Chessington World of Adventures
An overused term when
talking about coasters is Ďfamily coastersí. Too often, this
knee-jerk phrase is used to allow adults on a kidsí coaster or to
excuse a fundamentally dull thrill ride.
Good examples of
family coasters are, fortunately, plentiful. Along with the greats such
as Big Thunder Mountain, the Vampire has harmonised the thrills of a fun
and engaging coaster with elements such as interacting well with
non-riders and building the sense of drama with a rich and immersive
The period leading up
to 1990 was a renaissance in eye catching and passionate ride design at
Chessington. The Bubbleworks and the Vampire seemed to exercise a
limitless approach to design, unhindered by money constraints.
seems all that is good is fleeting. Whilst we were enjoying these rides
of almost fairytale proportions, Chessington were having untold
nightmares with the Vampire. With the Vampire being the jewel in the
crown, it was sad to see that the downtime was spiralling out of
control. The park ploughing money into a ride that just wasnít
delivering in return was quite simply not an option.
Removing the ride was
once considered an easy way out. But the saga would have continued.
Locals detest the Vampire with a passion I wish only Chessington would
apply to its newer rides. Removing the Vampire would situate the park
between a rock and a hard place, as nothing of its scale could ever
The Vampire would be
closed for an entire season to make way for an all-new Vampire. There is
no happy ending in sight my friends - this is a truly harrowing tale
where bad defeated the good. New trains were added, but at the same
time, the whole drama of the Vampire has been castrated, the character
of the attraction ruined and the whole experience now falls far short of
being the production of theatrical proportions it formerly was.
lighting and upbeat organ music, the station has always been a
well-choreographed and lavish affair with almost theatrical detail.
Cobweb covered lanterns dimly light the organist flooding the building
with haunting melodies.
overwhelming sense of impact has been somewhat choked by what alone are
small changes, together forming a more fundamental decline in the whole
drama of the station.
animatronic organist sits slumped over his ivories and has done since
opening. Where before he was lit in a hazy glow, harsh white and blue
tones almost highlight that fact that this novel touch in theming is now
New lighting has been
added over the station platform. A hole has been hacked in the end wall
to fit the long gantry in and the length of the train is now lit in a
rather severe shade of white lighting up not only the train but also the
gates to wait behind have been added. These havenít been added in the
gap formed between the previous coffins. Instead, the entire row of
coffins has been removed and scant metal barriers have been installed
instead. Despite the rows on the train being evenly spaced, in an
annoying trait by Vekoma, gates are clustered into pairs as if for their
standard rolling stock. It is impossible for the train to line up with
the gates, so there is a lot of hesitation before people sit down, of
course wondering whether they have gone for the right row.
The trains are good.
Sitting down, the seat design means that you are quite hunched, lifting
your legs up higher than normal. The overhead restraints are chunky over
the shoulders but unobtrusive. Surprisingly they donít have grab
handles, which although this is only a family coaster, many people
choose to hold on. They do have seatbelts, though, something which
riders seem quick to pick up on despite it being the only such ride in
Shoes must be worn.
You pass several signs to this effect, but all are rather slap-dash in
their appearance and are often missed. People removing footwear and
other silly delays mean that loading is far slower than it aught to be.
Iíd be surprised to ever see three-train operation again on the
Regardless, the ride
operators are quick to check the bars and the train leaves.
The train rolls over
some grime before hitting the first lift hill. It is quite shallow and
not overly tall. As the walkway below drops away, it is intimidating
enough for the younger riders as it rolls off down towards the queue
Like a bat at sunrise,
the train scurries downwards into the shadows of a coppice through a
swooping s-bend. First dropping to the right, then flicking the train
back to the left as it passes through a tight corridor of trees and
supports. The train pulls up into a helix, turning 270-degrees at tree
As your feet barely
miss the trees below, a lunge back to ground level has the train
slaloming around various shrubs, passing over a desolate pathway below,
swinging over a makeshift platform constructed out of chipboard and
scaffold before coming to a complete stop at the bottom of the second
As necessary as the
lift hill is, it is a real intrusion on the flow of the ride. The train
literally clatters to a complete stop before crawling up this lift Ė
slightly taller than the first.
The front half of the
train may be slightly thwarted by the way the train is lowered down a
rather fun looking drop, back seat riders will enjoy being pulled down
this drop, pulling out to the right, joining the street below in a
graceful meander, just at roof height.
You pass over a
rooftop and at probably what feels to be the highest part of the ride
gently zigzag from left to right following the wooded path below. This
is perhaps when the flight of the Vampire bat is best felt and once
again, the train reacts by swinging closely to supports.
