Thorpe Park

31st March 2012

My visit to Thorpe Park today was as part of a group event organised by the European Coaster Club, and it was great to see a huge number of familiar faces in the crowd. The number of guests was driven at least in part by the presence of a brand new roller coaster, which we were brought to for the first ride of the morning.

Swarm (#1735) is the second member of the B&M Wing Rider family to open to the public, and one of three due to open this year. I'd been quite looking forward to this after a great experience on Raptor last year, which might have been why my first lap was more than a little disappointing. The ride experience was typically smooth with a nice sensation of speed and some good near miss moments, but the lack of any perceptible forces made me wonder briefly whether I was actually riding a roller coaster at all; it was almost boring. By the time we disembarked it looked like a third of greater London had joined the queue line, making a second try out of the question – not that I was particularly anxious for one.

The presence of a new ride meant that nobody seemed all that interested in Stealth. We walked almost directly on to a front seat, and the strong acceleration was more than enough to blow off the remaining early morning cobwebs. We went back to the queue almost immediately for a second lap, and would have been on board fairly quickly if staff hadn't chosen that point to close the ride for twenty minutes to transfer on the second train. While the park is to be commended for increasing capacity to match demand, this transfer should really have been done prior to park opening on a Saturday during school holidays.

Our next stop was Nemesis Inferno, which promptly broke down due to a guest being ill on the ride. The protein spillage was resolved relatively quickly, and in due course we were on board. I'd somehow managed to forget what is a surprisingly intense coaster, and while it doesn't quite have the power of its namesake it is nevertheless a ride that would fit well in any park on this planet. A second lap in the front row later on in the day was probably the most enjoyable coaster ride I've had so far this year.

With the major rides out of the way, we decided to work our way around some of the smaller attractions. It was great to renew my acquaintance with the Flying Fish, last ridden by me ten years ago in a different area of the park. It wasn't quite as great to renew my acquaintance with X:/No Way Out, a coaster that would probably be far better if the trains faced forwards and didn't stop every few seconds. The final coaster for our group was Saw The Ride, as none of us wanted to ride the ten inversion monstrosity, and it was running fairly well other than for the two separate breakdowns we had to wait through. We also tried the nearby Saw Alive maze, and while I'm not normally a fan of horror walkthroughs I did enjoy this one.

Saw Alive

Once the park closed, we were treated to an exclusive ride session on Swarm. I'm glad to say that the ride had changed completely from earlier in the day, and was now pleasantly intense, suggesting that the earlier lacklustre experience was simply the side effect of being on the first train of the morning on what was a bitterly cold day. I managed four circuits; one front, one back, and two middle, and while it was still a little weaker than I'd have preferred, it had at least become a ride that I'd happily have spent a few hours on.

One interesting side effect of a club ERS is the remarkable rate of throughput achievable on just about any ride. Thorpe's staff had told us earlier in the day that the ride should be capable of around twelve hundred guests per hour, and that the best they'd achieved so far was a little over a thousand. While we didn't have long enough to try a new measurement, it is still worth noting that every single train during our session was fully loaded and ready to go before its brother had hit the brake run.