A defining icon of the 1980s, The Corkscrew not only started Alton Towers on the path to becoming the theme park we know today but arguably kick-started the entire modern amusement park industry in the UK.
By the late 1970s Alton Towers was already well on the way to mixing a variety of attractions in amongst the famous gardens of the Towers but John Broome had a vision to go one step further and turn the park into a fully fledged amusement park, where visitors would pay a single price to access all the attractions in the park.
And so by the start of 1980 a corner had been carved out of Abbey Wood, near the main entrance to the house, which became home to The Corkscrew and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Life & Times
The Corkscrew was originally intended to open in 1979, appearing in some of the early marketing material for that season before it was realised its opening would be delayed to the following year.
When the coaster did finally open in 1980 it ushered in the 'pay one price' era, changing the face of the park forever. The arrival of the Corkscrew was a major step for the park and redefined what it meant to be an amusement park in the 1980s. Soon many other similar parks started to pop up around the country.
To promote the new addition The Corkscrew was incorporated into the park's logo corkscrewing around the famous Towers silhouette. Indeed the ride was big news, not only for the park but across the country, and the public soon took the coaster to their hearts with attendance more or less doubling in 1980 as visitors flocked to try out the new experience.
The first coaster to arrive in the park, The Corkscrew was also the first to be affected by the local planning considerations that would come to define the park over the years. The top of the bright yellow track was soon painted green to help it blend into the tree line, making the ride less visible from outside the park.
The popularity of The Corkscrew was undeniable and the new entrance system for the park was a massive success, leading to a rapid expansion of the park throughout the rest of the decade with a swelling ride offering crowned by the installation of a series of similarly 'off-the-shelf' coasters to meet the public demand.
What happened next...
When Tussauds took over the park in the 90s, The Corkscrew was still very much the headline attraction but this was soon to change as heavy investment saw the next generation of rides arrive in the park.
As the park around it was transformed into a fully fledged theme park, The Corkscrew slowly lost its prominence as its thrills paled in comparison to the newer additions to the line-up. The coaster however still had a place in the public imagination and when Festival Park was rethemed to become Ug Land in 1999, the ride received a much needed upgrade and a new lease of life with a prehistoic theme.
The prehistoric "bone-rattling" theme was somewhat fitting for the now twenty-year-old attraction, which was starting to show its age and in its later years became well known for providing riders with as many aches and pains as it did thrills.
It was therefore no surprise when, having survived the arrival of the Thunder Rock Rally in 2005, it was announced that the coaster would close at the end of the 2008 season. Despite its age, at its closure The Corkscrew was still relatively popular amongst park guests and a special event was announced for the coaster's final day. And so on November 9th, one week after the end of the season, the park held a special event to allow fans to have one last ride and also access to the centre of the track, giving an entirely new view of the familiar corkscrews as the ride operated for the final times.
By the start of 2009, the Corkscrew had been completely demolished and the rest of that season was spent on the construction of SW8, which saw the site and surrounding area of Abbey Wood transformed into Thirteen.
But the Story didn't end there...and whilst most of the ride's structure went to the scrapyard, the iconic corkscrews themselves were salvaged and in 2010 installed in the park's entrance plaza as a tribute to the ride that started it all.