The Big Dipper is an out and back roller coaster in Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and today it celebrates 90 years of operation. It remains one of the most popular roller coasters in the seaside amusement park and in the United Kingdom. It also is the oldest operating roller coaster in the United Kingdom.
Before the Big Dipper was built the site was used by one of Blackpool’s earliest rides, the Switchback Railway. However, the ride would be demolished to make way for a much bigger ride; The Big Dipper. The Big Dipper was manufactured by William Strickler and it was designed by John A. Miller. The ride would open on the 23rd of August 1923 and this roller coaster would be surrounded by a Boating Lake and the Pleasure Beach Express. Today, it is surrounded by a host of rides including the Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster; Infusion along with the Pleasure Beach Express, which still goes around the bottom of the Big Dipper structure.
The original Big Dipper is different to what we have operating today, as the original Miller Big Dipper had an “L” shaped layout, which turned left after the second drop and followed what was then the boundary of the park, roughly along the line where the Big One’s lift now stands. From here it performed a large turnaround in the area now occupied by the Space Invader before returning to the station along the same route. This all changed in 1936, when The Big Dipper was extended by Charlie Paige and Joe Emberton; adding arches over the south entrance of the park and additional drops. The change in the Big Dipper’s layout was for them to incorporate more rides and future developments like Steeplechase and The Big One, in which Big Dipper still dips and drops under, over and around the Arrow Dynamic’s duo (Steeplechase & The Big One).
What you might not know about The Big Dipper?
- The ride has been sponsored in the past by Duerr’s Dips, and it had a number of red and white “Duerr’s Dips” inspired train up until 2009.
- The ride once had a Carousel in the middle of the station’s structure.
- In August 1998, Richard Rodriguez set a world record by riding the Big Dipper for over 1000 hours. Which he later broke 2 years later with Rodriquez spending 2000 hours on the Big Dipper in 2000. There is a plaque commemorating this event in the ride’s station.
- The top piece on The Big Dipper (on the first turnaround) is known as The Onion.
- During Infusion’s construction – Some of the Big Red letter’s which are stuck on the coaster’s structure were removed causing the letter’s to spell out “IG DIPPER” for a while from 2006 to 2007. It was quite funny to see the B missing at the time.
Unfortunately, The Big Dipper has seen a series of incidents during its life, and these include the roller coaster suffering a fire which burnt down the last parts of Miller’s Big Dipper, along with destroying the Joseph Emberton designed Station. But work was done to refurbish and re-build, and it operated incident free until August 11th 2009, in which the ride crashed in the return leg of the ride. It was reported on numerous news sites that two trains, carrying a total of 32 guests, collided. This resulted in 21 guests requiring treatment at a nearby hospital for injuries ranging from whiplash and broken noses, to cuts and bruises.
But like the 2004 fire to the Grand National station, BPB had the power to re-build better than ever and this came with a much needed refurbishment to the ride’s station and the ride’s track from August 2009 to February 2010. On February 13, 2010, the ride re-opened to the public following the £500,000 upgrade with a stylish new station along with refurbished Blue trains and a “Onion” inspired fountain. However in June 2010, the ride would derail in the same place that it crashed. However, no injuries occurred and BPB worked well to get it back into operation from then to this present day.
My own review is that The Big Dipper is still an excellent wooden roller coaster, which still is one of my favourite roller coasters out there. Today, The Big Dipper is 90, and is still as popular with today’s generation, and hopefully it will last long enough to thrill generations for many years to come.
The Big Dipper at Night
The reason for this post is that The Big Dipper is 90 years old today, and Tonight it is a time to celebrate The Big Dipper’s 90th birthday with Blackpool Pleasure Beach. As the world famous “woodie” reaches the magical milestone the park is holding an exclusive birthday party for the roller coaster from 8pm to 11pm, with two packages available with one being for riders which includes the meal package and the cake cutting ceremony (£18) and one for non-riders (£10) which just includes the meal package and the cake cutting ceremony. This exclusive event also have three additional rides open and they are Infusion, the Grand Prix and Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic.
Happy 90th Birthday, Big Dipper from all of us here at Airgates Attraction News.
All Images copyright Airgates. Please use only with attribution.