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A TALE OF A TWIST: BARRY ISLAND PLEASURE PARK (PAGE 9 OF 9)
Words and photos: Heather Spierling
Article: September 2014
Maintenance and problems
There was an independent clutch on each of the three arms of the Twist. We discovered very quickly that if it rained, water would seep into the clutch and cause it to fail. Visually you could tell when a clutch was failing as the whole arm would begin to run out of sync with the rest of the ride. As soon as this happened – tools would be collected, the ride stopped, the clutch would be dismantled, cleaned and reassembled. The ride would be back up and running in under 15 minutes. Eventually clutch covers were made to prevent this happening but in very heavy rain they would eventually fail.
In 1979 the motor beneath the pay box was replaced (worn out the old one!). But this new motor was too powerful for the ride.
Previously, when starting the ride, you placed the knife into the contact board - this would start the ride very slowly and gently. On the contact board there was also a metal wheel (about a hand span in diameter). By turning this wheel, the ride increased in speed. On the sixth notch on the board the ride would reach its optimal speed. This was calculated as taking 6 seconds to do a complete revolution.
When the new motor was installed and you started the ride by putting the knife in, the ride would ‘leap’ forward, like a jump-start. The new motor was too powerful; this sudden start put a strain on the shaft running from the pay-box to the centre of the ride and eventually would snap the chain.
To compensate for this, the operator had to flick the knife in and out of the contact board to try to give a smoother start and prevent the ‘leap’. Doing this would also cause ‘arc’ing between the knife and the contact and ouch! - it would sometimes burn my hand.
I coaxed the Twist to the end of September 79, hoping that another motor would be found before the next season. But circumstances changed and the opportunity never arrived.
Unknown to us, the owners of the fairground had decided that Barry Island ‘Pleasure Park’ was to become Wales’s new ‘Disney Land’ with ‘Have a nice day’, smiley people operating the rides. We were expendable, and at the end of the 1979 season we were all sacked.
By the following season (1980) we had been replaced by inexperienced people who were employed to run all the rides, both big and small. No maintenance skills, no operating experience, no safety skills, and no understanding of the business at all. It was a big risk to take and became one of the factors leading to the fairgrounds decline.
It was early spring 1980, when John A and I next saw the Twist in operation, we leant on the fence watching the Twist travelling at almost full speed. I noticed that two safety bars (with children in the cars) had not been shut properly. Luckily, John was there - I told him to jump the fence and shut the bars before there was an accident, and this he promptly did. I couldn’t watch any more, my ride was being operated by an idiot. Albeit a smiling, young, “Have a nice day” one.
Easter bank holiday evening - we were out drinking with the new Twist operator and I asked how the day had gone and had they been busy.
‘Yes’, she replied proudly, ‘the day was very busy and the Twist has taken £230!’
I mumbled something to cover the shock on my face, excused myself and went to the bar.
That’s a 70% drop in takings….
The same holiday last year I had taken £1000 (in cash). If such a drop in takings was happening on the Twist, it was happening on the other rides. The fair was now a ‘ticket only’ venue – no more impulse riders. It must have devastated the takings. Another nail in the coffin of Barry Island Pleasure Park.
That summer season, every time I visited the fairground it seemed the Twist was out of order, - the shaft, the chain or the clutch. Broke my heart.
Tw 101, bought by P&J Collins (1974) sold to Denzil Danter (1980, then Steve Rawlings (1992), John Matthews (1992), Peter Shaylor (Shayler?)(2002). (Information from Naional Fairground Archive, Sheffield University).
At the time of writing I believe that Peter Shayler Jnr is running a Twist. Is she the original Collins Twist or a replacement? If she is Collin’s Twist then I would love to have a photo of her, or has she gone to the fairground in the sky?
I would really love to know. Anybody?...