infested
gravel and a small shrub (or large weed). The dinosaurs and Ug Beasts
never made it to fruition and the only noticeable changes were eight rib
bones around the track running into the station, newly painted trains
and a dinosaur head somewhere around the entrance.
Corkscrew on its own is not to my knowledge the recipient of any awards
commending its looks. The track is mostly a pale yellow stained
with rust, with the lifthill and first drop painted dark green to hide
it from outside the park.
wise, the famous double corkscrew is towards the centre of the ride,
with the circumference of the coaster surrounded by the long brake run,
transfer track and brakes outside the station which is a canopied
structure towards at the back of the ride.
queue line follows the brake run around to the station, affording
budding shutter bugs timeless views of the rusty track and grubby train
undercarriage as they slowly roll along the safety brakes into the
Vekoma was a religion, the Corkscrew’s station is hardly a cathedral
built in its honour consisting of a covered platform and mucky
marquee-style roof. Unsurprisingly, there is no fanfare as the train
enters the station. The train is a fairly standard maroon fibreglass
affair, with riders sat low down in the four-person cars, the train
carrying a total of 24 hapless riders.
restraints are as basic as they come, consisting only of a black
overhead restraint. It’s interesting to note that Vekoma’s
restraints keep bum on seat by applying pressure to your shoulders, as
opposed to on Nemesis where you’re restrained by your lap with the
rest of the restraint serving as upper-body support. This means that
taller riders will have the restraint resting on their shoulders from
the moment they pull it down.
be getting very intimate with the restraints a bit later on, whether
you’d like to or not, but for all their sins, the restraints are
fairly adequate. They’re simple to use, are accommodating for most
dimensions of rider, and provide less to bang your head on than
restraints like those found on B&M coasters.
train is chain driven straight from the station onto the lift hill as
the whiney lift motor wakes up and pulls the train up the incline to a
height of 68ft. The lift hill, along with the end of the ride, is one of
the coasters’ highlights. Aside the obvious reason that it is one of
the rare moments where your head isn’t ricocheting between the sides
of the restraints, the view across the largely unspoilt Staffordshire
countryside is beautiful.
the ride should end here. But no, it continues on by rattling around a
180-degree turn-around, dipping down as it does so affording the first
of many jolts as it abruptly straightens and goes down the first,
immediately, we’re climbing away from the mythical Ug Swamps below
into a straight climb, topping out (offering a sensation not dissimilar
to extreme turbulence on a plane) and swooping out to the right into a
turn soon sends you cartwheeling through two consecutive corkscrews,
each executed with absolutely no finesse at all, clumsily clattering
clockwise through two almost entirely cylindrical sideways loops of
by excessive roughness, a fairly well laid out opening sequence leaves
24 riders wincing with pain as they tighten their upper body in order to
sustain the constant sideways shunts.
the corkscrews also leave the train out of breath as it limps around an
upward-climbing 180-degree turn shadowing the turn into the first drop.
The pace is veritably pedestrian as the train passes through some
mid-course brakes (slowing the train yet further!) before you drop down
towards the gravel below, climb up into a bunny hop, swooping into a
this segment of ride occurs in the shadows of the opening drop, bunny
hop and turn into the corkscrews, and follows exactly the same profile,
just on a smaller scale. Such touches, however, go un-noticed as the
coaster feels like a car crash wherever you are on the course.
now, I would imagine that most riders frankly cannot be bothered with
anything else the coaster has to offer, and nor does the coaster it
seems as it passes on the opportunity to surprise us with something
fresh and interesting by sauntering into a helix which undulates up and
down for the sake of it –it’s a sure sign the ride is running out of
breath when a spiral needs to be fluffed up for the sake of it.
the helix was the ride out of breath, it completely keels over entering
its pitiful grand finale. The track suddenly becomes straight enough to
draw a line with, banked to the right at about 15-degrees (presumably
for effect) as it slowly coasts towards the lift hill. It briefly ducks
under the lift structure before this straight develops into a 180-degree
turn, shadowing the first turn into the first drop before limping onto
the final brakes.
Corkscrew is a pointless string to Alton’s arrow, and has no positive
features what so ever. If I were to praise it for anything, it would
have been its ability to vault Alton Towers into the limelight those
many years ago. But its work is now done.
a roller coaster is a family coaster or a white-knuckle coaster, riding
it must always be a gratifying experience, and – here comes the buzz
word; fun. Anything that falls short of this is a wasted opportunity.
Now, there are coasters that offer a challenge to all those willing to
accept, but they should never be an unpleasant experience through bad
falls into two categories: Characteristically rough and intolerably
rough. The UK has many characteristically rough coasters, ones that are
best enjoyed by ‘riding’ the coasters as opposed to passively
sitting on them and enjoying them. They throw you around, but stop short
of making the ride painful. This is often the sign of a good coaster. If
the coaster is uncharacteristically rough to the point of intolerance,
there really is little point in riding as you get nothing from it.
is hard to discount the roughness and rate the ride on it’s own
merits. To its credit, the opening line-up of elements is a good one
until the double corkscrews. From there on in there really is nothing at
all to speak of, the helix being the most rousing of elements that the
ride can throw at us.
what you will about Alton Towers, but they have made an artform out of
seamlessly moulding their coasters into their surroundings. In fact,
even before Nemesis, the Runaway Mine Train experimented with the
philosophy that a rides’ entertainment value should stretch beyond
just the thirty-or-so people on the train.
of course there is the argument that the Corkscrew is almost literally
from the Stone Age before such interactivity became fashionable, you
have to bear in mind that this further goes to prove that the Corkscrew
simply has no place in Alton Towers’ current line up.
Corkscrew has been pivotal in Alton Towers’ success, but has now
become a white elephant that the park have chosen to neglect. Whilst
perhaps a coaster of its height cannot ever be built in the area to
replace it, the land the Corkscrew currently occupies could most
certainly be put to better use. Frankly, such is the ordeal of riding
the Corkscrew, perhaps the land would be put to better use left empty.
Good start with decent
drop into the corkscrews
▪ Pales into
insignificance when compared to the parks' other rides
▪ Overly rough for what
▪ Virtually no theming what-so-ever