The Magic Never Ends - An Alternate History of Alton Towers

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
Anyway, what chapter or change have you liked so far or what are you hoping to see in upcoming updates? :)
I've got to say, even though it's simple, I quite liked the idea of the Alton Towers Museum in 2011 (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong on the exact year...). I do think something like that would be an excellent addition!

I also really liked Thirteen going in Gloomy Wood... I think that would have worked really well, and I also think that the Haunted House (sort of) returning earlier would have been nice too!
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Black Hole
I've got to say, even though it's simple, I quite liked the idea of the Alton Towers Museum in 2011 (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong on the exact year...). I do think something like that would be an excellent addition!

I also really liked Thirteen going in Gloomy Wood... I think that would have worked really well, and I also think that the Haunted House (sort of) returning earlier would have been nice too!
Yes, you're correct on the year for the museum. Only problem I think I might have made for it is that with it being restoration of a Grade 2 listed structure in the Talbort Gallery is that planning and construction would have taken another year or two but hey, guess its one of those things.

Having Thirteen on Gloomy Wood and not having Dark Forest is honestly a no banner. Save money on retheming an area, use it to overhaul and return HH and have Thirteen with its theme fit in far better which kills three birds with one stone...does make you wonder why they didn't do this ad it would have saved them a lot of trouble regarding Ug Land.

Plus, we don't need two spooky woods theme though it doesn't mean to say that we won't see another woods theme in this timeline soon...I'll let you speculate at what might happen! ;)
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Black Hole
Thank you for the comments, always good to hear them and what you liked so far. Anyway, now we go into 2014 in which we get a new family themed area though not quite what you think though a little clue here is that Squirrel Nutty isn't evicted...

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A Kinder Set of Woods

While no one could deny that since taking over both Alton Towers and even Thorpe Park in 2007, Merlin had invested heavily in both parks with Alton Towers now with new coasters in the likes of Thirteen and The Smiler pretty much become part of the park's landscape and in some ones would seem unthinkable with them not there now. However, there was one problem that Merlin seemed to suffer from and that was a heavy interest in the more 'dark and gritty' themes and for those who had followed the building of new rides at Alton Towers over the last few years would know this all too well with other than the more family themed areas such as Mutiny Bay, Cloud Cuckoo Land and Forgotten Oasis (the latter being more of an early Tussauds theme instead of a Merlin job) and the Alton Towers Museum, the rest had been all dark with Thirteen, the revamped Haunted House, Nemesis Sub Terra and The Smiler being evident of this and while no one didn't hate either of their themes, it was clear that the park was long needed something family related which some felt was overdue.

Some say that the peak of the gritty and dark themes of Merlin would present to the park was with Nemesis Sub Terra in 2012 in which after letting the creative team off the hook was perhaps a little bit of a mistake as the sight of several kids walking off the ride in tears was not exactly fitting the 'family' image the park was wanting to go forward and while a year later The Smiler would have a dark theme that was no one near as intense as Nemesis Sub Terra, it still had quite a number of black comedy for its theme and by this point, even Merlin knew that they couldn't keep going down that path as it meant a possible loss of the lucrative family market and 2014 was to see a different theme and one that was to be family orientated for both Alton and Thrope.

As it would turn out for 2014, Thorpe Park was to see a whole new themed area called 'Cbeebies Land', based of the popular BBC children's channel, that was to have its own area behind the park's 2009 coaster 'Buzzsaw' [1] and would be a return for the park heading back to its family roots prior to when Tussauds bought the place and looked to be sure-fire winner with the family market and it was seriously considered for both Thorpe and Alton to get a Cbeebies Land each but instead it was decided on Thorpe getting, what was boasted in the press as the 'World's First' Cbeebies Land which did seem a little bit overkill to some but then again when it came to Merlin, getting something first was always a winner yet it did leave those up at Alton Towers feeling annoyed at not getting their own version in which the feeling of Merlin appealing to a more London Centric view was quite a common feeling so the question now for the park was what do for the 2014 season.

The planning had been all going on during the 2013 season and it was clear that something had to be done with 'Storybook Land' in which hadn't seen anything of note of late other than the failed Shrek plan for the area and since the area itself, which when first built was considered perhaps the most beautiful area of the park was now looking tired and run down and clearly was crying out for a much need overhaul. It was said that had Alton Towers gotten the nod to build Cbeebies Land then it is quite likely that Storybook Land would have been replaced by that but since that was no longer the case, the park's two creative teams would have to work together to put together a new idea of a theme that could be done quite cheaply yet would be more than just a mere paintjob. As it would turn out, the idea that helped kicked started the idea would actually lie with another concept that was being developed regarding new accommodation for the park...

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The Bookworm animatronic who would greet guests entering Storybook (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

Back in 2012, the park was planning out what would be its third set of accommodation which instead of being yet another hotel like the 'Alton Towers Hotel' and 'Splash Landings' hotel and waterpark, this was to be a set of small lodges known as the 'Enchanted Village' [2] which was to be themed around a fantasy fairy-tale hideaway and the hope was that it would be ready for an opening in 2015. During the 2013 season, behind the scenes the plans would see a few changes, yet this did not go unnoticed by the two creative Alton Towers teams who were at the point still basking in the glory of the success of The Smiler and an idea began to take root in which the theme of this new set of accommodation did bare a resemblance in a way to what Storybook Land was though arguably a lot more immersive and the idea started to gain traction for a soft retheme of Storybook Land in what was mentioned in early plans for the area as, rather unimaginatively it must be said, Storybook Land 2.0 and it did mean that at long last this area of the park was to get much needed attention though the question was what would change?

In terms of theming, not much would change greatly in the grand scheme of things in which many online discussion forums at the time felt it was nothing more than a glorified repaint job, yet it was when the first leaked plans of the new area would take some aback in which the area was going to expand with the nearby area known as Adventure Land was to be annexed into the nearly expanded land and the famous ice show tent was to be removed in favour what would be a more open space in the middle of a themed plaza type area though what this would be was unclear. What was clear however was that at the end of the 2013 season was that the little Pinfari kids' coaster known as 'The Beastie' which had remained closed and had operated since 2010, would finally be removed from the park in favour of a new coaster [3] and even though it was never a ride that never was one of the best rides ever made, it is a ride that is fondly remembered by many enthusiasts as their first coaster they ever rode though thankfully it wouldn't be scrapped and instead was sold off to Barry Island in South Wales where it still operates to this day.

What was to be built in its place however was not only another kids coaster to help fill in a gap that had been missing in the park's coaster line up since Beastie closed but one that was far better in almost every way - a Mack YoungSTAR junior coaster was to be built at what would have been at that time only the fifth built. Either way as the construction fences went up around Storybook Land, many fans could hardly wait to see what was in store for 2014 while other fans of the park were just relieved that this area of the park which had suffered from poor maintenance and broken effects, most notable the Bookworm has had by this point seen parts of the rubber skin starting to come off and couldn't have moved as well as it had done before; an obvious victim to Tussauds and Merlin's lacklustre look on upkeep which had become all too documented.

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Correcaminos Bip, Bip in Spain, the new ride at Alton Towers would actually be a clone of its Spanish sister (C) Mack Rides

As leaked photos started to appear from what was going on, it was quite more extensive than some had first thought. Adventure Land was pretty much annexed into Storybook Land which was actually something of a full circle moment in which those who had followed the park over the years would have known that before Storybook Land was created, that area and Adventure Land were once part of the same area known as 'Kiddies Kingdom' which had been in place from 1986 until 1995 in which the two areas were split though when Spinball Whizzer, now named Sonic Spinball due to its new sponsorship with SEGA, the plan had been to theme Adventure Land into something like a giant pinball machine to match with the ride Spinball Whizzer. However much like many Tussauds rides during the latter half of their ownership its planned theming was cancelled due to budget cuts and as of a result, Adventure Land would be the weakest themed area in the whole park as pretty much it never had a theme to begin with.

However, those budget cuts with hindsight proved to be something of a blessing in disguise in which as there was pretty much nothing other than some basic theming for Spinball, it would mean that the creative teams, once again a whole area that both the Alpha and Delta teams would work together on this expansion project, would have very little to do to bring Adventure Land into the Storybook Land and with that, the little area of Adventure Land would pass on into the long history of the park though it must be said that few care about the loss of that area though the main question was what was to happen to Spinball? As the work progressed in the newly enlarged area, a few eyebrows were raised that despite many thinking that Spinball was going to be rethemed into Storybook Land, nothing changed, literally nothing.

The only change that was done was moving the entrance of the ride from its original point at the start of Adventure Land and instead was then moved towards Storybook Land in which it became pretty clear that the current entrance to that area was only going to be from the actually Storybook Land entrance which that entrance into Adventure Land was filled in with trees with the hope that it would help enclose that area off from the rest of the park to create a more closer and personal feel for park guests. As construction work reached its peak between December and January, was beginning to take shape with perhaps the main headline attraction being the new Mak YoungSTAR coaster was built up in record time and who's construction was an easier affair compared to the likes of The Smiler with this new ride having a track colour of brown and the supports painted a light green - in truth, nothing more than the colours of Thirteen but flipped.

