Revolution (Blackpool Pleasure Beach)
an age where Britain is home to rides like Thorpe Park's 10-inversion Colossus,
and where fairs are full of rides that perform endless loops and flips, it seems
odd that once upon a time, the idea of an amusement park ride that turned riders
upside down was something that warranted massive attention.
then, it is fair to say that Britain didn't have many decent coasters. Alton
Towers was still trading
more as a stately home than an amusement park, and the only major coasters were
to be found at seaside parks. As ever, Blackpool Pleasure Beach was at the
forefront of the industry, and was undergoing serious investment since 1976, the
year which marked the death of its former MD, Leonard Thompson, and the
ascension of his son Geoffrey to the role.
Thompson was, understandably, keen to make his own mark on the industry, and
chose 1979 as the year to make his biggest impact yet. That year, BPB opened two
new rides, showing a canny understanding of the fact that the park could
progress without sacrificing its traditional feel. First was the Water Chute,
based on the boat ride of the same name which operated at the park until 1932.
Second was the Revolution, Britain's first modern looping coaster (as opposed to
the lethal wooden loopers of the early 20th Century), and the first ride in the
park's history to break the £1 million barrier. The park claimed it to be the
first looping coaster in Europe, but Schwarzkopf actually pipped it by putting
the Looping Star onto the German Fair circuit the year before.
Revolution was the first steel coaster to be built at the park, and is still the
only looping coaster there. Despite being an off-the-shelf coaster, the ride was
an ideal choice for several reasons. Firstly, it occupies very little ground
space, always an
advantage at a park which, even then, was overcrowded. Secondly, it came from
Arrow, a long standing partner of BPB, the Ohio firm having already created
several smaller rides for the park, such as the Log Flume and Gold Mine.
Finally, it was obvious that a loop would be a fabulous gimmick for attracting
design of the ride really couldn't be simpler. The 16 seat train starts on a
raised platform, drops into a loop, then stops on a similar platform ready for
the return journey. Unlike the more common Schwarzkopf shuttle loops (such as
Alton Towers' much missed Thunder Looper), the Revolution gives riders a few
seconds at the half way point to prepare for the return, and features a much
tighter shaped loop than Schwarzkopf's huge near-circular design.
thing which may strike onlookers is that it is tremendously overbuilt. The
platforms are supported by huge latticework arches, under which the park has
housed various attractions through the years, and which strongly resemble the
structure later used by Arrow for the main turnaround of the Big One. The loop
is covered with another huge latticework arch which goes over-the-top in every
sense of the phrase. When the ride opened, you can imagine that the patriotic
red-white-and-blue structure looked incredibly intimidating. At the time, the
ride would have been clearly visible from the Promenade, and would have done the
same job of attracting the crowds that the Big One does today.
in the late 1990s, the park developed an obsession with advertising, which meant
that the ride was repainted to a colour scheme decided by the ride's new
sponsor, Irn-Bru. The track went from red to orange, the structure from white to
blue, and the station was adorned with huge Irn Bru logos and banners. This
actually makes the ride less prominent than before, which surely wasn't the
you want to ride the Revolution, you have to be prepared to work for it. The
platform a long way up in the air, and the only way to reach it is via a long
staircase which winds its way up from the non-descript entrance. Intended as a
neat vertical queueline, BPB's general lack of long queues make the trek
somewhat daunting. In its favour, the staircase does give lots of good chances
to take photos of the surrounding rides.
feet above the ground, you find yourself with a short walk over to the station
itself. This is taken across a narrow, highly exposed walkway which gives the
distinct feeling of walking a tightrope. Just to make things more intimidating,
the whole structure rocks and sways as the train enters and leaves the station.
At this point I'd advise anyone scared of heights not to even attempt to ride
the Revolution, as they will absolutely hate it up there.
the station itself, which continues the ride's skeletal look. All around is a
framework archway which was presumably intended to form the basis of a roof, but
which has been left uncovered. On quiet days, the staff will often insist on
filling the train from the front, which is intensely frustrating, as the the
back is by far the best place to ride. As you wait in one of the queue bays,
look out for the novel method of propulsion, featuring a rather odd looking
contraption, not dissimilar to tea tray on wheels, which sits behind the train
and is attached to a pulley system. Watching this little device scuttle back and
forth along the station track is great entertainment in itself!
with more recent loopers like Colossus, the Revolution's Arrow trains give the
distinct impression that you are sitting in a large crate. The seats are very
deep, and have none of the wonderful exposed feeling we've started to take for
granted. The overhead restraints are surprisingly pleasant. They are identical
to those retro-fitted onto the Space Invader, but are much more comfortable in
their natural habitat, although you can't help imagining how great it would be
if the train were fitted with lap bars, as the Schwarzkopf shuttle loops are.
