England's Dreamland Margate rescues, restores historic thrill rides
Scenic Railway roller coaster at Dreamland Margate. (Nick Laister, Joyland Books)
Located about 75 miles east of London, the waterfront amusement park hopes to attract 350,000 visitors annually with a collection of vintage rides that include a whip, caterpillar, haunted swing, fun house and shoot-the-chute water ride.
PHOTOS: Dreamland Margate heritage amusement park in England
Dating to 1863 as a dance hall, the seaside location that would become Dreamland Margate eventually added a circus menagerie, pleasure gardens and amusement rides.
The Save Dreamland campaign was formed in 2003 with the announcement of the park's closure. A master plan unveiled in 2009 called for restoring the nine-acre property as a heritage amusement park. Dreamland Margate is expected to reopen in 2013 with the assistance of $17 million in government funds and grants.
The revitalized park will be based around a trio of structures listed on England's registry of historic places: the Scenic Railway roller coaster, the Art Deco cinema and Lord George Sanger’s animal cages.
The plan is to salvage and restore a number of vintage rides rescued from parks around the United Kingdom. Many of the historic rides will be relocated from the original 1912 Pleasureland Southport in northwest England, which closed in 2006.
Restoration work has already begun on the cinema's iconic 80-foot-tall Dreamland sign and the Scenic Railway that was partially burned in 2008. Plans call for converting the animal cages into exhibition spaces.
An amusement park made up of vintage rides sounds like a dream come true for me. This past summer I took a road trip across America's coaster belt in hopes of riding a vanishing collection of turn-of-the-century attractions. Many of those classics are now being assembled at Dreamland.
Here's a rundown of the historic rides planned for Dreamland Margate:
Built in 1920, Dreamland's signature ride lost its station house, distinctive trains and a central section of track section during a devastating 2008 fire. Upon reopening, the brakeman-operated ride would become the oldest coaster in the United Kingdom (displacing the 1923 Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in northwest England).
The 1958 shoot-the-chute water ride operated at Rhyl’s Ocean Beach Fun Fair in Wales until the park closed in 2007. Dreamland will employ the boats and mechanical parts from the original ride, the last surviving circular Water Chute in the world. An identical water chute operated at Dreamland until 1995.
Built in 1923 at Pleasureland Southport, the indoor boat ride took passengers on a meandering river journey past tableaux scenes and through caves and tunnels. At Dreamland, which featured a River Caves attraction until 1984, passengers will embark on a whimsical journey in search of mythical dream creatures.
Rescued from Pleasureland Southport, the Dreamland attraction will feature the original 1955 machinery from the United Kingdom's last traditional Fun House, including moving steps, ramps and floors and a spinning table known as the social mixer.