Nearby to this work was the often forgotten yet what many would say as perhaps the most underrated area of the park and that was 'Old MacDonald's Farm' which, as the name made it quite clear, was themed round a quirky farm with various children's rides such as a 'Tractor Ride', 'Canal Boat Ride' and a themed Merry-Go-Round attraction named 'Doodle Doo Derby'. It had been an area that had seen very little changed over the years since it first opened in 1995 and was nothing more than just a pleasant area for families to hang around in though at one point did boast its own actual animal barn with animals in which park guests could get up close with. However, it was during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 which would sadly see the park make the difficult decision to cull the animals to prevent them from catching and spreading disease though it was a highly controversial one at the time and the area itself would finally gain the attention it had probably needed for a long time but sadly for all the wrong reasons.

Thankfully, when Merlin bought over the park in 2007, animals would return to the area such as the Giant Bunnies that year and eventually Miniature Donkeys (two named Little George and Granville), Ferrets and Chickens would all help make the farm themed feel like an actual farm once more. When the major expansion job of Storybook Land was taking place, many funs assumed that this would mean that the farm would end up being swallowed up much like with Adventure Land though curiously enough other than some much needed repainting and some repair jobs around the area, Old MacDonald's Farm would be spared from the expansion, and it would live on going forward [4]. Fans have speculated as to why it was spared from what looked like an easy annex job with the main feeling that the park was wanting to focus on finally putting Adventure Land out of misery and that it was an easy target for much development though there has been another alleged story in which the reason why the farm actually survived was that someone on the two creative teams was a major animal lover and had grown up remembering of the infamous cull in 2002 and didn't want the animals to leave the park for a second time and is said to have 'had a word' with someone at the top, though this story is likely just some silly internet rumour.

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And the farm is spared and lives to fight another day...(C) TowersTimes.co.uk

When late January rolled around, more details were revealed for despite what looked as though the area was just a refresh of an area, Storybook Land would be no more - in the expanded and revamped area would now be named 'Fantasy Forrest' and would be themed around an enchanted wood in which would be home to various characters from the likes of a newly overhauled Bookworm, who not only as good as when it first appeared [5] but that it would have a new voice over recorded to act as a helpful narrative for park guests, and of course the character of Squirrel Nutty who had only become a walkabout character in 2010 and oddly had never been seen in the park since even when Storybook Land opened in 1996 though it would be in this newly themed area that he was to take a more starring role in being something of the main character of the area now given a cooky personality of an inventor who builds various machines and devices most notably the 'Squirrel Nutty Ride' which had not only survived the retheme but was now renamed to 'Treetop Adventure' [6] which was slightly rethemed to be one of his many mad inventions. It was all very much a major contrast the dark and sinister themes from the past few year years but there was more to the area.

The main standout attraction in the area would the Mack YoungSTAR junior coaster which would have a name as 'Woody Rockets' [7] which while the layout itself was nothing special, it had its own little amusing story in which the ride cars are themed to logs that have a crude yet humorous streamline design in which Squirrel Nutty has designed to try and create superfast rockets made from trees. Exactly why it was renamed to Fantasy Forest instead of keeping the Storybook Land name is more than likely down to a marketing choice, in which the area itself had seen very little difference to Storybook Land before it other than a few tweaks yet in the effort to try and promote a 'new' land for the 2014 season, it seemed to be understandable that a new name might help bring in guests though it has to this day hasn't stop fans of the park to still call it Storybook Land due to how the two themes of an enchanted wood are so alike.

That all being said, the 'new' land itself was actually a well-done overhaul in which guests could only enter the land two ways with one the one facing towards the Bookworm and the other being the way to Old MacDonald's Farm, though the former was considered as the 'true' entrance to the area in which like he had done so many years prior, the Bookworm would welcome guests to area and a press of a button would allow guests to interactive with the Bookworm and he would in turn give you hints about where to go and such though it would be a third new voice for the character due to the changes in the area. What also stood out was the quirky designs of the trees which weren't real but actually were fiberglass ones that bared a similar design to the trees with the faces at the entrance and about fifteen of these new trees would be built around the area which help gave it a more enclosed feel and this actually quite a funny in-joke for those working in the park as it is said that for every tree the park cuts down they plant twelve more and that they had it here, though perhaps fiberglass trees weren't exactly what conservationists had in mind.

However, it was on the sight of the former ice tent in which saw the biggest change of all in which in its place was a well themed plaza type area in which sitting in the middle of the large circular area was a large (fiberglass of course) tree which on top was a treehouse was made out to be the home of Squirrel Nutty himself though there was no public access to visit his home as it was just nothing more than scenery decoration, not to mention access was a nonstarter, as was the surrounding quirky looking buildings that were themed to shops though oddly they wouldn't be actual shops or eateries which some felt was a wasted opportunity though the fate of them would be another story for the following year. Also, that year on the lawn next to the Towers was a mock-up design of one of the little lodges to be part of the new 'Enchanted Village' complex that were to be open for the 2015 season and some guests couldn't help but notice that the design of the mock-up lodge and the buildings in the plaza of Fantasy Forest seemed to look the same and shockingly enough, they were correct.

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The mock-up lodge that was on display for guests to view that was actually be used as the design of the new buildings in Fantasy Forest (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

Compared to previous years, the budget for the new themed was, while quite decent by most standards, it wasn't quite the same as what had come before it so it would mean that the creative teams would have to use their budget carefully yet somehow create a well themed area. During the planning process of the upcoming Enchanted Village, the designs of the lodges was being finalised and those who have been in the building would know that it can be quite a long process to get a building designed and approved of, never mind actually building it yet for the team planning out who Storybook Land's overhaul was going to look like, the design of the lodges planned for the Enchanted Village had not gone unnoticed. The two themes of an enchanted setting were not planned at the same time as many would suspect, other than both sides being told to go for something that was different from the dark and sinister themes from before; it just so happened that this have to be a strange familiar outcome for both.

The design of the buildings caught the attention of the creative teams on the park and asked if it was possible to use the quirky looking designs for theming in the new area which would actually help save costs in designing new structures to go into the area and was quickly accepted and would be a clever way of combining resources. The enchanted theme of the area was so alike to what was being planned for the Enchanted Village that the new area was named 'Enchanted Wood' but for whatever reason this idea was dropped, and Fantasy Forest became the new name though oddly enough, the plan of another forest themed area on the park had become a reality though very different from before. The original spooky looking forest plan that was set for Ug Land [7] for what was the building of SW6 at the time before the ride would be built in Gloomy Wood had been shelved though as it turned out, many plans don't really die out and this would be no exception though with a very different theme altogether.

With Storybook Land being renamed as Fantasy Forest, it was actually then some on both the Alpha and Delta teams just noticed that the happy and welcoming atmosphere of the newly themed Fantasy Forest was actually a great contrast to the spooky forest of Gloomy Wood which gave a mirror image idea though actually this idea was already in place in place of the two split lands in Forbidding Valley and Forgotten Oasis were a contrast image of each other. Neither of these were ever planned; they just happened as it were, but it would be a path that the park would go along a few years later down the line in which that would be another story. With all that said, Fantasy Forest would open in March 2014 as the new edition for the season and while many would praise it for its strong theming and friendly atmosphere that was a much-needed family setting the park was needing, there was one problem that almost everyone had - Sonic Spinball.

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The sharp and blatant contrast between the themes of Spinball and Fantasy Forest are evident in this picture during the 2014 season (C) CoasterGalley.com

After all the good work that had been to really revamp the area, the fact that pretty much nothing had been done for Sonic Spinball in trying to retheme it into the area was something of a let-down and the sponsorship with SEGA was supposed to end at the end of the 2013 season, the same time in which the work on retheming the area into Fantasy Forest begun yet instead the park would renew the deal with SEGA to last until the end of the 2015 season [8] which seemed a bit strange considering what was going on with the surrounding area at large and it looked as though something of a retheme would be a shoe-in yet instead the slick and hip looking Sonic the Hedgehog would stand out like a sore thumb in the area much like what the Flume was for Mutiny Bay and what Rita was for Ug Land; somethings never do change for the park.

It wouldn't help too that at times, the roaming Sonic mascot would end up walking into the well themed Fantasy Forest area and would stick out like a sore thumb in the area, though some thought that it wasn't that bad in an area that already had a roaming animal mascot in the form of Squirrel Nutty himself. Some fans online suspected that if the ride had a long-term future on the park, then it would have been themed already, yet it wasn't, and this did raise some question about the future of the ride and if something drastic was about to happen sooner than later for the ride as it was no secret that the ride itself was a very marmite attraction for both its low throughput and how some hated it for how its location ruined the views of the Towers ruins themselves.

The fate of the attraction was unclear at this point though in the meantime, Fantasy Forest seemed to have been a hit with families though admittedly it wouldn't get quite the same attention as what Thorpe Park would get following the opening of Cbeebies Land which in terms of guest numbers increase the latter would win out though that wasn't to dismay Fantasy Forest as a failure, far from it; it had given life to a previously unloved area of the park and the fact that the character of Squirrel Nutty himself had become popular with many guests, mainly young children. Alton Towers' management would take this to heart and the plans for 2015 were looking up for something for more roaming mascots to help appeal to the family market and little did anyone knew then, but a legend would return...

