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Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s wooden coasters: what would you do with them?

What would you do with Blackpool’s wooden coasters?


  • Total voters
    38

Matt N

Well-Known Member
Hi guys. Apologies if this seems like a bit of a strange thread, but as of late, I’ve noticed that Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s wooden rollercoasters have become a very contentious topic, especially since the invention and rise in popularity of certain... technologies being used to enhance older wooden rollercoasters, which I’ll get to later. Over the past few years, opinion of them seems to have taken somewhat of a nosedive, as many (myself included) find rides like Grand National and Big Dipper a bit too rough to enjoy these days; Grand National in particular seems to have become notoriously hated by quite a few over the last few years.

As such, the topic of Blackpool’s wooden coasters has become greatly polarising; some think that they should be kept exactly as they are, while others think they should be refurbished and some even think they should get removed and replaced with modern coasters. A particularly popular choice seems to relate to the technology I mentioned above; whenever Blackpool Pleasure Beach is bought up, quite a few express desire to see Blackpool’s classic wooden coasters turned into RMC IBox coasters. Others would like to see them removed and replaced with modern GCI woodies or steel coasters, while some want them to be kept exactly as they are, and don’t think they need any work doing. But I’d be intrigued to know; what is your opinion? Do you think that Blackpool’s classics need to be renovated, removed or turned into RMCs, or do you think that they should be kept exactly as they are now?

Personally, as much of a fan as I am of modern coasters, I would not want to see any of Blackpool’s classic wooden coasters removed or turned into RMC IBox coasters. As much as I’m sure that Twisted National or Iron Dipper would be quite the ride, I think removing the woodies or turning them into RMCs would remove a large part of what makes Blackpool Pleasure Beach so special. For me, Blackpool is as special as it is because it combines old and new within such a confined space wonderfully, and it almost functions like a theme park museum in many ways to show the evolution of rides over time, so I think removing the classic woodies would hugely take away from that effect for me. However, on the flip side, I (and I know numerous others do too) do find Big Dipper and Grand National a bit too rough to fully enjoy these days, particularly Grand National, and I would really like to see the park perhaps explore a method that makes the coasters more comfortable to ride while also retaining the rides’ uniquely vintage charm. And looking at some parks abroad, I think this can be done.

For example, take the Coney Island Cyclone. Built in 1927, it’s an iconic vintage woodie, of similar age to Blackpool’s classics. However, GCI were hired a few years back to retrack the coaster, and from what I can tell, complaints about the coaster’s roughness are few and far between now in comparison to before the ride had the work done, and it’s apparently far, far smoother. So I think that something like this for Grand National and/or Big Dipper would do them wonders, personally.

I’ve also heard many say that the current trains ruin Grand National, which are 3-row PTCs added in 2006. Well, sticking with GCI, I know that the Roller Coaster at Lagoon had new trains alongside a GCI retrack, and they apparently track really well in comparison to the old ones (which weren’t too dissimilar to Grand National’s current trains, from what I can tell); I don’t know whether anyone who has ridden the ride with both on here could back me up? So if Grand National and possibly Big Dipper had new GCI trains similar to Roller Coaster’s fitted alongside a retrack, I think that that would make the rides more enjoyable for a wider demographic while also retaining the original charm and pleasing the preservationists, as well as being reasonably low-cost to achieve in comparison to something like an RMC conversion. It may also be worth noting that the rides are listed, so any removal or major work would need to have permission to be done.

But what are your thoughts? Do you think Blackpool’s classics need any work doing, or do you think they need to be removed? Or do you think they’re fine as they are? I’d be really intrigued to know your thoughts!
 

gavin

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Grand National: serious retracking, but keeping it as the same ride.

Dipper: rip it out and build something completely new.

Kiddy thing: leave as is.

Streak: see if RMC can do anything with it, even if that means bulldozing it and using the land.

Sent from my Redmi Note 7 using Tapatalk
 

MouseAT

Active Member
At least half of Blackpool's woodies are fine. There's nothing wrong with Blue Flyer or Nickelodeon Streak, and Big Dipper seems to have been on pretty good form in recent years.

Grand National, on the other hand, desperately needs a re-track, and possibly new trains to bring back some of the brilliance that it once had. Ten years ago, it had a fun, relentless, insane brutality to it, combined with some insane ejector airtime that easily made it rank as one of the best coasters in the UK. Over the years, the airtime seems to have faded, to the point where it's barely there for most of the ride. It's gone from a coaster that was once a must ride (and if possible, a must re-ride) on each visit to a coaster I'm really not bothered whether I ride. It's just uncomfortable now, without its signature redeeming feature.

