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What is a Heartline Coaster anyway?

I grew up on the classic game Roller Coaster Tycoon and I still live on the sequel to a certain extent. It’s what they call that type of ride that’s almost impossible to build because it has no corners. I don’t think I ever built one successfully.

You could say I’m a theme park ‘enthusiast’ these days, to put it mildly. I wasn’t always that way.

My first memory of a trip to a park was in 1998, Legoland Windsor for my 6th birthday. I didn’t ride their rollercoaster, the Dragon, because I was too small.
Instead we tried the Spinning Spider flat ride and it was the most intense experience of my life, with my Dad at the controls of the disc in the centre. I was too scared to ride the log flume.
I embarassed myself on some weird bikes they used to have, which you were supposed to ride over cobblestones, but I couldn’t even physically operate the contraptions.
We saw Concorde fly overhead. I dropped my Pringles on the floor.
It was a good day out.

A couple of years later we went back for more. I was now tall enough to ride the Dragon, (what I believed to be) my first rollercoaster and we got the on-ride photo to prove it. (I have since learnt, to my horror – that my life has been a lie, and my first was in fact a Big Apple on Brighton seafront).
Fairy Tale Brook, my first dark ride, became a favourite. That new water slide they had got me soaking wet, but we were the proud owners of super fast drying shorts. I took home the park map this time. It fascinated me.

I believe Will (my now best friend of 23 years and fellow hobbyist), who you’ll probably come to know through this site as Mega-Lite, had acquired a map of Chessington World of Adventures the same year (who knows where from, he hadn’t yet been). Now we could compare. This one fascinated me a lot more. There were these brightly coloured patches of land. Distinct areas with exotic themes. Transylvania, Mexicana, Mystic East… Each one had its own centrepiece attraction and perhaps even more excitingly, there was a ‘thrillometer’ scale, each ride being rated by the park as to how thrilling it was.

I drew a lot of imaginary park maps of my own that year, they all followed the same format with lands and ratings. The rides themselves were crude 2D layouts with a number of inventive designs including one that dropped through a tunnel underwater.

The following year, again for my birthday, I got to see it all in person with a visit to the park. The highlights were riding Forbidden Tomb and watching Rameses Revenge break down (something it became notorious for, there was even an exaggerated news item on TV about it catching fire and dangling people upside down for 3 hours that night, it didn’t) while we had a picnic.
Runaway Train was the only coaster I managed that day as Vampire was undergoing its new train refurb and I wasn’t even tall enough for Rattlesnake with its 1.4m restriction. It scared me though – not sure I would have gone through with it anyway!

Strangely I continued to be scared of these things I was supposed to be so interested in and over the next few years I racked up some cringeworthy school visits to Thorpe Park, Disneyland Paris (this one wasn’t entirely my fault as most of the rides were down due to the weather, my very first experience with spite!) and Alton Towers while being a mere spectator for the most part, avoiding going on anything big or that contained loops.

I wasn’t deterred for long though. As a teenager I went through the British theme park rite of passage that involves owning a Merlin Annual Pass for a number of years. I don’t know what changed in that time, but I very quickly did end up on my very first inverting coaster – Colossus, at the time the world record holder for the most loops, so no half measures there. After that, question or doubt didn’t even come in to it and everything had to be ridden simply because it was there, with multiple visits a year to the local parks and at least an annual visit to the Towers.

I remember Saw: The Ride at Thorpe being the first new ride construction I ever showed an interest in. My introduction to the concept of what an enthusiast of this hobby was came on Saw’s opening day where, through a friend of a friend, we were lucky enough to get unlimited queue skipping wristbands on behalf of Theme Park Review.

While exciting at the time, I found very little pay off to the process of following construction of a ride for a year or more to then end up with a ~90 second experience that was ‘alright’ at best. My interest in the Merlin parks started to wear off and we tried a couple of other UK parks only to find they simply had inferior hardware.

By the time Swarm’s announcement rolled around I was losing interest. Other things were taking over in the natural transition of finding where your life is headed and all the nonsense that comes with that. I remember seeing some sort of plan or blueprint for the ride on which part of an inversion was labelled ‘heartline’. I jokingly said “oh, so they’re getting a heartline coaster then”.
Outrage like you wouldn’t believe. You’ve become one of THOSE enthusiasts. I didn’t even know what that meant.