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[1] Ok, off the bat big changes to Thorpe Park here in which with them now going into the family market without Merlin having to trying to balance Thorpe and Chessington, 'Saw: the ride' is instead the planned 'Mystery Mine' type ride that was planned for the Canada Creek area and that the Saw theme was a last-minute addition to the ride, not so here in which despite being themed to a run-down saw mill is not the horror based theme as it was. Cbeebies Land here is in the area behind it and is pretty much built from scratch and not a retheme of an area that we got with OTL. But yes, the park does get an IP though not the same and this means that Angry Birds Land never happens here.
[2] Yes, Enchanted Village will still happen here but there will be a few wee changes going forward...
[3] Beastie's fate is pretty much the same as OTL.
[4] Old MacDonald's Farm survives though it is somewhat the other way round in OTL in which Adventure Land survives yet we lose the farm as it is now part of Cbeebies Land.
[5] The Bookworm lives! Sorry Mr Sanbrooke, you don't get it ITTL! :p but all the same, nice to have the bookworm still working here.
[6] This ride means that we never get the Octonauts ride here though likely ends up at Thorpe.
[7] This as we know is Dark Forest which never happens here.
[8] As the what the deal had in place in OTL.

So there we are, no Cbeebies Land at Alton Towers though at Thrope park here and even just that hint of telling you how things are going different for the latter park here. Not the biggest update of the lot but then again you get years like this for a park which makes it all the more real and not the big additions for each year for sure. 2015 is going to be fun, very different for what we got for good reason, as someone is back and so too will be the Remaster program here, but who and what? Find out next time! :)

P.S. as I put this up, it is just two days before I hit 30, God I feel old, haha, so any birthday treat from you lovely people would be just a good response and to hear what you think the predictions for the park and even Thorpe would be going forward of how you would have liked the park here and what would be the favourites of the different rides here? (Rita here oddly enough would be liked by me in this timeline as I feel for just having a lot more to it than what we got) :)
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Black Hole
Now then, bit of a problem here as the chapter here is so damn big that I've had to split it in two, plus I had to get all this all out of my head so without much to say, here is part one of 2015!

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Remasters, Lodges and Hounds (Part 1)

There is an old saying that once you have a success, you then go on and milk it dry and Alton Towers and Merlin are large are no exception to this. As it would turn out, 2015 would be quite a unique year for the park in which addition wise to the park there wouldn't be any new attraction per say but rather something different in which the year would be known as the year of the Remasters and for good reason. Despite some doubts expressed by the higher ups at Merlin about how such an idea would bring people into the park rather than a new ride, the 'Remaster' of Air into its new look had been a great success which not only gave a 'complete' look after so many years but also seemed to actually make the total package of the ride far better in which the theming really helped emersed the average park guest and even improved the ride's standing among many coaster enthusiasts alike. With a success like that and now with Merlin's marketing team seeing how it could work with the cliché 'the-ride-as-you've-never-seen-it-before!' phrasing, the idea of where to go next with the next Remaster was played about during the 2013 and 2014 seasons by the creative teams with some wanting a Remaster of Oblivion next while some wanted to give Rita the treatment as it was approaching its 10th birthday for 2015 which seemed like an obvious target however this would be pushed for the following year and as it turned out for good reason but more on that later.

As it would turn out, 2015 would actually be year not dedicated to a coaster, dark ride or themed area but actually a flat ride...three flat rides actually. As it is known to those who follow Merlin's track record at building attractions, it seems that flat rides are always seen in a dim view in which to them, they are nothing more than glorified funfair rides that anyone can ride at any fairground with the only difference being that on a theme park they are themed well to match in with their surroundings. To guests, they are something of a bonus for them to try instead of the coasters and can be very useful in helping to sponge up guests to help with capacity on the park and ease pressure on some of the bigger rides on the park such as over in Ug Land in which Ug Swinger had trying all it could to help ease the pressure of Rita's often infamously large queue lines even though that ride could have a positive throughput on a good day though help was needed in that area as those were the only two rides in the area [1]. It seemed the main problem from Merlin's marketing view wise was that it was hard to market a flat ride as they didn't seem to have anything to bring people through the gates unlike what a new coaster was always certain to bring, the only new ones they had brought in were those for Mutiny Bay and Cloud Cuckoo Land for at least they could be opened alongside a new area but on their own it was an uphill struggle.

As of a result, the majority of the park's flat rides were shockingly approaching their late twenties which in ride terms which pushing it knowing that sooner or later they would fall apart and the idea of Remaster came about trying to sort out this problem with the replacement of three of the park's Huss flat rides, 'Ripsaw', 'Enterprise' and 'The Blade', with the newer and updated models that would help with their long-term future on the park and in some ways, the only way they could be replaced was via the Remaster program. Despite this though, Merlin would pull off a deal with Huss that would see them bring in the three new models for them to open for the 2015 season with it being a deal with something like £6-8 Million for the replacement of all three of them which honestly wasn't a bad thing. However, it wasn't going to be a 'like-for-like' replacement as all three would look different when they return with perhaps the biggest change being that for Ripsaw...now it would be turned in the newer suspended top spin model.

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An example of the newer suspended top spin model in action and for what Ripsaw was to turn into (C) Huss Rides

When it comes to the flat rides on the park, if any of them could be considered to be the flagship flat ride much like how either Nemesis or The Smiler are often debated as the flagship coaster for the park, there is no doubt that Ripsaw can be given that honour as the park's most beloved flat ride. With its intense flipping, some good theming, great to watch from those not wanting to ride it and of course getting a good soaking at the end had made it a firm favourite with many guests ever since it opened in 1997 and could be useful on a hot day for those wanting to get a soaking to cool off, something that whoever was operating the ride would often only be so happy to do! However, by 2014, the ride was slowly starting to become shadow of its former self; the ride circles that had often wowed guests seemed to get tamer and some theming was removed for access reasons, most notably the large blue coil-type screws on the ride's structure and the circular-saw theming from the tops of the gondola arms and above all maintenance on it seemed to get more costly to the point that replacing it might've been a cheaper option.

So, the timing of wanting to Remaster Ripsaw couldn't have come at a better time, and it was pretty much the first choice to get replaced with the newer model [2] though while much of theming from before would remain though some added pieces of theming would be added to give it a more imposing look and during the closed season in 2014, the newer model would arrive and would be quickly assembled though it wasn't the only one getting the work in that area. Next door to it was another Huss ride, a typical pirate ship model, called The Blade which actually was by that point the oldest working ride in the park having been there since when the park first opened in 1980 though it had been very different then. Back then, it had been called 'Pirate Ship' and had worked in the 'Springfield Centre' (now X-Sector) and was themed as a typical pirate gallon ship and would remain there until 1997 in which it would move to make way for Oblivion and move to its current home in Forbidding Valley.

Even though it was now themed to that a giant cutting blade through a valley, it did show signs of its previous role as a pirate ship with wooden themed skin on the side and that the two ends were actually just metal objects that looked the ends of a blade that had been stuck on there and in truth was not really the best themed the ride the more one looked at it. That would change with the new model coming in which while it was pretty the same ride with some updated tech to make maintenance easier much like with the new version of Ripsaw, theming wise was indeed a major improvement in which now all over the 'boat' section of the ride was now themed to an actual blade which showed no evidence to indicate it was a pirate ship ride and is actually a very unique version of the ride done by Huss and blends in with the area far better than before. This actually is based on an original concept art of the ride prior before moving to Forbidding Valley which didn't get fully built due to budget reasons [3]. Now it would finally look the part in all its glory.

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The 'original' Blade concept art of what might've been for the ride when it was to be moved, this art piece would serve as the basis for the newer version (C) TowersTimes.co.uk


The two flat rides now looked better than ever and ready for the 2015 season though there was one more ride to talk about and that was another Huss ride in the form of the long-standing Enterprise ride over in X-Sector. The ride itself has had a long history on the park having first opened at the park in 1984 in the 'Festival Park' area (now Ug Land) and would be a firm favourite with guests with the fact that as the ride would take guests upside down yet all without restraints in which only the power of gravity held riders in place. It would have an uneventful history until it was moved to X-Sector in 1998, still called Enterprise, to get ready to act as a support ride for Oblivion and would turn out to be a worthy attraction to help out in the new area and its rather spacey look would oddly enough fit into the area like a glove. Unlike with Ripsaw, which was starting to struggle a bit, Enterprise was suffering no real problems and in 2013 actually would get an overhaul to get it ready for the opening of The Smiler [4].

In some ways, replacing the ride just shortly after it was given some TLC seemed a bit strange though it must be said that the whole ride itself was actually starting to show its age and sooner than later it would need to go so having a new model in its place would be a way of securing its long term future on the park though much like with Ripsaw, it wasn't going to be a complete like for like replacement. What would take that spot would actually be a Huss 'Fly Away' model in which while it looked the same as what it once was before, the ride cars were designed differently in which now passengers lie down on their stomachs and gain the feeling of flying. Not only that, but it was also going to have something of an upgraded theming job, as well as keeping its black and teal colours, in which for many years it didn't really have such a theme other than perhaps some strange looking machine that could have honestly been part of the scenery more than anything else.

