15th February 1997

Pleasureland (Southport, England)

 

David Dowson
The idea of organising a trip to ride coasters in what is normally the coldest, wettest month of the year was a courageous one. Initially I was a little sceptical about making the 500 mile round trip, but what the hell, it was an opportunity for the first rides of the year on a terrific and underrated coaster. I certainly made the right decision.

Having been one of the very lucky few to be chosen to walk the track, I spent the previous week praying for good weather, but even I could not believe how fortunate we were. The track walk was unreal, with Ray offering a very interesting talk as we walked from the station backwards around the Cyclone.

The walkway alongside the track was incredibly slippery with the first of the year’s grease and a lot of condensation, but slow methodical progress was no problem, with safety being of paramount importance. What amazed me was just how steep the drops were, much steeper than you imagine when riding, forcing you to hold the handrail with both hands to stop slipping down. It was brilliant. Having walked around to the second turnaround the wrong way we then walked the lift hill the correct way, and again the experience was unbelievable. Many thanks must go to Ray, Jake and Lynne at the Pleasureland for allowing the track walk, especially with Jessica – an experience of a lifetime for an eight-year-old. Ray was wonderful, telling Jess that she was brave for deciding to stop on the climb from the third drop and walk back, thanks for being there to help her down, your constant attention did not go unnoticed, thank you. All this and it was only 9:00am!

Coffee and toast calmed the nerves somewhat and warmed those chilled bones before a good session in the Fun House to blow away the cobwebs and loosen all those tired muscles. The joy wheel was as good as ever but I am sure that Lynne kept hold of the last Golden Ball in the ball pond just to make us all looks fools.

Then it was onto the behind-the-scenes tour of the workshops, a walk through the drained River Caves, very novel and surely a first for most members, and a walk up the lift hill of the Log Flume. Then we started the ‘97 season proper with the Cyclone ERS.

The initial disappointment at the non appearance of the backwards-facing-car was soon dispelled by the first ride of the season, arms up all the way, apart from under the scaffolding at the end of the tunnel. That could have been a true white knuckle-ride! (Ed: I don’t think your knuckles would have been white somehow!)

The riding with 45 members was brilliant and with some members waiting for the back seats, it was possible to get a ride on every other train. The short delay while the rear facing car was being put onto the train was interesting to watch and then the experience of backwards riding lived up to my expectations. Many thanks to the ride crew for putting on the backwards-facing train for us,  it was greatly appreciated.

After the ERS, Pleasureland provided a great lunch before the question sheets for the Treasure Hunt and the Ride For Points challenge. Being entirely honest(!!!) we entered into the spirit of the competition and with some amazing organisation managed to amass over 100 rides in the space of just over two hours, averaging almost one ride a minute. In addition to this amazing feat we answered almost all of the questions for the Treasure Hunt. Highlights included three goes on the Bouncy Castle when not inflated, a ride on the Viking Ship that was out of operation and countless rides on the Gallopers, and we did manage a couple of rear facing rides on the Cyclone in the process.

Feeling flushed with success we proudly made our way to the Go Karts, only to hear a rival team boasting 400 rides on the Cyclone! Did they really start counting in February last year? I think we should be told! What chance did we stand! The Go Karts were great fun and the under eight’s race was the highlight, with no ill mannered driving and a brilliant win for Jessica.

The coffee, cakes and quiz rounded off a wonderful day.

A big thank you must go to Pleasureland, especially Ray, Jake and Lynne. They need not have gone to so much trouble for us, but the fact that they appeared to go out of their way to make sure the day went well shows that they understand the enthusiast.

 

Mary Jackson
Just a quick note to say a huge thank you for the Southport trip. Walking the track was an absolutely fantastic experience (Ed: You can see Mary above), even if more frightening than I was expecting. It is higher, steeper and much more slippery than it looks! I certainly won’t forget it in a hurry.

The rest of the day was great fun – even taking into account all the cheating that took place! I still have countless bruises from the Fun House, and stiff stomach muscles from laughing. Fully grown adults playing in the ball pond, on the slides and riding on the kiddie rides to get points provided the best entertainment I’ve had in months!