Eventually it opened (as a B&M wing coaster) and once again it was ‘alright’. And that could have been it for life. The UK coaster scene had extinguished the spark inside me.


Long distance relationships are an interesting phenomenon these days. I am half of perhaps one of the most enduring of these out there and believe it or not it’s all because of a chance encounter in an online game. In January 2013 I took the boldest and perhaps roguest step of my life and jumped on a plane, alone, flying halfway around the world to see a girl in Singapore, less than a week before I was due to start my first significant job. The travel itself along with the sense of freedom and independence it brought was nothing short of exhilarating to me. I was taken round some touristy stuff and it was all over in a whirlwind. Upon my return, Will was surprised. “What, you didn’t do Universal Studios?” “Nah, didn’t even think about it.”

One of the main factors driving the longevity of this relationship was the fact we committed to meeting up 3 times a year in various parts of the world, for increasingly longer periods of time as my career developed. In that same year we went to Milan and did some touristy stuff. I saw a poster for Leolandia on the metro and laughed. Sounds like a knock off Legoland.
We then went to Paris and did some touristy stuff. Disneyland was discussed but eventually decided against. We walked through a travelling fair with coasters in a city park and didn’t bat an eyelid (my present self shudders at this very thought now).

By January 2014, I was back in Singapore and decided to go to Universal Studios this time. I rode Revenge of the Mummy.
It changed my life.
I thought the UK was a typical representation of the theme park industry (it’s not) and so I didn’t know rides could be this good (you can read more about it here) and from that moment, it wasn’t just the spark that was relit, it was the full on raging fire that can also be found on that ride, the desire to find all the amazing experiences the WORLD of theme parks had to offer.

This touristy stuff I speak of is, more often than not, boring. There, I said it. A lot of tourist attractions exist on being just the done thing to do in a place and I don’t really get on with that concept. The primary purpose of these journeys was meeting up and the destination and itinerary didn’t really matter. But it’s in my nature to strive for efficiency, the gears in my head started turning. We could be achieving something secondary in all this as well. For the trips of the following year, after we had selected a destination, I started to look into what parks were in the vicinity.

First came Amsterdam and I designated 2 days of the trip to doing Efteling and Walibi Holland while we were there.
Efteling is a lovely place and remains one of my most highly regarded theme parks. Their wooden coaster blew everything the UK had out of the water and they also have a strong selection of dark rides which, when done properly, can easily rival the experience of a good rollercoaster.
At Walibi Holland I had my first taste of a real coaster marathon, racking up countless laps on Goliath and getting addicted to this brand new to me sensation of floaty butterflies in my stomach as it surged over each hill in the layout. Both of these only increased my drive to see and do more and more.

A few months later we were in Copenhagen where I allotted 4 days of the trip to doing Tivoli Gardens, Bakken and two days at Liseberg over the border in Sweden. You can easily do the maths, the rate of increase is already significant. I’d say Bakken was my first introduction into the less glamorous side of visiting parks around the world, though the place wasn’t without its charm. The other two parks far exceeded my expectations again and reminded me exactly what it was all about. Liseberg in particular became my favourite place on earth, with Helix redefining everything I thought I knew about rollercoasters.

Ranking that which I had ridden so far suddenly became a worthy endeavour, adding an extra spark to the hunt for the best experiences. Since that moment it has become an additional quest to find something even better out there, but the bar has been set so high I am still yet to manage it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an absolute blast trying.

Over the next few years, the number of park visits kept on climbing and the schedules got more hectic. My travel partner in crime had been showing an incredible amount of patience for my ever increasing obsession and in January 2017, I married her. The concept of a traditional honeymoon was seen as a bit of an oddity for a couple who only ever met while on holiday anyway, so guess what we did? The most ambitious park trip yet – on a whirlwind tour through China.

In what almost felt like punishment for my wild decisions, the following years were the most gruelling and torturous for the relationship as the UK visa & immigration system is a total scam, not least for physically withholding a passport and a decision from us for well over a year (not that we let such trivial details stop us from continuing the meet ups). I could write a book on how ridiculous the sequence of events became, but it doesn’t matter now, it worked. In April 2019, on the same day I flew back in from a coaster trip in the USA (not planned that way, but of course), we began our lives together in England.

Back to 2017, I had joined a British online forum for enthusiasts, CoasterForce. It was on there that I took the chance to develop my trip report writings, particularly now that I had a bit more of an exotic experience to share with other seemingly like-minded people.

