What is: The Big One – Blackpool Pleasure Beach

By | March 4, 2020

The Big One is a steel roller coaster, located
at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, in Lancashire, UK. The ride originally opened to the public as
the world’s tallest roller coaster, standing 213 ft. 64.9 m high. But it’s a lot more than just a record breaker. Join myself and Blackpool Pleasure Beach aficionado Scott of Pleasure Beach experience, as we discuss the complex history of the Big One,
which all starts with a single man: Geoffrey Thompson became the managing director
of Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1976, inheriting the position from his father, Leonard Thompson. Geoffrey was determined to continue his late
father’s legacy. He, and those before him, had developed the
park from its opening in 1896 to become a global leader in amusements. From day one, Geoffrey was looking to find
new and exciting attractions to bring to the pleasure beach. He built Steeplechase, a unique three tracked
racing roller coaster in 1977; Revolution, Europe’s first modern-day roller coaster
with a vertical loop, in 1979; and Avalanche, the UK’s first and only bobsled coaster,
in 1988. But by the early 1990s, Geoffrey was looking
for something huge. Coincidentally, hundreds of miles from the
sea-side town of Blackpool, a new record breaking roller coaster was being built. Years prior, Cedar Point, an upcoming amusement
park in the USA, were also looking for their next big ride. After many proposals, the American park, along
with famous amusements manufacturer, Arrow Dynamics, constructed Magnum XL-200 – the
world’s first roller coaster to break the 200ft (61m) height barrier. Dubbed a hyper coaster, the ride was unlike
most of its time. Magnum emphasized two key characteristics,
height and speed. It featured steep drops and large hills, giving guests the sensation of weightlessness during the layout. Cedar Point opened Magnum XL-200 in May of
1989, and just over a year later, Geoffrey Thompson was ready to experience it. After only a single ride, he knew he wanted
one at the Pleasure Beach. Apparently, the experience was so good he
called Arrow Dynamics straight after – quite simply he wanted Magnum, but bigger. Geoffrey Thompson craved another record breaking
roller coaster, another Magnum XL-200. Construction of his newest ride began in 1992
with initial groundwork and foundations. However, from the beginning, the park’s
biggest project at that time had issues. Because Blackpool Pleasure Beach is built
on sand, sturdy foundations had to be created, which sometimes required digging as deep as
14m (45ft) down. The design of the ride itself was being led
by Ron Toomer, a well established roller coaster designer at the time. Ron, along with the rest of Arrow Dynamics
worked with Allott & Lomax to create the ride’s layout and produce working drawings. Normally, Arrow’s track was fabricated at
the company’s factory in Utah. However, due to the sheer size and scale of
Blackpool’s new ride, the plans were sent to Watson Steel in Bolton, a company that
also did steel work for The Revolution at the Pleasure Beach decades earlier. From there, the majority of the steel work
for both the track and supports took place. Sections of the coaster were also fabricated
in Southampton and Scotland. Though, doing this proved difficult. Due to the immense scale of the ride, recreating
Magnum XL-200, without Arrow fabricating their own track, was always going to be a big ask. And Ultimately, this proved to be an impossible
task. Magnum’s airtime hills were built mostly
in a straight line, following a tight, but long footprint. This couldn’t be done at the Pleasure Beach. Their new coaster had to weave in and out
of the existing attractions at the park, which reduced the space for consecutive airtime
hills. Once the track had been fabricated it was then transported to Blackpool Airport, where it was initially stored. There was little space at the Pleasure Beach,
so track sections were moved to the Blackpool promenade, opposite the construction site,
if and when they were required. On top of this, parts of the support structure
were assembled at the airport, before being transported to the park and lifted into position. Another issue that arose during construction,
was the fact that the footprint of the new roller coaster was surrounded by a whole host
of other attractions. This meant that access to the construction
site was limited whilst other rides were in operation. As a result, the majority of vertical construction
took place from November of 1993 onwards, whilst the Pleasure Beach was closed to the
public. Initially set to cost roughly 5 Million Pounds,
the complexity of the build had inflated the price tag to 12 Million by the time of its
completion. Shortly before the big debut, the park announced
a 5 year sponsorship deal with Pepsi, worth £1 Million. It was after this that the ride’s original
name, The Pepsi Max Big One, was announced. As part of the sponsorship, a tunnel was placed
on the pre-lift section of the ride, which took the appearance of 2 large Pepsi Max cans. Though the Pepsi branding was dropped from
the roller coasters name in 2011, being known from then on as ‘The Big One’, the Pepsi
can has remained present to this day, even being updated by the park to match Pepsi’s
current branding. After roughly 2 years of construction, 12
million pounds, and lots of challenges faced; the Pepsi Max Big One opened to guests on
the 28th of May 1994. Fortunately, it was a massive hit. People traveled from all over the country
to experience the world’s tallest roller coaster – causing a massive increase in attendance
compared to the previous year. But the Big One wasn’t the only new roller
