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Scenic Railway at Margate's Dreamland opens tomorrow

By James Rose

It's been blown down, neglected and nearly destroyed by fire, but tomorrow the public can finally ride Dreamland's Scenic Railway again.

It's been four months since the amusement park's grand opening, and the iconic rollercoaster has been conspicuous by its absence from the line-up of retro rides.

When it became clear two weeks before opening the park’s main attraction would be delayed many expressed their frustration.

The delay was due to finishing touches being made to the trains, and the wooden structure.

The completion of the ride marks the end of phase one in the £28 million project, that has included restored rides and amusements including the Roller Disco, The Octopus’ Garden, Dreamland Emporium, restaurants, food stalls, arcades and an ice cream parlour.

Over the next three years, future phases will include a nightclub, a 1,600-capacity hall, an large outdoor event space and an education centre, to name but a few of the planned additions.

Schoolchildren try out the Scenic Railway rollercoaster
Schoolchildren try out the Scenic Railway rollercoaster
Reporters experience the Scenic Railway's thrills ahead of the public tomorrow
Reporters experience the Scenic Railway's thrills ahead of the public tomorrow
Scenic Railway cars
Scenic Railway cars

Built in 1920, the Scenic Railway was Britain’s oldest surviving rollercoaster and the project to bring back the ride has had its with twists and turns.

In December last year, the wooden attraction blew down in high winds and in April 2008 a major fire ravaged the iconic structure.

It fell into disrepair when the attraction closed but the wait for its return to the original pleasure park will soon be over.

But, while some members get to ride the attraction today, it will open to the general public tomorrow.

Speaking as the first guests tried out the long-awaited attraction, CEO Eddie Kemsley said: "This is just amazing, a momentous day for Dreamland.

"In 2008 there was a huge fire destroying the ride so to have it back up and running in all its glory is a massive feat of engineering.

"To bring a 20th century ride into to a 21st century world is fabulous.

"The structure is a work of art and there is nothing else like this.

"Dreamland has had a phenomenal summer and a massive impact on the local economy.

"We can't wait for our guests to come and try it over the next couple of weeks."

Teddy was a bit nervous before his rollercoaster ride. Picture: Dreamland
Teddy was a bit nervous before his rollercoaster ride. Picture: Dreamland

Andrew Gall, the resort's head of technical services, said it was quite emotional.

He added: "It's taken an amazing effort by a lot of people.

"The last month's work has been intense culminating to this week where we trained our eight break men and the operators to make sure the ride runs as smoothly as possible.

"Because of the weather conditions it's running a little slower than normal today, I would say it can go 20 seconds faster.

"But it's a great step in this ongoing project and brings extra excitement to Dreamland."

The Scenic Railway announcement coincides with the launch of Dreamland’s first Halloween scare festival as Screamland opens for visitors.

The original pleasure park will transform into a festival of fear with sideshows and characters until October 31.

As night falls six interactive scare attractions, which play on the history of different elements of Dreamland, will come to life.

Screamland
Screamland

These include Festino’s Forgotten Fun House, based on an old-fashioned travelling freak show by a crazed showman, echoing the site’s days as Hall By the Sea (prior to becoming Dreamland in 1919).

There will also be sideshows with new frightening characters such as Punchello - a twisted version of the original Mr Punch and Ice Scream Man - Margate’s darkest and grungiest ice scream vendor.

For younger guests more family-friendly visitor experiences can be found during the daytime.

For more information about the festival visit www.dreamland.co.uk/screamland.

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