Blackpool Pleasure Beach, long-lost ‘best ride ever’, The Reel shown in unearthed 1920s footage
Incredible footage shows one of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s lost rides forever.
Many fondly remembered the “best ride ever,” The Virginia Reel was a resort staple from 1922 until it closed in 1982.
Unlike modern roller coasters, the ride involved circular spinning cars that traveled along wooden tracks.
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Instead of big hills or embankments, this involved repeated turns and switchbacks without tilting to keep the cars spinning as much as possible, with a relatively steep drop in a tunnel.
Images of the journey have been restored in high quality by the British Film Insitute (BFI) as part of the DVD release of The Open Road, a groundbreaking travelogue by color cinematography pioneer Glaude Friese-Greene.
The sequence, which is available on the BFI Youtube channel, shows seven adults loading into one of the cars before being pushed by an attendant on the track who lifts it to the top of the arena.
From there, the cars bounce and turn side to side along the roller coaster, ending with a steep drop and a propeller to the end point.
Prior to its closure, which came at the expense of the growing popularity of steel coasters, Blackpool’s was the last full-size Virginia Reel in service in the world.
Designed by Henry Elmer Riehl, who named the ride after his daughter, Luna Virginia Riehl, the ride was brought to Lancashire under the direction of Alderman William George Bean.
Those who lived its joys remember it fondly, with some commenting on the BFI channel and describing it as Blackpool’s ‘best race ever’.
One user said: “I was lucky enough to try this ride back in 1980 and it was awesome, and yes it was one of the best rides ever. ”
The Open Road: A cinematic postcard of Britain in the 1920s, featuring the travelogues of Claude Friese-Greene, is released on DVD by the BFI and available for mail order purchase from the BFI Shop.
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