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VIKINGAR'S LAST STAND (PART 3)
Article by Gary Radice, Nick Laister, Dave Boardman, Ash Stanworth, John Forknall, Fraser Grant, John Burke, John Phillips, Gordon (from Holland), Brian McCormick, George Drew, Ryan, Gary Amos
Article: Added January 2006
Many thanks to Ash Stanworth for the following:
In my eyes, the Vikingar is Blackpool Pleasure Beach's (BPB) 6th woodie (Big Dipper, Roller Coaster, Grand National, Wild Mouse and Zipper Dipper are the other five). OK, so it has a steel structure, however it's clearly a wooden track, forming a classic side-friction coaster and operating cars to suit that.
The fact that it features a water splash doesn't in my opinion take away from any of the above.
The ride was, as many readers will know, originally located at Belle Vue in Manchester where it opened in the 1950s and was a main attraction up until the park closing in the late 1970s. In 1979 the Pleasure Beach re-constructed the ride on the northern-most point in the park. It was known as the Water Chute right up until 1998 when BPB started to hint at the theme for Project 2000 (Valhalla).
Since the fire at the Fun House in 1991 the Water Chute seemed to struggle in the battle for custom. It was always in the shadow of the Log Flume which was a much longer ride and had over 20 years worth of custom built up with the park's visitors.
Finally, in 2000 Valhalla opened. This was the final nail in the Vikingar's coffin. With the world's biggest dark ride (supposedly) next door, and hiding it from view from just about all angles, the ride stood very little chance.
At the start of the 2001 season, BPB announced they would not be running the Vikingar, Cableway or Whip.
When a food stall appeared in front of the ride sometime during April, most assumed that the ride was gone forever. Certainly the closing of the Cableway (Cable Cars) didn't help, as that was one of the best places from which to view the ride.
The Whip (another old classic ride) re-opened for the illuminations that year which did suggest that there might be a little light at the end of the tunnel with strong rumours suggesting that the Vikingar and Cableway might both re-open before the end of the season. Of course, that never happened.
However for 2002 the Whip was re-instated as a full time attraction, and the Vikingar was allowed to open from Easter but only at weekends and public holidays. Despite this however, the ride was not listed on the park map and still the Cableway remained closed.
It was a great feeling to be able to get back on that classic coaster, seeing the station with its green floor, getting in the cars with the restraints which you control as to how far down they could go. The smoothness of the lift seemed more noticeable for some reason. The view from the ride was nothing special - the north car park on the left and park workshop rooftops to the right. However the top turnaround was by far the best place to view the Grand National's first drop. The ride had some tyres to drive it round the top turn, it then ran down a long, straight slope, identical to the lift. It was so smooth, and at this point you really could feel the car wobbling side to side on the side-friction wheels. The water splash was taken at 45mph, and was always great, even if you didn't get too wet.
At the bottom of this you were greeted by some manual brakes before entering a 180 degree right hand turn back into the station.
The exit was always good if another boat was making its way round the top turn as you left, as it was likely to soak you as you passed the water splash.
Fortunately the ride was run daily during 2003.
However it broke down at 3pm on the final day of the season meaning I was one of the last people on it as I had just got off at the time. The ride was abandoned during the winter and hasn't been touched since that day (other than to dump the Space Invader's first cars in the station, to drain the water and to move the Viking figure from the roof of the brake box.) Oh, how could I forget to mention the beastly fence which now follows the final turn in and blocks the ride from view?
It's heartbreaking to know that the Vikingar is likely to be scrapped. I am sure Pleasureland at Southport would be able to find room for it. Let's face it, the Log Flume there is hardly up to the same standard as BPB's!
Vikingar also looked spectacular at night with all its arches lit up and twinkling in turn.
A true classic and much missed already. I just wish BPB would now remove it and stop teasing me by leaving it there rotting!