With the concept of the Ministry of Joy being brought into X-Sector following the opening of The Smiler and how all the rides were now retconned as experiments, the idea came about to give the Remastered Enterprise a bit of a story to its theme in which as the ride would turn round in a circle, the centre circle on the ride, much larger than the original, would provide with an idea to give the ride a bit more of an impression on park guests in which now it would have a black and teal spiral painted in the middle which in operation would give the impression of it working as a giant hypnotising machine, even though The Smiler already had done this some would point out but nonetheless it actually worked and seemed to become something of a spectacle in its own right much like with Ripsaw for park guests. With that all said, all rides were erected in a short space of time and were ready for the 2015 season though some at Merlin still had doubts if they would gain attention despite promoting the Remastered label.

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Example of one Fly Away model in action in which what the Remastered Enterprise would become (C) Amusement-Rides.org

Despite fears from Merlin that the lack of a new ride for the 2015 season might not work out despite the marketing doing all it could to try and promote the Remasters as best as they could, even though in truth it was actually three new rides, the reception for the Remastered flat rides was actually positive from guests. Ripsaw V.2 (as it would be known by Alton Towers fans online) would arguably gain the best reception to the Remastered rides in which the suspended nature of it would add to the feel of the ride with some saying it was better than ever as now it could once again work flipping guests round as good as what the original Ripsaw did on its early years. That wasn't say that both Enterprise and The Blade had their own fans in terms of how well they looked and even ride operators who could relax at how easier they were to work thanks to advantages in technology in contrast to how some of them were working the previous year and all in all, all three ride's futures were secured [5].

Perhaps to no one's surprise at Merlin, the Remasters didn't quite bring in the big guest numbers as they hoped for though in some ways that was to be expected and did seem to play into Merlin's mindset that flat rides don't bring in the guests However it was not all gloom as actually, the Remastered version of each ride gained quite a lot of positive feedback from guests who weren't enthusiasts saying how well the park took care of its rides which was rather ironic given the park's notorious record of keeping up appearances for rides by that point such as the state that Nemesis' station building had gotten itself into which oddly wasn't considered for a Remaster itself. However, it did give an indication to Merlin that having the park look more presentable would help with reception and maybe even lead onto making money which towards the end of the year a separate Remastered program known as 'Towers Loving Care', a play on the phrase 'Tender Loving Care' would come about to work on keeping up appearances around the park [6] but they are a story for another day.

The park itself for that season had very little to talk about as such except for one incident on The Smiler in June in which a ride car that was going round empty stalled on one of the inversions in which a member of the public alerted one of the staff members near the entrance about what had happened which was just as well as just behind the stalled train another train was starting its ride and quick action from staff by the entrance would alert the ride operators to shut down the ride immediately and prevent a major accident from happening [7]. The 'Smiler Stall' as it would be called would gain some minor embarrassment for the park but the fact that thanks to some quick thinking from the staff, things could have been much worse and following the moment, the ride was evacuated with no injuries but instead some rather bemused guests queuing who would find out the ride would be closed after that and would be for the rest of the week while the stalled train was recovered and an investigation would take place to see what had happened and of course a small media circus looking for a story to say that rides are dangerous.

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[1] Yes, Ug Land is still around by this point but is in a pretty worse state here than OTL, imagine Ug Land in 2009 and have that for the next few years...yeah, pretty bad.
[2] Yes, Ripsaw lives!
[3] As with OTL.
[4] As with OTL.
[5] Unlike OTL which are...
[6] Yes, Towers Loving Care still happens here though comes round in different circumstances.
[7] BIG change here, the Smiler crash never happens here due to small circumstances which almost happened with OTL though it does stall here. Nonetheless, this has a big effect on the park going forward as we shall soon see.

Right, a lot to say but more will be explained in part 2 so stay tuned...
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Black Hole
Remasters, Lodges and Hounds (Part 2)

With nothing wrong with their findings, the ride would reopen a week after the incident with it quickly being forgotten about but the media and guests alike and the moment itself is now nothing more than just a mere footnote in the park's history. Away from the park, 2015 would mark the grand opening of the resort's third set of accommodation which wouldn't be a hotel but actually would be many small lodges just east from the other hotels and would be known as the Enchanted Village [1]. It would be a unique accommodation in which it would split into two halves in which one would the many small woodland lodges and other being the larger luxury treehouses which would have four bedrooms in them. At the centre of this complex would be a restaurant known as 'The Crooked Spoon' in which would be the main location for guests staying on the complex to dine at.

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An example of the lodges on site, note the luxury treehouse in the background (C) TowersTimes.co.uk
The theme of the complex was that it was it belonged to the Fable Folk, yet they were often said to be hard to find and to add to this, there was an ariel course next to the place which was called 'Tree Top Quest' which would add an extra attraction for the area though as would happen, it would only be opened for the high season [2]. While the village itself seemed to be received well by guests, some noted that it looked oddly similar to the theming that was found in the Fantasy Forest area of the park which was actually in some ways the truth, only difference was that the lodges would instead be painted in beige colour while those in Fantasy Forest would be in rustic brown and speaking of which, the 2015 season would see those on the park see some minor upgrades and the complaints of them not offering anything which now they would have a purpose as small themed shops rather than just some glorified bits of scenery decoration.

Once the complex was opened, plans were already in motion to begin a phase two which would see further accommodation and the price would be lowered in which the lodges would be aiming towards members of the public on the lower end of the budget [3] and in time would be appreciated for it. While the resort side of the park was changing, so too was the park as towards the end of the year would see the end of two rides - 'The Flume Unplugged' and 'Sonic Spinball'. The closures were announced in September though as it would turn out that The Flume Unplugged would in November have a farewell event [4] to mark its closure to allow guests to have one last ride on what was at that point the longest log flume ride in the world and one of the oldest rides in the park by that point. For poor Spinball, it would have no such send off as to many, the Flume was perhaps more iconic to many.

Ever since the opening of Mutiny Bay in 2008, the fact that the Flume was never rethemed to match in with the area seemed like a strange thing to leave out however some felt that at the time that it was a sign that its fate was sealed and sure enough, that would be the case a few years later. Exactly why it was decided to close the ride can be explained down to either the age of the ride and how maintenance on it was quite poor down to the previous years of cost cutting and such and that by this point, the ride was needing a major overhaul which would have come round as the price of a new ride and in the end, it was decided to plan against it and instead use the site for a future attraction. The final day of the Flume would be much like the Corkscrew in the media would come around to broadcast the event with many enthusiasts coming from far and wide to have one last ride on it (and to scream at the infamous giant duck in the tunnel!)

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Many of the Flume boats after closure (C) TowersTimes.co.uk
It would quite a bittersweet event in which while many were glad to say goodbye to a long-standing attraction, it would mean that the park's water ride count was down and the thoughts of have an all-new water ride were talked about, but no one knew when. However, many of the Flume's boats would all end up going separate ways in which many were sold off to private collectors and for charity though one boat and some bits of the bath theming would end up in the Alton Towers Museum to remind guests of what was a ride that had lived a long life though soon as the ride was closed, just a month later, the demolition crews would come in and start taking down much the entrance area and that area of the park would look very different though oddly some of the track sections and buildings heading into the wood were left untouched and that would include the infamous nightmare duck which would remain there awaiting for another day...

While the Flume gained much attention about its closure, it overshadowed Spinball's closure in which was given on scant attention though it must be said that unlike the Flume, Spinball never had the same fame and instead it would seem, disdain. When Fantasy Forest was opened the previous year and yet Sonic Spinball was never gained a rethemed to blend in with the surrounding area much like the Flume ironically, some speculated that closure would be on the horizon - what no one expected however was how quick it would be with the ride just barely eleven years old by this point. It must be said that since built, the ride has always been something of a marmite attraction to some in which some like it for being an unrated ride among the other coasters on the park and that it delivers good old family fun while others disliked for its location and garish appearance which ruined the views of the Towers ruins and that its throughput level was not good enough for a park like Alton Towers.

Some say that if it wasn't for the licence with SEGA that would last to 2015 then the ride would have gone sooner but alas now was the time for the little ride, often disregarded rather unfairly as a badly themed joke by some, would have its final runs in November that year and to little fanfare and with that, the last reminder of Adventure Land was gone and, along with Sonic leaving for a second time [5] from the park if you include Toyland Tours, that land itself was pretty much certain to be used for the following season though many would have to wait to see what would come about for then and many wonder what could make up for Spinball's loss would have to look to Ug Land but that would be another story...For Spinball, the ride was put up for sale but sadly a buyer was never found the ride would be sent to the scrap yard though one of the ride cars would, much like with one of the Flume boats, end up in the museum that would tell the story of this strange little ride for years to come.

