Behind The Scenes
Reviews & Reports
The word ‘contrast’ springs to mind when asked about the pre-season trip to Alton Towers. A very interesting tour of the Towers kicked the day off, and I was one of the many members who had not spent time exploring the ruins before. Because of this I was very surprised by the size of the house and by how much you can get to see. The very warm weather made wandering about on the roof particularly enjoyable. Next time you want a decent Oblivion photo, just head to the top of the Towers.
Then came the contrast. After the very relaxed tour, we all found ourselves being whirled on Nemesis until our heart’s content. During the two hour ride session there was practically no waiting. If only every trip to ride Nemesis was like that! All in all, a very unique day. Thanks to everyone who made it possible.
This was our first out of season trip to a park, and whilst not a proper Annual General Meeting (AGM), it was the trip that started the ball rolling with regards these. When we visited, Hex was being built, so we got to see some of the construction as well as being taken on a tour of the Towers. It’s a part of Alton that not many people really take the time to look at, which is a shame as it’s a very impressive building. The park is of course called Alton Towers!
The park had allocated us 50 places for the trip, which we thought would be plenty. Within days of sending the invites out, the replies starting returning at an alarming rate. After some sweet-talking with the park, we managed to get the number raised to 100. Even this increase proved insufficient, as even more members sought to participate.
Walking around a deserted amusement park is an odd experience – we are all used to seeing them bustling with people and full of movement, so to see them “dead” is very disconcerting.
One of the reasons for going to Alton was that the park wasn’t entirely “dead” – for the first time, some of the rides were open for those staying in the hotel. The Runaway Mine Train was one of the rides open, but the one of most interest to us was Nemesis. Getting to ride anything out of season is a plus, but getting to ride Nemesis was a huge bonus.
After this visit, the out of season park trip and AGM was made a permanent part of our trip schedule.
Premier Parks & Rides
Bellewaerde, Vekoma Factory, Six Flags Holland, & Walibi Wavre
Belgium & The Netherlands
Reviews & Reports
For us, this fantastic trip started on Friday morning at 05:00. Very early for someone who loves sleeping, but the visit to the Vekoma factory was reason enough to wake up! I arrived at the testing area and was deeply impressed by the new “Hammerhead Stall.” It was a real shame that we could not ride it. It was very interesting to see the factory – what was mostly astonishing was the fact that most of the work is done without any computers. Just remember those crosses on the floor! It is unbelievable how it works.
After the visit I had to return to my hometown Münster. I was a little bit sad about that because I heard that there would be an ERS on the Robin Hood woodie in the evening, but I had to go home because my wife Mechthild also wanted to go to SFH, but unfortunately she had to work on Friday. So we started to SFH on Saturday morning – again at 5.00am! But when we heard that there would be another ERS on Robin Hood that evening, even the rain could not destroy the great time we had during the day! The park is not very big, but it offers enough great possibilities to spend your time. We tried three times to ride El Condor (SLC), but each time when we had waited for half an hour, it was closed! It was a shame but because of this we have got a reason to come back to SFH.
In the evening – after the joyful ERS on Robin Hood (a very good try – Vekoma!) we returned to Münster, wishing to follow all those friendly Club members to Belgium, but that was not possible. We are looking forward to our next Club meeting. Maybe next time from the very beginning. So again a very big thank you to Justin and all the others who helped to organise this trip. It is always a great pleasure.
The recent Premier Parks and Ride tour could easily have been called the Vekoma Appreciation Tour. As well as a visit to the test site for a sneaky peak at the new Hammerhead Stall, and a very impressive factory tour, no less than eight of the nine major coasters on the trip were Vekoma rides.
Without a doubt, the quality of the rides coming from Vekoma is vastly improving, as this tour showed. Taking a ride on the El Condor (the first SLC) at Six Flags or the Tornado (a standard Corkscrew) at Wavre, provided the long endured ear bashing experience that one expects from a Vekoma. But these rides are the old school.
Fresh Graduates from Vekoma include the utterly amazing Robin Hood woodie. Fast, full of air-time, well paced, great trains, beautifully set, etc. I can’t praise this ride enough. So – should Vekoma just stick to wood, and forget the steel? No. Superman – The Ride was just as thrilling with its stunning launch, glorious first two inversions and a twisted layout. So okay, the corkscrew may be a tad shaky, but after six rides, my head did not touch the restraint once. Impressive, to say the least. With Hammerhead and the Tilt Coaster just around the corner, the future looks bright.
