2020 has been a rollercoaster year for us all and not just our stunningly refurbished Blackpool self-catering apartments, within which we had hoped to cocoon more couples, friends and families during the 2020 season. But there’s no better place than Blackpool for rollercoaster rides and we thought we now had a little time to examine the history of these thrilling experiences within our North West seaside resort.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is one of the world’s best places in which to experience rollercoasters, having a remarkable ‘stock’ of four ‘woodies’ and five ‘steelies’ (or wooden and steel rollercoasters, for those who don’t speak the lingo!) Interestingly, rollercoasters were in Blackpool even before the 1926 Art Deco building, which houses our 13 self-catering apartments, was built.
History of Rollercoasters in Blackpool
Blackpool Pleasure Beach was founded by a businessman – William George Bean – who had been an American amusement park engineer in 1896 and built its popularity on the basis of the Hotchkiss Bicycle Railroad Ride, the Switchback roller coaster and a steam roundabout, plus fortune telling from gypsies in a neighbouring encampment. In 1904, it introduced Sir Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machine and, a year or two later, created the water chute named the River Caves. The first wooden rollercoaster arrived in 1907 and was called The Scenic Railway. It was joined in 1909, by the legendary Velvet Coaster, with open carriages and velvet seats. And then, in 1923 – three years before The Berkeley Apartments’ building was erected – there came the iconic Big Dipper.
The Big Dipper has a place in the hearts of many of those who have visited Blackpool over the decades and was even referenced in the Jethro Tull song, ‘Big Dipper’, and in the TV series, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge’. It was built by John Miller and its original station was designed by prestigious architect, Joseph Emberton. It suffered a fire in June 1975 and had to be rebuilt, but by 1998, it was making world headlines again, when Richard Rodrigues set a World Record by riding it for over 1000 hours, between June 18 and August 3. He then went on to double this feat two years later, spending 2000 hours on board.
The Grand National
In 1935, the Big Dipper was joined by another woodie – the Grand National. Crowds were flocking to Blackpool Pleasure Beach by the 1930s and the Grand National offered the thrill of a racing rollercoaster, thanks to having two parallel tracks. It is actually one of only three Möbius loop coasters in existence, with an out and back facsimile layout that thrills everyone, including the Chairman of the Roller Coaster Club of GB, who got married on it! During World War II Polish service personnel probably also enjoyed it, as the Pleasure Beach had to erect signs in Polish, given how many Polish squadrons were stationed in Blackpool.
Other attractions thrilling 1930s visitors were ‘Noah’s Ark’ and The Whip – the latter introduced in 1921 and removed in 2008, when it was the oldest fairground-style ride at the park.
The rollercoaster rollouts have continued with great regularity. In 1994, The Big One became the tallest and steepest rollercoaster in the world, boasting a 65° incline. It is now just the tallest in the UK, standing at 213 feet (65m) and with a 205-foot (62-metre) first drop.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach became the first park In Europe to have a fully inverting steel coaster – Revolution – and introduced the world’s first double launch rollercoaster, ICON. Add to that the world’s first suspended looping coaster, situated completely over water, in the shape of Infusion, and there’s a lot to thrill anyone, of any age, if they are ready to scream and be prepared to go faster, higher and in more directions than they could ever imagine!
When we come out of the rollercoaster year of 2020, we will be here for any thrill-seeker wishing to challenge themself with these amazing and incredible dares by day, before returning to our self-catering apartments for a totally luxurious wind-down. Whether you choose to do that whilst sipping cocktails on the balcony of super-luxurious Terrace, sink into a super-cool luxury leather sofa, or just have forty-winks on one of our very comfortable beds, is entirely up to you. We hope to see you soon.