The Skyride is the easiest way to get around Alton Towers, though it hasn't always been that way. Before the transportation system opened in 1987, guests had to rely on road trains, a much smaller Cable Car system or just their plain old legs to get around...
The old Cable Car ran from the end of Towers Street to the area that Forbidden Valley sits on today, but used very small 4 person cars and was quite a simple system. It was a world away from the much higher capacity and more expansive system that was put in its place. Rather than the original and limited route, the new Skyride allowed guests to travel between Towers Street, Forbidden Valley and Fountain Square (located between Dark Forest and Cloud Cuckoo Land) which made the park much more manageable and accessible for guests.
For nearly twenty years the ride operated with very few problems. However, during Scarefest 2007 a fire broke out in the central station at Forbidden Valley. The roof of the station building was damaged, as well as the interior. As a result the Skyride was shut for a six month period whilst it was repaired and bought back to an operating condition, reopening partway through the 2008 season.
By the time the ride re-opened after the fire, the gondolas were beginning to become dated due to their very 80's style and feel. The park took the decision to replace the fleet for the 2009 season and introduced bright, multicoloured gondolas, which have had a massive visual improvement.
Shortly after this upgrade another fire broke out on the evening of the 21st July 2009 - this fire occurred in the Fountain Square station, and completely gutted the building. The Skyride once more remained out of action for the rest of the season, until a new station was designed and built ready for the start of the 2010 season.
One of the most demanding jobs to have on park is that of the Skyride Evacuation Team. At it's highest point the Skyride hangs at over 200ft over the Gardens, so during an evacuation it is challenging to get a member of staff to each cabin, let alone getting guests back to the ground.
In the event of an evacuation, specially trained members of staff from across the park form teams in order to minimise the length of time it takes to empty the ride of guests.
These photos were shared with us by Mark, and show an evacuation taking place on 10th June 1991. Mark was working at the park as an automatics technician, and on that day was working in one of the park’s arcades before getting the call to support the evacuation the Skyride
Back in 1991, in order to evacuate the Skyride, members of the team first ascended one of the pylons before traversing along the cable to the first cabin. Once on the roof of the cabin they would then open the doors and use a Speleo ladder to enter. Each guest in the cabin would be individually harnessed and then lowered to the awaiting ground crew. Once each cabin was clear the team would move along the cable to the next.