Pleasure Beach Blackpool
Pleasure Beach Blackpool
is famous for its collection of old fashioned and unusual
rides. The Flying Machine,
the Whip and the Turtle Chase all fit the former category, while the
Steeplechase is a shining example of a ride that screams the word 'strange'.
story begins in the golden age of Coney Island in New York.
parks were all the rage, and with several parks close together, the
competition was fierce to build the next big crowd puller.
One of these was Steeplechase Park, which offered visitors the
chance to mount carousel type horses and race around the park. Sadly, the park closed, as did most of the other parks at
Coney Island, and the ride was lost. Surely the world would never see
its like again?
pick up the story in the mid-1970s, a time where British parks rarely
built new roller coasters, other than the occasional off-the-shelf
the death of Leonard Thompson, Pleasure Beach Blackpool had fallen under
the control of his son Geoffrey, who was keen to introduce unique
attractions to complement the fine set of coasters he had inherited. In co-operation with Arrow Dynamics of Utah, the Steeplechase
park idea was reborn, using a three-lane track, and a figure of 8 layout
which would wind its way through the space between the main turnarounds
of the Roller Coaster and Big Dipper.
The ride opened in 1977 and, opening day being full of PBB's
dressed as if it were Ladies Day at Ascot, and the ride was opened not
by the top boy band of the week (as later rides would be) but by Grand
National winner Red Rum, whose hoof print from that day is still on
display near the ride's exit.
the modern day, then. The
entrance to the ride sits opposite that of the Big One, and is very well
hidden, as the pay box is quite a way from the gargantuan sign which
obstructs the view of the station.
It may be worth spending some time in the gym before trying to
ride, otherwise you'll never get through the cramped turnstile.
If you achieve this feat of contortion, you'll often find that
the queue is bigger than you ever expected.
This is partly because of the low throughput of the ride, and
partly because the huge sign for the ride completely blocks your view of
the queue, which people often join,
unaware of how long the wait will
be, and unable to leave thanks to the turnstile! The stairway leads to a bridge over the brake run, and
branches off to the three loading platforms.
fibreglass steed holds two people, one behind the other, and passengers
are held in place by nothing more than a seatbelt.
One neat touch is that the front grab rail is quite low down,
forcing you to adopt the jockey position, and allowing the back rider a
better view. Take my advice
- don't even think about riding without gripping the grab rail for all
you are worth!
competitors line up at the end of the station and are released together
down a slight dip which itself is enough of a jolt to make you worry
about what is coming next! Youíll
need to get used to the fact that the riding position is very exposed,
and a long way above the track Ė you really donít feel too safe!
After the first small lift hill, you will find that the area
isn't that badly themed by PBB's standards.
The ride takes up far more room than you would guess from
outside, filling its own chunk of land, and overflows on top of the
Chinese Puzzle Maze and Big Dipper.
The first half of the ride features a series of "jumps"
and turns. There are no
real drops as such, as the ride meanders along gradually losing height
to maintain the speed. The
highlight is the long turn over the maze, partly because of the sense of
lunacy that comes from racing directly over peoples' heads - On busy
days it isn't unusual for people in the maze to wave or even ask for
the tracks sink to ground level, you approach the second lift hill.
About half way up, you cross the bottom of the first lift, and on
busy days, more people wave you past as they begin their race.
The second half of the ride is a real anti-climax.
It consists of little more than a long left hand bend leading to
the brake run, over the courses of the Go-Karts and Big Dipper.
If the timing is right, it is frightening how close Big Dipper
riders come to burying their heads in your wheels at one point!
Without the great finale of the Grand National or Big One, the
tracks gently toward the brake run, where the horses come to a halt with
the kind of force which can only be compared to being hit head on a by a
speeding truck. To make it
worse, the brake run comes long before the actual loading platform, and
gives no warning that the ride is about to simulate what a jockey goes
through when he's thrown off his horse at Beecher's Brook!
time I ride the Steeplechase, I change my opinion of it.
On the positive side, it is a unique ride, and it is very
commendable that the park built a custom designed ride at a time when an
off-the-shelf ride seemed a good short-term bet.
The ride has a very distinct character, and although it doesn't
deliver massive thrills, that doesn't matter so much in a park where
there are already more white knuckle rides than anywhere else in the
country, and where it isn't marketed as the star attraction.
the other hand, it isn't the most effortless ride in the world, and can
feel like a bit of an assault on your person.
This may be very realistic (I canít imagine riding a real
racehorse is too comfy after all), but the sharp turns and jumps can
become too much before long.
there are more basic concerns. As with the Grand National, the ride is
at its best when you are racing against friends, yet the queue splits
off too early, making it extremely difficult to organise ensure that
donít end up racing total strangers.
Furthermore, it isnít uncommon to see one lane left unused
adding to the frustration of knowing that the race could be made more
exciting. It seems strange
that PBB lose out on the potential benefits of really racing the ride
when they are so (justifiably) boastful of the fact that the Grand
National is always run as a real racing coaster.
So how do you sum up such a
strange ride? Well, itís
great fun if you are in the mood, but can be a bit of an ordeal if you
arenít. Too rough for
repeat rides, but that matters less in a park with so many other quality
rides on which to spend your time. Perhaps the space could be better used, but itís hard to
imagine visiting the park without the occasional ride on the
Steeplechase. If it was at
another park and treated as the star attraction, it would get a
thumbs-down but at PBB it becomes a good example of a ĎMight as well
▪ One of a kind
▪ The racing element is
fun, as is the riding position
▪ Interesting sensation and
interaction with other rides
▪ Uncomfortable to ride
▪ Difficult to
synchronise so that you race against your friends
▪ Novelty value that