I'm with you on the issue of RMC conversions. I don't mind removing terrible woodies with no redeeming value, but I sometimes feel that this idea of tearing down serviceable wooden coasters to make way for a steel multi looper is being taken a bit too far these days. There's plenty of scope for amazing RMC creations throughout the world without destroying countless classic rides in the process, and I'd rather see good wooden coasters fixed or upgraded than ripped out and replaced. The world needs more excellent wooden coasters, and when they're good, they're really good.
 

Pokemaniac

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I think that with a lot of preservation policies, there isn't a clear strategy about what exactly one is trying to preserve. The Blackpool woodies seem to be no exception. This one is going to be a bit of a read, I'm afraid...

It isn't possible to freeze time and preserve everything as it once was, forever. Time is passing, the sun is shining, temperatures shift, winds blow, and chemical bonds are steadily torn apart. It's not usually given much attention, but decay is inevitable. If left to itself, everything will eventually be ground apart by the tooth of time. It is possible to preserve one or a few aspects of an object, but usually at the cost of other aspects, and often it's the case that the ones in charge don't want to prioritize much. As a result, one ends up with a "don't touch this!" policy, which the aforementioned tooth of time doesn't care about in the slightest, and so the object keeps decaying and gradually losing the aspects that aren't given priority. After a while this will become too notable, something has to be done one way or the other, and if new priorities are then set in a patchwork way, one doesn't get the preservation that was sought in the first place anyway. So yeah, Blackpool should sit down and seriously consider what aspect of their woodies they want to preserve.

Let me try to isolate a few of those aspects and see what the realistic choices are.

The most common aspect to preserve is the "old bits" itself, that is, the materials of the coaster. The original bits of wood, nails, and paint that were assembled to build a coaster back in nineteen-umpty-something. These will gradually be worn away by weather and the ongoing stresses of operation, so if this is the goal, Blackpool might as well close the coasters immediately and build a large climate-controlled hall around them, which could preserve the wood for a thousand years or more. The Viking ship museum in Oslo goes to great lengths to keep old longships on display without adding or removing anything, and this gets more and more difficult as the materials become more and more brittle over time.

As Blackpool reasonably enough wants the coasters to stay in operation, instead they could shoot for preserving their design instead. Swapping parts like-for-like, to keep the original design in operation even as the parts themselves are constantly renewed. Eventually this leads to one of those ship-of-Theseus questions about whether the coaster is still the same anymore. I'd say that question is a big simplification to begin with, as it depends on what you mean by "the same". Everything can't be preserved, see above, one has to pick an aspect and stick with that. If the preservation of the design is the main priority, they should have no qualms about the materials and swap out everything as it gets worn out, regardless of how old it is. If this includes tearing it down completely and rebuilding it from scratch, so be it. The torn-out materials could be preserved at a museum if necessary, but don't keep them on the coaster just for the sake of keeping them on the coaster. They won't last forever at any rate, and their steady loss of function makes the ride experience worse than it was originally designed to be.

Speaking of this, one could also try to preserve the function of the coaster. This is related to the ride experience, but that's a thing that certainly can't be preserved as the coaster ages. It's like trying to preserve the stiff feeling of a new shoe as you walk around in it. A coaster built in nineteen-umpty-one wouldn't deliver the same ride experience in nineteen-umpty-three, never mind in 2020. But if we're talking about the "fun" of riding the coaster as intended by the designer, one could reasonably preserve it by making modifications to the design (and of course, the materials) over time. Re-profile a hill that bumps or a turn that jolts, change banking in transitions to make them smoother, reinforce elements that flex too much or remove it from elements that flex too little. Give the ride new wheels or change the materials of the track. Make the coaster the best possible version of itself for the relevant time period. Disney seems to be the champions of this style of preservation, by the way, as they add new effects to their old rides to keep the ride experience fun and fresh.

Then there's the effect of the coaster, which is a tricky one to define. This would be all about keeping the park itself in the same position in the public eye. A kid in 1935 would go to BPB because it had so many new and cool coasters, and grow attached to the place because of that. Those coasters from the 1930s really don't have the same effect today. It's now known as that place full of many old coasters. For instance, Grand National was once the cutting edge of coaster design, now it's a museum piece. Arguably, Icon does the original job of Grand National better than Grand National does itself these days, as it's a shiny new coaster that draws in the kids.

There are probably other aspects to consider as well, but let's stick to these four here.


