Europe 08/22 – Spoorwegmuseum
No more new coasters today, I’m afraid we’ve peaked. There were far too many insignificant options on the table to pad out the return leg of the journey with, to the point that I was still making decisions the night before while I should have been sleeping. Tweestryd sounded like a good idea at the time, zoo, a +2 and 40% off with a Plopsa pass. Local knowledge led me to believe that they rarely, if ever, run both sides however due to a lack of popularity and the sheer China-ness of that fact took the wind out of the sails.
So, on further recommendation, it’s dark ride time.
Day 5 – Spoorwegmuseum
Located near the heart of Utrecht in the Netherlands, this is more than just your average train museum. It’s home to a number of themed attractions and is simply one of those places that would always otherwise be skipped because they don’t have an rollercoaster. I found it to be well worth the time, reasonably priced and a refreshing experience. Think I need to vow to do at least one thing like this a year that isn’t based on upping the coaster count. For health reasons.
The star attraction, for me, is a dark ride by the name of Stalen Monsters. It’s a home-brew design that has you sitting in a little pair of railway carts on a powered track system (made by Kumbak no less, of other random train fame). It takes you around various varieties of the namesake Steel Monsters, a.k.a. big old trains, which doesn’t, on the surface, sound that great to anyone but a train buff.
It’s really well done however, very well paced, maintains a good level of intrigue and there’s something highly satisfying about having all the real life props forming the ‘theming’ of a dark ride system as opposed to just theming ‘theming’. On top of that the system itself is pretty special, with elevation, speed and directional changes all being woven into the journey and even managing to add a certain level of thrills where you might not expect.
Before the ride itself there’s a highly detailed queue of exhibits as well as a little preshow room with video that was entirely unmanned. With the place being basically empty on a weekday this added a good deal more to the adventure. Well worth the visit alone.
In the outside section there’s a simulator by the name of Trial by Fire.
Plenty going on in here too, before a preshow that starts off historic and ends by setting up something slightly more fantastical. An engineer character gives us briefing that can best be likened to Smuggler’s Run. Teams of 6 have different tasks to perform on one of the three simulators, though the catch here was that there was only the two of us in the entire room.
It’s slightly less evenly spread on the interactivity. The front row of 3 has a variety of levers and buttons to play with while those in the back only get to man the ‘dead man switch’. We were running up a million things at once like a ‘70s keyboardist although it doesn’t really appear to do anything to the sequence.
The sequence itself was a little bizarre, but entertaining. Once again things have to get a little ‘runaway rollercoaster’ down some ridiculous and unrealistic track but before long we’re doing Back to the Future 3 style jumps to different places in order to keep things interesting and/or perilous.
Again I loved the distinct lack of staff presence here, adds to the mystery a bit and the vehicles themselves looked pretty fantastic.
The last of the big things I was into was this themed walkthrough, The Great Discovery, which involves time travel of the more subtle variety. You board a little elevator which takes you back to the days of Robert Stephenson, where you’re unleashed into this intricate world replicating the old town and his workshop.
I’m led to believe you’re usually presented with an audio guide for this to explain the details but this wasn’t happening on this occasion so it was all taken in on visuals. Of which there are many great ones, but also fun little tricks like a mouse moving in the rafters.
The second major area contains De Arend, one of the first two locomotives in the Netherlands, situated in a station from back in 1839. Trees and all. Pretty cool.
Other stuff around the museum includes the usual displays, along with miniatures and the like.
A mini game simulator that actually is responsive to what you’re doing.
And plenty more real live locomotives in their natural habitat which you can mostly just freely wander around.
They also have a show, for kids, but it’s all in Dutch, and a set of the famed Dutch snack machines – but they were all empty! A real trip ruiner.
In all seriousness though, a great place to stop off for a few hours.
And then things went wrong. I had wanted to get to Plopsa Station in Antwerp next for some more dark ride action and to get one final, final use out of that pass, but the roads were having none of it. Catastrophic traffic on the attempt to escape the Netherlands. Catastrophic traffic on the attempt to get in/around Antwerp. Absolute carnage.
In the end it transpired that I couldn’t have arrived until 15 mins before close which, given it wasn’t just a Wickie Coaster and something I had a modicum of interest in, wouldn’t have really worked. Even at the point that this idea was bailed upon, my backup plan then ended up being cut very fine as well.
Plopsaland de Panne
Oh yes, one last hurrah on the new sensation for the season.
To make matters worse in the massively faffy ending to the trip, they were only running one train on it and therefore I queued the longest I ever have for Happiness by a significant margin, picking up just a single lap in my hour on park.
Worth it though, gleaning perhaps one of the best rides, of many, experienced on it. It worked up one hell of a spin and I had that golden top hat exit moment in the back row, rotating from sideways to backwards as it takes the plunge in a literal heart in mouth, stomach wrenching terror of a drop. It was at least double the magnitude of the Time Traveller version and that one’s already beyond insane. Scary thoughts seeped their way into my brain on the brake run after all that wait. If it rode like that time, every time, it could well be a number 1.
The chunnel was trying to be a bit more spitey on the way back, with tons of aggressive warnings all the way along the French motorway saying ‘severe delays into the UK, expect to queue for several days’. This didn’t happen, instead we got automatically booked on a slot an hour earlier due to turning up in good time. Even inside the place all the signs were apologising for the devastating disruptions and yet, beyond a little slower than usual passport queue, nothing was actually wrong. I’ll take it.
Short and sweet, but quite the map. They’re always fun.
Total countries – 5
New coasters – 18
Total coasters – 23
New dark rides – 5
Total dark rides – 8
New parks – 5
Total parks – 10
Zierers – 7
Best new coaster – Fønix of course
Distance travelled – 2000 Miles-ish
Spites – –1/17 (-5.88%)
Thanks for reading!