Enclosed Coasters: Part three of a international journey

In 1983, Alton Towers introduced a new attraction to the Fantasy Land area of the park. Known as the Black Hole, it was a Schwarzkopf Jet Star II model that then had a large tent erected around it. It originally was pitch black inside, but the park quickly added theming to the inside. One notable addition was to the lift and first drop, that originally featured a steep curve right after. Theatrical lights were installed, so that riders have a chance to the brace for the turn. A smoke machine was also installed. The ride ran like that until 1988, when the ride was dismantled and sent back to BHS (a german equipment company, whose amusement park division became Maurer-Sohne). BHS stripped down the ride to its basics and rebuilt the structure for a unique feature: double car trains. Normally, a Jet Star II can only run single cars, but BHS built a new fleet of trains that effectively doubled capacity. The ride stayed like that until 1998, when Fantasy Land was taken over by the X Sector. The formerly bright tent was repainted dark blue and black and a new entrance portal constructed. The ride eventually closed down in 2005 and the site taken over by the Smiler roller coaster in 2013. The ride itself still operates after another refurbishment by Gerstlauer at Furuvik in Gavle, Sweden. The ride was repainted blue and red and renamed the Rocket.

Tokyo Disneyland opened its doors to the public on April 15th, 1983. The one roller coaster present at opening was a clone of Space Mountain at Disneyland. Now, the major difference at the time was the gift of space. Unlike the Anaheim space port, the Japanese space station was designed into the park at opening and thus, it occupy center stage in Tomorrowland. A large plaza in front of it and a strategic design down the main path leading from the park hub into Tomorrowland make it one of the most strategic draw ever. Now, the outdoor waiting line is in front of the ride and a Goodyear SpeedRamp take riders to the upper level where another small waiting line await them. Small rooms were constructed and they show a promotional video from Coca-Coca, who sponsors the ride.  Once inside, there was a dark switchback where windows allowed us to peek at the rockets as they were flying in space. The station and ride experience was like the Anaheim attraction. An unusual aspect is that as part of the contract between Disney and the Oriental Land Company, owner and operator of the park, most of the park supplies and attractions had to be sourced in Japan. So, using the original blueprints from William Watkins, the ride was built by a Japanese roller coaster manufacturer. I have been unable to track down which one specifically, but I suspect either Meisho Amusements, Togo or Sansei-Yusoki were involved.

In late 2006, the ride closed down to be modernized. The ride system was refurbed and a new fleet of rockets were introduced. The ride logo and overall look was changed: it was now more of a Matrix style sci-fi for the effects and music. The stand-by waiting line is still at the bottom, while the fast pass return bypass it and allows guests to directly access the Speedramp. Once at the top, fast pass holders are sent to the left and stand-by guests sent to the right. The promotional video was replaced by an all new music video that shows off the ride new style and theme. Once inside, the windows were blocked, since to make the ride darker, the glow in the dark strips were never installed on the new rockets. Now, what is amazing is when we reach the loading area, it is exactly like in the video earlier. Same incredible starship hanging from the ceiling, incredible light effects and the air gates look like laser portals. A unique sound also signals when rockets leave the loading section. The first lift feature green lights, followed by green squares that light up as we roll the long section after. The second lift hill feature colored light beams that seem to follow us and then concentrate into a light circle at the top. The gravity portion got incredible star field effects that accentuate the feeling of speed. The last new feature is the Re Entry tunnel, where it looks as if we braked so suddenly the stars around us reversed course.

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2007 ride logo

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2007 promotional poster

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The view of the mountain when standing in the plaza.

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The Speedramp leading to the mountain entrance and the waiting line cover.

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Interestingly, the Standby entrance sign still feature the old font used before 2007.

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Those three pictures show the Coca Cola promotional video.

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For the 2009 holiday season, Tokyo Disneyland upgrade the exterior lighting of the mountain. The result was incredible, with the mountain able to take various tones at night.

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First part of the indoor waiting line.

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The spectacular starship in the loading area.

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The loading area of the attraction.

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The waiting line going around the sides of the loading area.

1984 saw another British park open a space themed roller coaster. Known as the Space Invader, the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool built a cubic meteorite building in one corner of the park. Inside, they placed a  Zierer Four Man Bob roller coaster. This small compact roller coaster was well adapted for an indoor application, as the ride feature a lot of tight curves in a small area. The small four person cars were themed to rockets and feature two benches, similar to the original Matterhorn and Walt Disney Space Mountain vehicles.

The waiting line was elaborate, with many scenes that turned it into what could be considered a mini walkthrough attraction. It simulated walking through both a working space station and various scenes of famous science-fiction movies. On ride, the ride featured a large satellite hanging from the ceiling and an enclosed lift. Once the ride got going, there were many alien and spacemen statues that riders would fly past. There were also various portals and light fixtures that made this a very dynamic and visually pleasing attraction.

The ride ran well, but unfortunately, there was an incident in 2000 that caused extreme modifications to the ride. Even through the park was not blamed for the incident, it lead to an extreme modification of the ride. In order to restrain riders beyond the already present seatbelts, park maintenance personnel retrofitted spare over the shoulder restraints to the ride vehicles. They had to extend the headrest to make space for the shoulder bar ratchet. The restraints themselves were old Arrow Development horse collar restraints that had been used on the Revolution shuttle loop at the park. The result was a disaster, as it both slowed down lines to a crawl due to having only two riders per car and also, it caused damage to the attraction. Both the added weight and taller center of gravity wreaked havoc on the structure and thus, after the 2003, the ride was closed.

Kumbak—The Amusement Engineers were called in and did a nearly complete rebuild of the attraction. A new lift system, new cars, a new control system and new Eddy-Current magnetic brakes were only a few of the upgrades done to the ride. They even reinforced the structure and built new track sections to smoothen it out. The ride reopened in 2004 under the Space Invader 2 name. The new ride cars had 3 individual seats with each rider restrained by a hydraulic T bar.

It ran well until 2008, when the ride was closed down due to a messy ride evacuation. That lead the park to close down the ride and put it on sale. In July 2010, the Pleasure Beach announced the ride had been sold to Brean Leisure Park in Brean, UK. The ride was carefully dismantled and transported to its new home. It would remain an enclosed ride, as a brand new building was constructed to house it. The theme would remain space travel, but a new ride was selected: Astro Storm. The outdoor waiting line has a video explaining the premise. Once we board, we have a nice dark ride scene with a large screen and then a right turn into the lift hill. The lift hill is enclosed and at the top, another screen has our flight controller saying to “abort the mission!” The ride itself features many lights and props scattered around the turns and dips.

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The new Kumbak ride cars. You can notice the hydraulic lap bar and the chain and anti roll back ratchets under.

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The chassis of the new cars.

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A glow in the dark paint job was applied to the cars with a beautiful result.

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The new actuated Eddy-Current magnetic brakes used to slow down the ride vehicles.

The five pictures above were provided by Kumbak- The Amusement Engineers.

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