EVEN the Undead have to move with the times. Enter Over the Hill, Adventure Islands £1million take on the traditional ghost train rides we all remember of old.
The Southend seafront fun park advertises its latest attraction as a “ghostly adventure for all the family”, a ride “scarier, darker and altogether more thrilling” than anything ridden before.
Set in a supposedly abandoned graveyard, Over the Hill definitely qualifies as Southend’s second scariest train-ride – close second to some mornings’ experience on a certain London-bound commuter line!
Explaining the decision to replace the old Beelzee Bob’s Trail ride, Adventure Island operations director Marc Miller explained: “In this business, you can’t just stay where you are. Public expectations are getting higher all the time. You have to offer something fresh.
“We went for an approach which was darker and offered a lot more surprises, but was also more of a classical ghost train ride.”
Most theme parks buy in rides ready-made in the way you or I might might purchase a TV set or a car Over the Hill, in contrast, was largely designed and built by Adventure Island’s own in-house team.
Head of art and design Paul Clapp worked with brother Martin, a computer animator, whose short film of Peter and the Wolf this year won an Oscar, no less.
Together, they created a narrative in which a sinister undertaker invites visitors on to his train for a one-way ride through a cemetery full, as cemeteries tend to be, of the dead.
The technical side of the ride was handled by resident engineer, Robert Roberts, regarded by some as a near-genius.
Outside specialist consultants did pitch in, to an extent, but it’s fair to say Southend can still list ghost train design manufacture as a thriving local industry.
It forms a healthy contrast to the full-size rail rolling stock industry in Britain, which truly belongs, like the Southend ride’s residents, to the realm of the dead.
Whatever effect Over the Hill has on visitors, the logistics involved almost certainly terrified Adventure Island’s accountants and quantity surveyors.
Paul sums up his requirements as: “Video projections, special lighting effects, smoke machines model animation, a state-of-the-art audio system, 25,000 metres of electric cabling and more than 100 gallons of paint.”
* Over the Hill opens to the public on Friday. To celebrate, Adventure island is offering half-price wrist-bands for the ride from 6pm every day until November 1.