coaster to debut in the UK in 1994. Alton Towers’ B&M inverted coaster, Nemesis,
opened to guests on the 19th of March, followed by Shockwave at Drayton Manor, a stand-up
coaster from Intamin, only a week later. All three rides were unique within the United
Kingdom – the Big One was the country’s first hyper coaster, Nemesis became Europe’s
first inverted coaster, while Shockwave became the UK’s first stand-up coaster! The new additions were so impressive that
1994 became known as ‘The Year of the Roller Coaster’ within theme park circles. Even after the Big One’s successful opening
in 1994, more problems were on the horizon. Following the 1996 season, work began to change
the profiling and structure. The snappiness of the first drop was altered
to improve rider comfort and reduce wear and tear on the trains; while the turnaround section
also saw modifications. The entire turn was modified, allowing for
riders to pass through it at a greater speed, reducing the likelihood the trains wouldn’t
make it round the bend. In doing this, the Pleasure Beach also increased
the wind speed the Big One was able to operate in. With that being said, what is a ride on the
Big One like today? After passing through the entrance sign, guests
navigate the rides’ queue line, up towards the station building. A few switchbacks later, riders come face
to face with one of the attractions three trains. The vehicles feature five cars, each of which
seats visitors in three rows of two. This leads to a total of 30 riders per train. Once boarded, guests fasten their seat belt
and pull down the lap bar restraint. At this point, the train slowly rolls out
of the station building, completing a long downward right hand turn in the process. Riders pass through the Pepsi Max cans and
engage the lift hill. Here they begin to climb 64.9 m (213 ft.)
high. Though this is the Big One’s height from
the ground below, the Pleasure Beach are keen to say their tallest ride measures 72m (235ft)
high; a measurement made from sea level. After a long steady climb, the trains crest
the top of the 62.5m (205ft drop), giving visitors fantastic views of the Irish sea. But, you don’t have long to savour the view. The train suddenly whips to the right and
dives towards the ground. Guests plummet down the curved first drop,
reaching the maximum vertical angle of 65 degrees in the process. At this point, they reach the top speed of
119kmh (74mph). The trains then begin their first climb, along
the front of the park. Guests traverse the apex of the large triangular
hill, before speeding back towards the ground, and entering the rides large turnaround section. Here, the trains complete a beyond 180 degree
turn, above the main entrance plaza of the pleasure beach itself. The train then begins its return journey,
passing underneath previously navigated track, and ascending an off-axis hill. Guests then dive down past Infusion, complete
another off-axis hill, and pass through the support structure of the lift hill. A third off-axis hill later and the train
ascends into the mid-course brake run. From this, visitors complete a 360 degree
downward helix, traverse over a small hill, and punch through the supports of one of the
parks wooden coasters, Nickelodeon Streak. A left hand dive towards the ground sees riders
pass through a short tunnel, all before they climb into the final brake run. During the entire 80 second ride experience,
measured from lift hill to final brake run, the trains complete 1,657 m (5,497 ft.) of
track. And, as they do so, riders interact with a
whole host of other attractions at the park. To house the Big One, the Pleasure Beach made
changes to both the Big Dipper and RollerCoaster, now Nickelodeon Streak, so that it could pass
through both of their structures. More recently, Icon, the park’s multi-launch
coaster, was built through a section of its lift hill. Though the Big One did open as the world’s
tallest complete circuit roller coaster, its record was quickly taken by another ride. In July of 1996, Fujiyama, a steel hyper coaster
standing 79m (259ft) tall debuted to the public. Fujiyama was not only taller than the Big
One, but also faster, and longer. From this, the roller coaster wars had truly
begun. Magnum XL-200, and the Big One in return,
sparked the beginning of a battle which saw amusement parks fight to construct the world’s
tallest roller coasters. Cedar Point were determined to hold onto their
record, creating Millennium Force, a 94m (300ft) tall ride in 2000, followed by Top Thrill
Dragster, a 130m (420ft) tall coaster in 2003. Even though Blackpool didn’t retain their
world record breaking status, they did have plans to debut another record breaking roller
coaster. The so-called Bigger One, a ride which would
become the world’s tallest, was allegedly meant to open in the mid 2000’s. Sadly, the plans were shelved, allowing for
the Big One to remain the UK’s tallest roller coaster even after 26 years. Less than a decade after the debut of the
Big One, Arrow Dynamics went bankrupt. As amusements technology has advanced, more
of their rides are being removed around the globe. Fortunately, the future of the UK’s tallest
roller coaster is bright. Recently, the park began to re-track original
sections of the ride in a process that will continue over the next couple of years. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is keen to sustain
the life and history of the Big One – a history we’ve barely touched within this video. If you’re interested in learning how the ride sparked the debut of an official Pleasure Beach club, or how it has different wheels
for different weather; watch our other ‘fact file’ video over on the
Pleasure Beach Experience channel. Simply click the video on screen now! Thank you for watching, and we’ll see you
all next time.

