briefly reflect on the importance of Nemesis, the 1994 inverted coaster
at Alton Towers, Staffordshire:
this was the first major roller coaster that Tussauds installed at Alton
Towers. The 1992 duo (Runaway Mine Train and the Haunted House)
deliberately dipped their toes cautiously into the large pool that SW3
(soon to become Nemesis) dived straight into.
was another indication of what direction Tussauds wanted to take Alton
Towers. Unsurprisingly, the parks’ operators reported healthy
Nemesis was the catalyst of many peoples’ enthusiasm towards coasters.
It shared the 1994 limelight with Blackpool’s Big One with Drayton
Manor’s (7-Up) Shockwave edging in stage right. Unsurprisingly, the
Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain reported record enrolment into the
club of enthusiasts.
At the risk of
being immortalised in granite on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square,
John Wardley stepped forward to share kudos for a true British
to be the “World’s most intense roller coaster experience”, it
took only a couple of circuits before the ride proved too much to a
super-fit Gladiator who was actually ill (much to the delight of
Alton’s marketing department).
broke the mould in many ways. Designers had to use awkward criteria set
by the council to hide Nemesis from outside of the park. Extensive
excavation made it possible for the ground-hugging ride to be built
predominantly below ground level which unquestionably improves the
existence of Nemesis isn’t apparent until you’re virtually at the
entrance. Fictionally, a large hole has been torn into the Staffordshire
landscape in which the monster (station) is pinned down by hundreds of
tons of steel (the ride).
BARREL ROLL, INLINE TWIST, VERTICAL LOOP, BARREL ROLL
(PEOPLE PER HOUR)
(1400 PER HOUR)
little track is visible, but the impact is spectacular never the less as
the train explodes through a tight helix disappearing deep down into the
rocky abyss below.
queue is over-rated and a shadow of it’s former self. Where it
formerly took you around the precipice of the 90ft deep crater, you are
now directed to the left away from the ride and through a copse under
the pathway being cobbled in chewing gum and cigarette buts in the
puddles in the holes torn into the wall of the graffiti-covered station,
your attention is drawn to the vertical loop where track drops deep
underground before exploding into an arc above your head.
station is very small and you are left to your own devices. Walk right
for the front, or left for the remainder of the train. Back right is to
be highly recommended should you not want to do the front.
is all about destroying your sense of well-being. You can imagine
designers working to a checklist of terrifying effects:
Ensure train heads towards and over queue-line at every available
2. Use buzzwords like “fright” and “intense” in dialogue and on
3. Compose dramatic and harrowing soundtrack. Check
4. Use a haunting shade of sepia to colour the attraction. Check
is there to make new riders feel about an inch tall.
ride gets off to a re-assuring start once you sit in the comfortable,
body-hugging seat and pull down the substantial over-head restraint. The
lift follows the contours of the ground below, so at the top, instead of
towering over the park and plunging into a near-vertical downward
spiral, a simple 90-degree turn smoothly whips you off the lift into
what can only be described as a gentle ramp.
following the ground down a shallow drop gives a great sense of speed.
Instead of quickly accelerating up to 50mph, rocks, grass and the pink
water below soon become a blur as you get faster – faster… before
you dip sharply down over a line of ducking queuers before pulling
skyward into a sky-scraping barrel roll. From following the ground to
rolling high through the air is a contrast only a few rides can pull
AND A TIMELINE OF BOLLIGER AND MABILLARD COASTERS**
NEMESIS marked the
first of many coasters from the Swiss company, Bolliger and Mabillard
that Tussauds invested in.
In 1994, NEMESIS
was pioneering, and one of the first so-called 'inverted' coasters to
open, a style of ride soon adopted by almost every other manufacturer.
Tussauds' relationship with Bolliger and Mabillard continued with the
*NEMESIS* at Alton
Towers (Inverted) in 1994
*DRAGON KHAN* at Port Aventura (Multi-Looping) in 1996
*OBLIVION* at Alton Towers (Vertical Drop) in 1998
*AIR* at Alton Towers (Flying) in 2002
*NEMESIS INFERNO* at Thorpe Park (Inverted) in 2003
force of Nemesis soon becomes apparent as you drop from the barrel roll
into a tight, highly banked downward helix. As your feet follow the
fence, your arms fight the force as the ride burrows itself deep down
into the ground, pulling up at the last moment and rolling clumsily
through an inline twist. Riders curl up into a foetal position as the
train barely misses the station building and arms and legs head in all
directions towards the bloody tentacles and body of the Nemesis monster.
heartbeats heading skywards, you follow a waterfall upstream into a
stall turn. A sharp turn flattens out at the top before sharply pulling
you downward again deep down into the ground. Take a breath as you head
towards the mucky water below before the train is pulled away from a
wall and into an incredibly forceful vertical loop dropping out past a
waterfall into a tunnel the size of a rabbit hole, exploding out of the
ground into a swooping turn before being tugged down faster than gravity
under a bridge.
you head towards the wreck of a Mushroom Cloud Tour bus you are pulled
away at the very last moment through one of the best surprise inversions
ever – a ground-hugging barrel roll that once again sends you through
a dark tunnel into a final turn before snapping upright into the brakes.
is not the most intense coaster in the world, but it does have some very
extreme, G-happy elements that make the ride stand out.
starts slowly, evolving into something that becomes a relentless thrill,
continually getting faster and wilder as each foot of track is
conquered. Each element becomes more and more extreme and the feeling of
recklessness is quite exquisite as the ride plays with the surrounding
scenery to great effect.
often considered a forte, should you not be familiar with the cumbersome
20-minute legend, the theming is weak and confusing.
onus falls upon the station, themed as the mighty Nemesis monster, a
wicked alien bent on revenge after being awoken from its slumber. To
those who haven’t heard the legend, the rivers of blood look like pink
lemonade, the station appears a non-descript mess of sprayed concrete
and chewing gum and the scrap metal strewn throughout irrelevant.
under the ride is a comprehensive labyrinth of pathways for the ride to
interact with, the messily implemented Virtual Queue has resulted in
most of this being closed off and rendered impassable to those not
riding - a big selling point when the ride first opened.
on the ride alone, highlights are well paced throughout and include the
powerful first helix, the sharp and feisty vertical loop and finishing
well with the surprise barrel roll.
play an important role in the ride, which as well as making the feeling
of ever-impending doom so evident, makes the ride seem twice as fast as
faster every year, Nemesis is really showing it’s true colours now.
Whilst it never fails to deliver the inline twist has become too fast
and lumbering to really have the impact it originally did.
accelerating like Zorba’s Dance and with pacing as impeccable as a
seasoned line dancer, as a coaster, Nemesis will never fail to deliver.
But the overly complex theming, grubby presentation of the ride and the
inaccessibility of half of the pathways due to Virtual Queuing weaken
the experience of what is otherwise a contemporary classic.
Marcus Sheen (20 June 2004)