20. Caterpillar (from Pleasureland, Southport)

The original Dreamland Caterpillar pictured in the 1920s. The Scenic Railway can just be seen behind the ride. (Photograph: NA).


The Pleasureland Caterpillar at Easter 1950. (Photograph taken from the book Pleasureland Memories by Stephen Copnall).


A view across the Pleasureland Caterpillar to the Cyclone in the 1980s. (Photograph taken from the book Pleasureland Memories by Stephen Copnall).


A view of the Caterpillar from the Sky Ride. The dome structure that surrounds the ride has also been acquired for the Dreamland Heritage Amusement Park, but may not be used with the Caterpillar itself.  (Photograph: Pleasureland Ltd).


The Caterpillar in action in 2000. (Photograph: Pleasureland Ltd).


The Caterpillar abandoned at Pleasureland in May 2007 prior to dismantling work starting. The ride is in need of some work, but can be restored.  (Photograph: Nick Laister).


The Caterpillar in May 2007, eight months after Pleasureland closed, just before work commenced on dismantling the ride. (Photograph: Nick Laister).

History: The Caterpillar is a circular ride with a continuous string of cars completely covering an undulating track. The ride was generally operated quite fast and, once up to maximum speed, a canopy would cover the cars, giving the ride the appearance of a caterpillar. As this part of the ride would be in darkness, Caterpillars were particularly popular with young couples. While covered, wind machines were often located at one point of the rotation to enhance the experience.

Once a very popular ride found at many amusement parks, there are only a few left operating around the world.

The first Caterpillar was imported to the UK by Dreamland owner Henry Iles. Dreamland's Caterpillar (which was not believed to be the first that Iles brought into the country) operated from 1922 to the 1980s, after which it was scrapped.

There is conflicting information on the history of the Pleasureland Caterpillar ride, which has been acquired for the Dreamland Heritage Amusement Park. It was certainly imported by Iles, as part of the same batch of rides as the Dreamland Caterpillar. Some sources suggest it was built in 1914, making the Caterpillar Pleasureland's oldest ride. Although it would not have been imported by Iles as early as 1914, it is possible that it was built in Germany in 1914 and imported by Iles later. Other sources state it was built circa 1922, possibly in Coney Island, USA, still making it one of the oldest operating rides of its type in the world. Pleasureland owner, Geoffrey Thompson, posted a request in World's Fair in the late 1990s asking for more information on the history of the ride.

There is further information on the history of Caterpillar rides, including a photograph of the Pleasureland Caterpillar, at the National Fairground Archive website.

Dimensions: It has a diameter of 60 feet, has 24 cars and can hold 96 passengers.

Importance: This ride is believed to be identical to the Caterpillar that operated at Dreamland from 1922 to the 1980s (see photograph on Page 17 of Dreamland Remembered). It is also one of the only surviving examples of its type.

Latest: Now in storage for use in the Heritage Park.

If you have any further information on the history of this ride, please email nick@savedreamland.co.uk.

Click on the photographs for larger versions.

 

 

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