66 thoughts on “What is: The Big One – Blackpool Pleasure Beach

  1. Theme Park Giraffe Post author

    Great video! Really want to go to Blackpool one day!

  2. HydroPenguin Post author

    So cool to see a collab on a What Is video!

  3. Danielle Dewitt Post author

    It’s 235 feet high actually. Only clueless people think it’s 213 ft.

  4. Luca 2512 Post author

    I Love the Big One Soundtrack in the background 👌

  5. Eric Thomason Post author

    If I learned one thing in this video, it’s that his name is spelled GEOFFREY Thompson, not JEFFREY Thompson.

  6. Edward Isom Post author

    Isn’t it weird that pleasure beach experience uploaded a big one video the exact same time as coaster bot

  7. Fenris Ulf Post author

    I have a funny picture from this ride from years ago. I’m there with my mouth wide open and my friend at the time is just sitting there next to me, arms folded. Like has the ride started yet?

  8. Jay Likes coasters Post author

    I think you linked the wrong video. for me it said untamed at walibi Holland.

  9. Pluto Post author

    8:14 the guy on the back row got punched over the drop there! wow XD

  10. NovaScienceNever Post author

    great collaboration! kinda wish there was footage or images of the original profiling on big one in this video, especially that first drop.

  11. Matthew Robertson Post author

    The park has extended the boarding aisles (to hold more guests) and added a front row queue. Should definitely help capacity! 🙂

  12. Juvenal Lombera Post author

    The only time I rode this was when I rode an amutec kiddie coaster in Newark California and not Lancashire UK lol.

  13. An Idiot With Internet Post author

    Can you do a What is: Bizzaro/Medusa? First B&M Floorless Harry.

  14. Yab0i_ Christian Post author

    U should do a what is jokers jinx at six flags america 🙂

  15. Max S. Post author

    No mention of the train having working headlights?
    That must be rather rare (also, how're they turned on and off?)

