The Telegraph this week paid homage to the Corkscrew – Alton Towers’ oldest and Britain’s first ever major roller coaster.
Since opening 34 years ago and being closed six years ago, the Corkscrew will forever be remembered as the start of the roller coasters to come.
Marked the “tyrannosaurus rex” amongst all the rides at Alton Towers, the Corkscrew garnered considerable attention by visitors, the media and theme park competitors alike when it opened to the public in 1980. Situated in the park’s Dark Forest section (now home to speed-busting Rita and the creepy Th13rteen), the Corkscrew wowed and impressed its riders by featuring two inversions and a drop of 21 metres.
This is now pretty tame when compared to its present day successors, the most recent of which is The Smiler, which sets the world record of 12 inversions. Meanwhile, Kingda Ka, the world’s highest roller coaster based at US theme park Six Flags Great Adventure, offers a drop of 127 metres.
The Corkscrew also hit a speed of 65mph – positively relaxed compared to today’s speeds of up to 150mph.
Among the first to ride the Corkscrew in its hey-day was TV celebrity Anne Diamond, who described it as “the most terrifying 104 seconds” she’d ever spent.
Alan Brown, former manager of Alton Towers, described the building of the Corkscrew when speaking with The Telegraph.
In 1979, we managed to persuade some financiers in Germany to finance the installation of the Corkscrew.”
We started work to prepare the site for it three days before Christmas. We had Christmas Day off, but we worked on Boxing Day and worked all the way through and got it ready for opening just before Easter.”
The Corkscrew begins by taking its riders slowly to a height of around 85 feet, before they are let to plummet at around 65mph.
This first drop is then followed by the double ‘corkscrew’, which twice takes the riders through 360 degrees.
On the bank holiday after its opening, Alton Towers was forced to close its gates for fear of overcrowding, according to Alan Brown. The word of the Corkscrew was so widespread that the park wasn’t prepared to handle the crowds that flocked from afar to ride the great behemoth.
Les Davies, a former activist of Alton Towers, claims that some days there would be queues between six and nine hours long, of people longing to ride the country’s most talked-about roller coaster. He also reported long major road blockages in the drive leading up to the park.