Coaster Kingdom


A year ago I remember staring at a blank screen wondering how I could ever embark on the colossal challenge of writing an entertaining piece that reviewed 2004, a monumentally miserable season if ever there was one.

This year I am staring at a blank screen trying to remember what actually happened this season.

2004 was the year even a politician would have struggled putting positive spin on. 2005 was the year that rewrote the laws of averages. It was as forgettable as they come.


One of many reasons why 2004 was a terrible year

As far as I’m concerned, though, average is the new black. After the trauma of last year, average is a compromise I am happy to settle for.

So let me refresh your memories as to what happened this season. Like every other year, 2005 started with unrealistically high expectations as parks embarked on their grand offensive of marketing their newest rides.

This year would be the year for firsts; three S&S rides (two world firsts, one first outside America), two Maurer Söhne rides (one, apparently, a world first), two world-first spin rides (Huss Topple Towers) and the first Intamin ‘rocket coasters’ in Europe.

This year would also be the year for last rides, too, with the closure of Alton Towers’ Black Hole, the loss of one – maybe two Schwarzkopfs and Blackpool’s collection of historical flat rides becoming yet smaller.

Of course, none of these rides were in Margate, so we just sat back and let it happen.

Alton Towers started the demolition ball swinging by announcing the closure of the Black Hole. To their credit, they gave enthusiasts a last chance to ride the aging Schwarzkopf coaster before it would close and... well... just close.

Black Hole

The Black Hole was one of two Schwarzkopfs to close in 2005

Amazingly, still nothing is planned for Black Hole’s site. Still, the ride remains, with a display of old photos and accounts from the ride, almost mocking those who want to ride by relishing in those happy days.

Although Alton didn’t take the precaution of having a ride to replace the aging Black Hole, they did open Rita – Queen of Speed, the first of the Intamin Accelerator coasters to open in Europe.

For a park that often plays on the fact it takes the best part of a decade to design their coasters, Rita – Queen of Speed was spectacularly rushed. It shows, too. Capitalising only on the novelty value of launching riders from 0-100 (kilometres per hour, that is), the ride was unceremoniously shoehorned into Ug Land with ‘Thunder Rock Rally’ offering a tenuous link at best.

With a sprawling figure-eight layout, Rita is definitely a decent enough coaster, but the fact the theme, layout and in fact whole ride itself were chronically rushed will no doubt be remembered for more than the ride itself. Continues...