Oblivion at Alton Towers
Oblivion was surrounded in secrecy during construction, only the top brass in Alton Towers knew exactly what was being built, for the rest of us, 1997 saw the digging of a 120 feet deep hole in what was then Fantasy World.
Before the start of the 1997 season the rides in Fantasy Land were relocated, the Pirate Ship replaced the Thunder Looper in Forbidden Valley and the Astro Dancer moved to Festival Park (now the Dark Forest). By the summer of 1997 the hole that the park were digging was growing. We knew a new roller coaster was on its way as the park map stated this, and as the summer turned to autumn track was arriving on site, and we knew that Bolliger and Mabillard were the manufacturers.
The lift hill was built, and soon the corner at the top, 65 feet in the air, was completed. By the time the park closed for the winter the track was ready for the vertical drop to be installed, but this was all done in secret during the closed season.
When the 1998 season arrived Alton Towers had taken up a huge marketing campaign. Nothing else built for the 1998 season came close to being a competitor for Oblivion, with the Rattlesnake at Chessington and Flying Trapeze at Flamingo Land being the next biggest coasters - tiny in comparison. This didn’t stop Alton Towers, TV adverts, radio adverts, magazine articles, features on various TV programs including Blue Peter. The marketing didn’t stop here, Boots stocked ‘Oblivion Deodorant’, and even Oblivion Condoms were released. 1998 was the year where you couldn’t watch TV, go to the cinema, read a magazine or do much else without being reminded of Alton Towers.
2.7 million people visited Alton Towers in 1998, and Oblivion went down a storm. The unique roller coaster was a huge hit, attracting huge queues.
The roller coaster itself is themed to look like a secret government experiment. The feature ride in the new X-Sector, supported by the Black Hole, Enterprise and Energizer. The queue line winds its way around nearly 1000 feet of densely planted paths, in and out of buildings, passing underneath the loading station and finally across two bridges which feed into the station itself.
The carriages, known as shuttles, consist of two rows of 8 seats. The ultra wide trains manage to give everybody a front row view. Leaving the station building the shuttles are pulled to the top of a very steep lift hill. The traditional chain lift has the clunk clunk sound of many other roller coasters, but on Oblivion it is loud, and really does increase the fear factor of the ride. At the top of the lift the shuttle completes a corner and slowly approaches the drop.
The front of the shuttle drops down slightly, engaging on a second chain mechanism. This chain hold the shuttle, bringing the passengers to an almost stand still (but not quite if you look very closely it does keep moving). After a couple of seconds the shuttle is released and drops down the 60 feet into a tunnel which seems hardly wide enough for you to fit through. The track keeps dropping inside the tunnel, until you have dropped 180 feet in total.
Climbing back up and out of the tunnel, the track curves around, behind the Enterprise and Submission rides before hitting the brake run.
In all, this very simple concept makes for one really scary roller coaster. Compared to other Bolliger and Mabillard Dive Machines around the world, Oblivion is the scariest, it’s the dark giant hole which makes the entire ride, yet again the height restrictions at Alton Towers have gone to make a great roller coaster.