I must take this opportunity to thank the staff at Pleasureland for all their help, especially Ray who very patiently walked us around the track and took us on the behind-the-scenes tour. This provided some excellent photo opportunities, and it was really nice to see inside the workshops. Also, a big thank you to Robert who was running the Big Apple coaster. I hope his back isn’t too damaged from pushing us lot.

 

Jonathan Stones
Just a short letter to say what a fantastic time I had at the Hands-On day at Pleasureland. The opportunity to walk the track on the Cyclone was excellent, as was the ERS on it. Also fun was the Fun House, especially the Joy Wheel.

I’d just like to say a big thank you to everybody involved in organising the trip and all the staff at Pleasureland – they were superb. A speical thanks to the poor guy on the Big Apple who had to push our, heavier than normal, train from the station – ride after ride.

 

Cathie Cook
When I put my name down for the trip, I had had no idea what to expect. I’d only joined the Club in the new year, as a very novice (but keen) enthusiast, and knew next to no-one. I’d never been to Southport before and I’d only seen a couple of pictures of the Cyclone, which looked fairly encouraging, but that was my lot.

The good feeling started even as I walked down the prom towards the park. The sight of those twelve lucky people, silhouetted up there on the crest of the Cyclone’s second hill, made my spirits leap, and set the adrenalin going. The coaster year had begun in style! Even the weather was smiling on us. It was going to be good!

And it was. In fact it was more than “good,” it was brilliant.

The park couldn’t have done more to make us all welcome. Team games in the Fun House, a highly entertaining and interesting guided tour behind the scenes, including walking part of the Log Flume, and nearly all of the River Caves; and then of course the ride crews, who joined in wholeheartedly and happily filled in our Treasure Hunt and “points for rides” score sheets. They even managed to help one Club team, ride the Cyclone some 400 times in less than three hours! The food, too, was excellent, and the Go-Kart Challenge was so well organised that even I – who’d never sat behind the wheel of anything more adventurous than a dodgem – felt safe enough to give it a go. And to see the race-track being willingly cleared of people and cars alike so that the junior members could enjoy their very own laps in safety – was great.

And the Cyclone itself! What tremendous fun it is – you really fly in those back seats. The backwards riding, too. It hadn’t been promised, but then the crew rolled out that backwards carriage, and the atmosphere in the station just soared. Thank you, Pleasureland, for giving us just that little bit extra to make the day even more memorable.

A huge “Thanks!!” too, of course, to the Club itself, and all the other members who joined in that day. I must admit that, when I’d set out that morning, I’d felt very nervous and shy, and afraid of either getting swamped altogether, or alternatively being left out on a limb by everyone except the two or three people I already knew. The whole group were so friendly and helpful though, that in the end, it would have been hard not to have had a good time. So, thanks everyone for such a happy day. May many more like it follow!

 

Ian Berry
Several things made this Club trip special. Firstly, I was one of the lucky twelve to walk the Cyclone, secondly, the weather was excellent, and thirdly, the park staff were extremely friendly and everything went smoothly!

I arrived at exactly 8:30am and was greeted with a great welcome. Myself, Phil, Andrew Spence and I, as well as some other members who I didn’t know, walked up the lift hill and stayed at the top for ages. Having walked up MegaFfbia’s lift hill last year, this was a great privilege and I would like to thank Pleasureland. The drops on the ride were very slippery and at some points quite frightening. I did most of it, excluding the steep climb up the fourth drop.

Following the walk, we had some coffee, followed by a tour behind the scenes, which was quite amazing. Old Big Dipper and Cyclone trains were being examined and even an old ship from Sir Hiram Maxim Flying Machines was there.

The Treasure Hunt and Points for Rides were great fun, although some members decided to ride the Ladybirds several times. I won’t mention any names!

The Cyclone was superb on the day. Very fast, lots of airtime and the backward-facing car was placed on while we were watching. The way the engineers placed the reverse car on just goes to show that we should do everything we can to keep excellent rides like the Cyclone operating.

Finally, a big thanks to those who organised a great, original park trip. Also thanks to Pleasureland for owning a great roller coaster and making us all feel really welcome.

