Venue: Drayton Manor Park
Who Went: Me and a large number of other RCCGB members, including Andy and Christine Hine, Adey and Katelyn Hikin, Angie, Death, Doug and Charlie Turner, Heather Hall, Lucy Cosnett, Oliver, Smiler, Stevie B, Wendy Adams Evans.
DISCLAIMER: The above is NOT intended to be an exhaustive list of everyone who attended. It's a small sample of attendees; mainly those I spoke to and/or rode with at Drayton Manor Park. I sincerely apologise to anyone else who was there and I've not listed.
Rationale for TripThe RCCGB's annual two-day autumn event to mark the end of the coaster season: Alton Towers on the Saturday and Drayton Manor Park on the Sunday. Members had the option of attending either or both days, but for various reasons I decided to attend day 2 at Drayton Manor Park only. This was my fifth time of attending Loopathon day 2 (Drayton Manor Park), and my seventh Loopathon overall since joining the RCCGB in March 2005.
Sunday First ThingI awoke at 6:40, in order to get ready and have breakfast at 8:00. For breakfast I had a bowl of cornflakes, a glass of apple juice, a pot of coffee, and a full English breakfast (two sausages, two rashers of bacon, two hash browns, one fried egg, mushrooms, baked beans, tinned tomatoes). My next dilemma was getting to Drayton Manor Park, which was quoted as being just 0.7 miles away; I had to decide between walking there and phoning for a taxi. In the end I decided to walk to Drayton Manor Park with my luggage; it took me about 15 minutes to walk from the front door of The Plough Fazeley to Drayton Manor Park Tower Suite. Fortunately it was sunny at the time.
Day at Drayton Manor Park
Welcome to Drayton Manor ParkWhen I arrived around 8:55 RCCGB members were in the Tower Suite awaiting entry. My biggest concern still on my mind was arranging a lift to a suitable railway station in the evening, and where to put my large bag during the day. Fortunately I quickly met Oliver, who kindly offered to give me a lift to a station in the evening, so soon afterwards I put my large bag in his car boot. Coffee and cookies were available free of charge, so I had a cup of coffee and a cookie. Just before the Club was due to enter the Park, Nev gave a short speech; among other items he said there were free souvenir mugs (bearing the RCCGB 30th anniversary logo and date of this visit) on the table at one end of the room for us to take, one per person. The Club entered the Park around 9:30.
Apocalypse ERSThe day began with an ERS on the 54 metres tall drop tower Apocalypse. Normally there are three ride options: sit down, stand up with floor, stand up no floor. Unfortunately on this occasion, stand up no floor was out of action, but the other two ride options were available. In all cases, a large clasp comes down, locks on to the top of the rider unit and pulls the rider unit to the top of the tower. After a short delay the rider unit is released for a freefall drop.
Stand Up With FloorI began with the stand up with floor option. A narrow saddle (similar to a bicycle saddle) fits between one's legs whilst standing, and a harness holds the rider in place. The ride unit tilted forwards a little at the start of its ascent, which made the ride experience somewhat scary. Rising to the top of the tower seemed to take forever. On a clear day one can see for miles whilst momentarily at the top. Having reached the top, the drop was somewhat frightening in the standing position.
Sit DownNext I tried the easy option: sit down. Once seated, the harness was pulled down and the rider unit was raised to the top. The ascent was quite scary, but eventually the rider unit reached the top of the tower. One can see for miles whilst momentarily at the top. The freefall drop was still quite scary, though not as bad as in the stand up with floor position. Having left and re-entered the tower, I had a second go in the sit down position.
Stand Up With FloorAfter that, I still had time for four more goes in the stand up with floor position. As expected I had to leave and re-enter between every go.
Summary of my rides on Apocalypse this ERS: Sit down 2, Stand up with floor 5. Did anyone beat me on that?
Maelstrom TakeoverThe rides across the whole park opened at 10:30. As the rides were about to open, several RCCGB members including me headed towards Maelstrom and stood in line waiting for it to open. Whilst queuing, I spoke to Wendy Adams Evans and Nev. It wasn't long before it was my turn to get on; I ended up sitting next to Wendy Adams Evans. This Intamin large gyro swing has outward facing seats. The ride set off spinning and swinging for a few minutes, until it slowed down and stopped. Altogether a fun and enjoyable ride, but once was enough for me. No way could I take two goes straight off!
ShockwaveThis Intamin Stand-Up Coaster has been operating since 1994, and is one of only two stand-up coasters in Europe. For my first go, I joined the main queue, but I was lucky enough to get the one spare seat on the front row, thereby giving me an unobstructed view of the way ahead. The train set off up the lift hill, around a vertical loop, another inversion and a double corkscrew before returning to the station. Afterwards I enjoyed two more goes on Shockwave, fourth row followed by back row.