So a big thank you to Mark, Chris, James, Justin and Liz for another superb trip. Everything seemed to go without a hitch!
We do like to try and be different when it comes to trips – whether that means going places no one has gone before, or having surprise parks. When we started working on a trip to Six Flags Holland, we also wanted to include Walibi Wavre (soon to be Six Flags Belgium). Chris McFarlane suggested that a good third park might be Bellewaerde. All the parks were owned by “Premier Parks” – hence the trip’s name.
We also added a trip to the main Vekoma factory in the Netherlands, and also visited their factory / test ground in Belgium, where we knew they had the Hammerhead Stall built up.
It was the first time the park’s new PR department had had to deal with a group like us, and to be frank, they had no idea! Liz Hall and I had to sit down with them the night before the main day to finalise arrangements. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but we got it done, and I am sure no one realised on the day that it had all been sorted out the night before!
White Knuckle Weekend 3
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Reviews & Reports
Just a note to say “Thank you” for making Philip and I feel very much a part of the ECC Trip. It was obvious that you went ‘out of your way’ to make us feel welcome – you succeeded! Thanks.
Philip says that he enjoyed it, although we were both very tired. I had a terrific time, especially during the ERSs/hand slapping etc. Unfortunately, Philip is not a roller coaster fanatic (yet!), during the Grand National ERS he wanted to go and play the fruit machines in the arcade opposite (Fruit Machine vs Grand National – tough decision!)
I look forward to joining you on future trips.
Just a quick note to thank you for another great trip. Despite the best efforts of the weather and general unfortunate circumstances, such as problems with the Big One, the trip was a great success. The ERS on the Steeplechase was great with all three tracks running, something I have not seen for a long time.
The fast pass for Valhalla was a great concession from BPB and even though I only rode three times, each ride was different in the number of effects working or not working and the amount of water in the boat. I do worry that in a couple of years Valhalla may just be a dark boat ride as maintenance and the cost of the effects increases. I hope I am wrong!
Once again many thanks and hope to see you on a trip again shortly.
Just a quick note to say that I had a superb time on my first Blackpool trip with the ECC. It was the best trip to BPB I have ever had!
Valhalla is the best indoor flume I have ever seen. Even though all the effects are not working properly (especially the snow! Where was it?), it is an excellent ride. The section where you drop into a replica of the station on fire is breathtaking. The ERS on Valhalla did not go quite as planned, but the option to use our trip badges as Fast Passes made up for it. But on Sunday, while you were watching Eclipse, the Valhalla queue was at its lowest all weekend. The ride was working at its best but absolutely nobody was queuing for it!! So between 15:00 up until close I managed to clock up over 30 rides, with ten of those in one hour! I ended up heading back to my hotel completely drenched through and dripping water everywhere. Excellent Fun.
Other highlights were, the Grand National/Ice Blast ERS, surprise ERS on the Big Dipper, the very good Hot Ice show, excellent food at Thor’s and the Paradise Room. Riding the reverse bungee is excellent, but nothing like as good as a SCAD Dive!
Nerve-wracking is the phrase that springs to mind. This was my first trip as the new “Trips Monkey” and although I’d not organised the trip, Chris McFarlane had done an excellent job with that, Justin thought it’d be a good idea for me to “run” it.
I’d no idea how much time and effort goes in to trips behind the scenes. You have to make sure that you arrive at the next venue/ride well in advance to make sure everything is ready for when the masses arrive. You also have to take time to chat to the people that matter on park. It’d be a bit rude if you just ran amok without saying hello or thank you!
This trip was my first encounter with Brian Robinson aka Dolly. For those who don’t know him, he can be described as a larger than life “character” and for some reason he took a shine to me. Much of his comments were quite risqué and he always managed to embarrass me!
On the Saturday evening the worst thing happened… the Big One’s lift motor broke down. So, no ERS on the Sunday morning unless they could fix it overnight. This seemed unlikely because special equipment was needed to replace it. Although an obvious disappointment to everyone, the park still offered us other rides to make up for it. It was from that moment on that I decided the Big One ERS will always be on a Saturday, just in case!
I was relieved by Sunday lunchtime that the trip had gone so well. Justin had told me earlier that all the stress and anxiety is worth it when you see smiling faces at the end of the trip. How right he was!
Reviews & Reports
The return trip to Oakwood was eagerly anticipated, especially after the events of 1999. This time Susan accompanied me to Wales. This was her first time to Oakwood, and she was looking forward to Megafobia.