There would also be a third attraction closed during the Christmas event, in truth, no one cared about and that would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which the licence was not renewed to keep the ride going and it would be announced that it would not open for the 2016 season [6] though its future was unclear for the next few years, the building would remain out of use for the time being. Much like with 2005, 2015 would be a year in which would see several classic attractions closed, or rather just one for those who hated Spinball and Charlie, however the year would also mark a happier note for the return of one former Alton Towers character would be making a grand return...The return of Henry Hound! First appearing on the park back in 1986, Henry Hound would be a Talbot hound based on those of the Earls of Shrewbury's heraldic coat of arms with Herny said to be the last of the Talbot Hounds and would end up becoming the park's mascot.

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Henry Hound during his short-lived return between 2005 to 2007 (C) TowersTimes.co.uk
Becoming something of the park's answer to what Micky Mouse is for the Disney parks, Henry Hound would be the same for Alton Towers for many who grew up during the early years for the park and at his height, Henry was everyone; starring in countless shows as well as appearing all around the park for meet and greets with guests. He even had a huge range of merchandise associated with him like for a lunchbox, pencil case or jigsaw; or were wanting to cuddle him, wear him or dry yourself on him - there was some merch for you. Henry was also a literary star, appearing in at least three different series of books and comics as part of the then Alton Towers Fun Club magazine though as the park enter new ownership under Tussauds during the 1990's, changes were afoot. In 1993, the Hound would see him replace his default yellow shirt he had for many years to instead how include a set of red dungarees though as it turned out, 1993 would be his last year seen on the park.

It is unclear as to what happened as to why it was decided to get rid of him prior to the 1994 season, but it would turn out that someone high up at Tussauds didn't like the idea of a mascot and decided Henry Hound was no longer needed and he would miss out on what would actually be according to many as the parks' greatest ever year. However, there were many within the company who loved Henry Hound and started a petition to keep him however it was unsuccessful, and it was said that they were prepping Henry to get ready for the 1994 which showed how much of a last-minute decision it was. Nonetheless, the park would be without a mascot for many years afterwards, that was until 2005 when at a time of cost cutting and closures of many classic rides, the Hound himself would make a grand return to the park and although he may have been less prolific the second time round, he still found time to take a starring role in the new Towers Street Carnival, as well as meeting and greeting guests during both the main and winter seasons.

Sadly, the revival would be short lived as following Merlin taking over the park, the Hound would once again be forced into retirement for a second time [7] as it seemed that management at the time were not big fans of him and the entertainment team would then focus on the plethora of new offerings that came with Mutiny Bay in 2008 such as the pirates and perhaps its own mascot, Finn the Shark. The second return of Herny Hound was something of strange circumstances regarding the controversy surrounding Nemesis Sub-Terra about its adult content, the park was desperately trying to rebuild its family image in the years after and while that had done well with the likes of Fantasy Forest and Enchanted Village in trying to stamp down its family image, the thought of a mascot did cross the mind at many at the park who felt that it would help give a friendly image that it was needed and sure enough, someone would suggest Henry Hound to make another return and thus, the rest is history...

However, the idea of bringing him back was something of a minor demand thanks to the museum on the park which not only had ride cars but also other mascot costumes that had been at the park over the years that had long since retired and had during all this time had been lying in storage gathering dust were instead brought out and put on display with them getting some attention from guests, mostly Henry, in which older guests would get a wave of nostalgia remembering with Henry Hound at his height during the 80's while the younger generation getting their first look at the park's former mascot and wonder why was he no longer there. It seemed that the timing couldn't have been perfect. With perhaps by this point more comeback appearances than that of the Rolling Stones, Herny Hound would return for the 2015 season in which this time, he would be there at the entrance at Towers Street to welcome guests, now dressed in his red dungarees once again, though he would not be alone, alongside him would be another Hound...Henrietta Hound!

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When Towers met Disney, Herny and Henrietta Hound alongside Mickey Mouse during sometime in the early 1990's (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

The return of Henrietta was an unexpected yet welcomed treat for long-time fans of the park for a character that had not been seen since 1992. Henrietta Hound first appeared alongside her 'close' friend Henry Hound (of course, it seemed like they were a thing in truth) in a series of Ladybird Books in 1988. She made her first public appearance at the Towers for the 1988 Winter Ice Show. She was once queen of the high wire in a travelling circus and met her longstanding friend Henry when the circus came to Alton Towers though much like most things during the buyout from Tussauds, she would retire after the 1992 season. The Disney connection did seem to be strong here in which if Henry could be Alton Towers' answer to Mickey Mouse, the Henrietta would obviously be the park's answer to Minnie Mouse and while this might have looked like something of knock-off to some, that didn't stop for the female Hound to get her own new following among a new generation.

It was quite a change from a few years ago when the park was wanting to get rid of Henry Hound as soon as, now he and Henritta Hound was being promoted across the park to try and rubber stamp the family image the park wanted to regain such as them making appearances at breakfast time at the hotels and even in a new show in the Cuckoo Land Theatre for that season [8] and thankfully, the second revival of the Hound would be permeant and over time, Henry and Henrietta Hound would not only become known to a new generation of park guests but also they would be joined by several long last mascots from the park's history but all that is another story. In the meantime, while there was a farewell event for the Flume, some noticed that something was happening on the former and long disused Corkscrew site, yet no one knew what was happening there other than something was finally happening to Ug Land.

Though it was not announced to the public, 2015 would be the final year of the dinosaur themed area of the park though by this point, the area was pretty much a major shadow of its former self that had been in place since Rita was built and made even worse when Corkscrew would finally leave the park and the area would be barren with only two rides working for the area. What was to happen for 2016 would be something very different but one that was to hit another market for the park and for one certain Vekoma LSM, finally a home it would belong to...

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[1] Enchanted Village is pretty much the same as OTL.
[2] As with OTL.
[3] Watch this space as the Stargazing Pods won't happen here...
[4] Unlike OTL in which Flume never got that as the Smiler crash prevented all that from happening. Here though, the Flume gets a more dignified send off.
[5] So yes, Spinball is gone here, our first major casualty ITTL!
[6] Much like with OTL.
[7] Much like OTL.
[8] Here, unlike IOTL in which the theatre was used for an Ice Age 3D show never happens here and the building remains disused from 2011 until 2015 when we get the show here in which is pretty much a 'The Adventures of Henry Hound' here.

Right then, a lot to unpack there. The big change is that the Smiler crash never happens though there is a minor incident here in which it stalls much like OTL though thankfully it is avoided which as you might not really affected the park here so things will be looking very different here. Also, Henry Hound is back here in which he has a purpose to be brought back here due to Nemesis Sub Terra here and all the hoo-ha around that. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this update and would love to hear your comments on what you think so far and what do you think will be happening to Ug Land here?

Find out next time! :)
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
I have to say, I like the idea of the refurbished flats for 2015! A universe where those flats never went does sound cool…

Happy belated birthday, by the way!
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Black Hole
And so, for the next update, some of you older fans who remember the 1980's days and the characters then will like this next update and for the Rita fans (haha) on here, the old girl will finally have a place to call home, so let's begin!

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Valley of Racing

By the time Corkscrew had left the park in 2008 and leaving a quite literal large hole in its place in Ug Land, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for the dinosaur themed area and sure enough it turned out that Ug Land's final season would be in 2015 with the area to undergo a major transformation into a new themed land for the following season. When the area first opened back in 1999, it was praised for its quirky Flintstones type theming that certainly made quite an exceptional area that didn't seem to take itself too seriously unlike Forbidding Valley or X-Sector though it must be said that the theming was quite a harsh contrast to the sinister feel of Oblivion which had opened the previous in which it is highly likely that Ug Land came about as a way to appeal to the family market to show that the park wasn't always going to aim at the thrill seeker market. The area itself didn't see much change until 2004 when the area would be closed off towards the end of that season and in the following season, Rita happened, and the area wouldn't be quite the same way again.

The dragster racing theme of Rita was in direct conflict with the dinosaur themed area which was well documented by many with some claiming that Ug Land was ruined from then on, however with the removal of Corkscrew in 2008, the area seemed to get worse. It had been hoped that once Corkscrew had left that the area left over by the ride that it would be taken up quickly up by a new development which at the time would be SW6 (later Thirteen as it would be named) [1] yet following the sudden shift of plans of building the new attraction in Gloomy Wood, plans for that large patch of land were suspended and for the next few years, the area itself seemed to have become a shadow of its former self in which Rita and Ug Swinger would be the only attractions in an area which by 2015 was pretty much no longer had the life it had before and it really was a case of not 'if' but 'when' the area would finally be put out of its misery.

2016 though would finally be the season in which a new themed area and new attractions would happen to Ug Land and its closure was met with mostly indifference by many as the feeling of its demise had been lingering around for the last few years and that it going would be a good thing, as long as whatever would be of good quality and the question now was what was going to be built in its place? While questions about the theme would last throughout the rest of the closed season among fans, what was most certain that a new ride was finally going on to the Corkscrew site and while it had been far later than first planned, and much to the annoyance of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council who had insisted on something being built on that spot the moment Corkscrew left [2], it was nonetheless better late than never. Near the end of the 2015 season, the barren section of land that had remained unchanged following the departure of Corkscrew would see the first of the groundwork take place but there was more to the area than that...

