wasn't all that long ago that most British parks relied
solely on off-the-shelf model coasters. With the
exception of the seaside parks, nobody had a coaster
that couldn't be found in an identical form elsewhere.
was all to change in 1994. Blackpool Pleasure Beach had
been proudly telling anyone who would listen that they
were to build the world's tallest and fastest coaster,
The Pepsi Max Big One. Meanwhile, Alton Towers was
preparing to excavate a large chunk of land, ready for
Europe's first inverted coaster, Nemesis.
was all very well, but it meant potential disaster for
smaller parks, and particularly Drayton Manor. Being
close to Alton Towers had always meant that the park had
played second fiddle in the mind of the public, and with
their rivals now spending vast fortunes on unique new
rides, something had to be done to show people that
Drayton Manor wasn't about to give in to Tussaud's
a contract was signed with Intamin, the Swiss firm well
known for being able to build practically any type of
ride a park could possibly want. Not only would the park
get a new and unique coaster, but also an Intamin rapids
ride, "Splash Canyon". Splash Canyon would
open in 1993, and would be designed in such a way as to
allow part of the coaster to be built directly above it.
Very neat. Very Swiss.
what would make the coaster marketable? Blackpool had
the gimmick of their ride's sheer size. Alton had the
fact that Nemesis would be the first inverter the UK
public would have seen (in fact it's a tribute to the
quality of B&M's rides that we no longer think of an
inverted coaster as a gimmick). Drayton's novelty would
be the use of stand-up trains. With startling
unoriginality, the ride was christened Shockwave (or
"7up Shockwave" to be precise - later changed
to "Npower Shockwave"), and Drayton Manor were
justifiably proud at the prospect of taking on the
richer, big name parks at their own game.
idea of the stand-up coaster was hardly new. Japanese
manufacturer Togo had been building them in the Far East
and the USA a decade earlier, but with little success.
Their notoriously rough rides, with their uncomfortable
restraints, had such a bad reputation that riding them
would often be compared to taking part in Japan's most
infamous cultural export, Endurance. As Drayton Manor
opened their doors for the 1994 season, they could only
hope that Intamin's version would not be seen in the
visitors enter Drayton Manor and drive around to the car
parks, it can't be denied that Shockwave looks
magnificent. Viewed across the lake, the lift hill and
first drop tower majestically above the tree line, while
a gap in the greenery proudly displays the first
inversion, the vertical loop. In terms of visual impact,
the park has played a blinder here, and it's easy to
imagine the inspirational effect this view has on the
hordes of visitors as they stream into the park. In a
nice little twist, the stream of cars will soon find
themselves on the other side of the lake,
and heading straight under the final inversion, the
corkscrew. First impressions of the ride really are
you go through the gates and head toward the ride,
things start to turn a little odd. Rather than an
inviting entrance plaza, you are confronted with an
expanse of wooden fencing, with Splash Canyon's entrance
to the left, and Shockwave's to the right. For first
time visitors, neither entrance is exactly obvious.
Stranger still, above you sits probably the least
impressive piece of coaster track in the world - as
straight a Roman road, and as flat as a Dutch snooker
table. If first impressions were outstanding, second
impressions are distinctly ... unusual.
thing you may well notice is that the ride has a very
different look to Intamin's later coasters, and could
easily be mistaken for a B&M ride. Why? Well,
Shockwave predates the firm's adoption of the very fluid
track system used to create rides like Thorpe Park's
Colossus and Holiday Park's Expedition Ge-Force. Back in
1994, Intamin was using track from Giovanola, who also
supplied the track for B&M's rides. In a way, this
is a shame, as having an Intamin rapids and a
B&M-looking coaster does not help the park very much
in their quest to prove that they can provide something
completely separate from their illustrious neighbour.
with any roller coaster, if you want to ride, you have
to negotiate the queue. I hate to say it, but the queue
for Shockwave is truly abysmal. It starts with a long
outdoor zigzag, marked out by nothing more poles joined
by chains, allowing Tamworth's tearaways every
opportunity to queue jump. Think it can't get any worse?
Oh dear, don't be so optimistic...
the queue ventures into a wooden building. It's dark,
it's very claustrophobic, and if it's warm day outside,
it is unbearably hot inside. In fact, it's not unknown
for the queue to be held outside and admitted to the
building in groups, due to the risk of people passing
out from the heat. Worse still, the queue STILL zigzags
along, never going more than a few feet without turning
back on itself. Frankly, given that Drayton Manor is
home to one of the best queue lines around (Storm
10), Shockwave's is... er... shocking.
the path leads into the large station. The Front row
queue is to the left, the other five rows to the right.
The front is always worth trying once, although as with
most coasters that use 4-abreast trains, the best places
to go are the outside "seats" of the back row.
to the stand-up cars on Apocalypse, the restraint system
is positively archaic. Rather than the usual
"U" shaped overhead restraints, Shockwave
riders must put one arm through a fixed bar, before
pulling down an "L" shaped restraint. Before
this, riders must straddle a highly uncomfortable
saddle, pulling the entire heavy mechanism downward to
adjust it to their height.
warning, the restraints lock, invariably leaving some
people squatting too low down, and others with at least
one foot dangling in mid-air, leading to the restraints
often being locked and unlocked several times. As the
staff check the individual restraints, they inform
everyone that they MUST have their feet on the floor,
and not the myriad of ledges that the cars have
scattered around. Frankly, the cars are in desperate
needed of updating. Across the park, Apocalypse
demonstrates that Intamin have now mastered the art of
making stand-up restraints comfortable, and makes a
total mockery of Shockwave's overly-complicated and
highly uncomfortable system.
lift hill gives a great view of Staffordshire's
countryside (the hills, the fields, the Sutton Coldfield
television transmitter), while riders on the left side
of the train will be able to look over their shoulders
and get a good view of the park and the array of other
Intamin rides that followed in Shockwave's wake. Slowly
the train turns downward into the first drop, consisting
of two small straight drops joined by a 180-degree turn.
