24-25th September 2005

Alton Towers (Alton, England)
Drayton Manor (Tamworth, England)

 

James Lloyd
The day did not start too well – there was a bit of a cock-up with the Nemesis ERS. Alton wanted us to enter the park via the Hotel Woodland Walk, but the staff member who was sent to let us in did not have a key for the gate / turnstile. Also pushchairs had to be lifted over the perimeter fence by this entrance. In the end, we arrived at Nemesis a good 20mins later than we should have. Oh well. Nemesis was running as well as ever & provided a nice wake-up call on a somewhat cool morning.

Following the ERS of sorts, free time on-park followed, then lunch in the hospitality marquee. Alton put on a good buffet lunch, similar to last year & the AGM – and certainly a far cry from the food they offered us on the trip back in 2002. Justin, Richard & co did the customary announcements after lunch, including an apology on behalf of Alton for the morning ERS problems. There was also good news in that we now had a half hour ERS on Spinball in the evening, before the Rita ERS.

More free time on park after lunch – and the park was quite busy, most queues were around the 40min+ mark. Rita was giving the park management & mechanics some severe headaches with downtime though.

Back in the hospitality marquee late afternoon, it looked uncertain at one point if we would get on Rita for the ERS due to the problems with the ride.

However, hats off to the Alton mechanics – they had been working flat-out on Rita and we got the ERS as planned, but with an added bonus – we could go into Rita’s “machine room” and watch the launch mechanism at work.

All in all, a great day. OK, it got off to a dodgy start, but Alton pulled out all the stops to make up for this. As the day progressed, it was obvious just how much the park were doing for us – transport provided back to the carpark at the end of the day (& taxis home for ride staff who had missed the staff transport as they were working for our ERS etc). A big thanks to James Paulding & all the team at Alton for today – especially the park mechanics, who must have needed industrial strength Nurofen after the grief that Rita gave them in the afternoon. Despite this, they were only too happy to chat in the “machine room” late on in the day [when they probably wanted to be at home] and explain things to us.

A great day at Alton – let’s hope DMP is as good tomorrow.

Simon Naylor
An excellent trip, 100% better than the trip in 2002, the food very good, plenty of it too, RITA very good in the dark.

Lyndon Naylor
An excellent trip to Alton Towers, big thumbs to all that were involved with the trip 🙂

Chris Simon
Well, what a fantastic day! Probably the best club trip I’ve been to so far. I couldn’t make the Sunday at Drayton Manor, but did the Saturday at Alton.

The morning Nemesis ERS went pear-shaped because of a mix-up with a locked gate at the start of the Woodland Walk from the hotel, and I couldn’t understand why they wanted us to go that way considering it was a 10 minute walk from Splash Landings where we were meeting, through the original hotel, then to the start of the walk, then it was a further 10 minute walk into the park, and considering we were only led away at 8:30 which was when the ERS was supposed to be *starting*, it didn’t quite make sense…

Anyhow, James Paulding fell over himself to make up for things! The ERS wasn’t missed too much as Nemesis was pretty much walk-on between 9 and 10 anyway, I think I managed about 10 rides. At the midday lunch, which was a very nice buffet and ridiculously but deliciously gungy cakes for dessert, it was announced that we’d be having an extra 30 minute ERS on Spinball after the park closed, before the hour ERS on Rita!

Weather was gorgeous during the day and even though crowds appeared from nowhere in the afternoon, I’d managed to ride most things in the morning. The queue for Air was long, but Oblivion turned out to be only 15 minutes despite the signs that said 1 hour! I was pleased to see the Oblivion station operating properly with both bays being loaded and being filled in as necessary by the fastpass line.

I managed about 5 goes on Spinball during the ERS and with strategically filled cars got quite a few good spins! Then onto the Rita ERS… Wow! The problem with Rita is that it’s difficult to actually ride it at the moment because it’s so popular, and an ERS like this is essential for getting to know it. Both trains were running and operating efficiently, there were probably about 100 ECC people and the ride simply gobbled up the waiting people. I wasn’t counting how many rides I got, but it must have been in the region of 15 including a front seat ride, and for the most part it was a case of getting out of the train, down the exit steps and then back up again to get into the train you’ve just got out of!

And the best of it was…the final half of the ERS was in the dark.

Believe me, it is pitch black at the far end of UG Land. If you’re watching the launch, the train just disappears into, erm, oblivion. You only see it again when it arrives back at the brakes. It’s quite amazing to ride in the dark. You can’t see the track at all and it’s quite nerve racking anticipating the curve directly after the launch! The third corner is also excellent in the dark, it’s just like you’re flying through space.

I know Rita a lot better know than I did before, and it’s certainly a fantastic ride. A little short (although it’s longer than Xcelerator…) and the speed drops off noticeably halfway round the third corner. But the launch, the first two corners, and the two airtime hills are first rate. Especially in the dark!

It does seem to have got very bumpy though even after only a few months. The hard lap bars and the ‘neck’ restraints make an impression after you’ve ridden it several times in succession like this.

After our session had ended, we had to wait a further 10 minutes while the operators got a go. They hadn’t ridden it in the dark either! I overheard James chatting to someone saying how well it turned out in the dark, and that it had never been run like this before. The ECC were also the first ever group to get a private session on Rita.