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Construction works on the Corkscrew site take place towards the end of the 2015 season as seen from the queue of Rita (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

When plans would be released online of what the ride was going to be, it became obvious that it was going to be a new family coaster that would use much of the land and that the triangular design of the track was that of a Mack coaster (the second in a few short years it must be said by this point) though when the first sections of track arrived on the park, some were shocked that the track was yellow...Corkscrew yellow! Exactly what was going on with the area was anyone's guess as the bright colour track - something of a welcomed novelty in the face of Merlin's infamous dull and dark colours for its coasters - would rule out the long-standing rumours of a 'dark forest' being the new themed area [3] but yet no one knew what though with two months to go before opening of the new area, everyone would soon know what it would be for some, it would be a rather underwhelming one. Gone was the prehistoric theme and in its place was this 1950's Americana racing themed area now named 'Thunder Rock Valley' which actually was the name of Rita's own small area of the area which had now taken over the surrounding area to become the main theme.

No longer did it had the quirkiness of the original themed area, but it had a bright and sunny feel to it in which much of the buildings were painted in yellow that gave the impression of some classic sunny California town as one would expect on a postcard and in some ways its mostly bright colours was actually no different to Ug Land in which it was just as bright with the only difference is that it wasn't themed around dinosaurs and was just a rather retro looking area. While it might have not won awards on creativity, it was a vibrant area once again with the area soundtrack playing some 1950's style songs which all help add to the theme but perhaps the most satisfying sight in that whole area was that the fact after so many years of sticking out like a sore thumb, Rita would, after getting its delayed 'Remastered' update from last year, finally fit into an area that matched its theme. While Rita may have not been the most liked coaster among enthusiasts or even perhaps some of the two creative teams on the park in which it was a reminder of the 'dark' era of the park, the latter were willing to try and make an effort with it and the idea of a racing theme of the ride to try and fit it into the area though oddly enough the idea of a theme around racing to replace Ug Land was not quite as simple as some predicated.

Even a few years back when Merlin were looking into an idea to retheme Ug Land following the closure of Corkscrew, there was the idea of retheming the area around Rita but rather than being some sunny Californian setting was actually akin to some forgotten Mid-West American town [4] however both Alpha and Delta teams working both flat out refused on the idea of having another dark theme and pointed out to the higher ups that not only had they already many dark themed areas on the park but that there was a real missing gap on the park between those dark themes and the very kiddy themed areas of Cloud Cuckoo Land and Fantasy Forest in which that the park needed a family thrill area that could fill in that gap and Ug Land for many years was that area though it had really become a busted flush that was in dire need of a major update and Thunder Rock Valley would be that solution.

Much of the Ug Land theming was gone and Rita would be the only survivor from the makeover with Ug Swinger sadly leaving the park after a long-standing career with the park since 1984 after the 2015 season [5] due to its age and that it would be worth the extra cost to overhaul it and in its place would be a new Huss Breakdance car themed ride known as 'Wheelies' though many fans of the park would know that it was not the first Breakdance ride to have appeared not only on the park but in that area that was called 'Dino Dancer' which had been on the park since 1993, then as 'Astrodancer' in the previous Festival Park area, which it had a spell in Ug Land before being moved to Forbidding Valley and renamed as 'Dynamo' before finally leaving the park in 2004. However, it was the new coaster that was the main talking point as there on the Corkscrew site with yellow track and dark purple supporters was a ride that became clear as to why Spinball left the park...a Mack Spinning Coaster called 'Drifter'.

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An example of a Mack Spinning Coaster in which Drifter would be based on (C) Mack Rides

To say the ride was not only a spiritual sequel to Spinball but an improvement in almost every sense of the word would be an understatement. With a compact yet thrilling layout for families, better throughput levels, better theming and how its yellow colour was not only a little nod to the coaster that had once been formally there but how it also complimented with Rita's red colours quite well - it was a ride that seemed to fit the bill for a good family ride that was needed to help ease pressure of the likes of Thirteen and Runaway Mine Train. That said unlike the other recent coasters that had been installed under Merlin which had something of a storyline to them, Drifter didn't seem to have any plot other with the ride cars being themed to racing cars in which where drifting - as the name suggests - round a racecourse. The interesting fact about the ride is that compared to other rides on the park which had to have some creative ways to work with the difficult planning that is placed on the park, the planning and design for Drifter was actually quite easy in comparison in which as the site was a large patch of land that didn't require any trees to be cut down, there was very little to do other than keeping it built under the trees.

While the ride compared to others might have not been ground-breaking to say the least, it was a well welcomed addition to the park's line up and Thunder Rock Valley had breathed new life into what was previously an area dying a slow death. It was Rita however that saw its own changes as many lacklustre theming such as its baren station and that infamous Cattlepen queue line, all of which were side effects to the budget cut days of the later years of Tussauds, would all be reworked with the station having more theming and the queue line system was utterly reworked to the point that it utterly changed in which to give an example of how much had changed, only the tyre logo for the entrance of the queue would remain (Drifter in turn would have a similar themed entrance to Rita) and that the days of a having to zigzag round that badly done queue line were over and it all helped made the queuing experience a bit more pleasant though that said, waiting times for Rita would remain fairly busy.

Around the ride, several added sections of theming would be noticed with perhaps a lot of which being road signs bolted onto the many supports with various quirky phrases which some noted bared a suspicious resemblance to what was seen on its certain American cousin in Disney Hollywood Studios though not one seemed bother by it. The ride itself would get a new fresh lick of pain in which the ruby red track and dark brown supports colours would be replaced with a new bright red colour for the track and dark blue for the supports with all helped added to the vibrant nature of the area and one final tweak was the pre-launch audio and safety instructions which were re-recorded to have a female voice over which this time seemed to that of Rita herself who was 'talking' to you. That said it is unclear if it is of the racing girl herself or if the ride itself is talking; either way it does make for quite an amusing argument on any Alton Towers fan site.

Of course, 2016 was quite the busy year itself on the park as Thunder Rock Valley was not the only new addition for 2016 but was actually just one of three. The other attraction would be a UK first but not a ride of some kind but rather a restaurant of all things. The 'Rollercoaster Restuarant' would open on a section of car park site beside Air's final helix which would not see a new addition to the Forgotten Oasis section on the park [6] and more access but actually would see the park's boundaries slightly increase though it was just a drop in the ocean unlike other areas and much like with Drifter, with it already a carpark site and no trees needing to be cut down, planning permission to build it was actually quite easy and the building was quickly built over the winter season though would not open until later on in May 2016 [7]. While the outside of the restaurant was themed to resemble that of an ancient Greek style temple much like with the rest of the area, the inside was some different altogether as it was themed to the many coasters both past and present being represented here such as memorabilia on all of the walls and how each table was named after a coaster from the park's long history such as Black Hole, Thunder Looper and even Spinball would get one final mention.

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The inside of the restaurant is seen here in full of the inside clashing quite heavily with the outside theming of the building (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

With a design that is heavily based on the 'Food Loop' restaurant at Europa Park, its way of serving guests makes for quite the novelty for UK restaurants in which rather than carry a meal to the guests from the kitchen, they instead are sent out from kitchen via mini roller coaster track which features two loop-the-loops as well as an eight-metre drop down a tornado spiral, with the tracks delivering a varied range of food to diners sat at one of the thirteen tables spread around the room. Its location being somewhat closer to the resort complex would actually mean that it could remain open after the park closed in which guests could enter via a small entrance standing between Forgotten Oasis and Forbidding Valley which means that the restaurant would remain open 10pm and with a front window looking out towards the final helix of Air, guests could enjoy the sight of the ride going round while having their meal.

While Rollercoaster Restaurant itself would gain quite a great deal of attention for how unique it was, sadly over the years it has gained a more mixed reception among many over the lacklustre food offerings and the high price which many say is not worth the price. Despite this though, it remains always busy in which prebooking is recommended and does add an extra attraction in terms of food and drink. Last but certainly not least was work that had been ongoing on the site of the location of the now departed Spinball Whizzer was the building of a new structure which at first was thought to be a small dark ride by some but what would come about would be something that no one expected but as it turned out would be a vital addition for the park's entertainment line-up...a new permeant ice arena.

While it is well known of the ice tent that had existed before in Storybook Land (now Fantasy Forest) which had host several ice-skating shows over the years, it had been removed to make way for the rebuilding of the area into its current theme, not to mention that Merlin seemed keen to remove all temporary looking structures on the park with the ice tent being a prime example of this. As it would be, the new ice area would be the 'Phase 2' of Fantasy Forest in which it would be still roughly the same size as the old ice tent though it did have some modern features such as keeping the temperature at an acceptable level and even the chance to melt the ice and use the actual ice stage itself for other events if need be which did give it a multipurposed setting.

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The original ice tent in use during the 1993 season (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

While some fans might've been disappointed that there was no new ride for that area, it did though help increase the entertainment side of things for the park and add more for families wanting something else to do other than the many rides and attractions. For the first show to go into the new ice area would be Henry Hound entering the building with 'The Adventures of Henry Hound' which was to help build on from his grand return to the park the previous year following his own show in the Cloud Cuckoo Land theatre before - which would soon have a new show to take its place being the return of the show 'The Wonders of Algenon's Attic' [8] which had been there until Henry Hound would take over the show. The ice show's plot was fairly basic in truth in which Henry and Henreitta Hound would discover a large storybook that when entered would take the two on an adventure through different settings in which they encountered various characters and making new friends along the way.

