Oblivion is a steel roller coaster located at Alton Towers in England. The ride opened as the world's first vertical drop roller coaster on March 14, 1998 amidst a large publicity campaign.The ride has a height restriction of 1.4 metres. With a maximum speed of 68 mph, it is the third fastest roller coaster in the UK behind Stealth at Thorpe Park and the Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
CONSTRUCTION During 1998, Fantasy World (the area of Alton Towers in which Oblivion was eventually situated) was closed off and all the old fantasy-themed rides were removed except the Black Hole. Surrounding the area were signs announcing the arrival of a world's first, codenamed "SW4". Over the year, Alton Towers' secrecy and the ever-deepening hole being excavated fuelled speculation and hype. The details about Oblivion were finally unveiled in March 1998. The "SW4" codename stood for "Secret Weapon 4". SW3 was Nemesis, and SW 1 & 2 were unbuilt roller coasters originally intended for the Nemesis site. Oblivion's opening was accompanied by a massive publicity drive, including appearances on Blue Peter, The Gadget Show, news channels and cereal boxes. Before Oblivion opened, in 1997, some marketing memorabilia was released, and its own brand of deodorant (Which were brought back for the 2011 season).
OPENING. When Oblivion did open, it brought a totally new theme to the area. It was themed to look like a sinister government facility, unlike the fairground theme that Fantasy World had previously. This meant that a re-theme was needed and thus the area was renamed X-Sector. The only surviving ride from Fantasy World, the Black Hole roller coaster, was also changed: the large tent that it was situated in was repainted to blue and silver instead of green and yellow stripes. To make the new X-Sector a major ride area, Alton Towers added two old rides from other parts of the park: Energizer and Enterprise (both from Festival Park, now Dark Forest). Both rides were repainted to fit to the new theme like the Black Hole tent (however, Energizer was removed from the area in 2001 to make way for a new flat ride, Submission; Energizer was relocated back to UG Land and renamed Boneshaker until its removal from park in 2004). Enterprise was removed following the 2012 season and is to be replaced by a refurbished Huss Enterprise for the 2013 season to along with the arrival of SW7, The Smiler.
SPONSERSHIP In 2011, the area around Oblivion has been given a slight revamp to incorporate promotion for Fanta, the ride's new sponsor. With posters saying '15,000ft drop, bring it on', despite the fact that the drop is actually 196ft.
2012 INCIDENT. On 8 May 2012, a 20-year-old man climbed over safety fences and accessed the underground ride area.He reportedly dropped into the hole from which the roller coaster track re-emerges from the underground tunnel, walked through the underground section and emerged on a ledge where the track enters the ground. Neither he or guests on the ride were harmed following the ride cars being held at the boarding station. He was arrested for a public order offence, and the ride returned to normal operation the following day.
With the new roller coaster The Smiler opening in 2013, Oblivion will no longer be the only coaster in X Sector. In late January/early February 2013, Alton Towers began a process to repaint Oblivion's fading track in order for it to look as new and refreshed as the park's latest roller coaster. The repaint took over 6 weeks to complete, whilst cosmetic upgrades were also made to the station building and queue line structures. The coaster is now the same colour as its new neighbour The Smiler. In June, Oblivion suffered a few weeks of closure due to an unknown reason. The ride re-opened on the 25th of June.
RIDE EXPERIENCE While riders queue they are shown three briefing videos featuring actor Renny Krupinski as a sinister man surrounded in darkness, who explains at length the physical and psychological effects of riding on Oblivion. Although based on true scientific facts, his speeches are deliberately exaggerated with hyperbole and dark humour to give riders a sense of intimidation while preparing for Oblivion. The man remains unnamed throughout the videos, although the character was originally referred to as the Lord of Darkness during production. The final preshow video features a second character whose image appears inverted and therefore glowing white, who argues with the Lord of Darkness as to whether Oblivion is really safe for riders to experience; to which he is repeatedly ignored. The Lord of Darkness maintains that the ride is safe, before the video ends with the sound of his ominous laughter. The queue line takes riders through a large, drawn out upwards helix, repeatedly passing under, through and over various buildings of abstract architecture, before traversing metal bridges into the elevated station building. Here they are batched into rows and board their ride cars, while various technical graphics are displayed on overhead screens. As the cars dispatch, the screens play an automated video featuring the Lord of Darkness in his final appearance as he recites the following monologue: "For some things, there is no rational explanation. There is no way out. There is no happy ending to the story. Welcome to the unknown; welcome to eternal darkness; welcome...to Oblivion."
A picture of Oblivion's drop, taken from the guest observation area. The roller coaster has a simple layout with a 196ft drop at 88.8° degrees. The car slowly ascends 60 feet at a 45 degree angle to build tension, then levels out, slowly travelling around a curve as they approach the drop, using a unique chain system only ever used on Oblivion, as other Dive Machines use a slight downward gradient to move the car around the turnaround, for ease of maintenance. As each car reaches the drop it is held by a drop chain (reverse of a lift chain) for a 3 seconds- giving the rider a clear view of the long drop- before a clutch is released allowing the car to drop into the tunnel. This is followed by a highly banked turn that climbs up and makes the train lie on its side as it goes through. Then after dropping out of the turn the train climbs over a small rise in the track to the brakes, slowing down, and then pulls around back to the station. The open design cars accommodate sixteen passengers in two rows of eight. The back row is slightly raised to give passengers a clear view of the drop. A pre-recorded and disembodied voice saying 'don't look down' was played just before release. However, in 2004, this sound effect was removed due to sound restriction on the park. However, the words "Don't look down" have been painted on the floor of the guest observation area which is visible to riders when the train is hanging over the edge.Oblivion's drop has an angle of 88.8° as the ride vehicle's bogies are not spring loaded. To avoid a sudden jolt as the ride levels out, the drop was made at a 88.8° angle so the upper wheels remain more in contact with the track; if the drop was a 90° angled drop, negative G's would push the upper wheels slightly off the running rail and hit the track suddenly when levelling out, causing discomfort to riders and increasing the wear and tear on the wheels. Newer models of Oblivion's type have vehicles equipped with spring loaded bogies which allow the vehicle to drop at 90° and cushions the force of the wheels during levelling out.