Ultimate is a sit-down roller coaster located at Lightwater Valley in North Yorkshire, England. It was the longest roller coaster in the world when it opened, and still is the longest roller coaster in Europe.
The ride was the idea of Robert Staveley (park founder), and was built by Big Country Motioneering, with help from British Rail. The track itself was provided by Tubular Engineering.
Park owner (at the time) Robert Staveley wanted something that would put his park on the map. He had found a section of valley that was perfect for building a roller coaster in, but it was at the back of the park, and getting there would require some sort of transport. It was decided that rather than building a separate ride to take gusts to the station, the roller coaster itself would transport riders to this location. Contrary to popular belief, the designers of Ultimate weren't aware that they were building the longest roller coaster in the world, until well into the project.
Construction started in 1990. A small British company, Big Country Motioneering, were in charge of the project, but were soon sacked due to various problems with the ride. In-house workers, with help from British Rail, completed the roller coaster. Many corners had their banking changed, and a "wiggle" section of track was removed from the ride due to "non being exciting enough" Ironically, it was replaced with a straight section of track.
The very first person to ride the Ultimate was Robert Staveley, who rode the ride tied in by a rope, as the restraints hadn't been installed at that time.
The Ultimate was opened on 17 July 1991 (18 months after construction began) by Frank Bruno, a former British boxer. When it opened, it was the world's longest roller coaster, at 1.4 miles (2.25 km) long, taking over 5 minutes to ride. It cost £5.2 million to build, way more than the origional £1.2 million budget. When it opened, it was called "The Ultimate Beast" with the catchphrase "The T-Rex of Roller Coasters". It was named through a contest on BBC Radio 1.
The Ultimate is painted dark green, however the paint has faded away and the ride now looks black (if you look closely at the rails then you can see the green). The small lift hill before the station is painted white and is called the "Swan's Neck" by locals.
The Ultimate takes up 44 acres of woodland and fields, and was built around a golf course that has since closed. The ride has two chain lift hills, of 102 and 107 feet respectively. After the first lift hill, the ride travels away from the station and over some airtime hills. The train is gradually slowed down as it approaches the second lift hill and goes over some smaller bunny hills. After climbing the second lift, the train turns slowly and then dives down into dense forest. Hidden in the forest, the train goes round some wild large turns, diving then rising up whilst turning. After this, the ground levels out, and a straight section of track follows (This is the location of the "wiggle" section of track that was removed before the ride's opening). Then, the train turns tightly and goes into a tunnel. It then travels round over the tunnel then down into an even longer tunnel. The train then emerges from the trees and round a large turn back to the station.
The Ultimate was built with the intention of running four trains, however it was realized only two would be necessary. Each train was named after park staff. They were called Tony's Tornado (red train) and Ron's Rocket (blue train), however the names have since been removed.
The ride has an extremely long station, which can hold both the ride's trains. This was required for the ride to run four trains at once, an idea which was abandoned before the ride opened. The building that houses the station is made of wood, with the bottom half being concrete. Riders board the Ultimate on the upper floor of this building. The lower floor houses an amusement arcade and an Ultimate gift shop which guests pass through as they exit the ride.
Eleven days after the ride opened, five people were taken to hospital with whiplash injuries after one of the trains had a low-speed collision with another in the station.
In June 1994, a deer from the nearby fields was decapitated in a collision with the train, when it's antlers got caught in the safety bars. Some riders were showered in blood, and a 12 year-old boy was taken to hospital as a result of the accident.
In 2004, an axle broke and a set of wheels came off the train as it was carrying 38 passengers at full speed, causing shock, bruising and one minor fracture to the passengers after the car dropped on to the track, causing half-a-mile of damage before stopping. It resulted in a £15,000 fine for Lightwater Valley and £10,000 for its maintenance contractor, Serco Ltd, of Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex.
Month before the mechanical failure, engineers found cracks in 16 of its 23 axles. Both companies admitted exposing the public to safety risks by fitting replacement axles on the Ultimate without taking into account stresses on the ride. Lightwater, which changed its plea to guilty on the morning of the prosecution, was ordered to pay costs of £4,988 and Serco had to pay £1,983. Health and Safety Executive prosecutor Steven Kay said: “Problems caused by stress were noticed soon after the Ultimate opened in July, 1991.
Some sections of track have since been re-banked, helping to reduce these forces, however strain on the trains is still extremely high.
In September 2014, a deer strayed onto the track resulting in a collision. The ride made an emergency stop and engineers evacuated passengers from the train. Once the train was inspected it was returned to the station and was in operation 30 minutes later.
RollerCoaster Tycoon appearance
The Ultimate was recreated as "The Storm" within the "Katie's World" scenario in the original RollerCoaster Tycoon video game.
|Preceded by|| World's Longest Roller Coaster
1991 - 1999
|Lightwater Valley Roller Coasters|
|Operating||Caterpillar • Ladybird • Raptor Attack • Twister • Ultimate|
|Former||Batflyer • Grizzly Bear • Soopa Loopa • Viper|