Blackpool’s Big Dipper at 100: Fascinating history of rollercoaster once classed as public transport

The Blackpool Pleasure Beach attraction will turn 100 years old in 2023

For want of a better word, Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach’s Big Dipper is iconic. It’s been a mainstay at the seafront theme park and while new and old rollercoaster have come and go, the classic wood-track favourite will mark its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Weaving its way through the family attraction, the Big Dipper has taken generations of passengers on a thrilling ride, offering millions of riders some of the best views of Blackpool along its whopping 3,295ft long track. Its station is also widely regarded as one of the most recognisable structures in the park due to its blue and white, giant teardrop-topped tower.

A host of famous faces have taken the ‘dip’ in the past century, including Diana Dors, American ambassador John Hey, HG Wells and more recently Harry Hill, Julie Walters, Robbie Williams, Olly Murs, Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli.

READ MORE: Memories of Blackpool Pleasure Beach from lost attractions to record-breaking roller coasters

The ride is the oldest continually operating rollercoaster in the UK and was first opened on August 23, 1923 when it cost just one shilling to ride. Today, it can carry 840 riders per hour and the ride lasts an impressive three minutes.

It has managed to survive a world war and a serious fire in 1975 where it was severally damaged. Intermittent improvements have taken place on the attraction over the years, including the grab rails which were replaced in 2014.

Lancashire companies played a key part in the construction of the striking structure including Pilkington Brothers in Accrington who crafted its ropes and pulleys, J Holden who made the ride’s prints and Fleetwood Trawlers. In total, more than 200 contractors were used to build the roller-coaster.

The Pleasure Beach has a host of events planned this year to celebrate the Big Dipper’s centenary with more information set to be unveiled soon. In addition the 2023 season, which will begin in March, is set to see the long-waited reopening of the Valhalla ride.

Big Dipper facts

The original idea for the Big Dipper came from Chicago-based John Miller and Harry Baker, who had been making significant rollercoaster advances since 1914. British architect Joseph Emberton designed the famous ride station

    • In 1973 the Big Dipper was was classed as public transport, which resulted in a surcharge of 15p for each ride

The coaster was built by William Strickler at a cost of just £25,000

  • Pleasure Beach owner William Bean later acquired the UK rights and made the course much steeper, faster and with tighter bends
  • The ride is situated on the site of the Switchback Railway, one of the first rides to open at Pleasure Beach and the lift is around 65 feet high
    • 10:37, 8 JAN 2023

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