I needed to come back to it at some point again – the Heartline Twister Coaster does exist in real life, by the way. It’s called an Ultra Twister and they were made by a Japanese manufacturer, Togo. Amazingly they were built in the 80s and 90s and did things that were way ahead of their time. A few operated in the US for a while, but they didn’t last long. Only 3 or 4 remain operating in the world, all of them in Japan, so they aren’t exactly easy to come by these days.
The display name I chose took on a secondary meaning in that I tried to develop a bit of a brand for the obscure, the furthest reaches of the coaster world, though I don’t think that worked particularly well. Nevertheless, another arrow was added to my quiver – don’t just try and ride the best in the world, go for the weird and wonderful too, complete all the sets.

That last one, completionism, particularly suits my method of approach as I love data, statistics, spreadsheets, lists, rankings and collections, all of which can be built around what I do now, I can’t think of a better way to obsess over something than by actually measuring the achievements. Measuring didn’t stop there. The forum runs a little game called the League of Goons which, in simple terms, finds out which participating member travelled to the most parks and rode the most rides within a given year. As soon as I joined in, I won it and have now continued the streak for three years in a row, and there’s some pretty stiff competition in that forum alone. This really highlighted to me that I was taking this whole thing to extremes greater than most (perhaps not all) and I like that. I think it’s one of the most worthwhile things a person can do to strive to be outstanding in any field, no matter how unusual.

Which brings me to the now, the creation of this website in the depths of the year 2020, with the world standing still. It’s looking like a 6 month gap for me of going nowhere and riding nothing, the biggest drought for a quarter of my life. I was due to ride my 1000th rollercoaster on the first day of a big USA road trip recently and in celebration of that I wanted to collate all of my experiences and thoughts in one place (other than a spreadsheet). 1000 is a dangerous number for me to reach, with ~5000 currently operating in the world and by my latest calculation only 38% of that number being what I would call significant, worthwhile or unique – there’s a lot of rubbish out there. It’s a threshold at which I realise I may never hit the next big milestone unless I shift my focus on what I enjoy the most (quality over quantity) and begin making trips that contain nothing of any apparent value. I’ve said to myself and others that I won’t, but if I do, we can document my descent into madness on here as well…

Happy reading!


Mega-Lite

After reading Heartline’s “About Me” section (it’s really good) and having a think myself I’ve decided I have a story that’s half worth telling so here goes.

My name’s Will, I live in a small boring village about 50 miles south of London, I’ve been best friends with Heartline since as long as I can remember and I’ve been interested in theme/amusement parks for just as long.

The Beginning

I recall it starting as such, Heartline and another kid in our primary school went to Legoland Windsor, somehow we ended up speaking of the trip, I remember even now asking them both millions of questions about every little detail of the trip. It’s strange thinking about it now because normally kids that young change what they speak about every other minute but I remember pressing them both for details at every possible opportunity. I apologise to Heartline all these years later if I was as annoying as I assume I was.

Then this other kid (his parents were loaded) went to Chessington World of Adventures and probably just to shut me up he brought me back a copy of the park map, it didn’t work. I became even more obsessed with this new park, looking at the map every break time, asking him millions of questions about everything all over again.

As Heartline mentions it was then his turn to visit Chessington, once again with this other kid and I was probably just as excited as they were that they were visiting. Months worth of questioning was to be had after this legendary trip, even more so because the park made national news on the day they visited.

Due to the fact that no one in my family drove and our financial situation was best described as non existant I basically lived these experiences though Heartline and his friend, that was until 2002.

Because then, finally, after years of idolising the place it was my time to visit Chessington. Did it live up to my expectations? It destroyed them.

Whether it was from years of obsession or not, from the second I entered until we were forced to leave I was in heaven. The place had such a powerful magical energy, I know that sounds lame but it’s true. Professor Burp’s Bubbleworks was probably the greatest thing to ever happen in my life and I got to experience my first taste of adrenaline on Rattlesnake.

What do you think happened when I got back? Do you think I’d finally shut up now that I’d visited one of this stupid parks? Of course not, it was time to discuss them even more now that I’d cut my teeth.

The Early Years

I believe in 2003 I got my first computer and my first taste of the internet. My Mum limited me to 1 hour a day on the net because dial up was stupidly expensive. I’d spend every minute of that hour looking at theme parks, I didn’t need to pester my poor friends anymore I could just read everything I wanted to know.