It certainly wasn't quite the most original show the park ever did and would see a new storyline for the following season, which is another story, however what made the show worthwhile to some was that while the show featured some of Merlin's own mascots it had brought to the park such as Finn the Shark, Squirrel Nutty (Merlin version) and Snorlix, it would see the unexpected but greatly welcomed return of many classic Alton Towers mascots from the past such as The Owl (given a new name of Oliva Owl), the twin monkeys Joey and Theo, Jack the Scarecrow, Bunbury the Wizard, The Bugs and last but certainly not least, The Count...or rather, not called that name anymore.

Many of these mascots had not been seen on the park since the early Tussauds days and many of them received new and updated costumes to bring them up to date, The Count was the only one to have a new name in which would seem rather random at first but it would seem that there was good reason as the vampire like character also bared the same name of a another certain other vampire character of the same name in the show Sesame Street and probably not wanting to undergo a drawn out court case over copyright, Merlin's entertainment department would give The Count a new name in which he would be now known as 'Viktor Von Duel' in which was an obvious reference to the ride of the same name of a few years ago. While some of the older fans of the park might have been up in arms about The Count's new name, it stuck, and Viktor would still act as the mischievous vampire who would often pull off various pranks of Henry Hound as he had done many years ago.

It was quite impressive to see how far Merlin were willing to dig back into the park's past to bring back several characters that perhaps the average Alton Towers would have not known had existed in the first place never mind the younger generation who didn't know any better. However, it seemed this might have been still an overreaction following the Nemesis Sub Terra controversy with the park still going above and beyond to stamp their foot down on showing that they were still a family park above all else and in many ways, they had succeeded perhaps more so that they should have done. Regardless though, Henry Hound had started to get quite a following for a newer generation and add more to this, there were more plans for the Hound for 2017 but that's another story. What was more interesting was something that was going on the Flume site in which fences went up and major groundwork was taking place in which it was clear something big was coming for 2017, but what? The signs on the outside said it all...SW8 was coming and amazingly, it was something wooden...! [9]

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[1] As what would happen with OTL rather than waiting for longer like ITTL.
[2] As what was stated in the original plans back IOTL, Merlin here though is a little later than they would have been though.
[3] Yes, Dark Forest is butterflied away here.
[4] This is actually one of the original plans for Ug Land before Dark Forest was decided upon.
[5] Ug Swinger sadly still goes like IOTL.
[6] So yes, RCR still happens though in a somewhat different area in which it no longer takes up the Air shop but rather is its own thing in this new area.
[7] The same time as it would open much like OTL.
[8] That shows remains on...for now that is.
[9] Yes, SW8 still happens on the spot though a year earlier as this was the plan had the Smiler incident never happened and pushed plans back by a whole year.

There we are then, a different yet familiar 2016 for the park in which we still have the RCR and sadly some of the negative press it does get (not going for a utopia TL for the park as I want to keep things real and plausible as possible) still happens here. On the other hand, we have a new ice arena and a Ug Land retheme that is far better than Dark Forrest ever was and finally Rita fits into an area. And yes, old favourite mascots return so you can see here after how well Henry Hound has been received and how well it does to have a strong family image here is that Merlin would want to try and add to the success by bringing back more unknown characters and we will see more of them in the next update.

However, it is SW8 that is main thing to talk about in which as you know, it opened in 2018 as Wicker Man and while we will see a wooden coaster on site, it isn't quite Wicker Man as we'll soon see so what might it be? Find out next time and please review! :)
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
I’ve got to say, the racing themed area and Mack Spinning Coaster sound cool, not least to give Rita a bit of an identity!

I’m intrigued to see what you do with SW8…
 

QTXAdsy

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Black Hole
And so here we go with 2017 and quite a different yet familiar SW8 from our own, what is different about it you might ask? Find out! :)

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Wood Be Very Nice Indeed

For as long as any fan of the park can remember, the dream of seeing a wooden roller coaster at Alton Towers had always been something that many had hoped would see yet it was fair to say that hopes of a wooden roller coaster on the park had not gone all well. The failure of the infamous Cross Valley Coaster and the Woodiegate debacle that followed that lingered on in the background for several years afterwards in which had made many in upper management very reluctant to ever install a wooden coaster of any type if Tussauds still had control of the park, yet when Merlin would take over the park and into a new direction, it turned out that hopes of building a wooden coaster at Alton Towers weren't much better though perhaps their reason for it was bizarre to say the least in which they claimed several times that the public at large thought wooden coasters were unsafe and boring and that they couldn't find a way to market them.

It was a frustrating outcome in which many have called out that such choices that going for nothing but 'World's First' coasters, probably going all the way back since 1998 have always the next big thing yet in some ways this has always been a double edge sword in which one could argue that the likes of Air, Oblivion and Thirteen are nothing but glorified prototypes as by 2017, there have been numerous newer models of those types of rides that in some ways are bigger and better than those three attractions and by this point, almost everything that could be done with a coaster had been done so what else was there to do? As a matter of fact, it was 1997 that was the last time the UK would see a major wooden ride built which was 'Megafobia' at Oakwood in Wales which had been designed by John Wardley who speaking of which had long since advocated for a wooden roller coaster to be built at Alton Towers but had constantly been told by the powers that be that a wooden coaster would never be marketable.

Not that there had been several attempts to try and build one with the Cross Valley Coaster being the closest to have been built though much of its downfall was well documented that for John Wardley seemed to be the end of any wooden coaster to be built in the surrounding Staffordshire countryside. It would however back in 2012 that the park would reveal it's 'Long Term Development Plan' would be revealed in which would show much of what was planned for the park going forward such as new additions for the park and resort and what rides were to go with the quite obvious ones being Spinball Whizzer and The Flume which incidentally both left at the end of the 2015 season [1] but it was in Forbidding Valley that caught many enthusiasts attention. It mentioned that a new attraction in that area would be of a timber Struss construction which meant surely only one thing - the long-awaited wooden coaster! Though not in the giant monster as what some wanted before...what was to be built was SW8!

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The plans for the wooden coaster, now SW8, being built on the former Flume site (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

As things turned out, despite many thinking that this would be the plans of the giant cross valley coaster being finally built, that wouldn't be the case for instead the new attraction would instead be built on the now vacant Flume site. Exactly why it was decided at the last minute to build the attraction in Mutiny Bay instead of Forbidding Valley is somewhat unclear though the most popular theory is that the original plans meant for the removal of both Ripsaw and The Blade [2] but with of them both getting 'Remastered' a few years ago, that plan would then shift it to take over the Flume site and the idea to use that land sooner than later was important as in the hope they didn't have a vacant site left empty for several years much like after when Corkscrew left. However, another theory was that the memories of the failed planned of the cross-valley coaster still burned in the minds of many locals and management alike and felt that using that area was too soon though nothing has ever been confirmed.

When the plans were first revealed of what was coming for the 2017 season, some were left disappointed at the size of it being not the giant wooden they wanted though the plans did mention that the ride would have three themed elements located around the ride and a preshow before the ride. Perhaps the most notable addition for the ride was a giant themed element that would stand at 50ft in which the ride would go through it which all pointed out that this ride could be perhaps the most themed attraction on the park and although much of the Flume would be removed, many of its footers would be retained to minimize any affect to the nearby woodland [3] and soon enough it would be rumoured and later confirmed that Great Coasters International (GCI) would be building the ride.

At long last, the UK was about to get its newest wooden roller coaster which some would argue was long overdue by this point and John Wardly's dream of a wooden roller coaster at Alton Towers was about to become a reality, only downside was that for once, he would not have any part in designing it. Having retired after The Smiler was built, Wardley had slowly accepted with great reluctance that a woodie would never be built though he other than the giant cross valley coaster, he had also designed two other wooden coasters for the park which, to no one's surprise, never got off the drawing board, though as it turned out, he would find himself roped into SW8 in quite honestly bizarre circumstances. With Wardley having long been associated with the SW project, someone of the Alpha team would ask him how the new project was taking place though was stunned to find out that Wardley had been oblivious to what was going on having long since retired and was unaware of what was going on [4].

Hesitantly though thanks to some certain characters in both the Alpha and Delta teams who had friends in high places, he would get to look through the plans that, at the point in late 2015, were on the verge of being revealed to the planning authorities. What Wardley found was a great layout but one that was not very thrilling with him pointing out that the issue lay with the not very thrilling two first drops and a somewhat dull section of track towards the end of the ride which could easily be made more exciting though thankfully with the plans not being full set-in stone by this point, Wardley was able to quickly make the changes needed he felt were needed [5] to make the attraction better thanks to using the video game 'No Limits 2' to design and reprofile the layout. After that, the plans were submitted for approval and Wardley would sit on the side-lines helping out when needed. Though what the theme of this new attraction was anyone's guess.

