Pleasurewood Hills14th May 2006
Let us contemplate, dear reader, the process of selling admission tickets to a park. One need only determine (or be told) how many tickets are required, and exchange same for the appropriate amount of money. The procedure should not be complicated, to the point that even someone without training should surely be able to manage the task in no more than a minute or so per group.
The admission staff at Pleasurewood Hills took fifteen minutes to clear a queue of no more than twenty people. When we finally made it to the front we were handed what we assumed to be tickets to pass to the staff at the gate. As it turned out, these were actually coupons for a discounted visit later in the season (improbable), and that what was actually required was our till receipt, in my case buried moments earlier in the darkest recesses of my wallet.
The signature coaster in the park at present has an identity crisis. Depending on which sign you read it is either called Enigma (#705) or Cannonball Express. The ride is an early Schwarzkopf design, now running with a single train seating just eight passengers. It broke down just as we arrived at the station, with the train stuck in block brake at the end of the course. Maintenance were summoned, and arrived in less than two minutes (a certain American park chain take note!), and had things sorted out almost as fast. Time has not been kind to this ride, unfortunately, and the legendary Schwarzkopf smoothness was conspicuous by its absence.
We took the sky ride across the park to the other coaster, Snake in the Grass (#706). Although a standard Tivoli coaster, this one has had a retrofit to solve the problem of the lift hill not working in wet weather. The solution is the obvious one; a fiberglass shell, which solves the primary problem while also making the ride more interesting. At the end of our circuit, the operator asked if anyone wanted to get off, and as only one person did the rest of us were sent around again.
There was a large area of devastation in the center of the park, which is to become the future home of the Missile relocated from American Adventure. Signs indicated that it was expected to be open in July, which seemed more than a little optimistic given that foundations had yet to be laid. Time will tell if the deadline is achieved.
Joyland14th May 2006
Joyland is a park aimed exclusively at children, tucked away on one end of the sea front at Great Yarmouth. However, it holds interest for any park enthusiast purely because the vast majority of the attractions present are more than fifty years old. Walking through the gate is like stepping into a timewarp, showing what amusements would have been like in times gone by. It is a very small park, but it still manages to support two roller coasters and a powered coaster. The latter, Snails, has a total height differential of no more than five or six feet, but it nevertheless manages to take several small hills at a fair speed.
Spook Express (#707) is the newest attraction in the park, having been installed on the roof of a building housing several other rides. Though undisputably a family coaster, it rides well, and its location makes it the perfect vantage point for photographing the rest of the park, in particular the Tyrolean Tubtwist (#708). The latter is the last surviving Virginia Reel coaster anywhere in the world, with the spinning assisted by a motor. The end result was particularly disorientating, making it an exciting challenge to try to walk in a straight line afterwards!
Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach14th May 2006
Five minutes walk away from Joyland is another classic park, though this one is targeted at an older audience. Although this pleasure beach is substantially smaller than its more famous brother in Blackpool, it was nevertheless bustling with activity, with a good mixture of new and classic attractions.
As we arrived, it became clear that the Evolution spin ride was stuck, with passengers hanging upside down. Engineers had managed to lower the ride back to earth by the time we actually arrived, but the experience had clearly taken its toll on one passenger, who was taken away by ambulance, presumably suffering from shock. Mechanical failures happen occasionally, but I cannot help but wonder why the ride cars didn't at least right themselves; it seems an obvious failure mode to design into the system. Throughout the rest of our visit the engineers continued working on the ride, running it empty to test, presumably to work out why it had seized up in the first place.
The star attraction at the park is without question the Roller Coaster (#709), one of the few remaining scenic railway rides out there, and one of just two in England. Such rides are distinctive due to their use of a brake man on board each train to regulate the speed, with the one here sitting on a raised seat in the middle of the train. It is sometimes hard for those who have not ridden them to understand why they are such classics, but the reality is that scenics have stood the test of time well. Great Yarmouth has a real gem in their collection, and hopefully they will continue to preserve it for future generations to enjoy.
We rode the Monorail as a means of photographing the park, before heading over to the other coaster, a Big Apple (#710). This model had probably the least knee room of any Big Apple I've been on, and it was a real challenge to get the lap bar to close, but somehow I managed.
The Haunted Hotel dark ride was moderately interesting, but nothing to the Funhouse, which was a truly surreal experience. Riders donned 3D glasses, although I'm really not sure why, as the effects within were quite crazy enough without them. Lest anyone get the wrong idea here, I really liked it, more than anything else for its sheer what the heck was that value!
We managed four more rides on the Roller Coaster, before finishing up the day with a quick ride on the Sky Drop. It was fun being told by a local that it really wasn't too scary, though it looked pretty high when up there; we couldn't help pointing out that we'd survived Blue Fall. I think I am forever spoilt for smaller drop towers now.