This is a text-based version of Coaster Kingdom. By viewing this version, you miss out on photos, graphics, reader reviews and added functionality. To go to the standard version, click here
The Flume (Alton Towers)
Thunder River, the Alton Towers Log Flume was an unobtrusive affair. It
was among the first of the park's major rides, installed under the John
Broome management, when Alton Towers traded primarily as a stately home
and gardens, with a few large rides dotted around the estate. The natural
feel of the ride helped it to blend in with the surroundings, and the
majority of the ride was built well out of sight of spectators, in the
surrounding woods. Although not themed as such, the general idea was to
recreate a logging camp, where the "river" would be used to
transport wood from felled trees back to the outside world.
2004, two years after the unleashing of Ribena Rumba Rapids, the Log Flume
was to receive a similar "re-vamp". The name was altered to
"The Flume - Unplugged by Cusson's Imperial Leather", and the
theme of the ride tailored to suit the sponsor's need to flog their bars
of soap to the great unwashed. The project would not be the first time
Alton Towers had allowed a major ride to be sponsored, but would be the
first time they specifically geared the theming to the wishes of the
sponsor. "Bathtime With Attitude!" was the rallying cry of the
project, which involved the replacing of the logs with bathtubs, and along
with a general re-vamp of the ride system.
basics of the ride remain unchanged. The queue line and ride layout are
identical to before, other than the addition of a Fastrack entry system.
The same station building remains, although with a rather stylish new
look, marred only be a tacky bath-tap on the roof. Between the final drop
and the station are two new "Power Showers", which are
unwelcomely garish, and whose real purpose seems to be to display a large
Imperial Leather logo to the spectators. A new bouncy soundtrack plays
constantly, as if to remind us that The Flume is no longer a quiet ride
tucked away in its corner, but a brash cartoony theme park ride, intended
to grab the attention.
little touches have been included, such as carved ducks on the
entrance/exit bridge, pointing people in the right direction with their
beaks. The inside of the station has been changed from a rather bland
affair, into quite a cosy place to be, using subtle lighting to soften the
mood. The fact that the ride uses (and always has used) a rapids-style
circular loading platform certainly makes the whole affair seem a bit more
grandiose than most flumes. It is here that you are directed to your boat.
Loading is efficient, and capacity very high.
new theme involves the boats being fashioned as bright red, old-fashioned,
cartoon-like bathtubs, complete with brass taps on the back, and a
none-too-subtle Imperial Leather logo perfectly positioned to be visible
in the souvenir photos. Whereas most people prefer to bathe alone, here we
are expected to share our ablutions with up to four other people.
Fortunately, the theming is relaxed enough to allow you to hop into the
tub fully clothed. In fact, I understand they rather prefer things that
loading done and dusted, we depart the station and embark on our wild
journey through the wonderful world of washing. The first section is a
rather pointless meander behind one of the park's fast-food outlets, which
seemingly exists only because it made the ride more visible from the paths
in the early days. Theming? No, not here. Soon we turn back on ourselves
and embark on the first lift hill.
and up we climb. You could be forgiven for getting excited at the prospect
of a huge drop. Well, it isn't a huge drop, in fact it is absolutely tiny,
and bottoms out well above ground level, allowing the following section to
go on for what seems like an eternity. With the drop out of the way, we
find ourselves in the heart of the woods, well away from the hustle and
bustle of the park. Theming? No, not yet. Instead, we drift through the
woods, taking in the natural feel of the place. After all, what could
possibly be more natural than joining your friends for a slow drift
through the woods, while sitting in a bright red bathtub?
general layout of the ride is a giant elongated figure-of-eight, with the
crossover being hidden by tunnels. "A-ha", I hear you say,
"tunnels! Surely there will be some theming in there?". Well, we
enter the first tunnel, into the pitch-blackness, and then ... wait for it
... emerge back into the open air. Back in the late 1980s, this back area
of the ride was filled with giant dinosaur figures, but is now left much
as nature intended. Theming? Nah.
pace slows slightly as we drift around the back of the ride and return
toward the crossover point. We climb a second lift hill, and enter the
darkness for the enclosed second drop. Now, surely there will be some
theming here, after all, this tunnel did once house a nice display of
smaller dinosaur figures. Well yes, at long last, the quest for theming is
No that's not an instruction; the theming consists of a giant toy duck
that jumps out at the boat and starts quacking. Well, that was worth the
wait, wasn't it?! Connoisseurs of the soap industry will no doubt
recognise this as the dancing duck from the Imperial Leather adverts,
although I suspect most riders will not care one bit for this
far-from-fascinating fact. If you're expecting any sort of follow-up,
you'll be disappointed, which is a great shame, as the cartoony theme
would have provided a good opportunity for the sort of joke-packed scenes
that make Alton's Toyland Tours so unself-consciously entertaining.
now that we've seen all the theming we're ever going to, let's get back to
civilisation. We emerge from the tunnel and head straight up the large
final lift. As you make steady upward progress, more and more of the park
becomes visible, and the drop delivers you neatly into the wide-open space
above the main lake. The splash down is unspectacular to spectators, but
is good fun, getting you just about wet enough to be enjoyable, without
overdoing things. All that's left is to hope that the power showers don't
catch you out, and then it's back to the station.
a way, Alton Towers was onto a loser from the moment they decided to
re-theme this ride. The original Log Flume was enjoyable simply because it
was little more than a sprawling gentle float through the woods. Trying to
theme the ride was always going to impact on its natural feel, while the
sheer size of the ride meant that a full theming job would have required
massive amounts of effort and expense. As it is, anyone who believes the
hype of "Bathtime With Attitude" will come away wondering what
attitude the ride is actually meant to convey.
to the ride trough have left it with a bright blue interior. Why do I
mention this? Well, the down side is that the course of the ride is now
screamingly obvious as you enter the forest, diminishing the old sense of
meandering aimlessly through the woods. Similarly, the idea of being in
the forest and seeing other riders going around in bright red bathtubs
means that the area loses some of the natural feel that the original logs
The Flume is not the massacre it could so easily have been. While elements
of the ride are undoubtedly garish, the ride generally manages to maintain
its dignity far more than Ribena Rumba Rapids managed. That said, neither
is it much of an improvement on the original Log Flume, whereas rider
expectations will, quite reasonably, be raised simply by the fact that it
has been re-vamped.
Log Flume was an innocuous ride that did exactly what it proclaimed to.
The Flume - Unplugged by Cusson's Imperial Leather is exactly the same
ride, but with more expectation and less charm. In short, fans of the
original Log Flume will just about be able to accept the changes with a
minimum of cringing, while new riders will find a reasonably enjoyably
ride, albeit not necessarily in the way they expected. It isn't the
shambles that Rumba Rapids is, but nor does it come anywhere near being a
2/5 John Phillips