I wanted to go on Stormforce 10 next, but it was closed for maintenance.
Air RaceThis Zamperla ride began operating at Drayton Manor Park in 2014. It has horizontal spokes radiating from a central cone. At the end of each spoke is an arm with an aeroplane at its end, and a pivot point connecting the arm's midpoint to the spoke end. The lower central cone, with its radiating spokes, spins clockwise. After a while the arms with the planes at their ends start rotating around the arm's midpoint. Hence riders in the planes go sideways and upside-down as well as upright whilst travelling clockwise relative to the ground. Now seemed the ideal time for me to ride this because a) over three hours had now passed since I finished my cooked breakfast, and b) lunch was still nearly an hour away. When it was my turn to ride, I sat in the back row of plane 2 (which is red). The ride sensation when I was going sideways and upside-down was unusual to say the least! Presumably that motion is intended to simulate an aeroplane somersaulting in flight. On the whole, this is a fun ride, but I'm glad the ride duration wasn't any longer. One go on this was enough for me for now; I didn't return to it later in the day.
Jeremy Jet's Flying AcademyFrom one aeroplane themed ride to another! This Thomas Land ride features planes on spokes which travel around the central point. I had to wait a couple of runs to get on this, but when it was my turn, I had plane 8 to myself. By touching a lever it's possible to make the plane go up as it travels around the central point. Another fun ride, albeit a rather tame one compared to Air Race. I only had one go on this.
James and the Red BalloonNew to Thomas Land for 2017, this features red and orange striped balloons with baskets beneath them. Each balloon / basket assembly is attached, just below the balloon, to a central mechanism. Being a new ride this was quite popular, and I had to wait a few runs to get on it. When I was among the batch of riders to get on, I managed to have a basket to myself, that being number 7. As the balloons began travelling around clockwise relative to the ground, they were gradually lifted vertically, and were eventually tilted so riders were going around clockwise on an angle. In addition one could turn a central disc within the basket to turn the balloon. Eventually the balloons levelled off, were lowered towards the ground and the ride stopped. Altogether this was an odd ride sensation to say the least. On the whole, this is a fun addition to Thomas Land, but hardly a thrill ride. This ended up being my last ride before lunch.
Lunch at Tower SuiteAt 12:30 members exited the Park and went to the Tower Suite for lunch; however the time was 12:48 when I exited James and the Red Balloon and thus started heading from Thomas Land towards the park exit near the Tower Suite. Once there I looked for somewhere to sit. Most of the seats were already taken, but luckily I managed to find a vacant seat. Unlike 2014 and 2015, there were no souvenir mugs on the tables, as they had been made available prior to the morning ERS. I joined the back of the queue, which by now was fairly short (several members had already got their food). A wide assortment of food was available; most of which was served by the staff behind the table. I had egg fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, mushroom chow mein, beef bourguignon, ratatouille, small potatoes in skins and one spring roll. Basically this was a mixture of Chinese and French cuisine together; talk about crossing culinary boundaries! Once I had a plate full of food, I returned to my seat and enjoyed my main course.
Of course a meal is not complete without a dessert. The dessert was profiteroles with chocolate sauce. Someone was dishing out three profiteroles per person, and the right amount of chocolate sauce to go with them. At least that was much better than last year when people were able to just help themselves to profiteroles and chocolate sauce.
Steve Lomax from Drayton Manor Park gave a speech about various park matters. Once he had finished his speech members had the chance to ask him questions; I asked him if the park has any intention of getting the stand up no floor part of Apocalypse fixed. Before everyone returned to the park, Nev stated that the Club would not now be having Accelerator (formerly Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission) during the evening ERS, therefore he advised members to ride it this afternoon.
Afternoon FreetimeAround 13:50 I returned to the park and resumed riding.
AcceleratorI began my afternoon by riding Accelerator, largely because the Club was not now going to have exclusive use of it during the evening ERS. This Vekoma Family Boomerang 185m began operating at Drayton Manor Park under the name Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission in April 2011. At the start of the 2017 season it was re-themed and renamed Accelerator. This is still the only such model in the UK. Riders enter via the arcade. This has changed considerably following the change of name; it's now themed around motor racing. The arcade now includes an area which resembles a motor mechanic's workshop, and a stack of tyres. The coaster itself, which is entirely outside, hasn't really changed much; both the train and the track are still green. When it was my turn to get on, I sat in the back row. The train was pulled backwards to the top of the launch hill, released and went around its course until it reached the top of another hill the other end. Being at the back, I was the rider who travelled furthest up the launch hill and the least distance up the far hill. Having reached a dead end, the train had to travel backwards the way it had come. On the return journey it overshot the station to go up the launch hill part way, and had to travel forwards again to terminate at the station. Basically Accelerator's journey from start to finish was no different to its Ben 10 days; at the end of the day it's still the same ride even after the change of name and theme. Having left the ride, I queued again for a second go, this time in the sixth row. On the whole, a fun ride, but tame compared to the much larger Boomerang at Pleasure Island Cleethorpes which I rode in summer 2010.
I considered going on the Drayton Queen boat ride around the lake next, but its boarding point looked closed. Looking across the lake, I couldn't see the Drayton Queen anywhere near or far on the lake either. Having got the impression Drayton Queen wasn't operating I approached Flying Dutchman instead.
Flying DutchmanA variation on a chair-o-plane; this features small blue boats on the ends of wires hanging from a central carousel. At the time Loopathon 2016, this ride had been dismantled as it seemed Flying Dutchman would never operate again. Much to my surprise, Drayton Manor Park managed to get it reassembled and back in action for the 2017 season, therefore I was determined to ride it this time. Whilst the ride is stationary, all the boats are on the ground. I got into boat 12. When the ride starts, the boats are lifted from the ground, the carousel spins clockwise, and the boats are forced outwards, just like on a chair-o-plane. Eventually the ride slows down and the boats are lowered to the ground when the ride stops. Another fun ride, but once was enough for me on this. In fact my one go on this now was my only go on this all day.
Wild West Shoot OutOne of Drayton Manor Park's rides which I first rode during Loopathon 2016. This features a series of ride cars which follow a track around a wild west themed building; I sat in the front row of one. The cars have electronic guns which you fire at the targets on the way around. My attempts at shooting targets were rather hit and miss. Sometimes I successfully got the target light to illuminate and thus scored points, but there were several occasions when the light at the centre of the target failed to illuminate and I scored no points. At certain points one can successfully shoot three closely placed targets in rapid succession and score bonus points; amazingly I managed to achieve that more than once. At the end of my ride my score was 5200 points. Although a considerable improvement on the 3150 points I scored last year, my score this time was still low compared to the really high scores some riders achieve. A fun ride, but I resisted the temptation to queue for a second go in the hope of getting a better score as there were several other rides I wanted to go on around the park during the rest of the afternoon.
Drunken BarrelsAnother of Drayton Manor Park's rides I first rode during Loopathon 2016. Basically Drunken Barrels are a variation on a tea cup ride. Groups of barrels spin on small spinning turntables, on the main turntable which also spins. I sat in barrel number 9. Shortly after starting the whole lot was elevated at the back end so as to function on an angle. Sitting in a spinning barrel, on a spinning small turntable, on the spinning main turntable at an angle made for a weird ride sensation to say the least! A fun ride, but I limited myself to one go. This was my only go on here all day.
Buffalo CoasterThis Zamperla Buffalo Coaster is a powered coaster. It has been operating since 1987, which makes it the oldest coaster currently operating at Drayton Manor Park. One go consists of two laps. The circuit is quite long, however it doesn't rise and fall much, and there are no inversions. I had to wait a few runs to get on it. Although tame, this was worth riding to add to my total ride count for the day. Due to the longish queuing time I limited myself to one go on Buffalo Coaster, and didn't return to it later.
Jolly BuccaneerBoats at the ends of spokes which are attached to a central ring. Each boat has a sail to complete the pirate theming. When the ride starts the boats at the ends of their spokes go up and down as well as round and round clockwise. Presumably the up and down motion is to simulate sailing rough seas. I sat in boat 6.
Although a rather tame ride, it was still great fun. My one go on Jolly Buccaneer now was my only go on this all day.
The Bounty Pirate ShipA swinging pirate ship, need I say more? There was no queue for this when I approached it. Although both end rows were full up, I managed to get a seat in one of the second-from-back rows, which is the next best thing. A mega fun ride, but once was enough for me; I'm not sure my body could have stuck two goes straight off.
Polperro ExpressA train ride around part of the Park. As I was walking from The Bounty Pirate Ship towards Shockwave, I went close to Polperro Express station just as the train was about to depart, so I decided to get on Polperro Express. Adey and Katelyn happened to be in the row behind me. Soon after I boarded the train, it began its journey. This could be seen as a rest ride, a way to explore part of the park from a route you can't take on foot. During the train's journey, I noticed the Drayton Queen boat was in storage out of the water, which explains why the boarding point for the boat looked closed earlier. This was my only go on Polperro Express Train all day.
Troublesome Trucks Runaway CoasterOne of the rides in Thomas Land, this Gerstlauer Junior Coaster (Custom) has been operating since March 2008. Although only a family coaster, and a rather tame ride, I was just as keen to ride it as the other coasters around the Park, as my goal was to ride all five coasters at least once each. One ride consists of two laps. Altogether Troublesome Trucks is a small but fun coaster. For now I limited myself to just one go, because I knew I'd be likely to have more goes on it during the evening ERS. Meanwhile I wanted to try out a few other Thomas Land rides.
Harold's Helicopter ToursOne of the rides in Thomas Land, this features mini helicopters around a pole. I had a helicopter to myself. Once the ride started the helicopters rose to the top of the pole and travelled around it, thereby giving riders a view of Thomas Land. Eventually the helicopters returned to ground level and the ride stopped. Another fun ride, but my one go now was my only go on this all day.
Cranky's Tower DropAnother Thomas Land ride, this is a mini drop tower. The seats are arranged on a circular seating unit surrounding the tower. I sat in seat 12. Once everyone was harnessed in, the seat unit rose and fell several times, but I didn't bother counting how many rises and falls there were. Naturally this felt tame compared to Apocalypse in the morning, but it was nonetheless a fun ride. This was my only go on Cranky's Tower Drop all day.
Rocking BulstrodeHaving left Cranky's Tower Drop, my next ride was neighbouring Rocking Bulstrode, which is also in Thomas Land. Unlike a normal pirate ship, this swings and spins about a central base pivot, in the same manner as the Zamperla Rock 'n' Tug I've ridden at various other parks. A fun ride, but once was enough for me; I don't think I could ride this twice straight off due to the way it works. This was my final ride of the day in Thomas Land during normal opening time, because having left Rocking Bulstrode, I left Thomas Land hoping to go on one or two large rides elsewhere before the park officially closed.
ShockwaveAlthough I had already ridden the stand-up coaster Shockwave during the morning, I wanted to ride it again before closing time. I sat in the fifth row. The ride experience was just the same as when I rode it in the morning. This time I limited myself to just one go as I was hoping to get on something else before closing time.
MaelstromThere was just enough time remaining for me to enjoy one go on the Intamin large gyro swing Maelstrom. This was my final ride during normal opening time.
Evening ERSNow that the Park had officially closed, it was time for our evening ERS. I proceeded from Maelstrom to the area in front of G-Force, as that was where members were expected to gather prior to the ERS. The RCCGB was originally intended to have exclusive use of three coasters for an hour: G-Force, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and Accelerator. However Nev had already told everyone lunchtime that the Club would no longer be having Accelerator; hence the evening ERS ended up being just G-Force and Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster. I began the ERS on G-Force.
G-ForceThis Maurer Söhne X-Car Vertical coaster has been operating since July 2005, and is still one of only two coasters of this model operating worldwide. You have to go up a few flights of stairs to get to the platform. The train sets off downhill whilst going around a bend. Having reached the bottom of the initial descent the train climbs the lift hill, which unusually continues part way up and around the first vertical loop. After that first loop you go uphill again, and down, around another vertical loop, up and over (upside-down), barrel roll to become upright again, downhill, up around a u-bend to the left and down again (staying upright through that bend), up again and back to the station.
Although there were a fair few other RCCGB members waiting to ride G-Force on my first go, this quickly became surprisingly quiet for an ERS thereafter. On some of my later goes, there were very few members on the train. Thankfully one ride operator told me that, as of 2017, the minimum number of riders required for the train to run in previous years no longer applies. For that reason there was no need to have members of staff on the train to "top up" the number of riders to the minimum quota of previous years. Altogether I clocked up five goes as follows:
First go: Front row with Doug
Second go: Second-from back row
Third go: Back row
Fourth go: Front row with Angie
Fifth go: Second row with Angie
Troublesome Trucks Runaway CoasterI spent the rest of the ERS on Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster in Thomas Land, and had time for three goes as follows:
First go: with Katelyn
Second go: Second row with Big Stevie B
Third go: Second-from-back row
Interestingly Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster was considerably more popular among members than G-Force, even though Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster is a very mild ride experience compared to G-Force.
Summary of my rides this ERS: G-Force 5, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 3. Did anyone beat me on that?
Final Send-OffWhen the ERS ended members met again near the Carousel for the final send-off. Once everyone was present members formed a circle for a variation of Hokey Cokey. Instead of singing "You do the hokey cokey" we were asked to sing "You shout coaster crazy". We did three verses: 1) left arm in / out, 2) right arm in / out, and 3) whole self in / out. Is there any reason why the Club doesn't do the whole song (left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, whole self). At the end first timers were called into the centre to form a small circle facing outwards for the group hug. This officially marked the end of the 2017 coaster season; at least as far as RCCGB trips are concerned.
Finally everyone headed out of Drayton Manor Park. Back at the car park members said their last goodbyes before heading home.
Summary of my day in order of activity
Morning ERS: Apocalypse 7 (stand up 1, sit down 2, stand up 4)
Morning free time:
Air Race 1
Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy 1
James and the Red Balloon 1
Lunch at Tower Suite (including speech from Steve Lomax)
Afternoon free time:
Flying Dutchman 1
Wild West Shoot Out 1
Drunken Barrels 1
Buffalo Coaster 1
Jolly Buccaneer 1
The Bounty Pirate Ship 1
Polperro Express 1
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 1
Harold's Helicopter Tours 1
Cranky's Tower Drop 1
Rocking Bulstrode 1
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster 3
Hokey cokey and group hug
Cumulative Summary of My Rides (ERSs and Freetime Combined)
Cranky's Tower Drop
Harold's Helicopter Tours
James and the Red Balloon
Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy
The Bounty Pirate Ship
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster
Wild West Shoot Out
Journey HomeJust before 18:30 Oliver took me to Tamworth station. Having said goodbye to him I caught the 18:45 CrossCountry train bound for Plymouth. Although I could have stayed on that train all the way to Bristol Temple Meads, I broke my journey at Birmingham New Street in order to have something to eat at McDonald's, Exchange Buildings, Birmingham. There I enjoyed a large Big Mac Meal, which included fries and a large drink (I chose Sprite) followed by a toffee sundae. Back at Birmingham New Street I bought a takeaway cup of coffee before catching the 20:12 CrossCountry train to Bristol Temple Meads. The final leg of my journey was the 22:15 GWR train to Bath Spa. I finally reached Bath Spa at 22:32 and home shortly afterwards.
HighlightsAdding the new-for-2017 Thomas Land ride James and the Red Balloon to my ride count.
Riding Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission (which I had already ridden on previous visits) under its new name Accelerator for the first time.
Re-riding the other four coasters (Shockwave, Buffalo Coaster, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, G-Force) which I first rode during Loopathon 2011.
High overall ride count (ERSs and free time combined).
Delicious and filling two-course lunch at Towers Suite.
Evening ERS on G-Force and Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster.
Hokey Cokey and group hug at the end.
LowlightsApocalypse stand up no floor option unavailable (but at least I did the other two ride options during the morning ERS).
Unexpected SurprisesFree mugs for everyone for the fifth year running.
G-Force being so quiet during the evening ERS.
Summing UpAnother excellent Club trip, and a great turnout too. The weather was quite good; dry and sunny all morning. Despite the afternoon being largely cloudy, it remained dry all afternoon. It was great meeting Andy and Christine Hine, Adey and Katelyn, Doug and Charlie, Stevie B, Wendy Adams Evans and several other members again. Also it was great to ride the roller coaster Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission (which I had ridden on previous visits) under its new guise Accelerator for the first time ever, and to ride the other four coasters (Shockwave, Buffalo Coaster, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, G-Force) and several non-coaster rides again. Just one point, they're all steel. Come on Drayton Manor, get some wood! Many members liked my 46th birthday T-shirt; I wore that as Loopathon day 2 happened just eight days after my birthday (30 September 2017).
Many thanks to Andy Hine for organising this trip, the ride staff for operating Apocalypse before opening and two coasters after closing, the catering staff for the delicious and filling lunch, and Steve Lomax for his after-lunch speech. Thanks also to Oliver for kindly giving me a lift to Tamworth station in the evening.
Roll on the 2018 Blackpool Bash, I hope to be there.
ReflectionsHaving first joined the RCCGB in March 2005, here is my updated track record for Loopathon attendance in 13 years of membership 2005 to 2017 inclusive:
2005 & 2006: Alton Towers only
2007 to 2010: Did not attend Loopathon at all
2011: Drayton Manor only
2012 & 2013: Did not attend Loopathon at all
2014, 2015, 2016, 2017: Drayton Manor only
So this can be summed up as:
2 x Alton Towers only (2005, 2006)
5 x Drayton Manor only (2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
6 x Missed Loopathon altogether (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
After all this time, I've still never attended a complete Loopathon in a single year. I really must try and make the effort to do so next year in what will be my 14th year of RCCGB membership. At least my consecutive attendance of Loopathon day 2 - Drayton Manor (2014 to 2017 inclusive - four years) now equals my continuous run of missing Loopathon altogether (2007 to 2010 inclusive - four years).
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