It's worth adding that boarding is often chaotic, as the number of loading bays
doesn't seem to match the number of seats!
the ride starts, we have a marvellous piece of comedy. Prior the sponsorship
deal, the ride-op would play a dreary taped announcement beginning "You are
about to experience the most thrilling and exciting ride of you life".
Since the Irn-Bru deal, the announcement has been re-recorded to include the
sponsor's name. Although the new recording begins with exactly the same phrase,
it is now said in a voice which sets new records for sarcasm. It's obvious that
whoever recorded the new announcement is trying to sound sincere, and the fact
that he utterly fails just makes it even funnier.
with sixteen riders still sniggering at the underwhelming build-up, the turbo
tea-tray jumps into action and rockets the train out of the station. Although
the publicity machine says that the ride is all about the loop, I completely
disagree. The highlight of the Revolution is, without doubt, the first drop.
Regardless of where on the train you are, you will get airtime. No, you will get
TONS of airtime. In fact, sit in a back seat, you will get what must rank as the
most intense airtime you've ever known. Forget the Grand National, forget even
Megafobia, no other coaster can offer the same feeling of being catapulted into
orbit that these seats give.
the drop, you are immediately bundled into the loop. Given the speed of the
train, the loop is small. Unlike other shuttle loops, the shape of the
Revolution's loop is what mathematicians call a "clothoid", which in
English mean that the curvature of the track tightens considerably the higher up
it gets. What it means for the riders is that lacks the high G forces of the
Schwarkkopf's circular loops, but makes up for that by providing a strange
weightless feeling in the stomach which would soon make any rider queasy after a
few rides. Incidentally, if you are in the left hand side of the train, its
always fun to keep looking left during the loop, and watch your view of the park
spin around - just a tip!
you rise back up and enter the second station, our caustic commentator welcomes
us once more. "You are about to experience the Irn Bru Revolution 360
degree looping coaster ... backwards", he informs us, his doomed attempt to
make the word "backwards" sound intimidating invariably drawing a
sarcastic "ooooh" from at least one merciless revolutionary.
exactly the same mechanics, the turbo tea-tray's twin brother engages the front
of the train and pushes it back. Unfortunately, it's hard to escape the fact
that the backward journey feels quite a bit slower than the forward one. The
drop, for example, does not give anywhere near as much airtime as before. The
backward loop, however, is a marvel, creating a sensation I've not known on any
other coaster. It gives the same weightless feel as the forward trip, but is now
much more intense, probably due the train being slower, and therefore spending
longer in the loop. After climbing back to station level, the train trundles
back to the platform.
there is a turnstile in place to allow re-rides, yet this is never used. An
excuse given in previous years was the difficulty of quick and secure cash
handling, which was understandable, but no longer relevant now that the park
operates its rides solely through the use of tickets and wristbands. This is
extremely frustrating, given that the only other way to re-ride is to trek all
the way down the exit staircase (wrapped around the entrance staircase), walk
around to the entrance and climb all the way back up again. One very real
possibility, however, is that repeat riding would make riders so queasy, that
preventing them saves the staff the regular job of clearing up the mess!
for a ride which was intended to be seen as the future of thrill rides, the
Revolution has become almost as much a museum piece as the park's woodies. This
isn't meant to sound unkind, but it is a relic from the very early days of
looping coasters. Other than cosmetic changes brought on by the sponsorship
deal, the ride remains unchanged, and can stand proud, with its antiquated arch
over the loop and its original Arrow train, (still with the pedal operated
restraint locking system), making the ride as much a part of coaster history as
the Big Dipper or the Grand National. Compare this with its most obvious
counterpart, Alton Towers' Corkscrew, an embarrassment of a ride, made worse by
half-hearted attempts to disguise its age. In any other park, the Revolution
might seem outdated, but as BPB is a working museum of the amusement park
industry, it plays the important role of representing the dawn of the looping
coaster in Europe.
all the talk of its historical significance, the Revolution is still a great
ride. Although a day at BPB inevitably revolves around the woodies, the
Revolution is a ride that shouldn't be missed. Like the Wild Mouse, it is too
intense to ride all day, but BPB has so many other rides that you wouldn't want
to. As an occasional blast, you can't beat it.
4/5 John Phillips