Sunday, October 21, 2007

The old and the new

David's favourite Blackpool attraction is the Noah's Ark, which can best be described as a walk-through fun house. My first Noah's Ark was in Battersea Gardens back in 1969 and it was fascinating, if somewhat run down. I then visited the Blackpool one a year later and found out what lots of the inside stuff was actually meant to do as it was in good order.

These wooden circular stepping stones wobble, and Karen avoids them by shuffling along the ledge to the left.
The original Blackpool Noah's Ark was a much bigger structure, although the majority of the innards were gutted in order to make a large ticket hall. Blackpool took care, however, to replace some of the more famous elements (if somewhat scaled down) such as the wobbly floors, cakewalk and air jets. (You can see a good history of Ark rides here and another feature here).

Nowadays, you enter the ride round the back, go up an outside staircase, over a wobbly bridge and across the roof of the rock structure towards the entrance ramp, navigating the stepping stones. You enter the rocking boat at the upper deck level and enter the cabin, weaving through narrow corridors and past a cow that salutes you with its tail. (There used to be metal strips on the handrail here that zapped you if you touched them). You circle the deck and go down a steep (rocking) staircase to the lower level.

Here you weave through even narrower passages, past a table that appears to go up and down whilst the boat rocks. There is also a large Ark model, a rocking horse pig and the equivalent of a kaleidoscope with this sign outside. I can also recall there used to be a spoof weighing machine (the sort with the large upright dial) which was made from a sand bag and would clout you on the head if you pulled a handle. There is another even steeper staircase to negotiate (which doesn't move but the upper walls do as it is in the exact centre of the boat) and then you are in the lower level weaving through corridors complete with wobbly floors, spongy floors, air jets and the like. (It is fairly gloomy down here and not to be rushed).
After an apparently endless corridor you enter a room with no surface actually horizontal or vertical. There is a contraption here made to look as though water can run uphill but I have not seen it work for years. After climbing the bouncing stairs you return to the roof level briefly before going back down into the cellar bit for spinning floors, collapsing floors, cakewalks, airjets and finally the exit.

There was another Noah's Ark in Morecambe until 1999 which was also ran by the Thompson Family (who own Blackpool Pleasure Beach and also a park in Southport until a couple of years ago, it had an Ark but never seen by me). This ark was similar to Blackpool and still had a couple of the original fittings in-situ, including a visible quarter of a turntable behind bars where animals hurried past.

Another old ride that has been spruced up is the Derby Racer. The huge platform thunders round (anti-clockwise, in American Carousel tradition) and the fifty or so horses bob up and down, four abreast. They also used to slowly canter back and forth within the confines of their long slot, now sadly disabled and the slot boarded over. An old style fairground Organ accompanies the gallop and you really need to hold on if you are on an outside horse.

From the old to the new- the newest ride is called Infusion and is a large steel suspended coaster, the sort that your feet dangle from. An added special feature is that the ride is totally above the lake, with lots of decorative fountains squirting near the riders. The queues were a bit too big to wait with two small boys in tow, so we stuck to things where the wait was moderate. (The ride has the blue track, the red track is the Pepsi Max Big One).

We didn't feel too hard done by though, we had ridden it before when it used to be at Southport and called the TraumaTIZER.


Sen. Peter Higham Paul said...

Are the steps meant to wobble?

Shades said...

The circular wooden stepping stones pivot on a central fulcrum- if you mis-step you get a wet shoe. The ramp up to the ark is fixed (the ship moves a foot or so each way). In the ship, the stern stairs moves as part of the ship, the central stairs are fixed but the walls move above it and the bouncing staircase bounces. If you follow the second link about the background to arks, there is a photo-walk through of the entire attraction.

So- yes.

Colin Campbell said...

These seem pretty sophisticated. I can only remember portable amusements at the local summer markets. Great post.