Thrill-seeking at Marvel’s and Scarborough Zoo

Marvel’s Amusement Park and its predecessor Scarborough Zoo featured a number of rides for thrill-seeking visitors.

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Above: A Marvel’s Poster featuring a list of rides (from the author’s personal collection)

The National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield, holds an impressive collection of photographs online, featuring many of the rides that once operated at both amusement park and zoo.

For digital security reasons these images cannot be reproduced here, although relevant links will be provided where appropriate.

One of the most prominent rides on the Marvel’s/Zoo site was The Big Dipper, not to be confused with the famous Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Below: The better known Blackpool Big Dipper – a very different ride (source)

The Scarborough Big Dipper was a much smaller model, which opened in 1973, as part of Scarborough Zoo. Manufactured by Pinfari, this ride, unlike its larger wooden Blackpool namesake, was made from steel.

You can view another image of the ride here, courtesy of the NFA Digital Archive at the University of Sheffield.

In 1999 the roller coaster was moved to Knowsley Safari Park, where it became known as Viper and operated between 2000 and 2006. Afterwards it may have been sold to a Spanish company, although confirmation of this has been difficult to find.

Above: The Viper logo (source)

Below: The ride at Knowsley Safari Park (source)

There was also a junior roller coaster for children, known as the Go-Gator, which ran from 1973 until 1999, just like the Big Dipper.

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Above: Go-Gator ride (from the author’s personal collection)

An alternative view of the ride can be seen here at the NFA Digital Collection, University of Sheffield.

Another steel ride, manufactured by Wisdom, the Go-Gator featured a gently undulating track, traversed via carriages that resembled a cartoon alligator. There are still a number in operation today.

Above: The Go-Gator at nearby Flamingoland (source)

Scarborough Zoo also built up a collection of fairground staples, which its later reincarnation – Marvel’s – inherited. These included:

Waltzers

Dodgems

Paratroopers

Jets

Click the links to see photos from the NFA Digital Archive – images cannot be used or reproduced unless permission has been granted from the NFA at the University of Sheffield. Many more can be found by typing ‘Scarborough’ into the search box.

Some bore the name of Scarborough Zoo’s founder, Don Robinson. Others had more creative names, such as Super Cyclone Twist, and Stargazer.

 

Above: Cardboard copy of the Stargazer sign (source)

When Marvel’s replaced Scarborough Zoo in 1984, the attraction focused more on rides and thrill-seeking than ever before. It’s new name (Mr Marvel’s Showtime USA Fun Park – quite a mouthful!) and those of the rides suggested a desire to emulate the success of famous US theme parks. Indeed, when Don Robinson first developed the site back in the late 1960s, he recalls being inspired by Disneyland.

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Above: Another Marvel’s poster (from the author’s personal collection)

In line with this American-style re-branding, the chairlifts – once painted in different colours – were re-painted in a vivid red, and the publicity material featured a cartoon character dressed in the stars and stripes of the USA (see above).

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Above: The red chairlift (from the author’s personal collection).

Thanks to this timely makeover, the park survived for just over another decade. But as before, with the zoo, visitors were eventually lured away by bigger and more impressive theme parks. Attractions such as nearby Flamingoland boasted huge and terrifying roller coasters that dwarfed the humble Big Dipper at Marvel’s. Other North Bay attractions were also struggling at this time – when Marvel’s closed in 2002, neighbouring attractions Kinderland and Atlantis were both descending into financial difficulties, and would each close down several years later.

Does this then mean that the local funfair or amusement park is dead?

Visitors haven’t completely abandoned smaller attractions. Luna Park –  the fair near Scarborough Harbour – still survives, and travelling funfairs continue to exist. However, committed adrenaline junkies are drawn in greater numbers to bigger, scarier rides in regional parks (and those abroad); attractions better equipped to invest in the newest and most advanced rides. Nonetheless, the older rides offer a quaint nostalgia for adult passengers, and an introduction for younger riders, eager to begin their thrill-seeking adventures. Unfortunately Marvel’s can only offer memories now – the derelict site has lost its once exciting rides, and with them, its former identity.

Do you remember the rides at Marvel’s or the Zoo? Were you a thrill-seeker? Or did you prefer the gentler attractions at the amusement park? Please leave comments/corrections below.

Sources

National Fairground Archive

Roller Coaster Database

Joyland Books

Urbex Forums

Scarborough News

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4 thoughts on “Thrill-seeking at Marvel’s and Scarborough Zoo

  1. Pingback: Memories From Marvel’s | Stories From Scarborough

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  3. Pingback: Scarborough’s North Bay Chair Lifts | Stories From Scarborough

  4. Pingback: Scarborough During The 1980s | Stories From Scarborough

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