Oblivion - 1998 Prototype B&M Dive Machine - Alton Towers Resort, Staffordshire UK!
“Don’t Look Down!”, for all those who have ridden this coaster you’ll know the exact ‘gravity’ that those 3 words command as you dangle over the edge of the 180 ft ‘near vertical’ drop you are almost certain to find yourself asking this exact question, ‘why did I do this?’
Oblivion is certainly the one addition to Alton Towers which continues to intimidate even the most hardened enthusiasts to this day! The prospcect of diving vertically (yes we know it’s an 87 degree drop but when you’re riding who can really tell that right?!) still inflicts chills on even the most brave of coaster lovers and with the added fact that you can only actually see 65ft of the 180 ft drop actually above ground this is one ride which still packs a punch even to this day!
SW4 as it was known back in it’s development was again another world’s first for the resort and after the ‘roaring’ success (like what I did there?) of Nemesis back in 1994 John Wardley had been left with this to ponder – How did you top Nemesis?! Well, creating the world’s first vertical drop coaster definitely seemed like the perfect way to do this however at the time the technology required had still yet to be invented and after some lengthy discussions with B&M it was finally agreed that this would be a possibility although it would require some further development and a new approach in order to achieve it!
"Don't Look Down!"
After a lengthy and very detailed ride development process and a truly genius marketing campaign by the park’s PR team Oblivion finally opened to major acclaim on 14/03/1998! The ride was an instant success and was hailed by all who rode it as a revolution in the way coasters were headed in the years to come!
Now we can tell you with no amount of uncertainty that this ride is very deceptive from the outlook! It may just look like a ‘one trick pony’, however the reality is that it is anything but! The one advantage this coaster has and still retains to this day is the ‘mental torture’ it inflicts on you both whilst queuing for the ride and whilst riding as well! If you stand at the bottom of the drop (well, we say bottom but it’s really not as nearly 120 ft of it lies beneath your feet) and look up at the top as other riders teeter over the edge the likelihood is you will almost certainly always hear at least one of them screaming ‘OH SHIT!!’ prior to their fate being sealed as they plummet into the ground below! These we found were our exact thoughts as we rode it for the first time, because believe us when we say the drop may not look that high from the ground below, however when you’re up on the edge for yourself and it’s your turn to take the plunge you realise very quickly just how wrong you were!
The ride’s other advantage has to be the nerves you will likely experience when you edge over the crest of the lift hill and slowly crawl around the top towards your impending doom! To this day this part of the ride alone still gets the adrenaline pumping and with the fact the ride still operates on the 2 row shuttles as opposed to the newer 3 row floorless trains you will find that when you do reach the edge of the drop the exposure you will feel to the reality of what you’re about to the face will still very likely make certain parts of your body nip to this day!
The Dive into the ground however is an entirely different entity in itself! The sheer exhilarating feeling of weightlessness inflicted on you is incredible, and with the added fact that the drop also packs a whopping total of 4.5 Gs it’s safe to say you should never ride this on a full stomach as it is highly likely you will be leaving everything but your consciousness at the top (and even that’s debatable for some)!
The rest of the layout however is fairly blase in comparison and this in our opinion goes to show that the bulk of the cost must have been in developing this ride’s vertical dive technology! This is due to the fact that once you do come out of the first drop and are thrown into a banked turn you immediately hit the brake run straight after! This is therefore the reason behind it’s rather amusing alias ‘break run the ride’!
All this aside however Oblivion still remains one of the most solid investments the Towers have made in our opinion and this due to the fact that it was ground breaking (literally) for it’s time and still to this day remains the only B&M Dive machine in the UK!
With regards to what the future will likely hold for this ride it’s hard to say as there was a rumour circulating a while ago that Oblivion would be leaving the resort in the next 5 to 10 years to make way for future developments, however this rumour was never substantiated and as such it remains exactly that! In our opinion we don’t want to see this ride go anywhere, however an update and refurb would definitely be most welcome! We would also like to see a potential expansion to the rides layout, and with the removal of Submission in recent years as well as the extra space in and around X-Sector we definitely feel that this is something which would be feasible given the correct amount of investment and development from Alton Towers!
Taking the Plunge!!
Here, taken from RCDB.com are a few ride facts for you incase you have yet to ride this for yourself!;
Oblivion is one of the fastest rides on resort reaching a total speed of 68 mph throughout the course of it’s layout and this also therefore makes it one of the UK’s fastest coasters to date as well
The ride in question has a total ride length of just 1,222 ft giving it a full ride duration of just 1 minute and 15 seconds!
The total ride capacity is 1,900 riders per hour and this is achieved through the use of a double station within the station building which has been reincorporated in recent years to cut down queue times and improve through put during busier periods!
As mentioned previously the ride has a total drop height of 180 ft, however only 65 ft of this drop is actually visible above ground making 115 ft of the rides drop a mystery to those who have yet to ride to this day!
Overall Oblivion in our opinion still remains one of the strongest coasters on park to this day and we therefore can’t wait to finally get back and rid this for ourselves as soon as physically possible! We also feel that the ride’s future is therefore secure at the park, however a full refurb definitely wouldn’t go a miss in the years ahead as we definitely think this is now long overdue and given the state of some of the ride’s themeing elements used in the queue line it’s clear that some rejuvenation is certainly required to bring the ride back up to the standards it once held back in it’s heyday!
Have you ‘taken the plunge’ yet? If not we can’t recommend you do so enough!