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SW8 takes shape during late 2016, note the giant themed element on the left surrounded in sheeting (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

Over the space of 58 weeks to build, construction on SW8 would go ahead with very few issues along the way and yet some elements of the Flume attraction would actually remain with perhaps the most notable addition being that the site of the Flume's circular station would remain to be turned into a smokehouse [6] and even the building in the woods where the Flume would go through, perhaps better known for housing the infamous giant duck in the tunnel, would remain untouched to this day as it was likely it would be more trouble that worth it to get rid of them so if some urban explorer was to explore that area of the park then they would see the long disused building in the woods. While the coaster was taking shape, it was the giant structure that was covered up that everyone wanted to know what it was - even those who were building it were all sworn to secrecy to say anything about it [7].

A clue would take place during Scarefest 2016 in which in Mutiny Bay there would be an event that would seem to give out a hint on what this new ride would be all about. This would be a new walkthrough maze attraction called 'The Welcoming: Be Chosen' which would be about a mysterious group of previously thought long-lost people who had been lost at sea had suddenly returned to Munity Bay but have gone made in wanting to worship their new God [8] yet no mention was made to what were their worshipping it though for some long-time fans, it did seem to be a pirate themed version of the original Nemesis backstory in which had worshippers there. It would though finally be revealed on what SW8 would be called in January 2017 - 'Kraken'. A name that, to some, felt underwhelming and that this not the first time Merlin had built a coaster around the famous sea monster with a dive coaster at Heide Park in Germany known as 'Krake' though as it would turn out, the two themes could not have been more different which would make Alton Towers' version very interesting for those first time riders when it would open on time for March 2017; branding as the world's first roller coaster experience that would fuse wood and fire...something that rather embarrassedly for the park has since been dropped given how several other coasters already have done this and seems more like the park was scraping at the bottom of the barrel to find a USP for the ride.

The giant structure that had been surrounded in mystery for so long would be revealed to be the giant Kraken monster itself though it wouldn't be the giant squid that most were familiar with but instead was a monstruous looking creature with a dragon's head on the front with glowing eyes that seemed to scan the area at any guest nearby and would have fire effects shooting out whenever a train past through and it seemed that the idea was that the Kraken itself was standing in a harbour section of Munity Bay and had emerged from the depths of the ocean wanting to unleash its wrath on mankind for polluting the oceans (a strangely topical story element for a pirate themed attraction). Funnily enough, the giant Kraken theming structure was nicknamed 'Big Bob' by construction crews to help keep the theme secret [8] though since then it has happily been adopted by most fans for the giant monster itself.

The ride's storyline itself would be simple in which guests would enter the ruined setting of a dock that had been ravage by the monster in which as guests entered the preshow, they soon discovered that they have been lured by the Kraken's worshippers to become a sacrifice for the monster itself. While the ride might have not been the biggest wooden coaster ever built nor was it the dreamed cross valley coaster that some would have wanted, it was a well themed family thrill coaster which filled a spot in the park's line-up and did breathe new life in Mutiny Bay which other than the installation of a Sea Life centre in 2009 had changed very little since opening and all in all, the ride was considered a huge success and it would vindicate John Wardley's belief that if a wooden coaster was built at the park then the guests would love it. As it would turn out, it would push guest attendance in the right direction for the 2017 season in which while it would end up finishing just short of 1994 guest attendance figures, it proved that the park was going in the right direction yet more would be needed to keep this up and 2017 wasn't a year focusing on just the park itself...

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The Kraken themed station (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

The resort complex side of the park was also growing and with the steady hold of 3 million guests a year the park was experience the side effects of needing extra capacity for both and the park and accommodation and the latter itself would be also getting attention for 2017 too. Thanks to it being more of a budget friendly accommodation for families compared to the likes of the Splash Landings and Alton Towers Hotel accommodation [9], the Enchanted Village had been popular with guests, yet it had become a victim of its own success in which it would see itself fully booked in those first years of its existence and it was pretty obvious that an extension was needed and thankfully another, Merlin had predicted that this would need to be the case and half way during the 2016 season was when planning application would be sent in for the extension of the Enchanted Village.

The expansion would see the first phase would have seen the construction of 26 of the double lodges and the extension of The Crooked Spoon restaurant along with the first part of a ‘service core’ to provide facilities such as laundry, cleaning and other services required for the day-to-day operation of the accommodation. Two new service huts were to be constructed to facilitate the additional demand from the new lodges. Some changes would be made to the existing car parking arrangements, with ‘Car Park J’ re-lined to provide 254 spaces (6 of which will be accessible spaces). Another feature would be that they would have consisted of the addition of three large tipis to form an entertainment area for an estimated 200 guests with activities proposed from 4pm until 9:30pm. These were to form part of the Village Centre to the south of the expansion site and finally there would be another phase in which would have seen the construction of the remaining 9 double lodges and the addition of a new reception building to the north of the newly expanded site.

This reception building was designed to complement the existing fairy tale theme with a similar appearance to the original lodges. Once opened, the existing reception area, located next to the Crooked Spoon Restaurant, would have been converted to provide additional space within the main restaurant. Thankfully, all would be approved [10] and work would take place during the remainder of the 2016 season and closed season until it would all open in time for the 2017 season were while it was not as publicly well documented compared to Kraken, the expansion has helped with the capacity levels for the park yet even so, rumours are still going about on the idea of a third hotel complex on site yet that is another story...

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The plans for the expanded Enchanted Village setting (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

Last but not least was regarding the activities of the park's mascot Henry Hound who by this point had not only become a familiar character to much of the guests on the park but new merchandise of the hound and his friends was starting to sell well and now that the park had a firmly established with a family market the question was what else were there to do with him? While Henry Hound would see himself in shows around the park such a newly tweaked ice show which fixed some the problems that show had from last year, as well as putting a Christmas and Scarefest show for certain times of the year, there would be an idea brought forward to bring back an old concept that had long since been discarded by the park and that would be the Alton Towers Fun Club.

First starting back during the early days of the park and ending in the late 1990's, the Fun Club was aimed at children aged between 4 and 14 which this originally allowed them unlimited free access to the park when accompanied by an adult, but in later years, the offer was reduced to four free visits per year. Fun Club members were also sent regular mailings and discounts for park merchandise. Every member was given a membership card and passbook however it was ‘Wonderful Times’ that was the Fun Club magazine which was sent to members 3 times a year. In it were interesting facts, competitions and even a Henry Hound cartoon which got some in management thinking in which maybe they could return to this idea to allow for more lore building of Henry Hound and friends?

Soon enough, the magazine - now just called 'The Adventures of Henry Hound and Friends' would be sold only on the park and the best way to describe it would be Alton Towers meets the Beano in which much of the adventures of Henry Hound and the others were all stories that might have come out from there which featured many misadventures, slapstick and more though it did help promote Kraken for the 2017 season which was somewhat out of place considering the family market the comic was aiming at but it did prove to be a fun park exclusive though some comics would vary in quality with some cynical members of the public calling out Alton Towers on saying Henry Hound was nothing but a Mickey Mouse knockoff which was funny considering that in years before, that was the idea.

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One of the latter comics before it would be discounted in its Tussauds years (C) TowersTimes.co.uk

For the rest of the park, it was a fairly uneventful year though it would be soon announced that Submission, the park's rather infamous flat ride that had first opened in 2001 would be leaving at the end of the season [11] and would be replaced with a new ride though although much of the ride would be scraped, the one of the cars would end up in the museum where it remains to this day. Whatever it might be was anyone's guess; however, 2018 would be a special year in celebrating the 20th anniversary of one certain ride, along with the surrounding area, was the makeover it was to get for its birthday though was to leave some purists a little weary...

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[1] As what happened with OTL though only with the Flume.
[2] As what was planned for OTL.
[3] As per OTL.
[4] As the case with OTL.
[5] Bit of a POD for the ride in which JW gets on the project much earlier and as such does several of his changes for the ride that he was not able to do IOTL.
[6] Something that was planned for OTL yet never got made.
[7] As per OTL.
[8] So yeah, no Wicker Man theme here but instead we get a pirate themed attraction that blends in much better with the area.
[9] ITTL, the Enchanted Village is cheaper ITTL and we never get the Stargazing Pods here.
[10] Unlike OTL if you will recall, circumstances are different here.
[11] So yes, Submission lasts a little longer here on the park but still kicks the bucket at the end of the 2017 season. Still has a marmite reputation even ITTL.

And that is 2017 done and we have a different SW8 here in which is not Wicker Man but is about 75% the same as the ride we got though there are a few wee tweaks here with JW getting involved more earlier than what happened before. The idea of having it built for 2017 instead of 2018 is that this would have happened had the Smiler incident never happened which caused so many plans to be either pushed back or cancelled so thus, that's what we go with here for SW8 as such being the expansion to the village which nearly did happen so much what I'm doing here is all plausible. Theming change is different here because ITTL, Merlin do allow more control for more for those on the park for whatever they come up with providing they keep to budget.

And Submission finally goes and what is happening for 2018? Well, if your history, you should know but still, it might cause a few eyebrows to raise in what we see for the area, after all, not quite an idealist TL and given all the rumours about Nemesis...yeah. So what will we see and as we are getting closer to the end of this TL, what would you like to see for the park either themes, shows, rides, accommodation or anything, I want to do a bit of fan service! :) Until then, catch you later!
 
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