From Paris to Yarmouth: How we got to ride a roller coaster at the Pleasure Beach

The roller coaster at the Pleasure beach in Great Yarmouth. Date: June 23, 2000.

The roller coaster at the Pleasure beach in Great Yarmouth. Date: June 23, 2000. - Credit: Archant Library

The clack of the carriage climbing high into the sky. The feeling in your stomach as you hurtle down the wooden track. The rush as you ride round corners, thrown from side to side. 

Many of us have felt exhilaration on the roller coaster at the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth. But did you know it was shipped to the Norfolk coast from Paris? 

The roller coaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. Date: 1953.

The roller coaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. Date: 1953. - Credit: Archant Library

Passengers on the Yarmouth Pleasure Beach roller coaster hang on as the train plummets down one of t

Passengers on the Yarmouth Pleasure Beach roller coaster hang on as the train plummets down one of the hills. Date: July 28, 1986. - Credit: Archant Library

A ‘scenic railway’ featured at the Pleasure Beach in its earliest years from 1909 to 1929 with some absences due to closure during the first world war and fire damage in 1919.  

1909 photograph of the Scenic Railway - forerunner of The Pleasure Beach rollercoaster. Photo: Andy

1909 photograph of the Scenic Railway - forerunner of The Pleasure Beach rollercoaster. Photo: Andy Darnell - Credit: Archant Library

But the roller coaster we see today was built in 1928 by Erich Heidrich of Hamburg. Pat Collins, the owner of the Pleasure Beach, saw the attraction at the Colonial Exposition in Paris in 1931. He then purchased it and arranged for it to be shipped to Yarmouth.  

The entrance to Great Yarmouth's Pleasure Beach. Date: March 1964.

The entrance to Great Yarmouth's Pleasure Beach. Date: March 1964. - Credit: Archant Library

An article in the Eastern Daily Press on January 21, 1932 described the experience readers could expect from the new ride:  


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Highly spectacular are to be its mountains, valleys, and streams. The trip will begin on flatter lines, rapidly ascending to the top of the ‘mountains,’ climbing to the highest peak of all, and then swooping through what seems at first a solid wall of rock.  

Next the passenger passes over a bridge, a viaduct, and along a ravine, with rapid swerves and alteration of level that will enhance the charms of the run. This has been closely copied from nature in all but the astonishing complexity of forms and features closely worked into the landscapes.    

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On February 11, 1932 the attraction arrived in Yarmouth from Rouen on the French steamer Circe.  

The French steamer Circe arrives in Yarmouth carrying the new rollercoaster. Date: February 12, 1932

The French steamer Circe arrives in Yarmouth carrying the new rollercoaster. Date: February 12, 1932. Image accessed via Local Recall at localrecall.co.uk. - Credit: Archant Library

Special electric cranes were brought to South Quay to unload the cargo, which took almost three days.  

A team of German workers then reconstructed the roller coaster at the Pleasure Beach and the ride opened in April 1932.

Down a dip on the roller coaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. Date: August 1951.

Down a dip on the roller coaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. Date: August 1951. - Credit: Archant Library

 

The Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, roller coaster. Date: July 1974.

The Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, roller coaster. Date: July 1974. - Credit: Archant Library

The damage from a fire in 1935 and a partial collapse in the 1970s required some reconstruction work to the structure. Steel panelling replaced the original timber cladding in the late 1970s.  

The roller coaster (with its mock effect rock which was replaced in 1968 with painted mountain scene

The roller coaster (with its mock effect rock which was replaced in 1968 with painted mountain scenes) and children's M1 Motorway at Botton Bros Pleasure Beach, Yarmouth shows little activity, but behind the scenes the staff are getting ready for the new season. Date: March 1964. - Credit: Archant Library

A warm sunny day at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. Date: May 1997.

A warm sunny day at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. Date: May 1997. - Credit: Archant Library

But the configuration of the ride remains largely the same as the scenic railway that visitors enjoyed in the 1930s.  

The Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach rollercoaster. Date: August 1992.

The Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach rollercoaster. Date: August 1992. - Credit: Archant Library

What are your memories of riding the roller coaster or visiting the Pleasure Beach in days gone by?  

Revisit EDP coverage of events like this with Local Recall. Explore our archives from your computer or voice-activated device at localrecall.co.uk.   

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