Blackpool Big Dipper
September 19, 2011 at 10:10 pm
At the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool you will find the Big Dipper rollercoaster. The outline of which has been part of the skyline since it was built in 1923. The Big Dipper has inspired some crazy feats, including the determination of one Richard Rodriguez to ride the rollercoaster for 1,000 hours. He got the world record for that one. The Blackpool Big Dipper was designed by John Miller, an American, who is considered the master of rollercoaster design, and still has ten working coasters in existence across the world. He is particularly noted for his invention of the upstop wheels, which allows people to get on and off safely and for the rides to be paused if there is a technical hitch somewhere. Originally, the ride was managed by a gypsy family, long before Pleasure Beach was commercialised. The ride was extremely popular, as Britons had never seen anything like it before, nor experienced the thrill of the double dip feature, which now forms part of the appeal of the neighbouring Grand National ride. The ride was almost set for demolition when the Pleasure beach was sold to the Thompson family. To their credit, they chose not to do this, but to extend and enhance the ride, maintaining the nostalgic history associated with designer John Miller. They employed the expertise of Charles Paige, who was designing the new Grand National ride, to update the dipper. From the opening of the new modernist, stylised Big Dipper in 1936 until fire closed it down in 1953, the ride experienced remarkable popularity. There is something special about the way Blackpool locals seek always to include heritage in their attractions, while offering the very latest entertainment and pleasure rides. Repaired and ready to roar again, The Blackpool Big Dipper has continued to thrill visitors since the 1950s. It is interesting to note that the term ‘big dipper’ has become a generic expression for all rollercoasters, yet when John Miller gave his coasters their names, the term was not a general reference. The Big Dipper earned that title, as Miller’s upstop wheels, which allowed much sharper drops and dips, became the most important aspect for all future rollercoaster designs. Unfortunately, there were two accidents where people required hospitalisation in 2009 and 2010. The Big Dipper received a £500,000 refurbishment in 2010 to address the technical issues. The Blackpool Big Dipper is now back in business, and well worth a visit.