The morning ERS was an hour in the new Wacky Factory, a children’s play area (is there a theme developing here?) involving shooting foam balls out of guns across a room. Sounds a strange concept… but add loads of ECC members in the mix and imagine the hilarity!
The day followed a similar structure to 1999; buffet lunch, free time and a BBQ in the field. An optional Ten-Pin Bowling and Crystal Maze session was arranged for the afternoon in the Canaston Centre, adjacent to the park entrance. The evening ERSs were on The Bounce at 22.30 and Megafobia at 23.30. This year, the park offered a prize to the “most naked” person! They didn’t have to wait long.
Among those waiting in line for The Bounce was Clint Taylor! Justin snapped a classic photo of the queue line, everyone patiently waiting for their turn, totally oblivious to the fact that Clint had already removed his clothes and was standing in line totally naked! The Bounce was sent up with Clint riding on his own, hiding his embarrassment with a baseball cap. Paddy stopped the ride at the top, and told Clint he would stay up there unless he threw his baseball cap down! After a few minutes Clint reluctantly threw down his cap…
After his ride finished, I stripped off too. Clint and I spent the remaining 30 minutes of the ERS totally naked. Photos were taken! After the ERS, we moved to Megafobia, where the number of naked people increased. Several other Club members joined Clint and myself, including a couple (yes, the first naked female rider) with trip-related slogans written on their backsides! With the addition of seatbelts on Megafobia, naked-riding was slightly more uncomfortable than in 1999! Oakwood management was not really prepared for the amount of nakedness on this trip, although I suppose offering a prize was asking for trouble! Paddy was to need several months to recover from the trauma!
After the fireworks, it was ERS time. The Bounce seemed to be working at a faster speed than it had been during the day. Maybe it was an optical illusion due to the dark. At 11.30 it was over to Megafobia for the ERS. Excellent and exhilarating in the dark. Crystal was able to operate the controls. There were five naked riders this year. Then back to camp. The headmaster said ‘time for bed’ and after the Friday Night partying everyone was ready for bed and did as they were told.
Megafobia was superb, especially the naked flesh. Hey, if you’ve got it flaunt it! However, if you haven’t, flaunt it anyway! Good on you.
This was our second Oakwood Overnighter trip, which for this year only we called “Nachtfobia,” or “Scared of the Dark” for those who don’t read Dutch. The reasoning behind this was that during our earlier trip to Six Flags Holland, we were invited to come back later in the year, to ride in the dark. Well, we already did this on the Oakwood trip, so it made sense to put both trips under the same “umbrella.”
It was also the second and last time that naked riding was allowed – I am sure at some point we’ll do it again, but I think it was getting a little too much for Paddy to stomach! It provided me with one of my most memorable trip photographs, it shows Clint Taylor in the queue for Bounce, completely naked. The funny thing is, everyone around him seems totally unaware that he’s there. It’s almost as if I had digitally dropped a naked “Clint” into a picture of the queue.
This trip really started to see the Oakwood weekend take off, and start to resemble the event it is today. We learnt a lot the first time about building a campsite, so improvements could be made – something that still goes on to this day.
The trip itinerary had pretty much been locked down by this point as well – one that makes sure everyone has something to do, if they wish, throughout most of the day. So after the morning ERS we have the SkyCoaster session, lunch, bowling, BBQ and night time ERS, with free time in between. It all seems to work pretty well, and as they say, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Six Flags Holland
Reviews & Reports
It’s rare for us to do two trips to the same park in a year, but in 2000 we did just that – to Six Flags Holland. After the initial “hiccups” experienced on the first trip, we discovered that the park would be opening until late into the night towards the end of the season. Our Oakwood trip was a huge success, so we knew nighttime riding was a big draw, so we started work on a second trip to the park.
Nachtfobia, which has already been started with the Oakwood trip in August, would be our first “mainland” trip that wasn’t a coach trip – making it a local trip being organised by our local team of Oscar Abbenhuis and Mark Wijman. We invited all members and had a stunning turnout for the event.
As expected, the nighttime ERS on Robin Hood was spectacular. Even though they probably don’t, it does feel as if coasters run faster at night.
Europa Park, Stuttgart Volksfest, Oktoberfest, Mirabilandia, & Gardaland
Germany & Italy
Reviews & Reports
I left early on Sunday morning from the Netherlands for the 7-day, 3-park, 2-fair trip. The first stop would be Europa Park, and when I arrived, it was pretty busy. The park closed at 19:30, when I went to the restaurant for a very nice dinner, that can best be described as “top-notch”. The coach arrived from Britain later that evening after which a fair few of us went to the bar on the top floor of the hotel for chats, drinks and plain fun.
