Great Yarmouth rollercoaster has major facelift

A VETERAN wooden roller-coaster - one of the last of its kind in the world - is having a major revamp aimed at keeping it on track for decades to come.

The legendary ride at Great Yarmouth’s seaside Pleasure Beach is not for the faint-hearted and neither are the annual maintenance bills that top between �20,000 and �30,000.

And what it lacks in the looping thrills offered by modern coasters it makes up for in rattly character and vintage appeal.

Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones said every penny was money well spent as the mile-long big dipper was one of the biggest draws at the attraction, popular with white knuckle nuts and greying grandparents alike.

The latest phase sees the most public facade exposed - the timbers of the inner skeleton on show for all to see.

This year’s maintenance effort focuses on the 70ft clacking climb to the main stomach flipping dip, replacing the main uprights and track boards. The ride is gravity driven after the initial rise by steel chain, replaced last year for the first time in a quarter of a century at a cost of �14,000.

He said most of the work was structural but the galvanised sheets would be repainted too, adding: “We did what we could last year but ran out of time because of the weather. We did get a good start before Christmas.

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“Last winter’s work was mainly round the other side so people weren’t so aware of it. Every season we have major work to keep it up to standard. It is classed as one of the top rides in the country.”

Already this season �7,000 has been spent on timbers and �6,000 on scaffolding with a team of four men working on it over winter.

“It’s a traditional family ride and a heritage attraction. Looking after it is a real labour of love, like painting the Forth Bridge it is pretty much never-ending depending on weather and budgets.”

Mr Jones is the third generation of his family to care for the ride with son Jamie, 21, taking a keen interest too. The roller-coaster was part of the family, he said, adding: “It’s something that’s been with me since I was born.”

Once sporting snow-covered mountain scenes the livery was updated to an American theme in the early 1980s when the previous artist died and no-one could be found to replicate what he had done.

The Yarmouth rollercoaster was first seen at the 1929 Colonial Exhibition in Paris. It was bought for the Pleasure Beach after the exhibition, dismantled, shipped over and re- erected for opening in 1932.

The main construction is Douglas fir and Colombian pine. It is one of only four roller coasters in the world which still has a brakeman to stop the ride. It peaks at 70ft and reaches 45mph during the three- minute run.

To re-paint the ride would require 750 litres of paint. It is lit by 4600 light bulbs and 26 tons of steel cladding cover the ride.

Up to 75pc will be repainted in this phase. The Pleasure Beach employs 25 staff year round, taking on 60 more for the summer season.

It is inspected three times a year. “While we may skip on a bit of paint, we do not on anything like health and safety,” Mr Jones said.

The Pleasure Beach re-opens on March 17 for Easter.