Onto actually answering the question, I've got a feeling that BPB is trying to preserve the former two aspects of their woodies, which comes at a cost of the latter two. Parts are kept for as long as is safe, and then swapped like-for-like while making as few changes to the design as possible, and as a result the coasters become rough and feel dated, in a way that probably wasn't intended by the original designers. The ride experience is worn away and the park feels more like a museum than it did originally. With all that in mind, let's see what can be done with each coaster (from the perspective of one who hasn't even been to BPB) to freshen things up a little:

  • Big Dipper is the oldest of the woodies by some margin, and I think a continuation of the current policy is fine enough for it. Retain its original materials and original design if possible, and consider its function and effects acceptable sacrifices. It probably has a bigger draw as a museum piece than for its ride experience anyway, and that would probably be the case no matter how it was refurbished. Keep this one as the "classic Blackpool woodie" for as long as that's feasible.
  • Nickelodeon Streak is the second oldest, and its recent name change and new paint job kinda tarnished its historic value a little. It has been fundamentally altered, opening the floodgates for more invasive treatments. That being said, it probably does its job well enough already, and it takes up too little room to be worth tearing down, so this one should just be refurbished. Prioritize function, and do what is necessary to keep the coaster running in the future, even if that means swapping out some materials or reprofiling some sections.
  • Something similar goes for Blue Flyer. Its name change from Zipper Dipper altered it enough that it's probably fine to alter it further. This one is so small that there isn't much to gain from tearing it down, however. Just keep it around as a kiddy ride. Retrack it or change the trains or the support structure or anything if it becomes too rough, but it can be kept in operation otherwise. It's not like there's many better uses of that land.
  • That leaves Grand National, and this is where I'd call in RMC or GCI or somebody else with good ideas. As a classic, it is redundant with Big Dipper. As a thrill ride, it's too old and rough to execute its original function. Some sort of invasive treatment is in order. Whether that means a complete retracking and reprofiling, a full layout overhaul, or just the kiss of a wrecking ball, I don't know, but it's one of the three. Its beloved "wild ride" aspect should be retained, but without much concern for its materials or for that matter original design. A lot can be changed for the better even while keeping the original layout, if that's what people like about it, but don't leave it in place simply because it's old. That's Big Dipper's job.
In conclusion, my answer to the poll is "all of the options".
 

Niles

Member
I would do a mix of things.

Grand national: re-track
One of the last mobius coaster should be preserved as I thought it had some good air, it just needs to be smoother.

Big Dipper: re-track
Being the oldest I think preservation is the best option, work on some rough patches.

Blue streak: renovation
Ok so new gci trains for comfort and theme the tunnel and add some little hills in there to.

Nic streak: RIP
Remove and put in a RMC topper track with steal structure with 4-5 inversions, making it have the most inversions on any wood coaster. Not sure how much height you can get in that old lift space but I’m sure it could be much higher than nic streak. Also the coaster can use and go over the land of steeplechase a bit ( launched lift mabey to )

Next wood coaster: Virginia reel
Not sure how they would do it, family or thrill they could do with a spinner, bringing back a classic would be great.

when they are back up to 5 coasters they can make the claim of having the most wood coasters of any park ( kings island does not agree ) and might be a good promotion, not sure but that is what I would like to see.
 

coasteraddict10

New Member
National is the most unique out of the remaining woodies (RIP Mouse 😭) so refurb, new trains and get rid of that dog**** ride OS. It's also the best out of the lot when comparing what they're all like at their peak, at least since I've been going.

Blue Streak just needs maintainance, plus there's not much you can do with it with how boxed in it is by everything else.

Then you're just left with Streak and Dipper, both are similar except Streak is a touch less intense and shorter, so there's less you can do with it, so I'd RMC Dipper as there's lots you can do with it. it has a very shallow lift hill so you can make it taller easier whilst still having room along its layout to disipate the energy. Think drop -> Air hill -> Wave Turn -> Stall -> Turny bits - > Under Big One -> Potentially use all the dead space behind Infusion - > home.

If they're gonna mess with any of the rides there though I'd rather they got Intamin or B&M to re do Big One as it's ****e.
 
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Smithy

Well-Known Member
Was going to just post a link to FIRESTARTER but actually thinking about it, I quite like the Streak and think Big Dipper is unique enough to warrant keeping (even though it needs an awful lot of work).

Streak and the kiddy one - keep as they are.

Big Dipper - Retrack, sort out some of the rough edges.