This is a nice start to the ride, helped by the fact
that you are directly over the rapids, leaving riders
with a rather odd view.
over the Splash Canyon river, the train pulls up into
the large vertical loop. This is the very loop that
looked so stunning as you drove into the park, but looks
can be deceiving, and this loop hides a nasty surprise
in the form a vicious rough spot that causes a bout of
ear-bashing as you begin to turn upwards.
the ride improves greatly at this point. The rest of the
loop is great, particularly during early morning rides
when the train seemingly spends an eternity hanging
upside down. Back on terra firma, the train immediately
charges up into the in-line twist, the undoubted
highlight of the ride.
the in-line twist is more in the B&M style (a la
Dragon Khan) than the modern Intamin rides (Colossus,
Lethal Weapon). After skimming across the rapids once
more, the train rises and spins 360 degrees sideways.
Riders on the ends of each row are in for a treat as
they are thrown through the inversion, limbs flailing as
they go. Surprisingly, this inversion is fairly smooth
and highly enjoyable. It's certainly no surprise that
B&M seem to use this element on practically every
multi-looper they ever build.
longer overlapping the rapids, the train bursts out over
the entrance "plaza", where riders are given a
few seconds respite along the straight, flat track. This
section is truly bizarre. If it were at least bent into
a bit of a curve, or a rise and drop, it would be fine,
but it seems quite baffling that the piece of track that
runs across the ride's entrance, and should therefore be
the most spectacular section of the ride, in fact offers
as much action and excitement as the first round of the
World Chess Championship.
the crossover point of the ride's figure-of-8 design,
the track curls to the left and into a large double
corkscrew. Again this is done reasonably smoothly and is
very enjoyable. As with most of the ride, the only
discomfort is caused by the train, which by now seems to
be slowly digesting your clothes.
four inversions done and dusted, the train climbs
through a long sweeping turn back to the station,
hitting the brakes right under the first corkscrew. If
two trains are in operation, the chances are that the
other train will still be going through the laborious
loading process, so there'll be a wait before you can
enjoy the moment when the restraints are released and
you can stand normally again.
going to split my opinion of Shockwave into three
sections. The track, the trains, and the presentation.
The track only has one real bad spot, the moment of
ear-bashing roughness as you enter the loop, other than
that it is more than up to scratch. The only other
niggles are the facts that the first drop is not as
thrilling as it really could have been, and that it is
simply too short. With the station so high in the air,
the ride needs to end while there is still enough energy
in the train to do a few nice twists or helices, which
seems a shame. Other than that, there are very few
for the trains, where do I start? The restraints are
clumsy, heavy, and downright horrible affairs,
contorting your body into the kind of posture only ever
adopted by the cast of Thunderbirds. Frankly, whoever
came up with the idea that one side of the overhead
restraint should be fixed into place while the rest
should really have known better. Worse still, the ledges
and ridges mean that riders could easily trip as they
board or leave the train. Tut tut, Intamin.
onto the presentation of the ride, I find it odd that a
ride that looks so stunning as you enter the park should
shepherd people through one of the most unpleasant queue
lines imaginable. While Nemesis pioneered the art of
letting queue lines drift all around the ride,
Shockwave's policy of shutting people into a dark,
dingy, hot wooden building with only one or two porthole
sized windows, is way beyond anything I would consider
acceptable, never mind pleasant.
for the ride has ranged from minimal (at the time of
opening) to zero (now), while the souvenir photo system
seems to use a rather cynical ploy to relieve riders of
more money. Want a nice picture to remember the time you
ride Shockwave with your three best friends? Tough.
You'll have to buy one photo depicting the two on the
left-hand side of the train, and one for the two on the
right. Never mind the fact that it would be easy to get
all four riders in one shot simply by having a higher
overall, is a thoroughly respectable coaster let down by
a few too many niggles. The prospect of having to wait
in such an uncomfortable environment would put me off
the idea of queuing for the ride, while the trains can
often turn what should be a fun coaster into an
uncomfortable ordeal that only gets worse as the ride
goes on. In all honesty, the ride would be far better
off if the trains ditched the stand up idea and adopted
some nice comfy sit down trains, or at least fitted with
stand-up restraints more like those on Apocalypse.
is unfortunate is that Shockwave should open in the same
year as Nemesis and The Big One. While the other two
succeeded brilliantly in capturing the public's
imagination, Shockwave never really managed to achieve
such nation-wide fame and prestige. Stand in the
Shockwave queue and you will often hear people brag that
they've ridden The Big One - a compliment seldom
returned by those in The Big One queue.
we can add Shockwave to the list of coasters that are
pretty good, but not spectacularly so. It lacks Nemesis'
ability to create drama, or The Big One's ability to
make people feel (rightly or wrongly) that riding it is
some sort of milestone in their life. Taken for what it
is, Shockwave is a decent ride, but it is difficult to
shake off the feeling that it could be revamped into a
much better one.
6 February 2004
▪ Even today, the Shockwave is a
fairly original format
▪ Fairly decent inversions
▪ Good visuals
▪ Excellent location over Splash Canyon rapids
▪ The trains are terrible
▪ The queueline is terrible
▪ Only a short ride time
▪ Several dead spots mar the ride