The Wonderland Years: Bounty’s Revenge

This column was originally published in The Central Western Daily on Tuesday 18th January 2014.

Bounty’s Revenge, known to Australia’s Wonderland staff as “360”, was a looping starship ride with a pirate ship shell. One of the original attractions when the park opened in 1985, it seated fifty passengers at the time, swinging backwards and forwards until it eventually went right over the top to a height of twenty four metres. It was also one of my favourite rides to work on because it required 3 staff. With the ride queue really close to the operator’s booth, plus the extra colleagues, it was great fun to operate if you liked to socialise and interact with the crowd, which I certainly did.

Microphone in hand, I’d give my safety spiel every ride cycle and then begin my banter with the riders. One of my favourite things to do was tell the passengers that they would receive a free set of steak knives if they kept their hands up throughout the ride. Of course, I had absolutely no control over the ship whatsoever. Besides the lap bar controls, the start button and the big red emergency stop button, the ride operator had no influence on how long the ride went and how many revolutions it made.

I was also certain that no-one believed a word I said, until I was called in to see my manager. Unable to control his laughter, he proceeded to give me a “serious” warning. It seems that a rider indeed visited the guest relations office to claim his complimentary steak knives and after a fairly lengthy period of confusion on behalf of the poor employee behind the counter, became quite irate when told he had been duped. I didn’t play that prank again, much.

The problem with pirate ships that go upside down is that riders tend not to listen to warnings about loose objects. Fortunately, in the early nineties, no one really had mobile phones, so the staff would take shelter under canopies or umbrellas from frequent showers of coins, cigarette lighters, sunglasses and once, an SLR camera. At best, the object landed in the ride pit and would remain there until I called a maintenance crew member to fetch it, but usually it would stay where it landed for weeks until a scheduled clean out. At worst, it landed in the lake and was never seen again.

Whoever got the job to drain the lake in 2004 when the park closed for good would have made a fortune in coins. My friend and former colleague Craig claims to have found $80 in change when rostered to clean the outskirts of the ride.

Occasionally we would have a rider who was a little too, well, rotund for the seatbelt. The solution was pretty simple: seatbelt extensions. The tricky thing for staff was to retrieve these extensions when the ride cycle finished. Being almost identical to the standard seatbelts, they were pretty hard to find. Of course, when they plummeted from a height of  twenty four metres and slammed into the platform, they were much easier to locate.

The worst thing about Bounty’s Revenge was cleaning up after a guest was sick on the ride. Affectionately known as a “protein spill”, it was not possible to toss kitty litter over the mess and call park services to sweep it up. Instead, we’d throw soapy water over the seats, tell all of the guests to move under the queue canopy and run the ride. Not many attractions have their own spin dry cycle!

Bounty’s Revenge is now known as Pirate’s Revenge and is located at the Sunway Lagoon theme park in Kuala Lumpur.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 18, 2014 at 23:04  Comments (1)  
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The Wonderland Years: The Demon

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th February 2014.

The Demon roller coaster came to Australia’s Wonderland from the World Expo 88 theme park. Originally known as The Titan, it was relocated to Sydney and given a new slick of black paint in 1992, one year before I came on board as a ride loader.

Every morning, prior to the park opening at 10am with a terrible tinny recording of the national anthem, the ride would be tested by running a few cycles. Many times, I would be the sole occupant of the coaster for these test runs. Typically steel roller coasters run slower when cold, so the effects of a freezing Sydney morning combined with the weight of, well, just me, resulted in a scary stop start ride barely making it through the loops and the boomerang.

As soon as I turned eighteen, I was trained to be a ride operator. That meant I was able to press the buttons at the control panel. Even more importantly, I was given a microphone. Every time the coaster began its journey backwards up the first tower, I’d start my safety spiel. I can still recite that speech to this day.

“Good morning riders, welcome to The Demon. To ride, you must be over the height of 48 inches or 120 centimetres. You must be wearing shoes and a shirt. If you have had any recent surgery, illness or broken bones we strongly suggest you do not ride. If you are pregnant, congratulations and I hope you name it after me, but we also suggest you do not ride. Please make sure that you secure all loose items including cameras, mobile phones, wallets, coins and your brain.”

After the spiel was done, I could pretty much say anything I wanted to amuse or irritate the crowd in the queue. I’d sing songs, tell bad jokes and do impressions, the whole time rotating around on a swivel chair so I could keep an eye on the coaster as it twisted around the track. My favourite prank was to continually ask the crowd to wish the ride loader, standing on their lonesome on the other side of the station, a happy birthday, regardless of whether it actually was their birthday.
The safety harness for The Demon was controlled by a foot pedal. To release the riders, you needed to push down the seven pedals, one at a time, from front to back. After the new riders were seated, you’d make your way from back to front, kicking the pedals up and checking that the harnesses were locked. It was hell on your shoes, and  eventually ride loaders would develop this bizarre but efficient dance as they made their way down the station. Kick the pedal, hop, step, step, hop, and repeat seven more times. Close the safety gate, then stick your thumb in the air. All clear and the ride is on its way.

Eventually, I graduated to ride trainer. The final test for potential Demon loaders and operators was being able to climb the twelve storeys of the ride tower. If you were scared of heights, you wouldn’t be able to participate in emergency evacuations of the roller coaster. Every couple of weeks, I’d walk my new trainees up the tower. The view from the top was spectacular, looking outwards that is. The view straight down was terrifying. The floor of the deck at the top was simply metal grill. On a particularly windy day, the towers would also sway. No wonder I hate heights now.

The Demon was relocated to the Alabama Adventure theme park upon AWL’s demise in 2004. I was living overseas when my beloved park closed so I never got to say goodbye. According to the interwebs, Alabama Adventure closed its doors in 2011 and the ride, now known as the Zoomerang (and painted bright canary yellow) is up for sale.

Published in: on February 18, 2014 at 23:00  Leave a Comment  
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