Wednesday, October 11, 2006

(Lack of) Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach continues to pull in the crowds but it is now horribly expensive- £29 for a wristband, £72 for a family of three. When we went recently, the Big One was closed (probably due to high winds) and the Spin Doctor & Flying Machines were also posted as out of action, possibly for similar reasons.

The Plesh isn't too big on background maintenance. I don't mean that they compromise safety, only that lots of trivial things often don't work. The noah's Ark walk-through ride has a bit where stepping on a floor area sends a blast of cold air down your neck. This time, however, it was blowing all the time at reduced pressure. A bouncing staircase didn't bounce, an infinity mirror effect was spoiled by a large amount of accumulated grime. Animatronics didn't animate, wooden horses were wrapped in hazard tape, roller coaster seats had sandbags in them. The Valhalla water ride is full of disappointments- effects still there but rarely working. (Talking Norse Head, snow machines, pop-up monster, rotating tunnels, water vortex, gas flame effects, even the flakey lame lightning van der graff generator (which has now been replaced by a rather lame strobe light that flashes in the cage where the generator used to be).

What really takes the pleasure out of the pleasure beach, though, is the creeping health & safety mentality. Rides which spent the first fifty years without any restraints whatsoever have gradually acquired lap bars and now, sadly, seat belts. The rides are perfectly safe if riders hold on and act responsibly. However, due to the risk of people frigging about (standing up, leaning out etc.) the rest of us have to endure being strapped and clamped in to the detriment of the ride experience. The Grand National now has individual seat belts, high seat dividers and clamp-in lap pads that swap the joys of woodie airtime for the unpleasantness of being bashed about whilst clamped with a vice like grip. Even that most gentle of rides the Roller Coaster has a shared seatbelt, although it doesn't impact too much on the ride. The Big Dipper still has its shared lapbars of old but I'll give it another season or two before that too falls to the gods of 'elfansafety.

The other impact of these new safety features, of course, is that it knackers the ride throughput. It takes much longer to check all of the cars on the train and even running two trains, the despatch is worse than what it used to be with one train, or it certainly feels it as your train has to sit there waiting until the old train has arrived back at the station. The Nash doesn't have any blocking areas after despatch, there are only final approach trim brakes and two sets of platform brakes. The Big One gets round this by having intermediate brake zones & being able to stop trains on the lift hill (& of course, starting them again with the pullup chain). The Nash now has modern fin brakes to replace the original wooden side brakes, but even that comes at a price. Our train was definitely winning the race (being several car lengthjs ahead) but as we swept under the final approach bridge and hit the trims, they burned off our excess speed & the other train overtook us and pipped us to the post as their braking wasn't as fierce. Bah, humbug!

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