The Alton Mouse
Scurrying around tight corners, down sudden drops and taking its hairpin bends at speed, The Alton Mouse was Vekoma's take on the traditional style 'wild mouse' roller coaster; popular at parks across the world due to their compact design and thrilling layouts.
During its time at the park The Mouse was located on Talbot Street in an area more commonly known as "Coaster Corner", which could once be found alongside the Flag Tower in an area that is no longer open to the public behind the theatre in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Despite its 'off the shelf' style of design (indicating that the model was intended to be replicated at other parks) technically the Alton Mouse was the park's first custom coaster since Vekoma never made another wild mouse, therefore making the coaster a unique addition to the park.
The Life & Times
The Alton Mouse arrived at Alton Towers in 1988, having previously operated as Speeedy Gonzales at Wiener Prater in Vienna, where it originally opened in 1985. The coaster's layout featured an interesting lift-hill design, which was slightly tilted. This was so a Trommel Tunnel (like the one in Duel) could be added to the lift-hill in order to make guests feel like they were spinning as they climbed, however it is not clear if this feature was ever actually implemented and was certainly not in use at Alton Towers.
The ride was officially opened by Kylie Minogue part way into the 1988 season, becoming the third coaster to appear in the now infamous Coaster Corner, joining the Alton Beast that had opened earlier in the same season and the 4 Man Bob.
The ride has the dubious honour of being the shortest lived coaster in the park's history but despite this its distinctive look makes it one of the rides that helped define the park of the late 80s. It was operated on lease and whilst at the Towers the Alton Mouse was a popular ride, adding much needed coaster capacity to the fledgling park and helping successfully draw guests to the back-end of the park.
What Happened Next...
Unfortunately the proximity of Coaster Corner to Alton village soon resulted in escalation of noise complaints from the park's neighbours, which ultimately led to this whole area of the park being closed down to become back-stage areas.
Whilst other rides from the area were relocated within the park, The Alton Mouse was removed at the end of 1991 when its lease ran out (the ride never actually having been owned by the park). No doubt this decision was influenced in part due to a minor accident on the coaster during its final season, though he decision also fitted well with the park's overall regeneration scheme (the initial ground work for a coaster in what would become Forbidden Valley began during the 1991 closed season, just as the Mouse departed the park).
But the story didn't end there... The Alton Mouse found a new home in Pennsylvania, USA at Idlewild Park, where it was placed into a much more heavily landscaped setting filled with trees, which more effectively made use of the ride's tight bends. During the early 2000s the coaster received a substantial overhaul, with new magnetic breaks fitted and the distinctive orange colour scheme replaced by a more muted grey
It operated at Idlewild for twenty years until 2012 when it spent a season SBNO due to technical issues. Many feared this would be the end of this unique attraction due to its age, though thankfully July 2013 saw the ride reopen to the public and it once again seems like the coaster has a future.
Wild Mouse coasters were once a common feature in parks across the UK, though these days they are a rarer sight in theme parks, whilst in travelling fairs and amusement parks the more modern spinning variety are much more common. Notable versions of the classic ride can be found in steel at Chessignton World of Adventures (Rattle Snake) and in wood at Blackpool Pleasure Beach (Wild Mouse), though of course none of these were made by Vekoma