It was also this year I finally got Roller Coaster Tycoon 2, a game Heartline had telling me stories about for years. On the first day I had the game I played it for so long that my eyes were watering. I still play RCT2 today and it’s fair to say it’s been a massive part of my life.

2006 was to be my next actual trip to a park, on a school trip to Thorpe Park. The park was extremely busy and I bailed out on riding any of the park’s big coasters but it didn’t matter because I was finally back at one of the places I obsessed over.

In 2007 I was lucky enough to get 2 more school trips to theme parks, Disneyland Paris and Alton Towers. Even though weather ruined operations at Disney and I once again chickened out on the bigger stuff at Alton Towers I was just so happy to get to experience them.

The First Turning Point

Although me and Heartline had been best friends for years, in 2007 we became as close as we remain to this day and it was visiting parks that united us.

It was this year onwards (all thanks to Heartline) that we started visiting the parks on our own, for now via public transport. We visited Thorpe Park and Chessington countless times, this time of course riding everything we could. Several visits to Alton Towers, now riding the amazing Nemesis. I finally got to visit Legoland Windsor. We travelled to Adventure Island, Paultons Park, Winter Wonderland and the Isle of Wight.

The Second Turning Point

We kept the tradition of visiting parks every few months via public transport up for the best part of 4 years but in 2011 we both passed our driving test, so this made for even more visits and much less hassle. We took a very memorable drive up North to Flamingoland and Lightwater Valley, several visits to the fantastic Blackpool Pleasure Beach, an interesting trip to Drayton Manor, as well as many trips to our regular haunts.

The Final Turning Point

Two things changed in 2015 and they would change my life forever.

1 – I used to be a really nervous person that was terrified of trying new things or going to strange new places. The previous years of getting out there and exploring all these parks honestly changed me into a much better person, someone who was now longing to get out there and see it all. Now I bet you weren’t expecting theme parks to do that?

2- 2015 was to be my first time on a plane, we went back out to Disneyland Paris and this time had a much better go of it than when we went with the school. Not only was I afraid of flying until this point but I was also certain I wasn’t going to be able to cope with all the crazy security rules at the airport. Of course everything was fine but more than that I loved it.

The Game Changes

I’d enter 2016 with 72 coasters to my name and end it with 191, this was the year everything changed, this was the year things got serious, this was the beginning of the happiest period of my life.

In March 2016 Heartline and I went on what I consider my first real coaster trip. An amazing and eye opening 5 day mega trip to Germany. Then in June we did the same but this time with Denmark and Sweden. 2 months later we had another multi day trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

By the end of the year I’d ridden several of the highest rated coasters on the planet, including my still favourite coaster Helix.

Gone was my drive to just keep visiting the same parks over and over again, I was now dying to get out there and ride the World’s greatest coasters and I had with me the greatest riding partner you could ask for.

The Game Changes Again

In 2016 I rode 119 new coasters, in 2017 I would ride 151.

2017 would see things step up even more with my first 10+ day trip and my first long distance flight, with us visiting Korea and Japan for the first time. We’d also once again take several trips to Europe and to top it off perfectly I ended the year at Univeral Studios Singapore.

I’d outdo myself again in 2018, this time riding 156 new coasters.

My first new coaster of 2018 was in Australia, which leads me to a funny comment a manager at work said to me, “when I first met you, you didn’t know of a place 15 minutes from your house, now you’re going to Singapore, Australia, China and Hong Kong on 1 trip!”, I couldn’t believe it either.

Several more Europe trips sandwiched either side of a return trip to Korea and Japan was how the rest of the year played out.

2019 might just be my favourite year of this hobby and not just because I smashed my record and rode 199 new coasters this time. This year saw me and Heartline visit America for the first time, a trip we’d been discussing for years and it was amazing.

Summary

I don’t think it’s bragging to say that things have come a long way for me. From a stupid kid begging his friends to tell him how their day at a park was, to riding 630 new coasters in 4 years whilst travelling all over the World.

Things wouldn’t be this way without having Heartline as my best friend so I’m honoured to be helping him out with his site.

I’m also so excited to share about my trips and to give opinions on coasters and parks.

What will happen next when we are allowed to get out and cause chaos again? Who knows… but I promise I’m not slowing down until I’ve ridden every coaster worth riding and I hope you’ll join me on my journey.

Thank you so much for reading.