At the heart of Forbidden Valley, The Blade sits in a sunken pit, challenging guests' stomachs as the park headline family thrill ride. Whilst onlookers may think the ride looks fairly tame, do not be fooled! The ride is much more thrilling than first meets the eye, due to the deceptive height.
The ride arrived in Forbidden Valley in 1997, taking over the pit which once housed Thunder Looper. Along with Ripsaw, The Blade was themed as a piece of shrapnel flung from Nemesis' pit during excavation. The once pristine Pirate Ship was redesigned to feature rusty and peeling paintwork, yellow and black hazard markings, and two huge metal blades on either end of the ship. This created a very daunting and hostile look to blend into its new environment - exactly as the park intended.
In 2015 The Blade was at the centre of a rumpus when it did not feature on the park map, fuelling speculation that it would be removed. Alton Towers later confirmed that the ride was due to be leaving but would continue to operate for the first part of the season. However, following The Smiler incident, plans to remove the ride were shelved.
In a reversal of fortune, ahead of the 2019 season, The Blade received a significant refurbishment to extend its lifespan in the park. Having been resharpened, The Blade has now been swinging for over 40 years. But it's probably best to get your rides in whilst you can, as it looks likely the ride will be departing sooner rather than later.
The Pirate Ship first arrived at Alton Towers in 1980 and had its home in Springfield Centre (currently X-Sector). It was the park's first major thrill ride and, whilst the ride is considered to be rather tame by today's standards, at the time it offered thrills unlike many guests had experienced before. The effect of the ride often left guests feeling rather queasy, which could become much worse if guests headed straight next door into the disorienting experience of the neighbouring Cine 2000.In its early years, the ride carried a traditional theme, designed as a giant swinging pirate ship complete with mast and anchor. However, in 1996 the ride disappeared, along with the rest of Fantasy World, in order to make way for Oblivion and X-Sector. It reappeared the following year over the other side of the theme park, with a whole new theme. Gone were the pirates, and instead the ride had become a giant pendulous blade.
In 1996, the park had big plans for the following season - Fantasy Land would become a giant construction site for the park's latest coaster, SW4, and at the same time Forbidden Valley was due to lose Thunder Looper. As a result, the Pirate Ship would move across the park to cleave through the pit that was once home to the older coaster in Forbidden Valley.
But it would no longer be themed to pirates. The classic swinging ship would gain a bold new theme as The Blade. To show off the ride's future look, the park's design team took an photo of the Pirate Ship and overlaid the new theme. The result was this unique composite of The Blade as it might have looked in Fantasy World.