50 years of coasters – 1991
As we hit 1991, the amount of rides that I’ve ridden from each year seems to shoot up by a fair amount. It’s not like there were a lot more installed this year than in any of the previous few, but I guess 30 years is a reasonable life span for your average coaster these days and there’s simply more of them still alive and kicking, in one form or other. I have actually been spited by a few from the ’91 line as well – Hersheypark’s Boomerang and Southport’s Pinfari were no big loss but one of a very important collection for me, the Ultra Twister (Heartline Coaster) at Brazilian Park Washuzan Highland, was quite a blow.
Luckily I still managed to scrape a top ten together from that which I’ve already experienced. We’ll also take a look at any future contenders at the end of the list.
We start proceedings pretty low on the scale however. These Zamperla ‘twin helix’ powered coasters are common as muck in the world of coaster counting, although this one is one of the earliest installations. Korea seemed to have a bit of a thing for these in the late ’80s and early ’90s, with 3 of their largest parks snapping the model up. I almost had the national set.
The small collection of amusements found next to a McDonalds in Skegness contains a number of children’s coasters, the most famous of which would be the inverted wacky worm. Runaway Train is a small, spiral shaped affair with a tin roof and a bit of a mountainous centrepiece, but perhaps most intriguing of all it appears to be the only ride on the entire database to be manufactured by Meridian Ltd.
I do like obscurity in the collection.
Apologies for the lack of pictures here, I always seem to be in a hurry in Belgium and didn’t even take the time to snap a photo of the amusing looking washing machine featured in the theming for this humble Vekoma Junior coaster. Update: a certain Ride to Happiness provided a perfect excuse to go back and get some more photos, the washing machine is now a karaoke speaker. Once again this model has become rather prolific over the years but this example was one of the, if not the, very first of its kind. So that’s nice.
Anaconda amused me. It’s not Arrow at their finest, especially given what they put out the year before, but at least it didn’t cause any specific harm with its janky transitions and interesting tracking. The ride was barely making it around the circuit, which resulted in a particularly standout sensation of falling into the restraint while suspended upside down in the two corkscrews towards the end of the layout.
Back on the theme of Vekoma ‘rollerskaters’, here’s another one from their inaugural year that also happens to be an entirely custom layout. It began life in Finland, within an indoor family entertainment centre, but after a few short years found it’s way to this remote German park, who managed to integrate the design into their impressive hilly landscape rather well. In addition to the compulsory extra lap, this attraction also contains a little dark ride scene before the lift hill to help it stand out from the crowd even more.
Back in its day, this was a B&M stand-up coaster (originally called Vortex) and is amongst the manufacturer’s very earliest creations. In 2017 it underwent a transformation that included changing the trains to the more popular floorless sit-down model. It’s an interesting move that has taken place a handful of times now across the States, though not a particularly exciting one. Obviously when designing a stand-up coaster there are more limitations in what one can do with the layout and this was particularly highlighted to me whilst existing in the now much more comfortable riding position – it doesn’t actually do a whole lot. Very generic for a looping coaster.
Featured recently in my ranking of Greenland‘s coasters, the pink sit-down half of this racing coaster is decent fun, enhanced by some rider interaction and the on-board music. At the time of opening this one was also a stand-up, though it made more sense to convert the trains in this case and present guests with the choice between two entirely separate experiences side by side.
Elsewhere in Japan, this lovely little park opened their gates for the very first time in 1991 (without the ‘new’ in their name) and with it this indoor coaster from Sansei Yusoki. The attraction may well have been entirely different at the time, but the current setup involves some space themed pre-show antics before guests board the train in a station at the highest point of the layout. After an exciting experience in total darkness, riders then depart in a separate offload station, leaving the train to complete the lift hill portion of the circuit entirely empty.
At home in the UK, something very strange was happening. Engineers from British Rail, a railway company, were overseeing the construction of what was to be, at the time, the world’s longest rollercoaster. It has the most bizarre and unique layout containing two lift hills amongst two very disproportionately sized, and paced, sections of track. The ambition was insane though and the result is both brilliant and brutal, to a seasoned enthusiast at least. I first tried this one out very early on in my coaster career and came away with a very low opinion, not able to see past the bruises. Having returned in more recent years I have a great deal more respect for the attraction.
Sadly the park aren’t in very good shape right now and we could well lose this unique piece of rollercoaster history in the very near future – make sure to catch it if you still can.
My favourite of all the coasters I’ve ridden from 1991 is the stand-up side of this Togo classic, which provided brand new sensations to me in the form of standing airtime. It’s a rather ridiculous concept to be thrust into the air, against the will of gravity, when all you’re doing is surfing a metal plate, but it works oh so well in this case. I’m always hoping to be surprised by rides these days and it certainly ticked the box on that front.
Could anything beat it though? Potentially. The big name coaster that jumps out at me most from this year is Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood, although it’s presence in this list would be interesting to say the least. What is now a highly popular Arrow hyper coaster was originally another of their looping coaster designs – a particularly large and ambitious one by the name of Steel Phantom and therefore an entirely different experience. At the turn of the millennium it was massively overhauled and became what it is today. It seems to have been a resounding success and as a particular fan of terrain coasters I can’t wait to experience the madness for myself.
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