Coaster Kingdom


Roller Coaster, Pleasure Beach Blackpool

Conversations at Pleasure Beach Blackpool:

Kid: “I want to go on the Roller Coaster”
Parent: “Which one?”
Kid: “No, I want to go on the Roller Coaster”
Parent: “Yes, which one?”
Parent: “Fine. If you’re going to be silly, then next time we’ll just leave you at home shall we? I knew we shouldn’t have come today, right from the moment that you broke that vase this morning…”

At the Pleasure Beach, it’s not always obvious what ride is what. And which bit of track belongs to which. And whether the one you are looking at is one that you have already been on or not. Ask a random visitor in the park how many roller coasters there are in total, and you stand a good chance of either getting a wrong answer or a strange look. It may be fine enough for those of us acquainted with the park and its rides, but to everyone else it can be confusing.

It is the unique beauty of the place though that means that you can follow non-descript narrow paths, and stumble across truly iconic rides that feel like great discoveries. The Roller Coaster fits into the category with ease, the entrance being located halfway down a stairwell, next to a road and with very little presence. However, those who venture in will be greeted with one of the best rides at the park.

To start at the beginning, the red and white striped station building may hint at a male barber shop of epic proportions, but is in fact one of the largest coaster stations at the Pleasure Beach.

In a fit of irony though, despite the gargantuan space, you will still find yourself squeezing sideways through narrow queue grids and turnstiles as the majority of the building is taken up storing trains that are not running with a very small corner housing the queue and boarding platform.

Once you are through the turnstile, the platform gets thinner still. There’s no air gates or row dividers, mainly because there is simply no space for them. This means that everyone is encouraged to move as far down as they can so as they prevent empty seats and does result in an inability to choose your row.

Inevitably, the amount of people the train can accommodate do not fit on the platform, and when the train rolls in and everyone takes their seats, the gaps are filled up by the operator.

Three cars hold eight people in four rows, though it’s a tight fit. In front of you, another obscure path follows the track round to the left. To your right is the miniature platform you have just come from, and to your left is an old 1920s coaster carriage from the Velvet Coaster, which burnt down in 1932. The Roller Coaster uses the old ride’s lift hill, but from there-on follows its own course and plan.

Ever since the ride opened in 1933, we have had the pleasure of riding the Roller Coaster without any form of restraint, relying on guests to choose not to be indescribably stupid during the ride. Sadly, the modern world has now caught up with this blip in history, and 2006 has seen the introduction of one seatbelt for each row.

Otherwise, the cars are furnished simply with a deep cushion for both riders, two grab handles and a reminder plaque to remain seated that is annoying located right where your knee should go. Even the armrests on each side are padded, giving the impression that we are going to be rolling around in our own personal armchair.

Even though there are no middle dividers, two adults will find it a squeeze and on quieter days, separate rows would be recommended. The exterior of the train is decorated in a rather dated red, yellow and white livery that makes them appear distinctly retro.

With the thrust of the brake handle, we are released down the slope and round to the left passing a tree and Beaver Creek and the Narrowest House In The World on the right. Engaging on the lift, the legendary clank of the chain hauls us up to the top where we duck down to our right to begin the journey.

After a quick straight section, the first drop pulls the train down a shallow dip, and we whiz past the supports of the return leg before climbing again for the next dip. These dips are not packed with forces, but offer an entertaining acceleration downward, and a pleasant whip in the valleys.

The drops and climbs continue past the Zipper Dipper and Space Invader 2, where the latter’s building masks a sharp swooping drop to the right and the resulting zoom past a beer and fountain garden in what is surely the highlight of the ride. We then pay our regards to the Chinese Maze and the Steeplechase, both of which pass beneath us during the elevated turnaround.

The stretch back to the start runs parallel with our outgoing journey, but consists of some smaller bumps and hops that provide the short bursts of thrills for the kids. Still with plenty of speed, we spring into a long dark tunnel, where we are sharply slowed down by a set of breaks, before we turn ninety degrees to our left and re-enter the station, where the operator grapples with the lever to bring us to a smooth halt by the exit platform.

The exit path disappears down a tunnel before reconnecting near the entrance of the ride, the scene where our adventure begun. The Roller Coaster has an enviable position in the Blackpool ride hierarchy, as it does not need to have any delusions of grandeur. It’s not the signature ride by a long stretch, and its only real remit is to entertain those who ride, and this it achieves with distinction.

It’s really not surprising that it went for so long without restraints. Whilst it offers a brilliant sensation of speed, this is actually mainly to do with the fact that we are constantly passing buildings, other rides or even another part of the Roller Coaster itself in close proximity.

The drops are not enough to send anyone into a flight of fear, but strangely manage to meet the needs of the younger riders who are not yet brave enough to sample the bigger rides such as the Grand National or the Big Dipper and those bigger kids among us who appreciate the atmosphere and sense of fun that they provide.

In my view, the new seatbelts do not harm the ride experience. Whilst they are checked, it seems to be left to rider discretion about whether they tighten them up with kids, or have them worn mainly as a reminder not to stand up. And yes, you can still enjoy the unique sensation of sitting facing sideways should you wish to do so.

Onlookers may view the layout (or what can be seen of it) as plain vanilla, but out of view to most spectators and even the riders before the last minute, is the wonderful drop entrance to the turn around and again into the final straight.

Passing over the maze offers not only a brief respite to those who need it, but an enjoyable glance over two separate attractions, and even the possibility of memorising the maze layout should with to try your luck in it later on.

Every single visitor who finds the Roller Coaster and chooses to ride will be rewarded with an entertaining jolly around the back of the Pleasure Beach. As the ride does not claim to do anything other then entertain, there is nothing to criticise it for (bar perhaps the cramped waiting platform) and therefore means that the suggestion to “ride the Roller Coaster” is probably the most sensible comment made in the day.

LC 19 November 2006

Please, do not use our ratings to compare rides head-to-head. They rate only how well this ride meets its own objectives using criteria that may not necessarily be relevant with similar reviews. More...

Good points:

A fast-paced nostalgia trip offering views of many other rid
Entertaining enough for grown-ups without scaring the kids
A fantastic step between the Zipper Dipper and the Big Dipper

Bad points:

Cramped waiting area and narrow entrance platform 
Limited choice of seats due to loading procedures



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