From Paris to Yarmouth: How we got to ride a roller coaster at the Pleasure Beach
- Credit: Archant Library
The clack of the carriage climbing high into the sky. The feeling in your stomach as you hurtle down the wooden track. The rush as you ride round corners, thrown from side to side.
Many of us have felt exhilaration on the roller coaster at the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth. But did you know it was shipped to the Norfolk coast from Paris?
A ‘scenic railway’ featured at the Pleasure Beach in its earliest years from 1909 to 1929 with some absences due to closure during the first world war and fire damage in 1919.
But the roller coaster we see today was built in 1928 by Erich Heidrich of Hamburg. Pat Collins, the owner of the Pleasure Beach, saw the attraction at the Colonial Exposition in Paris in 1931. He then purchased it and arranged for it to be shipped to Yarmouth.
An article in the Eastern Daily Press on January 21, 1932 described the experience readers could expect from the new ride:
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Highly spectacular are to be its mountains, valleys, and streams. The trip will begin on flatter lines, rapidly ascending to the top of the ‘mountains,’ climbing to the highest peak of all, and then swooping through what seems at first a solid wall of rock.
Next the passenger passes over a bridge, a viaduct, and along a ravine, with rapid swerves and alteration of level that will enhance the charms of the run. This has been closely copied from nature in all but the astonishing complexity of forms and features closely worked into the landscapes.
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On February 11, 1932 the attraction arrived in Yarmouth from Rouen on the French steamer Circe.
Special electric cranes were brought to South Quay to unload the cargo, which took almost three days.
A team of German workers then reconstructed the roller coaster at the Pleasure Beach and the ride opened in April 1932.
The damage from a fire in 1935 and a partial collapse in the 1970s required some reconstruction work to the structure. Steel panelling replaced the original timber cladding in the late 1970s.
But the configuration of the ride remains largely the same as the scenic railway that visitors enjoyed in the 1930s.
What are your memories of riding the roller coaster or visiting the Pleasure Beach in days gone by?
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