Coaster Kingdom


The following review will go into explicit detail regarding the attraction and the surprises it may conceal. If you choose to read on, be warned that it may detract from your first ride on the attraction.


Stampida, PortAventura

Tussauds opened PortAventura to great acclaim, and for them it would have been easy to sit back on their laurels and let the park run itself. Opening with a fantastic selection of family rides, coasters and water rides, they already catered for every caste of visitor that the world could throw at them.

It was soon after the park opened that one of the creative designers behind the park, John Wardley, was seen to be walking around with a not-too-subtle folder with ‘woodie’ written on it. Fingers around Europe were crossed, and because it was obvious Alton Towers were not to be the auspicious beneficiaries of the said ride, even the most obtuse of people would be pretty much certain that PortAventura would be the blessed party.

The park satisfies the most visitors with its water rides. A rather blinkered view may lead you to think that Dragon Khan is the most popular ride in the park, but it is Tutuki Splash that draws people with its allure of a refreshing break from the harsh heat of the Spanish summer. Besides, Tutuki Splash is a family ride, attracting thrill seekers and families alike.

With this statistic in front of them, the park thought it prudent to weigh up the pros and cons of building a coaster, a ride that ultimately may not have the draw of a water ride. There was no doubt in Wardleys’ mind of the potential success of a wooden coaster, thus he managed to cajole the park into building what would turn out to be one of the prevalent rides in the park.

Custom Coasters International was called on to build Stampida. For reasons of innovation and to provide adequate capacity the ride was to be a racer, something Wardley is particularly keen on. To cater for the minors, Tomahawk, a small junior wooden coaster would intertwine with Stampida. With so many board-feet of lumber, this wooden mountain rising from the dusty plains behind Penitence School would be CCI’s largest project to date.

And so like the sound of thundering hooves, Stampida rode into town. Themed as the wildest wagon race in town, a red train and blue train follow the hugely twisted circuit primarily in tandem, finishing always with a winner, and always with a loser.

Half way through its first season, disaster struck. A dim-witted rider thought it necessary to stand up. A predictable demise became of him and so the park closed the ride. Although it took no time before the park were cleared of any felony, they thought it shrewd to make alterations so that no other rider could tarnish their previously unsoiled safety record.

At the beginning of its second year, the ride reopened, sporting a pair of sparkling trim brakes down the first drop, and seat dividers as high as the sides of the train between you and your partner. No seatbelts were added (strangely), yet as operators were pinning you in, you would have to be Houdini to leave the ride finishes it’s assault.

And so through the Far West, PortAventura’s prevailing and sprawling land. It is at the far side of this huge region of park that Stampida lurks. To get to the entrance, you go beneath one of the first hills that swoop of to the left hand side. Once under, you can turn nowhere without being faced by a wall of wood. As you pass under the sign marking the rides entrance, you meander for a while through various cacti and other Western flora before the question is asked: red or blue?

Your choice is made by making a beeline for the corresponding corridor of coloured flags that lead to a wagon, through which you go through. The wagons’ livery also tallies with your choice, and from here it is just a short walk to the station.

The station is entered via a series of ramps that zig-zag vertically up the walls to the station platform which is around 20ft in the air. On the ceiling, coloured lights indicate the winning train so you can at least try to make a fair assessment as to whether you have chosen well.

A train full of riders are let onto the platform at a time so that overcrowding won’t occur. You could try your luck asking for a back seat, but due to the nature of the platform and the ramps preceding it, it is probably more of an inconvenience than it is perhaps worth. Since the accident too, operators try and fill the train from the front, so they probably will exchange frosty glares for your request.

Once the trains arrive, and riders leave towards the middle of the station, the gates in front open and you board the train. The trains are the PTCs that used to come as standard with Custom Coasters’ rides. The modified seat dividers mean that it is a bit more snug than you would probably like, before an operator pushes the single lap-bar tightly down.

Thumbs up before the trains are tyre driven from the station. You sharply twist down to the lift-hill before you engage flawlessly and begin the swift ascent. To your left is nothing, but to your right is an almost indescribable amount of wood twisting, turning and knotted together. The climb is swift, and once at the top, there is no pause before you turn to the right.

The left hand train dips down out of view, lining the two trains up perfectly before you dramatically accelerate, sharply beginning the first descent. As the pace reaches shameful speeds, the perfectly shaped drop lifts you from the seat just as your tender head passes beneath the track of Tommahawk.

As the train scuffs the ground, you bank slightly to the right as the track climbs away through a swooping right-hand curve, lining up with two return tracks and the track from Tommahawk. A well timed dispatch from the station means that you can often meet the amber Tommahawk train at this point before you fly up and over the pathway, dipping down what appears to be an unassuming drop laden with a surprising amount of airtime before a double-up feeds you into a swooping turnaround.

Any speed soaked up by the double-up is soon salvaged by the oblique shape of the turnaround which banks to the left as you undulate towards a powerful double-down, diving under the prevailing track before climbing sharply into a tunnel.

All bearings are at this point lost. As you leave the tunnel and mull over the recent disappearance of the challenging train, from the opposite direction, right towards you comes the rival train thundering past like the 8.15 from Manchester.

A turn-or-two later, the trains join up again following each other like shadows. An abrupt plunge takes you past a wind-pump hiding the ride camera, before the next climb buries you deep within the structure for a long and relentless turn towards the back of the ride before you thunder onto the brake-run, either all conquering or just conquered. Each train load of riders have ample opportunity to jeer each other with gleeful tears running from their eyes before the brakes release, and each train coasts into the station.

As you zig-zag down the exit ramp, through the turnstile, and past the substantial wall of screens for the on-ride photography, you realise that Stampida is absolutely nothing like either Tonnerre De Zeus or Megafobia.

Compared to the two, it runs like a milk float on a dead battery. Who says that’s a bad thing though? Although I regard Tonnerre De Zeus and ‘Fobia highly for their righteous amounts of airtime, speed and stamina, Stampida makes up for this with an diverse mix of elements, including helixes, turn, double-ups, double downs, and yes, a fair amount of airtime inducing drops.

And lest we forget the racing element. Tonnnerre De Zeus may be able to dish out airtime by the barrel load, but neither Zeus nor Megafobia can compete with the amounts of fun that Stampida offers. It may be lacking in some respects, but it is obvious from riding Stampida that it is a completely different class of ride from some of Custom Coasters’ more intense rides.

It’s unclear to me whether the brakes on the first drop have an effect. Perhaps by throwing the train into a turn so soon the kick is taken out of the rest of the ride. It is still swift, smooth and a lovely, re-ridable attraction, something many wooden coasters, even newer ones, are pushed to offer.  

MS Undated

Good points:

Racing element is a well executed novelty
Some good airtime and nice turns
Smooth without being too smooth
Very fast and well paced
Interacts well with pathways below

Bad points:

Handrail means trains are often too far apart
No choice of where you sit



Top Top | Add page to favourites Add page to favourites | Print this page Print this page | Graphic-free review

Graphic-free review

Tonnerre De Zeus

New Woodies
Coaster Express
Robin Hood
Tonnerre De Zeus

Dragon Khan
El Diablo
Tutuki Splash