Hold on for a roller coaster ride through some of the classic UK theme park attractions.
We’ll take you back to pre World War I Blackpool Pleasure Beach, where Sir Hiram Maxim’s Captive Flying Machines thrilled thrillseekers with straw boaters, and then across the decades across unique tree trunks, a charming carousel, and groundbreaking roller coasters at the Chessington World of Adventures Resort and in the Alton Towers.
Scroll down for a nostalgia trip of some amazing ups and downs …
Dreamland Margate – Scenic Railway
The Scenic Railway roller coaster at Margate opened to the public on July 3, 1920. She is pictured here in 1951
The wooden ride is now a Grade I listed structure and the oldest roller coaster in Britain
The Scenic Railway starred in Only Fools and Horses’ classic episode Jolly Boys Outing in 1989
The roller coaster was damaged by fire twice, once in 1949 and again in 2008, but twice rose like a phoenix from the ashes
The Scenic Railway at Dreamland Margate has certainly had many ups and downs.
The wooden ride, now a listed building and the UK’s oldest roller coaster, opened on July 3, 1920. Around 500,000 visitors experienced their climbs, falls and bumps on their kilometer-long frame in the first three months.
According to the Dreamland website, the ride to the coaster’s first hill “offered Thrillseekern panoramic views of the coast, with their screams audible on the way down the high street in high season”.
Badly damaged by fire in 1949, it was restored and featured full-length in 1989 in the classic episode “Jolly Boys Outing” by Only Fools and Horses.
The ride was damaged by another fire in 2008 and, after years of fundraising for a comprehensive restoration, was unveiled to the public in 2015 in a newly invented dreamland.
Alton Towers – corkscrew
The corkscrew was opened to many fans in the Alton Towers in 1980. It was the first major attraction in the theme park
The corkscrew was closed in November 2008 to make way for the Thirteen Ride. It is shown here on the last day of operation
The corkscrew would delight drivers by reaching speeds of 40 mph and sending them around two inversions
Six-hour queues for a corkscrew ride weren’t uncommon when it opened in 1980
The corkscrew was a game changer for roller coasters in the UK when it opened to many fans at Alton Towers in 1980.
It was the first major attraction at the theme park, and after climbing 85 feet, drove Thrillseekers around a distance with two corkscrews turning guests upside down at speeds of up to 60 km / h.
In Great Britain it was extreme back then.
The trip only took a minute and 30 seconds, but the appeal was so great that in the months after it opened, six-hour queues were not uncommon and Alton Towers even had to close early several times to avoid being overrun.
The corkscrew delighted drivers for almost 30 years before it closed in November 2008 to make way for the Thirteen Ride.
But Alton Towers has not yet been completely abandoned – a section of the route is on display at the park entrance.
Wicksteed Park – water slide
The water slide in Wicksteed Park in Kettering, which was built in 1926. She is pictured here in the late 1920s
A group of kids laughs after being soaked on the water slide in the 1950s. The ride is the oldest water slide in Britain
The slide was built by the designer and philanthropist Charles Wicksteed, who created Wicksteed Park
In 2016 the slide was listed by Historic England for its “Importance to Britain’s Heritage”.
The water slide in Wicksteed Park in Kettering was built in 1926 – and is still causing a sensation 94 years later.
The ride is the oldest water slide in Britain as well as one of the oldest water rides in the world. It was built by the designer and philanthropist Charles Wicksteed who created Wicksteed Park.
In 2016 the slide was listed by Historic England for its “Importance to Britain’s Heritage”.
The park said, “Even today, when the rides are always faster and bigger, visitors are still excited to slide down the slide and anticipate the inevitable splash.”
Blackpool Pleasure Beach – Sir Hiram Maxim’s captured flying machines
The Captive Flying Machines first flew on August 1, 1904. A number of changes have been made over the years. This picture was taken in 1915. The House of Nonsense was clearly another big draw at the time …
Golden Oldie: The Flying Machines is Europe’s oldest continuously operating amusement park ride. These airplane-style cars were introduced in 1929 and replaced with rocket cars in the 1950s
What the Captive Flying Machines at Blackpool Pleasure Beach look like today. The ride was originally designed by Sir Hiram Maxim
Check out Europe’s oldest continuously operating amusement park ride – Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Captive Flying Machines.
