Thursday, April 19, 2007

79 Year Old Thrillertainment

Thrillertainment as a word may be relatively new, but entertainment that is intended to thrill, excite, stimulate the senses – and sometimes cause fright has been around for a lot longer than what you might think. In ancient Rome gladiators fought to the death in front of audiences of thousands, while animals ranging from bears to elephants were slaughtered or made to fight each other in the name of entertainment.

Less gruesome thrillertainment has been around in the form of fairground and amusement park rides for over a century. The worlds oldest wooden roller coaster that is still in operation today is Leap-the-dips at Lakemont Park in Pennsylvania, USA which was built in 1902 and operated until 1985, before being closed down, and then restored and re-opened in 1997.

In Great Yarmouth the Pleasure Beach’s main attraction is the roller coaster, which is a ‘woodie’ or wooden roller coaster, this was originally built in France in 1928 for the 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition and taken apart, shipped to England and rebuilt for a 1933 opening on C.B. Cochran’s sea front amusement park in Great Yarmouth where it was named the ‘Scenic Railway’. Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach (GYPB) was taken over by the Botton Brothers in 1954, and then the Jones family in 1975. The park is now owned and operated by Pleasure and Leisure Corporation Plc, with Albert Jones being the managing director.

The Roller Coaster at GYPB is the third oldest operational roller coaster in the UK, the other two being the Big Dipper (1923) and Roller Coaster (1909) at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. At GYPB the Roller Coaster has a brakeman which is unusual for such a ride, however he is a necessity as the ride has no on-track brakes. The tracks are approximately one mile long with a maximum height of 70 feet. After an initial pull-up lasting 35 seconds the ride is controlled by gravity (and the brakeman!), and gives a ride lasting two minutes and twenty seconds until arriving back at the station, the total ride time from entering the car to leaving it is approximately four minutes. The cars (or trains) reach a maximum speed of 45 mph, usually only one car operates at once, but the ride is capable of running three cars at once, handling 2,500 passengers per hour.

Despite its age, and lack of technology the Roller Coaster at GYPB is the most popular ride at the park, and is a testament to an excellently manufactured piece of thrillertainment equipment – long may it continue. Footage of the ride can be found below.

No comments: