Valhalla (Pleasure Beach Blackpool)

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Valhalla
Valhalla (Pleasure Beach Blackpool).JPG
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Status Operating
Cost £15,000,000
Opening date 14 June 2000
General Statistics
Type Dark ride
Manufacturer Intamin
Designer Sarner Ltd
Lift system Two lift hills
Height 80 ft (24 m)
Drop 60 ft (18 m)
Length 610 m (2,000 ft)
Speed 70 km/h (43 mph)
Max vertical angle 70°
Capacity 2,000 riders per hour
Duration Approximately 6 minutes
Restraint Style None; grabrails only
Height restriction 46 in (117 cm)

Valhalla is a large indoor dark ride at Pleasure Beach Blackpool in Lancashire, England. It was opened on 14 June 2000 at a cost of £15 million - one of the most expensive water rides to be built in the world at that time - and is the longest indoor dark ride in the world.[1][2] Both a dark ride and a water ride, Valhalla uses special effects which incorporate fire, water, snow, thunder and lightning.[3]

Design[edit]

Valhalla was largely designed by Sarner, a creative company based in the United Kingdom which is responsible for ride effects and electronics. Additional effects utilising water were designed by American company Technifex. The vehicle and track elements were provided by Intamin. The brainchild of former park owner Geoffrey Thompson, it is based on Valhalla from Norse mythology and covers sixteen different scenes.

It is based on a similar ride, Viking Toktet otherwise known as Vikinglandet, found in Norway's Tusenfryd, which was also designed by Sarner. Both rides use elements of a traditional log flume ride combined with the design of a traditional dark ride with additional special effects to dramatize the ride experience. Valhalla uses physical effects such as a dramatic change in temperature and artificial snow throughout the duration of the ride. Riders experience extremes of temperature ranging from -20°C to 40°C.[4] There are various water effects during the ride course, including a water vortex and track elements include a turntable (where the boat is turned around thus facing backwards).

More than 100,000 imperial gallons (450,000 l; 120,000 US gal) of water are recycled per minute, and roughly 35,000 cubic feet (990 m3) of gas is used an hour to provide the flame effects.[3] The ride has a capacity of 2,000 per hour and each journey lasts approximately six minutes covering almost half a mile.[3]

The ride is housed inside a building around 80 feet tall. The front is covered with artificial rock effect (replaced in 2012) and a huge waterfall flows down the ride building facade, dispensing 12,000 gallons of water per minute.

Until the refurbishment in 2012, the ride's internal supporting structure consisted partially of removed track sections from the Big One roller coaster. During the refurbishment they were removed and replaced with a much stronger metal frame.

Opening[edit]

Valhalla was opened by TV and radio host Jonathan Ross on 14 June 2000 and since opening has been sponsored by the Daily Star tabloid newspaper in the UK.

Ride experience[edit]

Boats enter the ride through a skull head's mouth

Due to the extremely wet nature of the ride, warning signs are positioned at the entrance stating "you will get wet" and "you may get SOAKED". Clear plastic rain capes are available to buy at the ride's entrance at a cost of £1.80 or £2.50 for more durable ones or a waterproof bag costing £1.50 is also available to riders.

In the Viking-themed station, riders board a Viking-style longship.[5] The boats seat up to eight people, having four rows of two-seater benches. Despite the ride featuring several drops, they have no lap bars, only padded grab rails. The boats can become filled with several inches of water during a typical day of operation and a ride operator is usually seen with a pump removing excessive water in the floor of the boats as they pass through the station. In general riders can be expected to be asked to board the boats quickly as they do not stop in the station. Ride operators usually check the number of riders in groups prior to boarding and on occasion will tell you where to sit.

Viking chanting music, 'Song of the Elders' by Rhythmos (originally composed for the park's Hot Ice show), plays in the station and throughout the ride, although is not clearly audible in all parts.

The boat travels in the same way as a traditional log flume and is carried from the station to the left into the entrance via the mouth of a large skull figure. A waterfall from the mouth is stopped via infrared sensor just as riders are about to pass through it. As the boat enters the building, a Viking warrior is seen in a cave in the wall (this used to be two crows). Once inside, a dog-like beast comes into view and to the right, a 2-headed dog appears from the shadows barking at the riders as the longship passes by reaching the first lift hill.

Two lit torches give off a great deal of heat as you pass under a dog-like beast climbing the lift hill. The walls around you rotate with eerie noise and in front of you a projection of a Viking tells you of the journey ahead:

"Where lightning strikes to burn the soul. Where fires rage to ignite evil. Where the chill of ice freezes eternity. The kiss of death has tortured the lives of these viking warriors. Their stricken souls await to accompany you through the twilight world of the gods. Where mist shrouds the human form. ENTER VALHALLA!"[6]

There’s a tiny dip which sends the boat hurtling into darkness before lights flash as you turn right with dragon heads and a large UV lit face, as the ride reaches the next corner (right turn) a demon head (now with some hair) raises up behind a hole in the wall. The boat then enters the famous "fauxfire" room (known as steam room). This is a corridor of simulated fire effects,[7] it is steam with lighting effects that make it look like fire. The boat turns right into a corridor with water pouring down either side. Water drips from above onto riders as light appears at the end of the tunnel.

The boat then enters an area where the outside is exposed and the theme park can be seen, the boat moves towards this window and gives the impression that it may not stop and go over the edge. The boat suddenly and sharply stops and is the then rotated clockwise approximately 90 degrees via a turntable before beginning to move backwards into complete darkness. There is then a small drop into another turntable where the boat is rotated around 100 degree to the left and begins to move forward again. Powerful wind effects are utilised during this rotation.

The boat enters the ice room where temperatures of around -20°C and artificial snow are faced, in the style of Fimbulwinter. Perspex figures, simulating skeleton warrior-style and tiger ice sculptures watch you pass by. The boat proceeds around this room and into darkness again where there is a sharp drop of some 60 feet and 70 degree incline. Around halfway down the drop there is a blanket of mist and lighting effects which lead the rider to believe that the ride is about to level off before it eventually plunges into water below. Right before the drop, riders can sometimes see a spiked log come into view before the bottom of the drop is visible, however it is difficult at times to see this clearly. If riders are also quick enough on the drop, they will see a large longship wrecked on their right hand side and the 2nd drop to their left.

A tunnel of water jets is then passed through,[7] which deposits considerable amounts of cold water over the boat, particularly for those sitting on the left hand side of the longship. The lights start flickering on and off as two water cannons shoot water straight up into the air which comes down onto the boat. The lights flicker on to show you are going to pass under a water fall. As the lights go off, the waterfall stops and you pass under it turning around to start the climb of the 2nd lift hill.

At the top of the hill the rides pass under a swinging set of skulls with eerie eyes accompanied by distant screaming. Turning right past a Viking warrior, rides see a jungle like setting where the boat encounters two gigantic hammers which swoop down and appear to be heading to sandwich crush the boat but simply create a huge splash, further drenching those on board.

The boat then turns left where it passes under a rolling spiked log and the sounds of arrows passing over head which riders feel are just missing their heads. There are also arrows in the walls to simulate this. The boat then passes into a dark area passing a skeleton with lit up eyes into a dark room. A crow is lit up briefly, then another skeleton is lit up with wind effects blowing it around. Then a second crow watches becomes visible you as you begin to descend down the final drop.

The boat then goes down a large double drop, plummeting into a ring of fire which makes rides feel like they go straight through it before facing an inferno of longships visibly ablaze and temperatures briefly up to 110°C when fireballs are ejected.

The boat then veers around to the left into a final explosive scene where fireball explosions come scarily near the longboats before another water cannon shoots up and then the boat sails out of the building where a photograph is taken of the typically drenched riders and later available to purchase at a cost of £7.

The longship then re-enters the station where riders disembark and the use of a stand-up drying machine can be acquired at a cost of £1 for two minutes.

Reduction in effects[edit]

At its opening and during its early years of operation, Valhalla was laden with additional effects such as lightning/sparks, explosions and more fire features. These have gradually become more unreliable, removed or rotated after a decade of operation. The above ride experience description is typical of what one will experience when riding today, however effect operation is frequently rotated, for example the "fire square" is the most common effect to be out of operation.

The ride remains one of the park's most popular, particularly during the summer.

Grand National Fire[edit]

In May 2004, a fire which damaged the Grand National rollercoaster and the Alice in Wonderland dark ride was extinguished using some of Valhalla's huge water content.[8]

2011/12 Refurbishment[edit]

Valhalla was closed towards the end of the 2011 season to undergo a major refurbishment. The structure used to hold the facade had begun to decay and the old parts of the big one track used needed to be replaced. This meant a new facade had to be constructed.

The refurbishment of the facade included: Demolition of the existing facade and supports, removal of the shop, construction of a new steel support structure for the facade which was carried out by jchdraughting (who did some work in Nickelodeon Land), a new exit built, a new "fauxrock" facade and the waterfall system to be restored to its original glory.

As well has the work to the front of the building there were changes to the effects and a few minor scene changes were also made. The lightning room was completely removed and was replaced with 2 Viking skeletons, a large carved Valhalla sign and laser effects. The sound of lightning remains in this area and it is a possibility that the lightning may return in its original Teslacoil format at some point. The ride music system was also improved to ensure that it was no longer patchy and could be heard throughout the duration of the ride.

Valhalla re-opened on 5 May 2012, though the waterfall above the station remained off to allow the new facade to set. It was switched on later in the season, but there were initial problems with the waterfall bouncing off the new facade onto the roof of the station causing damage. This has led to a wall being constructed on the waterfall side of the station and a perspex sheet being added to the end of the station to stop spray coming in. Riders now get soaked in spray as they leave the station.

Ride Theme Music[edit]

The main theme music used for the ride is a soundtrack known as "Song Of The Elders" by Rhythmos. This music is played very loudly in the ride station, and at some points during the ride. It can be noted that the Valhalla music sounds different in each place around the ride - in the ride station it sounds raucous and loud whereas in some places throughout the ride is comes across as more distant and mysterious - probably to do with the positioning of the speakers. The theme music used to be patchy throughout the ride, this was improved somewhat during the 2011/2012 refurbishment but there is still room for improvement. It is believed that for the first two years of operation Valhalla didn't have theme music. This is very hard to believe when riding it today because the theme music adds a lot to the overall experience.

Other sound effects throughout the ride include Dogs Barking, Snow falling, Thunder, Screams and Odin on the first lift hill. There is also another piece of music that plays on the first lift hill, but only briefly.

High Running Cost[edit]

Despite the rides immense popularity with guests, Valhalla has become a burden on the park due to the excessive running costs and reliability. The running costs are particularly high, reaching £147,000 per month in peak season, mainly covering the cost of the special effects such as the fire and heavy usage of water recycling. Moreover, Valhalla uses one third of the whole park's power supply.

References[edit]