They first flew on August 1, 1904 and were designed by Sir Hiram Maxim, famous for inventing mousetraps and the world’s first portable machine gun.
The ride then consisted of 10 steel arms with a car at each end that could accommodate multiple people. The arms turned from a central drive shaft.
A number of modifications and redesigns have been made over the years, including the original boats being replaced by airplanes in 1929 and rocket cars in the 1950s, and a building designed by Joseph Emberton that was added to the base in 1934.
Clacton Pier – Stella steel roller coaster
The Steel Stella roller coaster whizzed around Clacton Pier in 1937 and became the most popular ride on the pier
Clacton Pier owner Ernest Kingsman is pictured here (front left) on Steel Stella in 1937
The team that built Steel Stella posed before the ride in 1937. The roller coaster was destroyed by fire in 1973
The Steel Stella wooden roller coaster was built at Clacton Pier in 1937 by then owner Ernest Kingsman. It was the most popular ride on the pier and helped pull around 40,000 people through the turnstiles every day.
It was in operation until August 1973 when a fire broke out in the elevator house up on the journey. That night, artists like Russ Abbott and Jim Bowen took to the stage in the adjoining Ocean Theater. The performers helped keep the audience safe while the pier staff did their best to contain the fire with buckets of water from the dolphinarium until the fire department arrived to take it over.
Unfortunately, the damage from the fire left the trip irreparable and what was left was dismantled in November 1973 and the wood was made available to residents to collect for firewood.
Current owners – Billy and Elliot Ball – brought Stella’s Revenge roller coaster in 2011 as part of their plans to invoke the landmark’s past – hence the name. That was scrapped earlier this year to make way for the Looping Star roller coaster, which will open in 2021.
Chessington World of Adventures Resort – Vampire
Snappy Fact: Vampires was the UK’s first floating roller coaster when it opened at Chessington World of Adventures in 1990
Today, Vampire is the only hanging coaster of its kind outside of North America. The roller coaster is pictured after the park opened in July after the closure
Here’s a ride with a bite.
Vampire, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, was the country’s first floating roller coaster when it opened at the Chessington World of Adventures Resort in 1990.
The 42-mile route was closed in 2001 to accommodate new trains. Now it’s the only hanging coaster of its kind outside of North America.
Thorpe Park, logger jump
Above left: Princess Diana, a 10-year-old Prince William, and an 8-year-old Prince Harry are in excitement as they prepare to take the last drop of Thorpe Parks Loggers Leap with General Manager Colin Davison in 1993. This final 16m descent made the ride in the Surrey theme park the UK’s tallest tree trunk when it opened in 1989. On the right is a general view of the last double drop
The royal party clearly enjoyed their flume experience. Your visit was a huge boost for Thorpe Park
Loggers Leap opened at Thorpe Park in Surrey in 1989 and quickly became a firm favorite with thrill seekers. At the time, it was the tallest tree trunk in Great Britain with a drop of 16 meters.
The ride earned the Royal Seal of Approval – and mass advertising – in 1993 when Princess Diana, a 10-year-old Prince William and Prince Harry, then eight, rode her while visiting the park.
Lovable images of the princess and her sons laughing at the rapids during the negotiation were beamed around the world. After Diana’s early death in 1997, a plaque was placed at the entrance to the drive.
In 2015 the theme park decided to end the ride, saying they felt they had lost some of their magic. However, the monument to Princess Diana remains.
Drayton Manor Theme Park – Carousel
The carousel at Drayton Manor Theme Park was pictured in 1958, the year it opened
The ride has a maximum capacity of 55 riders who can choose a seat or ride a horse that gallops as the carousel turns
Drayton Manor’s website describes the carousel as “a truly classic ride that will delight the whole family, young and old”.
Drayton Manor theme park in Staffordshire has delighted visitors with a handful of rides since it opened in 1950.
None of the trips from the opening day remain. But one that was built in 1958 is still running – the breathtaking carousel, the oldest operating attraction in the park.
It has a maximum capacity of 55 riders who can choose a seat or ride a horse that gallops as the carousel turns.
The theme park’s website describes it as “a truly classic ride that will delight the whole family, young and old”.