  16. J O'H Post author

    Next do "What Is: Love" at Haddaway Park in Germany.

  17. Dougie O’Hanlon Post author

    8:34 gotta love those Geoffrey Triangles

  18. Bryan Gintora Post author

    Everytime I hear Big One I think of Big One from JAKQ Dengekitai

  19. Airtime_Tom Post author

    Great content, keep up the amazing work !!!

  20. MaddAddaM Post author

    How about we make Magnum but instead of any of the sharp turns and steep hills we just make every hill a really boring shape providing zero thrills after the first drop. The Big One is a fun ride the first go round and the first drop is always breathtaking, but the other like, 4 minutes, of ride time is just not particularly interesting.

  21. 0z3r0 Post author

    Ain't Dreamcatcher at Bobbejaanland an older (1987) inverted coaster than Nemesis

  22. Coaster Mission Post author

    this ride started me off as a coaster enthusiast 😄

  23. Bishop Vick Post author

    I love all roller coasters but I still find the Big One intimidating!

  24. Coaster Fusion Post author

    “It had a good drop but the rest is just a monorail!”

    Taylor Bybee, 2018

  25. Christian Moss Post author

    Best roller coaster in the UK for me. With nemesis, grand national and the ultimate close behind. Even on a wet cold and windy day it's still good. But riding this in the back carriage on a warm windless day is just fantastic. It's got a fantastic drop, decent floater airtime and hits some high Gs at the bottom of them hills. I hope they continue to retrack it

  26. Kenepo4u Post author

    I would like to see you do more What Is videos with other guest YouTubers such as Expedition Theme Park and Airtime Thrills.

  27. L00PdeL00P Post author

    And it still holds a record; the longest time spent on a rollercoaster!

  28. Tony Kim Post author

    Did S&S provide that new track? Because I know that S&S have many of the Arrow plans after Arrow Dynamics went bankrupt, so I'm assuming that is how they were able to retrack the ride :O

  29. ScrewyLoops Post author

    Cracking video lads! What a classic ❤️

  30. Phantom Coasters Post author

    So Harry, the Biscuit Bot channel tells me there’s more quality content to come on there, but all we have is an introduction. Please fix this problem or I will he force to give you a bad Yelp! review. Thank you.

  31. The United Flight Post author

    My answer to the video title: A big One. Oh boy! That's a big one!

  32. jack taylor Post author

    Where can I see the no limits video of the the bigger one? I am really Keen to know about this ride that Never was. Great video btw to both of you

  33. BroadwayBlueShirts Post author

    I'm glad they are retracking it and have no plans to take it down, gotta keep some of these older coasters going. Nice video!

  34. Kyle Koster Post author

    Actually moon salt scramble at Fuji Q Highlands was the first to break 200 feet

  35. Kyle Koster Post author

    Superman the escape Opened in 1999 and that was taller than millennium force

  36. Kyle Koster Post author

    But topsail dragster was actually The tallest when it opens

  37. Danny Jackson Post author

    First drops okay other than that I don't see any reason to ride it tbh

  38. Elias Hansen Post author

    0:25 Why does that transition actually look really well done? …

  39. Bricklaying With Steve and Alex Post author

    Nice ones boys , love the what is videos 👌🏼🧱👍🏽

  40. larazzomarkie Post author

    3:04 original blueprint without the helix? If so, without the midcourse break run?

  41. Wayne Walker Post author

    Nice video and collab. Glad to see you're branching out Scott. Keep up the good work. 👍

  42. Papa Lazarou Post author

    If you bring your children on weekends make sure Thay stay well away from the sand castle .

  43. Wulla Balloo Post author

    That support structure it passes under at 9:05 must be too low, it's taken out all the riders, just an empty carriage comes out of the other end.

  44. Chris Short Post author

    This is an awesome collab guys, great work as always

  45. john castro Post author

    Besides the tall lift hill it seems to be just a speed coaster with a boring layout.


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