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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Europe Coasters, Parks & Attractions > Alton Towers behind the scenes tour review part 1

Alton Towers behind the scenes tour review part 1

Posted: 10/3/07 at 10:46:09 AM
Views: 1821

Right .. I thought I would finally do a trip report of my behind the scenes tour of Alton Towers. There were three other people in my family who attended the tour and that was my dad, brother and brother’s girlfriend. Be aware, this report will be very very long … ill try and add photos if I can, but it might have to be afterwards.

Be aware this review does include a lot of spoilers, so if you are planning on going on this tour or you don’t want to lose the experience please don’t read further. If not, lets get cracking!!

We woke up at 4.15 Saturday morning at my brothers house ready for a 3 hour car drive to the park. We finally left the house at 5.15 and made our nastily long journey.

To cut a long car journey short, we arrived at the park at 7.30 ready for the 8.00 start. We made up some awesome time on the motorways!! By about 7.55 all of the other fellow tour people arrived and so did our tour guide. I will not mention his name because 1) I can’t remember it and 2) he did hint at some information which I’m sure he wasn’t allowed to express in detail and so I’m going to cover his back.

Anyway, he greeted us and took us into the plan your day mobile situated at the front gate. Inside were a checklist, coffee or tea, and a plate full of crème eggs. After enjoying a little treat someone said to him “are we allowed to take a box”. He said this as I gazed over into the corner and saw a 10 by 10 by 10 cube of boxes of crème eggs. (Apparently they are left over from Easter and now they’ve got nowhere to put them) He kindly said yes, so we helped ourselves to 3 boxes of crème eggs between the 4 of us. Giving us in total, 146 eggs, in fact I’m actually munching on one now as I write this. Lol

Anyway, now on with the tour.

We walked into the park through the metal gates and gazed down the central picture perfect view of the towers. On the hill just before the grass picnic area was a hearse with large comic Halloween characters hanging out of the windows. It was an advertisement for the new Halloween event which is designed to be fun for the kids now as well. Can you actually believe that they had to get planning permission to put that car on the hill just for that small amount of time? They had to do this because the view of the towers from the main gate is a grade A listed view. So they are physically not allowed to build a structure anywhere near that front entrance or near the front of the towers.
What he first pointed out was a series of what seemed to be lights on either side of the walkway. These aren’t actually lights, they are sensors to trigger the wristwatch that people wear when they purchase a yourday DVD souvenir.

The first tour of the day was inside of hex. So we walked around the lake past Spinball Whizzer near X-Sector where there was a very dark tunnel situated in the rock. Apparently it is used as one of the walks for the “Terror of the Towers” and I have got to say, it has a brilliant atmosphere for a Halloween event. It’s quite a long tunnel but you can see the end. Once you get inside though, you literally can’t see a thing. Spooky stuff.

We walked round the edge of the towers and found a giant green cast iron shed. He turned to us and said “here’s hex for you”. We were all amazed. I swore the ride was in the towers, but it actually isn’t. We walked through one of the side entrances of the shed into a cramped control booth with a window overlooking the giant circular drum. They started the ride several times with the sound effects on and off and you can definitely tell the difference. Without the sound effects, it just looks crap. It’s quite noisy when its actually rotating. The barrel can only do one and a half rotations because if not the cables will be under too much tension and would break. He explained to us how the seats tilt to a maximum of 15 degrees which seems very small in comparison to what you actually feel. We walked inside the vault and he played the music for us to see what its like without it spinning. It’s quite impressive. When then walked out and had a look at the huge arm that holds and swings the seats. A lot of hydraulics in the ride.

We then walked back through the whole ride in reverse but with the lights on. It doesn’t look as impressive with the lights on. We saw the transition between being inside the towers and being in the huge green shed. When you walk through the bookcase that is when you know you are now in the shed. That shows you how much themeing can trick the mind. He then showed us how the projectors and doors work in precise motion with one another which involves a hell of a lot of computer technology. The most expensive part about this ride was actually renovating the octagon for the pre-show. What is also quite cool is the window from which the ghost appears. Its actually just pained on, but the positioning of the lights fools us into thinking it just suddenly appears once the doors are closed.