The next morning we had an early breakfast and met with Michael Kreft, who invited us for some exclusive park time. He escorted us through the exits of Euro-Mir (3 circuits), Poseidon (2 circuits), Euro Sat (2 circuits) and Matterhorn Blitz. We had lunch at the Baltasar Castle.
It is always great to return to Europa Park, from the moment you arrive it is as if you are covered by this huge blanket that says, “welcome”. The Mack family certainly know how to treat their guests. The park is truly an amazing place, having a great mix of rides, shows and attractions, great food and friendly staff.
Next day was Munich and Oktoberfest, something you just have to see to believe. Imagine tents three stories high with themed facades, as long as two football fields full (and I mean packed) with partying people eating and drinking (in the first weekend over one million litres of beer had been sold!)
After sampling a few rides, most notably the amazing StarWorld indoor spinner, Olympia Looping (amazingly smooth for a transportable) Euro Star (amazingly rough for a transportable) we went back to the hotel. The next morning we left Munich for Italy.
Mirabilandia was certainly better than expected and the park has a great feel to it, with nicely themed areas, good rides, food and shows. We were welcomed by the park’s PR with a stunning breakfast buffet after which we had an hour on Katun (amazing ride, very good pacing, nicely themed, probably as good as Montu).
Sierra Tonante is a good woodie, a bit shaky down the first drop, and one vicious turn where you think it should really be going straight on.
Then off to Gardaland, I had expected a lot of this park and it really did not deliver. OK, it looks very nice, with impressive landscaping and some of the rides are very good, but quite honestly we had seen it all in three short hours.
Some of the themed areas look stunning. The Mexican/Aztec themed river rapids is easliy one of the best looking ever. The ride is fun, with some sprays here and there, which can be adjusted for the weather. However right next to the ride is Blue Tornado, a Vekoma SLC. Its Top Gun theming is in itself quite nicely done, but next to an Aztec Temple and a Volcano, it looks very much out of place.
Overall it was a great trip, highlights certainly were Europa Park and Mirabilandia and meeting up with old and new friends.
“Many Thanks” to all who had anything to do with the arrangements for “The Italian Job.” It was a first class trip in all respects. The rides were good, our hosts were most generous and the accommodation was clean and comfortable. The trip proved a good mix of fairs and parks showing the “Brits” how it should be done. (We have a lot to learn in all areas).
I hope that everyone else had a great time, Claire and I certainly did. Although I would have preferred a little less time on the coach, but it was all worthwhile for the trip, as we visited three very good parks; two good fairs and saw some very nice scenery.
It was nice to get back to Europa Park and finally stay in the hotel, which was excellent! I had been to Europa Park last year so only the Globe Theatre, Poseidon and Kassandra (Haunted Swing) were new to me. The Globe Theatre is a good reproduction of the original Shakespeare theatre. The new Greek area includes Kassandra, a good haunted swing, and Poseidon, a superb Mack Water Coaster. The theming is excellent, and the coaster elements separate it from other water rides with swooping drops and banked turns that add a lot to the thrill of the ride which does NOT soak you! There was work going on to theme the ride between the station and the first lift, and the Greek village still needed to be done.
Stuttgart fair was very good and we had free rides on Alpina Bahn and enough time to sample the other rides and beer. This seemed to be a better ride fair than Oktoberfest. Rides there included a double Wild Mouse, Wild Wasser 3 (large log flume), two big wheels, dark rides, walk throughs, a Maurer power tower and numerous spin rides.
Oktoberfest was smaller than usual this year as an agricultural fair was being held next to it. I only sampled four rides and two beer tents; Jumping (Huss Jump one of the better ones), Star World (good as ever), Olympia Looping (ditto) and Fighter (Mondial Swinger upon which I saw people being sick on almost every ride). Other rides included Wild Mouse, Sound Factory (suspended Polyp style ride but the gondolas are no longer able to rotate through 360 degrees) Flying Carpet, ghost trains, spin rides and a bar that was on a rotating platform.
Mirabilandia was a nice park with some good rides; Katun, Sierra Tonante, Space Shot and Turbo Drop, car themed Log Flume, Wild Mouse, and a wet splash down. Katun was excellent in a well themed Mayan area, the ride is intense and well paced. Sierra Tonante was a good woodie, again a well paced ride with harsh brakes at the end. The Turbo Drop was the first that I have done and what a ride! Other coasters included a good Italian Mine Train, powered coaster and a Big Apple.