And the icing on the cake – a couple of shuttle buses at the exit to take us all back to the car park!

So…eleven out of ten for this trip! I’m very, very impressed with and grateful for the work that Alton put into this.

 Greg Pearn
I changed my opinion of Rita last night AND found myself compelled to keep riding, something I don’t do that often these days…! Front seat ride in to pitch-black nothingness was excellent!

Thanks to everyone involved – same again next year please?

Tony Hall & Alan Rose
Another great weekend, thanks to everybody involved in organising it who always exceed our expectations. And thanks to Colin Bryan and his team for looking after us, being happy to talk to us and providing the best meal on the coaster circuit 🙂

Richard Bannister
Thanks to all for a great weekend. Trip reports will follow – I guess I’ve a few hours to write them up now :/

I should give an honourable mention right now though to James Salter, who allowed himself to be bullied on to all three sides of Apocalypse this morning. I think he probably enjoyed the ride in the end — those of us watching him certainly did 🙂

James Salter
“Enjoyed” is probably the wrong word, but I’m glad I did it (thanks to everyone for their gentle “encouragement”!)

To echo everybody else’s comments, thanks to the parks and the team for a great weekend!

David Ellis
Susan and I got home a little while ago from Drayton Manor Park, after a great weekend. Although the early morning ERS at Alton didn’t work out exactly as planned, the park made up for it big-style with an extra ERS on Spinball and over an hour on Rita, in the dark! The last 30 minutes were run with the lights off and after the launch and the photo flash you were shot into complete blackness, you just never knew when the first turn would come (that explains many of the identical bruises members were sporting on their arms today!).

I cannot recall how many rides I got in on Rita, but for much of the ERS I was getting off and getting back on the same train again, due to the small queues. Brilliant ERS, and a great ride… shame about those restraints! The operators and maintenance staff had the last ride, and as it was their first ever go in the dark, you couldn’t get them off the ride! We were privileged to have the first ever ERS on Rita, and the first ever group to do pitch black dark riding. Looking forward to the next club visit!

Today at DMP was another excellent one, with a first rate dinner, a great ERS on Apocalypse, and a thoroughly entertaining hour on G-Force to end the day. I really enjoyed G-Force, which did a lot for such a compact ride. The only negative point about the ride was that the restraints gradually get tighter and tighter as the train travels the course, which left me struggling to breathe on my first run of the day, and slightly worried about that rib I fractured two months ago! Despite this I managed six rides (I believe) on the ERS, which I really enjoyed.

Thanks to all the club members who organised the weekend, and to the parks for all they did to make it special.

Chris Hull
It was a top weekend! 🙂

Alton pulled out all the stops. Yeah ok, so there were one or two issues first thing in the morning but these were well and truly compensated by the additional ERS on Spinball, an extended 90 minute ERS on Rita, a chance to view the control/compression room for Rita, being blasted off in the dark (What was really cool was the fact the ride ops and engineers had a chance to do this too – I doubt they’ve ever done that before) and then having a courtesy bus back to our cars.

Drayton today also showed us again great hospitality (as always!) and a really enjoyable day too. As usual the meal was great, Apocalypse was a great way to wake up (!) and G-Force is just something else with “that” lift hill and first drop. It just feels so good and yet feels so wrong! 😉 The lap bars work perfectly (even when you’re stopped on the lift hill!) and it’s great not to have overly bruised shoulders for a change!

As always Colin (the Managing Director) was true to form and one again shared a lot with us with his open and honest question and answer session with the highs and lows of the previous and coming years. He also spent a lot of time with various members around the park, during lunch and during the ERS answering more questions.

So again many thanks to the everyone involved in this trip!

Margaret Drinkwater
Echoing everything that has already been said. A big thank you to all the team who organised such an enjoyable weekend. Even the weather behaved itself. Thanks also to the two parks for all they did for us.

Special memories:

Good Moment (AT) – Riding on the front seat of Rita on the last train of the evening ERS, being shot forward in to total blackness. Unbelievable!

Bad Moment (AT) – Witnessing an incident with a group of “mouthy” teenage girls who had just jumped the queue line for Air. They were swiftly, firmly and efficiently dealt with by the ride staff.

Good Moment (DM) – Coaster hand slapping the ECC occupants of a becalmed boat on the rapids ride as we floated past.

Bad Moment (DM) – The end of the day/weekend.

Malcolm Marr
Alton’s New Dark Ride – Rita after hours.

Great ERS, almost up there with Megafobia’s midnight riding.

Martin Porter
I’d like to add my grateful thanks to all involved in making my trip to Drayton Manor memorable. It was great to catch up with many people again; I was also very impressed with the numbers, especially after an expensive Japan trip. I must say how pleased I was with myself at no longer being an Apocalypse Virgin (yes, and I’m over 40 too). The tallest drop tower I’ve ever done before this one was Thorpe Park’s Detonator, and that took me several rides before I began to enjoy it. I now feel like I’m ready to attempt to conquer the taller tower rides in the USA now.

My only regret was not rushing round the park a bit quicker in the morning now as I ran out of time very quickly after the splendid lunch, missing out Stormforce 10, which I rode six years ago for my inaugural ride.

 

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