We then exited the ride through one of the fire exits and we found ourselves round the back of the Peugeot 206 driving school. This ride is actually very well themed and I was quite impressed with it. We walked into one of the maintenance sheds nearby and found all the Peugeot 206 cars parked up and being charged. So we all decided to sit in the kiddy sized cars and have a picture taken.

Next stop after this was oblivion. We arrived at oblivion in good timing because they were then moving the cars from the maintenance shed to the transfer track to be put on the track. Testing then began whilst we looked around the shed. The shed doesn’t actually have a track in it. The cars pass along tyres to be pushed along and tiny wheels on the very edge of the cars run along a much smaller track. Every train was running bar one. This one had been stripped of its wheels and mechanical parts for refurbishment.
We then walked downstairs to walk underneath one of these glorious cars. It looked like nothing was there, which was because they had stripped it clean. He introduced us to some sensors that you don’t notice when you are on the ride which was interesting to see.
We then headed down yet another level to go into the workshop where all the spare wheels, anti rollbacks, and restraints lay. It was quite interesting to see the parts by themselves.
He then started flooding out some interesting facts which was something new I learned. When people say they were stuck on the very edge of the drop is a complete myth. The only place where it stops is about 2 metres before the edge where there are still gangways on either side of the track. It will only stop there if some car has failed to make it past the block brakes. The fact that they wouldn’t stop on the chain dog overlooking the edge is because it physically never stops!! When it “stops” at the edge of the drop, it is actually only moving very slowly. When we looked at that afterwards, we found that he was entirely right.

After this we made our way into the black hole tent. What a rubbish dump!! Lol The place is littered with track and control boxes and possibly the worst bit of theming I’ve ever seen. (You’ll realise when you see the picture) This would be a great opportunity to ask him some big questions he can’t really explain. Before we did that though, we got to take some pictures. The lift hill is still erect but without the track on it. The entire track has been checked for breakages and has been re-welded where needed, but they haven’t got rid of it because there has been problems trying to ship it to the park in south America who bought it off them. They removed the ride from the park because financially it was a nightmare. It constantly needed fix’s everyday, in fact a welder would actually have to weld something in the morning before the ride opened because they thought it was falling apart.

Here came the questions, we asked him if they had any replacements for the ride. His response was (by the way this is from memory so in someway it may have been altered) “ We were so close to actually putting a new coaster in it next year, and when I say close I mean very very close, however something cropped up and we had to abandon it for the mean time”
Then we said,
“what was this coaster then”
He responded
“umm , I can’t actually say anything about it, the only thing you have to bare in mind when putting something in here is the lift hill. Because the tent is awkwardly shaped a straight lift hill up is very hard to get any height out of. Therefore we have looked into unique looking lift hills to enable us to actually fit something in here (eurofighter anyone!!!), the ride was also meant to be an interactive ride, but I can’t go into anymore details at this point. However we have had ideas to also put Spinball in here because nobody likes it where it is now, but that would mean extending part of the tent”
Someone else then asked:
“So what are you going to use it for next year”
He then said:
“As far as I’m aware, nothing at the minute. We definitely aren’t going to get rid of the tent because we recently invested in lining the tent with a better blacker coat. I mean it could become a temporary amusements whilst we think of something. But I’m not sure”

After this we headed out and saw a huge line of people waiting outside the entrance of oblivion. The line literally went out of x-sector and curled around towards spinball. He then looked at us and said “do you lot want to piss these people off and be the first to ride it in the day?”
So when then strutted through the queue to the exit of the ride and waited before we could board. He then came out and informed us that oblivion has in fact momentarily broken down. So we decided to move on.

From here we then walked around the towers again to meet a new guy who controls rita. On the way to Rita, the tour guide also mentioned of a new ride that is kind of underdevelopment in the towers. If it goes ahead … who knows!! Even he didn’t know. But it was quite an interesting prospect. It was based around Qluedo the game. You walked around interactive rooms with a torch. Inside the torch was a sensor. You basically try to unveil a mystery, and when you shine your torch at a particular object, that object will interact with you and give you clues. Very interesting design, but I wouldn’t know how they would work it, especially if they had to get hundreds of people around.

