Specific Type: Wood, Out & Back
The Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a long-standing classic wooden coaster, which has operated at the park since 1923. After John Outhwaite passed away in 1911, the main part of the business of ‘Pleasure Beach Ltd.’, the company that he helped form to run the park, would be run by the parks other founder, William George Bean. He, along with the rest of the Outhwaite family, who held ownership in shares of the park, would soon begin investing in larger projects for the park, including the building of The Casino, the Virigina Reel, Noah’s Ark, the Dodgems, The Whip, and of course, the Big Dipper.
Located in what is now the “Star Beach Adventures” section of the park, the Big Dipper is a classic out-&-back style wooden coaster which was designed by John A. Miller and built by William Strickler, who had also build the park’s Velvet Coaster (1909) and Virginia Reel (1922), at a cost of only £25,000. At the time of its opening, the Big Dipper extended east to the current location of Space Invader, and roughly followed the route of the Big One's lift hill and Station, which was the border for the southern edge of the park. In 1936, after land to the south was acquired, Chalrie Paige and Joe Emberton were brought in to extend and modify the rides layout, adding arches over the southern entrance of the park and several additional drops. The coaster still operates with original, unique set of old, four-bench cars in three-car trains.
In 1934, Marlene Dietrich, a famous German singer and actress, was invited to visit the park and ride the Big Dipper, since at the time it was one of the parks newest and most “daring” roller coasters. Presumably during the ride, she lost a pearl-gold earring, but after days of searching by the park, it was never found. Finally, in January 2007, when the Log Flume lake was drained for the addition of Infusion, they found the long-lost earring, along with a large variety of other objects.
But Marlene Dietrich would not be the only “famous” person to ride the Big Dipper. In August 1998, a man named Richard Rodriguez, a media and communications teacher from Chicago, Illinois, rode the Big Dipper for 1,013 hours, setting a world record. He then returned in June 2000 to beat his own record, and did so in astounding fashion by riding this time for 2,000 hours.
On August 11, 2009, tragedy struck the classic coaster when two trains collided, sending 21 of the 32 total riders on the coaster to nearby hospitals. No deaths resulted from the ride, but the 21 injured guests suffered from injuries ranging from cuts and bruises, to whiplash, broken noses, and back injuries. The problem occurred when one of the trains became jammed and stuck on the track, at which point the second train collided into the back of it, and both trains became stuck on a hill approximately 20 feet off the ground.
As a result of the rides old age and this second accident, the park decided it was time to refurbish the ride. The goal of the refurbishment was not to rebuild the coaster and make it “new,” but simply to upgrade and renew the ride and increase its longevity and restore it to its earlier glory days. As such, the Big Dipper station was given a £500,000 overhaul with a new fountain and murals added, the track was refurbished, and the trains were repainted dark blue with new panels on the exterior. The “new” Big Dipper was reopened on February 13, 2010, just in time for the parks 2010 season.
A ride on the Big Dipper starts off with a tight, slow turn to the right through part of the station building, followed by s short straight section of track and small S-curve in a “tunnel” as the train leaves the building and engages with a very small lift hill, located directly under the rides main lift. Dropping slightly off this lift, the train turns 90-degrees to the right under its own structure and into the middle of Infusion’s layout and then immediately turns 270-degrees to the left to engage the track with its main lift hill. After ascending the 60-foot lift hill, the train then weaves slightly before making a tight left-hand U-turn around the rides iconic blue “flame.” The bottom then drops out as the train plunges 50 feet towards the ground, reaching a top speed of 40 mph as it interacts with Infusion, the parks Vekoma SLC coaster. The train then traverses two “big” hills to start he “out” section of its course, curving slightly to the left as it leaves the second hill and heads towards its “double-dip” parallel to the Big One. While a standard double-dip element usually consists of a hill which drops partway down, rises slightly up, and drops the rest of the way, the double-dip on the Big Dipper sees the train dropping about halfway to the ground before rising up to nearly the same level again.
As the train leaves this “double-dip” and heads back towards the ground and nearby housing, the train begins turning to the left as it heads towards the ground and completes the 90-degree turn as it rises up again into a flat section of track. The track then banks slightly as it makes a widening U-turn to the left before straightening out and dipping under the Steeplechase coaster. After this the train then glides back to the right to a flat section of the track parallel to the “out” section to begin the “back” portion of its course. Ahead of the train, the track suddenly disappears as the train plummets into a short underground tunnel, pulling out slightly to the right as it parallels the second hill and turn. Cresting this hill, the train dips down and back up again as it continues paralleling the second hill. The ride finishes with one final bunny hill and a small hop into the final brake run.
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