An Alien trapped in England: Part 5 of our Inverted Coaster series

The last 1994 ride is possibly the most unique Inverted Roller Coaster ever built and a testament to B&M abilities to fit one of their rides anywhere, even with the most rigid restrictions.  In 1990, Alton Towers added the Thunder Looper, a relocated Schwarzkopf Weight-Drop Shuttle Loop roller coaster to a new area of the park.  It originally sat alone and was only accessible by the park cable car ride or a nearly 25 minute long hike through the historic Gardens valley.  Interestingly, the park only managed to get planning permission for the ride for a short term (6-7 years) and it was understood that the ride would then be removed from the park.  The reason for that is that the park is located in a protected Green Zone of England and any visible (that could be seen above the treeline) portion of a ride had to be painted dark green to blend in.  But, at 140 feet tall for both spikes, it was simply too tall and the local council was nice enough to give the park a chance to install this headlining ride, albeit on a temporary basis.

Knowing now that they had a hard timeline to get a permanent signature ride into the park, John Wardley, started looking at what he could do in this new area.  John Wardley had become the creative designer for Tussaud parks and after looking at various prototypes and rides around the world, set up plans for “Secret Weapon 1”.  It was to be the world’s first Arrow Dynamics Pipeline coaster and was to be located next to the Thunder Looper as a secret military base and a planned operating date for 1992 was set.  Unfortunately, after Arrow built the prototype, they realised the energy losses were incredible and with the height available at Alton Towers, only a short 900 feet long course could be built.  While Arrow worked on the prototype, in 1992 the park used explosives to dig up a long and deep quarry behind the Thunder Looper in order to get more height and to get a long circuit.  “Secret Weapon 2” was redesigned to be a longer Pipeline, but when John Wardley finally rode the prototype in Utah, he was disappointed and called the ride “Slow and Boring”.  He went back to the drawing board and started looking at other ideas.  While in the United States, he stopped by Six Flags Great America and rode Batman: The Ride shortly before its opening.  He had already been in contact with Jim Wintrode and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Like Dick Kinzel, Batman was a revelation to him and once he excitedly got back to the United Kingdom, he immediately set plans in motion to bring a clone of Batman: The Ride to Alton Towers.  Unfortunately, he ran into two issues:  First, the 105 feet lift hill was going to be problematic to get approved and second, the long layout would require even more rock blasting and work and this was going to make the ride cost prohibitive.  He then took a hike into the proposed location and he saw what could be done.  What if the ride went away from the typical “large drop into an inversion or hill model”?  A tall ride with a 104 feet height differential could be done if the ride went over the blasted quarry edge and it remained under the treeline.  Noise was not an issue as the location is next to the car park and far away from housing and the village next to the park.

So the ride starts with the lift hill and at the top, it remains on the ground and instead goes down a banked curve to the left and then start dropping 43 feet and in a flash of brilliance, a Flat Spin was placed in the middle of the first drop.  The ride then drops down further into the ride most intense element: a helix wrapped around rocks.  Riders experience 4 G’s and then the train dives over the station in a Zero G Roll where it feels like you will hit the building and rocks.  The train then goes down into the quarry proper and riders pull their legs up as they don’t want their legs to touch the waterfall of Blood that is right under them.  The train then rises up into a banked turn and then drops down to the deepest part of the ride, hitting 50 miles per hour and then is flipped over into a spectacular vertical loop right over a lake of blood and then go through a dark tunnel located under the station.

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The train flying above the waterfall.

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With all the trees around it, it is nearly impossible to see the ride from far.

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The intense 4G helix, right under the monorail tracks.

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You can see the track leading to the Zero G Roll in the middle and the post loop curve in front.  The first track you see is the entrance to the Helix.

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The vertical loop.

The train then rises up to the left and start hugging the terrain, hitting the final inversion (a very snappy Flat Spin) and dodging a Mad Max esque armored bus and other pieces of military equipment.  Before long, the train hit the brakes after a 2349 feet long journey.

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A close to the ground turn.

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Flex provided us with this great shot of the train in the second Flat Spin.

Construction of “Secret Weapon 3” started in 1993 and by then, the area had become more fleshed out with a second roller coaster and a name:  Thunder Valley.  Guests were very curious by the dirty metal track that was starting to appear in the forest and in the deep pit below them.  Then, apocalyptic pieces of theming and buildings started to appear and the name and ride was finally revealed:  Nemesis.  The story here is that an evil Alien that had been sleeping for thousands of years has been dug out of Thunder Valley and it started twisting the land around in its trashing.  Desperate military officers used thousands of pounds of steel to cage the creature, but it started absorbing some of the track and what riders experience is the twisted steel track used to contain the enraged beast.

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Nemesis entry sign, built as a rusted out guard tower.

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One of the entrance portal leading to the ride.

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The ride photography shop.

The ride station appears to be an organic building where real and fake track segments seemingly blend into one and the various streams of blood coming out of the ground is a dramatic representation of Nemesis power.  Thunder Looper was redressed to appear to be on its last legs, as if we were years into the future and the ride was one of the few rides left in the world.  The New Beast (Schwarzkopf Jumbo Jet) located nearby was also rethemed to fit the area’s new name:  Forbidden Valley.

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The ride station.

Nemesis literally put Alton Towers on the map and brought hundreds of thousands new guests to the park.  The ride was advertised as the most intense roller coaster in the world and is still the park’s most reliable attraction, 23 years after its opening.

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Alton Towers provided us with this great promotional picture of Nemesis.  https://www.altontowers.com/#mini_crm

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