Once we met the tour operator he took us towards rita. People were screaming as they launched off from the ride. We however, walked a little further down into the motor hut. Inside was a narrow room with control systems. There was also a reinforced window overlooking the huge (and I mean huge) circular motor of rita. We waited as it was about to launch. Suddenly, the motor exploded into life and al the pipes connected to the motor flapped violently in the air. The entire room started to vibrate. 2 seconds later it was silent until we could hear the car roar over our heads and it shoots round the first bend. It truly is an engineering genius that motor. Absolutely outstanding to watch and to actually feel.
The door to the motor room was bolted shut … I’ve never seen so many bolts on a door before. If you wanted to go in the motor room, you have to take out a key from a wall, but once you remove that key, the whole ride shuts down. Very clever in a safety design issue!! They do this because apparently one of the pipes burst and the whole of the motor room flooded with very think hydraulic oil.
We then walked out of the motor room and headed over to the station of rita. He was now going to take us up into the control tower in groups of 6. The first group went up and whilst they did that out tour operator had a word with the rita people and managed us to sneak straight onto the next train.
I had never been on rita before because it was shut the last time I came to Alton Towers. When looking at the launch it looked very tame. Watching it from the station however was a completely different matter. We eventually boarded the car, second from front and waited as the lights changed ready for the countdown. We need 5 red lights and then it goes green … 1…… 2……3…. Whoosh …. I did not expect that, we went way too soon. Anyway, the launch was fantastic, we hit the first bend and shoot up into the air. The first hill has some serious air time on it which surprised me again. Round the next corner and we hit another hill but not as good as the first. Swooping around the trees and over another tiny dip with some major airtime before we hit the breaks. Everyone slates this ride completely. I’ve got to say it is bloody marvellous and deserves all its recognition.
We were now the next ones to go up the control tower. The people up here were very friendly and showed us all the controls and sequences required when looking after the ride. The ride is only supposed to take 700 people an hour. Their record is 1080 people in one hour. Which goes to show that not all ride operators are lazy. Lol

Whilst we waited for the other groups to finish he handed us a priority pass which gives us one free ride on all the major attractions, which you would expect because we were wasting valuable ride time.

He then took us over to the coaster corner and showed us the remains of the old coasters. The control booth for the alton mouse was still in its original position. He said how the view to the flag tower (which was near by) is another Grade A listing and so they cant build anything there.
We then walked up the flag tower which is primarily used for telephone masts now. All the money gained from the masts go towards renovating the actual tower. We walked up the 163 steps … yes I did count them, until we reached the top. The top is just a mess of cables, metal casings and aerials which isn’t pleasant. The views from up the top are stunning thought. Great view of oblivion.

We then walked down again, walked past the tussauds studios north and headed back to the front of the towers where we would say our goodbyes ready for some coaster riding. He informed us that we had to meet again at 4.15 outside the 3D theatre ready for the rest of the tour. It was now between 10 and 11 … not entirely sure the exact time, but either way it didn’t give us much time … we had to get started!!

Right I’ll give it a rest just for a little bit now because I’m sure you’re getting a little tired of me rambling on. I will update part 2 of the tour as soon as I can.
Part 2 will include:
Ride reviews and analysis of all the rides we went on in the short time provided.
Rest of the tour which also includes,
Maintenance workshop
A lovely tea in the towers suite
A lights on tour of duel
A look closely at air and operations
And finally the greatest part of the day … the ultimate walk up the infamous nemesis lift hill.

Stay tuned … and I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.

Brad

Re: Alton Towers behind the scenes tour review part 1 by leon leon Profile at 10/3/07 1:18:27 PM

Simply fantastic information! well done!!

id love 2 go one it. how do you?

