Interview by Gary Radice
: Added October 2006
Bobs operated with a total of two trains during busy times. Both were of noticeably heavy construction, and could carry a maximum of 20 riders each, seated in pairs. Each of the ten double seats was articulately hinged both vertically and horizontally - they had to be in order to get around Bobs's tight and steeply banked bends.

One of the trains was painted in a dark red, the other in a dullish blue with just a hint of turquoise, and although repainted several times over the years these colours were retained for all but the final years of operation. Never at any time were the trains multi-coloured.

The cost of a ride on opening day was 6d (NOT a bob!) and remained at that level for quite a number of years before being increased to a shilling. Yes - A bob!

Bobs, not surprisingly, met with immediate success and remained so through the years.

A further interesting point is that alongside the pay box was painted the slogan, "Mile a Minute!", an early example of roller coaster exaggeration as the track length was somewhat less than a mile!

Just one more oddity about the station was that the alighting end of the platform was roofed over whilst those waiting to ride remained unprotected from the elements! Actually there was a very good reason for this - the speeding trains made two great sweeping passes across the back of the station accompanied by the classic Bobs R-O-A-R! This is a sound I have never heard equalled by any other coaster! This all added to the thrill of anticipation - or fear - felt by those waiting!

So the 1930s went by and into the 1940s and it was in the latter years of that decade that I was able to take my first rides. Each seat on Bobs had a full width locking lap-bar for the two riders, and had been so equipped since the beginning. In those halcyon days there were no warning signs about minimum height and the like; the attendants just eyed you up and if to them you looked OK, you were on your way! 

And what a ride, impossible to describe on paper, but needless to say I was hooked!

The ride time from leaving the top of the lift until the train came to a halt was just over one minute varying by only a second or two, probably depending on the weather. I timed it on a number of occasions in later years and the duration of the ride did not seem to vary if the train was carrying one rider or twenty.

The cost of my first ride was 1/- (a 'bob' or 5p). There was no reduction for children, so it was a lot for me, but Mum was paying so it didn't matter!

As the trains came to a halt the lap bar would unlock and lift away automatically without the need for pushing - a push forward of the bar I find to be the required norm on other coasters.

In their original livery the Bobs trains featured a small motif, or maybe what could be called some kind of insignia on the outer sides of each seat. These in turn were surrounded further toward the edge with a gold line. This feature added a finishing decorative touch, which was unfortunately lost when the trains had their first re-paint.

Also - and an odd feature for Bobs! - was the one and only STRAIGHT dip and short run of level track which was around two-thirds of the way through the ride, and situated on the outer side of the structure on the opposite side from the station. Apparently the possibility of three train operation was considered early on in the design stage, and this straight section of the track would have been a stopping point equipped with a braking system which would have required a (very!) alert operator to be on duty!  
However, the idea of three train operation never reached fruition, but the straight dip and run remained, though without brakes. It must be stated thought that in no way did this detract from the ride's great qualities; indeed if anything it added a surprise touch of its own!

So I was hooked!

The years went by and into my teens...

I would make many trips to Belle Vue either alone or with friends just to ride Bobs, although whilst there I would go on the other rides, particularly The Scenic Railway - a fine ride in its own right without which Bobs may never have been created.

By 1954, the cost of a Bobs' ride was 1/6d; although during quiet times a repeat ride was available for 1/-. By the beginning of the sixties the cost had increased to 2/- (repeat 1/6d). Needless to say my visits to Belle Vue continued unabated.

Although the trains and station were regularly re-painted in their original colours, the same could not be said for the structure as a whole. Apart for a few of the uprights adjacent to the station which were repainted in white at odd times, the rest of the paintwork was allowed to fade. The deep bottle green had faded to a dull greyish blue, and in some small areas had peeled away completely. All this added to the air of menace exuded by Bobs.

I might add that I was assured by regular staff on the ride that everything was perfectly safe as all the vital structure was built from wood that had been well seasoned and treated with high quality preservative.
....So we move forward to 1968 and in readiness for that season a remarkable bit of repainting had taken place! The Station (apart from those four fantastic signs!) had been completely repainted in a psychedelic sky blue and pale orange!

The trains didn't escape this flower power treatment, one being painted a striking poppy red and the other a vivid canary yellow! The rest of the ride remained mostly in its faded bluish grey.

Also, I suppose in keeping with the times, the price of a "go" was increased to half-a-crown (2/6d) with repeats at 2/-. These prices were to remain until the very end, and thus were the final (and highest) ever to be charged for a ride on the illustrious Bobs.

The new colour scheme was also to remain until the final closure.
So then, 1968 went by, then '69 and on into that fateful year - 1970.

During that year I had made about seven trips to Belle Vue by September, and as October neared its end I realised that I must have a final visit for that year. This I did -  alone -  on the final day of the amusement park operation for that year, which was Saturday, 31st October.

Little did I know that not only was this to be my last ever day of riding Bobs, but also the day of my last ever visit to Belle Vue...

Belle Vue 1931 Plan. Image: Andrew Edwards/www.rollercoastermayhem.com

"This was clearly taken in the 1960s and shows the 'Forte desolation' that was already starting to show at Belle Vue. Firstly we must disregard the Greyhound Track towards the top of the photo which was never part of Belle Vue (by the way, the watery effect of the area in the centre of that dog track is purely an optical illusion!) Moving down into Belle Vue proper and over to the left. The large cleared and desolate area is where the beautiful large boating lake complete with centre island had been. Clearly in this pic it is shown as having  been drained and levelled. The large and light coloured building above and to the right of Bobs is the Elizabethan Suite - yet another Forte 'banqueting suite', several of which were spread across the Belle Vue site from the late fifties on. They were rather reminiscent of the service areas which in later years were to pervade motorways throughout the land - but didn't do as much business! Just above the speedway stadium at the bottom of the photo the Scenic Railway can just be seen." Image: Roy Nicol. The History of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (Roy Nicol Productions) are available to buy at www.joylandbooks.com

Bobs station at Belle Vue in 1941. "Although I can remember that slogan, 'Mile a Minute', being there it was painted out at the end of the 1940s, as was the other 'pitch' to the left of the photo which is unfortunately hidden from view. For the rest of its life the outside wall of the station was completely blank - apart from that one word 'BOBS' in large letters, plus one or two 'no smoking' signs and ride price information alongside and near the paybox." Image: Not known

"What a great shot this is. Clearly taken in the sixties as indicated by the 2/- (all classes) price sign. Notice how the cashier can clearly be seen in the paybox!" Image: Michael Powell of Chetham's Library.


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