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
: Added January 2006
Time is up for this classic Blackpool Pleasure Beach side friction coaster. As at January 2006 Vikingar is no more.
In late 2004 themagiceye invited people to remember this classic side friction coaster and the memories came 'flooding' back. Thanks to everyone above for contributing so far. Storyboard by themagiceye.
Since November 2004, people have contacted themagiceye to kindly share their thoughts and memories of the classic and much missed coaster Vikingar. November 2004 seemed a good time to begin to do just that as it was strongly rumoured at that time to be earmarked for removal from the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool. It was even suggested by some coaster enthusiasts that Vikingar was to be moved at some point to Pleasureland at Southport! No such luck. Whatever happens, your memories of Vikingar will be kept alive upon these pages of themagiceye. Please feel free to add your own thoughts/memories/pictures of this ride (send to info@joylandbooks.com) and all submissions will be considered for inclusion here in this on-going article.

Circular Water Chutes: Introduction by Nick Laister
Vikingar (or Water Chute as it was previously called) is significant as one of only two surviving examples of a ride that could previously be seen in seaside resorts up and down the country.

Large water chutes had appeared at numerous exhibitions between 1901 and 1908, including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin. On these chutes a boat was released down a track into a lake, where the boats literally floated before being hoisted back up the incline. Permanent versions of this ride appeared at amusement parks at Blackpool, Southend and Southport, but their throughput was limited by the need to winch the boats back up to the station. Smaller chutes, which operated on a similar principle, appeared at Wicksteed Park (Kettering), East Park (Hull) and at North Bay (Scarborough) and all still operate.

The Blackpool Water Chute was very different. Unlike earlier water chutes, this was a continuous circuit coaster with a water splash drop and is most commonly known as a ‘circular water chute’. On circular water chutes, the ‘boat’ never leaves the track; the ride is actually a side-friction wooden roller coaster.

The concept was invented by German Showman Hugo Hasse, designer of Great Yarmouth’s Scenic Railway. His first ride appeared at the Munich Festival of 1928, and was then rebuilt at the Pleasure Beach, Great Yarmouth in 1929. A second German chute from the 1928 Cologne Exhibition went to the 1929 Newcastle Exhibition - and in 1930 went to Pat Collins' Barry Island. The concept was then adapted by amusement park entrepreneur Leslie Joseph, who opened similar rides at several of his parks. The first was at Coney Beach (Porthcawl) in 1936. The key difference was to 'switch' the location of the station and the trough. On the German version, the stations were on the right and the trough on the left, with cars running anti-clockwise. the Leslie Joseph Chutes were the opposite way round, with the cars running clockwise. The Porthcawl chute was followed after the War by larger rides at Battersea Fun Fair (London, 1956), Belle Vue (Manchester, 1957) and the Kursaal (Southend-on-Sea, 1958).

I am also aware of a short-lived Water Chute at Ramsgate It opened in June 1927, taking 6 weeks to construct, together with a Figure Eight roller coaster. A "foreign" team had to have permission from the Ministry of Labour to come over here - and they were supplemented by 100 local workers. I believe the ride was removed in 1930. I believe it to be German, but would be interested if anybody can shed any light on its history. But it does appear to be the first circular chute in the UK.  

Vikingar is a Leslie Joseph circular water chute and was originally located at Belle Vue, having opened at Easter 1957. The Belle Vue Water Chute became one of the most popular rides at the park and became famous briefly in 1978 when Methodist Minister Peter Schofield set a record after enduring 41 hours on the ride for charity!

The Water Chute’s last full season of operation at Belle Vue was 1978, but it briefly reopened in 1979, operated by a concessionaire. The ride was then moved to the Pleasure Beach and reopened in Blackpool in 1980. According to the book ‘A Century of Fun’ by Peter Bennett, the ride is 70 feet high, had seven boats (each carrying up to six passengers) and reached speeds of up to 45mph.

There were a number of similar rides elsewhere in the country, one of which still operates to this day:

Coney Beach (Porthcawl): Introduced by Leslie Joseph in 1932, the ride operated at the entrance to this seaside fun park until a fatal accident on Good Friday 1994. It reopened shortly after, but memories of the tragedy ensured that the ride’s days were numbered. It was demolished in the late 1990s and has not been replaced.

Battersea Fun Fair (London)/Dreamland (Margate): Introduced by Sir Leslie Joseph into Battersea Fun Fair in 1956, and larger than the original Porthcawl chute, it operated at Battersea until the Fun Fair’s closure in 1974. It is believed to have reopened for one or two seasons as a stand-alone attraction in Battersea Park after the amusement park had closed, but was dismantled following a fire. It re-opened at Dreamland in 1977, where it remained until 1995, when it was demolished by the park’s new owner, Jimmy Godden.

Kursaal (Southend-on-Sea)/Ocean Beach (Rhyl): In 1958 – a year after Belle Vue’s had opened – an almost identical water chute opened at the Kursaal at Southend-on-Sea. This survived until 1971, when it was dismantled and moved to Rhyl’s Ocean Beach Fun Fair, where it opened in 1972 and still operates to this day. But for how long? [Editor's note: the ride was demolished in October 2007]

Pleasure Beach (Great Yarmouth): This is the second water chute to be built at the Pleasure Beach. It was built in the winter 1971-2 to the south of the Scenic Railway and opened summer 1972. It was based on the Leslie Joseph plans and was identical to the Battersea, Belle Vue and Kursaal chutes. It was scrapped in the mid-1990s after the park opened a Log Flume adjacent to the main entrance.

And so back to Vikingar. My final ride on Vikingar was in 2002, when I took several photographs. The ride always seemed to struggle to pay its way in an ‘out of the way’ location in the park. And whilst it was a joy to ride, it is clear that this type of ride no longer holds its own against log flumes, rapids and modern white knuckle water rides such as Valhalla in the eyes of the general public. The ride now looks certain to be removed, leaving the Rhyl water chute as the last surviving example.

Nick Laister is a planning consultant working within the theme park and tourist attraction industry. He edits the www.joylandbooks.com website and is Chairman of the Dreamland Trust (www.dreamlandmargate.com).

Thanks to Roy Symonds for information on the Great Yarmouth water chute.

A boat climbs Vikingar's lift hill in 2002. Image: Nick Laister/www.joylandbooks.com

A general view of the ride in 2002. Image: Nick Laister/www.joylandbooks.com

Another view of Vikingar in 2002. Image: Nick Laister/www.joylandbooks.com

Vikingar in its previous guise as the Water Chute, Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Image: John Phillips


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