Following Dave Page's summer
visit to Barry Island Pleasure Park in the September 2001 Issue of
TheGalloper.com to see one of the park's newest rides, NICK LAISTER
takes a trip back in time to look at the park's biggest ever
attraction: the much missed Scenic Railway.
this site back in September, readers may remember a very harsh
assessment of Barry Island's 'down-at-heel' Pleasure Park and a
sun-bleached set of Gallopers. But wondering around this colourful
little park towards the end of the 2001 season, I couldn't help but disagree.
The park seemed well maintained,
with a nice selection of rides, from its traditional Waltzer and
Jackson toy set to the fantastic Haunted Mine dark ride. This park
seems to represent everything that is good about our seaside
There is no denying that Barry
Island the resort is well past its heyday, and it is difficult to see
what the future will be. Many shops are empty, White's Cosy Corner
amusement park has been destroyed by arson and the Butlin's holiday
camp has recently been demolished to be replaced by housing. But I
hope that the considerable care and attention to detail that the
Rogers family has invested in this park won't be the final curtain
call of this seaside town.
Looking around the park on a
sunny Saturday afternoon, as the 2001 season was drawing to a close,
I couldn't help but think what it must have been like thirty years
ago. It would have been a very different place back then. Not one
ride in the park now would have been there in 1971.
But the biggest difference would
have been that half of the park was covered by a single, massive
wooden structure. One of the biggest amusement rides ever to stand in
this country had stood at the park for over thirty years: the great Barry
Island Scenic Railway. Few people visiting back in that summer
of decimalisation could have realised that this beast was nearing the
end of its life.
This is a ride which has long fascinated me, and over the past few
years I have sought information and photographs of the machine. This
has not been easy as very little has been published on the subject of
British amusement parks and roller coasters. But I have managed to
piece together the history of this ride from a number of sources, and
this will form part of a forthcoming book on the history of British
Installed in the park in late
1939 by park owner and legendary showman, Pat Collins, the Barry
Island Scenic Railway was one of the last to be built in the United
Kingdom. The ride had been constructed at a cost of £150,000 by
John Collins (Pat Collins' son) for his 1938 Empire Exhibition in
Glasgow, where it had formed part of Billy Butlin's amusement park.
It was a copy of Collins' 1932
Great Yarmouth Scenic Railway. According to the book Roller Coasters,
Their Amazing History, by Robert Preedy, the ride was taken to Leige
in 1939 for the International Water Exhibition, but was rapidly
dismantled following the outbreak of war and rushed over to Collins'
Barry Island Pleasure Park.
The ride opened in March 1940 and
was an instant success. At a mile long, and with a first drop of 72
feet, it was one of the biggest wooden roller coasters in the
country, and ran virtually the full length of the park. For added
effect, and in common with many other Scenics, the ride's wooden
structure was covered in scenery giving the effect of a mountainous
landscape. This scenery, which was turquoise in colour, remained
intact until the ride's demolition.
By 1966 the park was under the
control of Pat Collins' nephews, Pat and John. They purchased the
freehold of the park in 1969 and the Scenic Railway was still very
much the central attraction. Unfortunately, the ride was severely
damaged by a gale in 1973 making its repair uneconomical. The ride
had to be demolished. The great giant was bulldozed, and one of the
country's last surviving Scenic Railways was gone.
The ride wasn't truly replaced
until 1980, when the present Log Flume was constructed, but the wood
from the structure was used to construct the Wacky Goldmine (now the
Haunted Mine) and formed part of the Log Flume's structure. Both
rides still run to this day, but the future of the Haunted Mine is
now uncertain. A park employee told me that the ride is to be
demolished to make way for new attractions.
The ride experience, however, is
not lost. The Scenic Railway at Great Yarmouth is an identical ride
and can still be enjoyed to this day, one of only two surviving
scenics in the country (the other is at Margate).