National - Knock it down, start again. It takes up the greatest footprint, and if you removed Valhalla too you've suddenly got enough space to whack in a whole new area with a handful of big rides. It would be a big loss culturally, but as a ride? Less so.
 

emoo

Member
Find a way to keep them is my vote, whatever it takes. Upgrade to modern standards is fine.

I'd rather RMC was at the back of the list as I am fond of the history. But would go out my way, possibly more often, if they got a major upgrade.

As hillarous and enjoyable as I find the average roughness, it's an aquired taste that's going to limit new fans.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
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Administrator
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If they're gonna mess with any of the ride there though I'd rather they got Intamin or B&M to re do Big One and it's ****e.
Oh yes, that would definitely be the top of my list too. It feels like only a few years after The Big One, everyone realized how much better Hypers could be built and how to build them. Let's do a steelie conversion next, please!
 

Smithy

Well-Known Member
Get rid of PMBO and you may as well get rid of the Tower too, it's as much a part of the skyline of the town.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
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Yeah. Make the triangular hills parabolic, the sudden banking gradual and more flowy, and the inside running rails turn the proper way out. One could conceivably even use the same supports for most of the layout.
 

Matt N

Well-Known Member
Yeah. Make the triangular hills parabolic, the sudden banking gradual and more flowy, and the inside running rails turn the proper way out. One could conceivably even use the same supports for most of the layout.
As much as many enthusiasts dislike the Big One’s layout, is it a possibility that the many who like it like it because of these features?

I certainly know the enthusiasts who are fans of the Big One like it because of its unique character and roughness (interestingly, they seem to like it for exactly the things that other enthusiasts dislike it for), so you don’t necessarily want to risk alienating the ride’s core target market by refurbishing it. As much as I’m guessing we’d love for the Big One to be refurbished, I’m not sure that its huge fan following would.

Believe it or not, there are many, many fans of the Big One out there (probably far more than there are people who dislike it, to be honest), so the park wouldn’t want to risk upsetting them by refurbishing it, which would also cost a huge amount of money.
 

witchfinder

Member
Man, there are some long posts in this topic for what is a pretty simple question 😆

The answer is refurb for all of them, but to different degrees. Nick Streak and Blue Flyer just need a bit of track work (and a second train on Nick Streak would be nice). Grand National and Big Dipper are in a bad way and need a full GCI retrack. For Dipper I would just leave the layout exactly as it is for that classic feel, but for Nash I would get them to bank the turns a bit and tweak some of the hills for more airtime, then replace the trains as well. The idea being to retain the feeling of the original ride but modernise it a bit too.

As for RMC, my preference would be for them to come in and build a replacement for the Wild Mouse using Raptor track but retaining most of the original compact layout and rebuilding the wooden structure 😁
 
Nick Streak isn’t listed, strangely.
It is quite strange isn't it? The WIld Mouse was refused listed status because of the substantial alterations made in the 1960s, but I can't find any mention of Nickelodeon Streak having undergone similar changes. And according to the listing notice for Big Dipper, it was substantially altered 12 years after its initial construction, but managed to get listed status anyway.
 

Matt N

Well-Known Member
It is quite strange isn't it? The WIld Mouse was refused listed status because of the substantial alterations made in the 1960s, but I can't find any mention of Nickelodeon Streak having undergone similar changes. And according to the listing notice for Big Dipper, it was substantially altered 12 years after its initial construction, but managed to get listed status anyway.
I think Big Dipper got listed because the modification still happened pre-war.

Also, could the “Nickifying” of Streak have meant that listing it would be harder?
 
I think Big Dipper got listed because the modification still happened pre-war.
It's a strange kind of cut-off point though. The mouse's alterations were made less than a decade after it opened and by the time it was torn down those alterations were 50 years old. Given its uniqueness I'd have thought that it would have qualified on that basis.
Also, could the “Nickifying” of Streak have meant that listing it would be harder?
Quite possibly I guess. Were there major alterations at that point or was it just a lick-of-paint job?
 
Enthusiasts would jump up and down with rage for a few years if Grand National were removed.
But if you'd replace it with a GCI (even it were just a single track) I honestly think you'd quite easily have a gem of a coaster in the north park that would last, just like National beyond most lifetimes. Wicker Man proved there is interest in this arena and I think BPB will have taken note.
The other woodies are fine and quite rideable and as pointed out don't consume much space. Streak would be better if they could get it running two trains. It would be quite an expense but worth it I think.

Don't even start on the The Big One. It is far too iconic and far too popular objectively to consider doing anything with other than maintaining it and replacing steel where necessary for the next several decades. I think it will still be there in 2050, unlike National.
 
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