Re: Alton Towers behind the scenes tour review part 1 by brad brad Profile at 10/3/07 1:27:04 PM

Well I found out on Towers Almanac. You can however phone the ticket hotline and ask for the behind the scenes tour. There is one woman who organises it. I don't think theres any more tours left this year (maybe 1 if your lucky) but there will be plenty more next year because it was a huge hit.

I will post part 2 asap

Brad

Re: Alton Towers behind the scenes tour review part 1 by Graeme Graeme Profile at 10/4/07 9:12:08 AM

> We woke up at 4.15 Saturday morning at my brothers house
> ready for a 3 hour car drive to the park. We finally left
> the house at 5.15 and made our nastily long journey.

Only 2:15 from the Towers? Lucky you! :)

> He kindly said yes, so
> we helped ourselves to 3 boxes of crème eggs between the 4
> of us. Giving us in total, 146 eggs, in fact I’m actually
> munching on one now as I write this. Lol

LOL, that was generous!

> The first tour of the day was inside of hex. So we walked
> around the lake past Spinball Whizzer near X-Sector where
> there was a very dark tunnel situated in the rock.

Well I never. I've never seen that.

> We walked round the edge of the towers and found a giant
> green cast iron shed. He turned to us and said “here’s
> hex for you”. We were all amazed. I swore the ride was in
> the towers, but it actually isn’t.

Ah, yes!

> He explained to us
> how the seats tilt to a maximum of 15 degrees which seems
> very small in comparison to what you actually feel.

That's amazing. I would've guessed it was something like 45-degrees. Obviously not!

> The fact that they wouldn’t stop
> on the chain dog overlooking the edge is because it
> physically never stops!! When it “stops” at the edge of
> the drop, it is actually only moving very slowly. When we
> looked at that afterwards, we found that he was entirely
> right.

Ah, that's very, very interesting.

> They removed the ride from the park because
> financially it was a nightmare. It constantly needed
> fix’s everyday, in fact a welder would actually have to
> weld something in the morning before the ride opened
> because they thought it was falling apart.

Oo-er. I've seen pictures to back that up! To be honest, I'm glad they got rid of it.

> Therefore we have looked into unique looking lift hills
> to enable us to actually fit something in here (eurofighter
> anyone!!!), the ride was also meant to be an interactive
> ride, but I can’t go into anymore details at this point.

Hmm, I think I've said before, but the only type of interaction on a fast-moving coaster I can think of is choosing your soundtrack.

> “As far as I’m aware, nothing at the minute. We
> definitely aren’t going to get rid of the tent because we
> recently invested in lining the tent with a better blacker
> coat. I mean it could become a temporary amusements whilst
> we think of something. But I’m not sure”

Hmm, it's a bit of a shame if any new ride has to stay entirely within the tent.

> It was based around Qluedo the game.
> You walked around interactive rooms with a torch. Inside
> the torch was a sensor. You basically try to unveil a
> mystery, and when you shine your torch at a particular
> object, that object will interact with you and give you
> clues. Very interesting design, but I wouldn’t know how
> they would work it, especially if they had to get hundreds
> of people around.

Interesting.

> The door to the motor room was bolted shut … I’ve never
> seen so many bolts on a door before. If you wanted to go in
> the motor room, you have to take out a key from a wall, but
> once you remove that key, the whole ride shuts down. Very
> clever in a safety design issue!!

Yes indeed.

> He then took us over to the coaster corner and showed us
> the remains of the old coasters. The control booth for the
> alton mouse was still in its original position. He said how
> the view to the flag tower (which was near by) is another
> Grade A listing and so they cant build anything there.

Interesting to know. Never heard that before.

> Stay tuned … and I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.

Yes, it was fascinating. Absolutely brilliant!

Re: Alton Towers behind the scenes tour review part 1 by brad brad Profile at 10/4/07 10:23:35 AM

>Only 2:15 from the Towers? Lucky you! :)

Well i actually live in norwich near the dinosuar adventure park. It's just that we went over to my brothers house the night before because he lived near Ely which is in cambridgeshire. Im Norfolk born and bred!! lol