Words and photos: Heather Spierling
: 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By the following season (1980) we had been replaced by inexperienced people who were employed to run all the rides, both big and small.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?...

1979: The Twist in all her glory, a completed paint job, lights and a new pay box.  My last picture of her. The Twist was sold in 1980.

Me and my Twist, 1979


Your Comments

Fascinating and very well written piece. Just one thing, the vampire jets weren't scrapped by James A Crow & Sons in 1975, they survived well after that date.
Michael Smith

I was born in 1968 and spent most of my youth at Barry island. You mentioned Barrie P, my older brother. I had two brothers that worked at the fair, Robert and Barrie Peake, and spent most of the summer enjoying free rides, my favourite being the fun house slide. Getting squashed in the people mover was always a great laugh and reading your write up brought back loads of memories.
Richard Peake

Do you have something to say about this article or perhaps some additional information? Please email us! (Please note that any comments or information sent may be edited prior to posting here).

More on Barry Island Pleasure Park
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More Welsh Wonders: Barry Island Pleasure Park
Golden Oldies: The Haunted Mine at Barry Island Pleasure Park
From Bond to Barry: Creating Uncle Frankenstein's Scream Machine
Gallopers at the Amusement Park: Barry Island
Worlds Apart in Wales: making sense of the phrase 'chalk and cheese'
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