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100 Years Of Fun: A Look Back on Big Dipper’s Legacy

As Big Dipper celebrates her centenary, it’s important we are reminded of her heritage. 

The Victorian era saw a boom within the pleasure and leisure industry, and a plethora of new wave entertainment activities began to crop up everywhere, and Blackpool was no stranger to the enlightenment, with the coastline and sandy shores attracting holiday-goers from the length and breadth of the country.

With the desire for entertainment in mind, relocated Londoner William George Bean set up Hotchkiss Bicycle Railroad on the sand dunes at South Shore in 1896. Inspired by his time in Coney Island, he started to build his empire of seaside entertainment, which quickly became an epicentre of pleasure.

As its popularity grew, the Lancashire amusement park attracted visitors from every corner of the country; thrillseekers from near and far flocked to the North West in the hope of residing on the sunny shores for the holiday season with the exciting opportunity of on boarding some of the country’s most pioneering engineering wonders.

By 1923, Blackpool Pleasure Beach was an established amusement park, with a number of exciting rides and attractions including the newly opened Big Dipper. Devised and constructed by William H Strickler and John A Miller, the wooden rollercoaster is oriented north-to-south, rises to a height of 65 feet and spans 3,300 feet in length, with one cycle of the ride taking approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds. In 1934, Big Dipper was reconstructed by American Engineer Charles Paige, which saw the extension of the track. The ride roughly transports 672 riders an hour and reaches a maximum speed of 56kmph

Blackpool Pleasure Beach had entered its golden age by the 1930s , and by this time Big Dipper was a famous structure in the park, sitting alongside some other notable favourites such as Sir Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machines, River Caves and Noah’s Ark.

But what makes this particular coaster so special and appealing? Aside from the rollercoaster’s iconic onion at its peak, it operates on two lift hills and one simultaneous chain, which is a unique mechanism. Big Dipper holds the title as one of Britain’s oldest in use rollercoasters and is one of the oldest rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach – it is still regarded as one of the best in the world. Its iconic status has seen millions of people step aboard the famous trains which take guests on a white-knuckle ride to the top of its summit, an adrenalin-filled journey not short of big drops and exhilarating turns before returning to the station.

Although Big Dipper is rich with history in her own right, the coaster has also been an observer to some significant moments in time. The Second World War put a temporary halt to progress at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. However, during these challenging times the park remained open enabling thousands of evacuees, service personnel and the British public to escape the reality of war. After also surviving a fire some years later in 1975, Big Dipper is a wooden history book, frozen in time, and a stark yet endearing reminder of what life was once like.

As she is celebrating her 100th year of service, Big Dipper has seen some notable achievements throughout the years. The park is host to many records, and the Big Dipper stands amongst them, including the largest collection of wooden rollercoasters of any park in the UK with four: the Big Dipper, Blue Flyer, Grand National and Nickelodeon Streak.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach also offers an experience named ‘Walk the Woodie’, in which members of the public are given the opportunity to get buckled up to the iconic ride and walk along its wooden structure.

In celebration of her birthday, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is hosting a glamourous party. Guests will receive a commemorative birthday party ticket, certificate and voucher for a free glass of prosecco and cupcake, and of course, they will have the opportunity to ride the coaster on her special day.

It’s safe to say that Blackpool Pleasure Beach has always been at the forefront of entertainment and attractions, paving the way in all things rollercoaster technology and development. Built up by the legacy of theme park visionaries who were way ahead of their time, Blackpool Pleasure Beach now plays home to some of the world’s most unique rides including newly reimagined Valhalla, the iconic Big One which is the UK’s tallest rollercoaster, Grand National, the UK’s only Nickelodeon Land and the park’s newest addition, ICON – and that’s just to name a few.

Today, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is globally recognised as one of the world’s leading theme parks. The influence and reputation it holds in 2023 is thanks to those first few monumental coasters that started it all 127 years ago. Big Dipper sits proudly at the foundations of an ever-growing hub of entertainment, and we have it to thank for the enjoyment we receive today, not only in Blackpool Pleasure Beach, but in theme parks across the world.

Happy 100th birthday Big Dipper.

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