This casual meander
serves no purpose but to accentuate the feeling of flight. It works
well, and just as it becomes dull, the train dramatically plunges from
over the pathway in a swooping right hand bend down into a tunnel.
As the flash of the
ride camera momentarily blinds you, the train is sharply flicked to the
side as it pulls to the right, nearly skimming the embankment to your
left as you pull up into a relatively steep climb over the second lift
All momentum is at
this point lost, noticeable thanks to the sharp and snappy tunnel
section. As the train rounds the top of this hill, a gradual hill takes
you over the pathway, back down into a muddy gully between the queue
The train swings
around as it follows the terrain of the ground approaching the station
building. A final swing sends the train towards a handrail on the left
swinging back to the right, almost hitting a curtain, coming to a sharp
stop in the darkened station building.
With completely new
trains, the feel of the ride is surprisingly familiar. The swinging of
the cars is as feisty as ever, and questionably better than before. Even
traits specific to the Vampire such as the erratic shuffling from
element to element is still present by the very nature of the ride.
With the train being
uprighted by a rail underneath the cars on the second lift, the bite of
the Vampire was too much in the extreme front. I was hit on the head by
this flaw in design, and it would appear many other people were too. For
the time being, the front seat is out of bounds by order of the Count.
The novelty of
floorless rides has already worn off, should the truth be told, and
rides such as Vortex and Samurai donít even make a feature of the lack
of floor. Iím surprised that even with a ride verging on frisky, the
Vampire doesnít benefit that much from its new floorless cars. It is a
moderate improvement to feel slightly more exposed, but it is a
back-step to ditch all forms of theming on the trains and to have them
look like a carnival float from Mardi Gras. Theyíre purple. They look
nice, but purple trains on a brown track Ė that just ainít cricket.
Having been closed for
well over a year, it would have been a good opportunity to return the
Vampire to its former glory. Biting my tongue, Iím going cut to the
chase and say categorically that the Vampire looks the worst it ever
The queue is a
disgrace. Paint is rubbing off onto peoplesí clothes and occasionally
collapsing should you lean on them. Ironically, despite the ride
attracting queues in excess of an hour, longer than theyíve been in
the last ten years, a large amount of the queue line is not in use,
sliced in half by seven-foot-tall black plyboard fences. Odd, and
Whilst weíre mulling
over the more mystifying qualities of the Vampire, riddle me this: it
looks like supports were messily numbered during the revamp. Whoever was
in charge of this flawed project has not only painted over these numbers
once in completely the wrong shade of brown, but painted over TWICE, the
second shade being beige with a hint of orange, stranger when you
consider the supports are actually a dark brown.
Track also comes in
many shades of brown, and often green where algae stains the track and a
greyish shade where track has been re-wealded. Patchwork doesnít even
begin to describe it, and Iím glad Iím not the only one casting my
overly critical eye over such oddities, as members of public often
comment on the random paintjob.
Landscaping is just as
archaic as the rest of the ride. Having had a year to plan and implement
the new trains, it seems as if landscaping the land around the increased
envelope of the trains was an afterthought. Trenches have been untidily
dug, dirt piled up against chicken wire fences. Iíd expect it to be
tidier had someone gone on a joyride in a JCB.
It would be nice to
ride the Vampire in the knowledge that such a draconian makeover
wouldnít have ruined the actual ride experience. Not only is the
flight of the Vampire now taken in unsympathetic swinging purple picnic
chairs, but instead of swooping over the trees, shrubs and long-grass of
before, you instead scrape your way over messy channels, muddy puddles
and scaffold platforms.
Dracula would be
turning in his coffin should he see what a state the highlight of the
ride is in. The dramatic dive into a dark, subterranean cave is now a
casual dip under a tin roof. A lot of length has been taken off both
ends of the tunnel, and as well as looking a complete Christmas cracker
style joke from the ground, has only an ounce of the impact it used to.
fundamental has changed in the station, it lacks the drama and grandeur
of before. The organist is an important effect and one that the park
clearly donít think is worth fixing. The station is far too bright.
Haunting music cannot set the mood if the station is anything but eerie.
Using the station, the
Vampire has always been an extravagant affair with the coaster itself
forming only part of the experience. With the sense of hurriedness
evident in the area, not only has the station been spoiled as a result,
but also the area has been ruined to the point that the ride actually
suffers as a result.
The floorless aspect
is good, but cannot alone assure a better ride than before.
▪ A good family ride
with some very exciting moments
▪ A decent length
▪ Looks fun from the
▪ Needs a repaint
▪ Poor implementation of
the new trains
▪ Area looks a mess