Gardaland was nice and home to Blue Tornado, an extended Vekoma SLC with the extra helix. Other coasters included a large Big Apple style coaster and a Vekoma double loop double corkscrew coaster. Other rides included a strange cable car where you stood up in a basket, a well themed Rapids and Log Flume, a viewing tower, a small themed Giant Drop, a motion base cinema, an excellent Egyptian style dark ride and another excellent pirate style water ride. Due to planning problems, the latter three rides are all underground.
I would like to go back and do the parks and fairs again sometime soon, but I would not dash back to Oktoberfest. OK it was good and worth doing but there are better fairs in Germany; Stuttgart, Bremen and Düsseldorf of the ones that I have been to. But Oktoberfest is one of those things that you need to do at least once in your life to experience it.
The journeys through Austria and Switzerland took us though some picturesque spots; Brenner Pass, Europa Bridge and a 17km tunnel.
Thanks to all involved for a great trip. Thanks also to Werner Stengel and the Bruchs for their hospitality.
This was our first trip to Europa Park, a park that has become a regular on our trip schedule now. It was also timed to take in both the Stuttgart Fair, and Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a fair that, while packed with rides, is not that enjoyable due to the crowds. It is something that everyone should ideally do once in his or her lifetime though.
The trip then pushed south into Italy – we’d followed the construction of Katun at Mirabilandia, so we knew we had to go there at some point.
We did learn from this trip that the distance travelled – it was entirely a coach trip – was just too much. After this we started to fly on bigger trips. It adds little cost to the overall price, but you save on the coach price, and maybe even an extra night in a hotel.
Hands On IV
Southport Pleasureland & Knowsley Safari Park
Reviews & Reports
First up was an ERS on the Cyclone. For a smallish woodie, it is packed with airtime, and in most seats too! Pretty good in my book. Second was an ERS on the TraumaTizer and King Solomon’s Mines (Rebuilt Wooden Mouse). As ‘Solomon’s Mines was not operational for the start, I decided to ride TraumaTizer first, albeit with hesitation. I found out that I did not need to worry. Although a SLC, I was quite shocked at how smooth it was; hardly any head-banging at all! For once you can enjoy every one of the insanely twisted inversions without the worry of getting a severe headache. Excellent. At the end of that ERS, King Solomon’s Mines was operating. I had one go, and that was enough! Very rough, and some bruises are given.
Next up was the Fun House. Best part of the day. The Joy Wheel, Social Mixer, Crazy Steps, Spinning Barrel, and Ball Pond all added up to lots and lots of fun, although, six members in the ball pond turned out to be a vicious experience. For those persons who ended up trying to bury me in the Ball Pond, be warned – I will have my revenge next year!
May I say thank you for a great weekend. Everyone is friendly and helpful at Southport, even the ‘cool’ guy on TraumaTizer. I think our fun rubs off on them and they enjoy themselves too. The Cyclone was as great as ever, even more so on the back seat.
Knowsley Safari Park was very quiet but we had a good day. The talk by the curator was extremely interesting, he really knows his stuff. We were privileged to go on the safari trip, which was made very interesting, and by far the safest way to visit the baboons! It’s the first time we’ve virtually had a whole park to ourselves – they just followed us round opening up rides as we wanted them.
The Hands On Days at Pleasureland Southport are always popular days and this year attendees enjoyed TraumaTizer, the Cyclone, King Solomon’s Mines and the Fun House as well as meals and refreshments in the Casablanca restaurant. The track walk of the Cyclone was called off due to the weather.
It is good to see that the park has improved over recent years and started to get the attractions that it deserves. The days of the concessions at the park are numbered and it certainly shows with the many improvements that are continually happening.
2000 was a very big year for Knowsley Safari Park. Amongst other things, they doubled the amount of amusements they had. The increase was due to the direction and persuasion of Club member Andy Preston. These additions included Viper (Pinfari coaster), Flying Eagles (Flying Scooters), Pirate Ship, Crazy Barrels, Safari Train, etc.
Held the day after the Hands On 4 event, Rumble in the Jungle was a good way to allow members the chance to see what the Safari Park had to offer. A lucky few had the chance to go around the safari drive in the park bus with the animal curator, who also gave a talk to all attendees after lunch.