 

Rob Cowell
The excitement I felt for this trip started about a week before the actual trip when I heard that I had been picked to walk the track. For those of you who were with me walking the track you’ll know what a thrill this was. It’s not often a chance like this comes along, and when it does you just grab it with both hands and hold tight.

I have to admit I was a little surprised when Lynne Walker came out to greet us that early, but on reflection it was just the start of a whole day of good guest relations. From there on it only got better!

Having been introduced to the two ride operators who would escort us around the track, we split into two parties and started the tour. The walk around the track was not just a climb, look, and climb down again type of thing. The ride operators imparted little known facts, and glimmers of information, that you can only get from experiencing the ride first-hand. From the price of a new lift hill chain to the procedure for removing a link to the result of a metal track being ripped from the wood by a train – this is the stuff that makes a Hands-On trip the speciality it is. (We did manage to stump our guide when we asked how much a new lift hill top pulley wheel would cost to replace, but this only added to the enjoyment!)

After the walk we were escorted to breakfast and the pre-fun introductions. Even at this time, when everybody was probably still partly asleep, the staff were planning our day. And what a day!

I’ve always enjoyed playing in the Fun House, but the excitement of planned games only helped make it better. From finding the golden balls in the ball pond, to the controlled fun on the Joy Wheel.

Then we had the behind-the-scenes tour. This was both informative and interesting. I’d never realised how little a Ghost Train actually took up (in terms of floor space), or how many cranes were needed to assemble the Pirate Ship until this trip.

Next came the highlight of the trip – the Cyclone. Now I’ve ridden wooden coasters before, from Blackpool Pleasure Beach to Great Yarmouth but each one has its own charm. The Cyclone is no different. I like riding at the front, you get the thrill of seeing the track and the anticipation of the drops, but the back was definitely the place to be on the Cyclone. I’d swear I was literally standing on the third and fourth drop. Whilst we waited for the backwards car to be fitted, Lynne Walker joined us in the queue. She is a charming lady to talk to, full of drive for the park, and someone who really takes an interest in the public opinion. I didn’t get a backwards ride during the ERS, but knowing the park were leaving the cars on the train all day, vowed to make it back to ride backwards during the day. This I managed and thoroughly enjoyed. (The last woodie I rode backwards was the Texas Tornado at Morecambe, but the Cyclone beat that hands down – or rather, hands up for the drops!)

Lunch was a well organised affair with the catering staff getting the credit they deserved, thank you. At this point I thought it would be a free-time period until the evening, but the staff had other ideas, the “Points for Rides” and “Treasure Hunt” meant we didn’t just wander about aimlessly. I’m sure some of the staff wondered what we were doing – especially the poor ride-op who was always asked his name! This day was getting better by leaps and bounds.

The next event, the Go-Karting, which I’ve always enjoyed. The first race out I had the duff kart (well, somebody had to get it!), I felt I could walk faster, and could really have done with a push getting up the hills. It was great to see nearly everyone having a go, even if they’ve never driven before – especially the younger members.

To round off the day we had the points count up for the rides and the Treasure Hunt. There were some very creative accountants in the rides section, but we all had fun and that’s what really counts.

I’d like to thank all the staff at Pleasureland Southport for (a) putting up with us, and (b) helping to make the day a most memorable one and everybody for coming, it really makes the trips fun. It’s great to see faces old and new, and to get together for some mayhem now and again.

 

Justin Garvanovic
I would personally like to add my voice to the praise that is being heaped on Pleasureland. It was, as you can imagine, a nerve-racking time for me, but all seemed to go very well. Some people questioned the reason for doing a trip to “just” Pleasureland. That question proved pointless. The park put together an absolutely incredible day. They could not have done more if they tried. For this I extend a huge thanks to Lynne Walker, she was totally responsible for the day’s activities, and did an amazing job. Thanks also need to go to Chris McFarlane and Andy Preston, whose original idea it was to do a trip to Pleasureland – the idea was most definitely a good one. One final thank you, and that’s to the Cyclone. Is it the UK’s most underrated coaster? I think so. It can easily give the BPB woodies a serious run for their money, and when it flies, there’s not many coasters that can touch it. For a ride of its size, it certainly packs an airtime-filled punch.

 

 

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