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Vampire Behind The Scenes Tour

Chessington World Of Adventures

A brand new VIP experience is being launched at Chessington World of Adventures for 2024. Go behind the scenes on the iconic rollercoaster Vampire. This new tour runs on selected dates on the following days: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Costing £60 per person the tour has an age restriction of 7+ and lasts for around 45 minutes. This is fantastic because anyone who's able to ride the rollercoaster can go behind the scenes and see the ride from a new angle. Each tour, with a maximum of 10 people, will make everyone feel like a VIP! 

During the Vampire behind scenes tour you're shown around the station, brake run, tunnel, lift hill 2 and some of the ride areas for the rollercoaster. There are multiple places during the tour to get photos of yourself and friends in areas you’re never able to stand when the ride is open to guests. There is also a chance that during your tour you might be able to climb a lift hill for the rollercoaster. However, this is not guaranteed and is subject to weather, time etc.

Built by Arrow Dynamics, the ride first opened in 1990 and was called "The Vampire" Built under the Arrow Dynamics project code 1206, the original train design was a bucket with vampire bat theming at the front of the car. Guests were fully enclosed but still suspended below the track like the ride operates today, but without guests having their legs dangling.

At the end of the 2000 season, the ride was announced to be closing. With no one knowing if it would reopen again.

The Vampire remained SBNO (standing but not operating) during the 2001 season whilst the ride was re-themed and changed from Arrow Dynamics who had recently gone bankrupt, to a new system from Dutch manufacturer Vekoma. The changes to the rollercoaster included a new control panel, and new trains and led to removal of much of the theming inside the station. During the re-Vamp the word "The" was dropped and the rollercoaster became known as "Vampire".  The changes made by Vekoma were done under a new project code number of 91031.

Before the tour begins engineers shut the ride down and finish off their end of day checks.  Incredibly, each morning it takes engineers one hour to carry out a track walk of the rollercoaster, followed by another hour running it and testing that all the brake zones are working properly.  All this work begins bright and early at 6am.  The talented engineers work in two shifts. Then when the ride closes for the day and all guests are gone it takes 2-3 hours to check and to make sure the rollercoaster has run ok and that nothing is damaged or needs replacing.

Every two weeks the chain lifts for the rollercoaster are inspected and oil and grease are topped up.

The tour begins in the station. But this time  the house lights are on so you can see details everywhere not normally seen.  All the show lights are turned off and replaced with flood lights allowing engineers to see every detail on the train. This also means that the organist named "Marcel" who came from Madame Tussauds is turned off.  Rumour is that the face of the animatronic is Phill Collins.  A strategically  placed mirror has been placed on the organ where if you get the reflection right you can get a glimpse at his face (so you decide).

Each person on the tour is handed a padlock to "Lock off" the ride. These keys are used as a count for how many people are in the ride area. The ride can't be started without these keys unlocking a master key to unlock the ride.

We started our tour at the operator's cabin. Whilst we were not allowed into the cabin, looking through the window, we were given a detailed overview of the control panel.  We learnt the function of each button, light and switch.  It's fascinating how much there is on these old-school control panels compared to new panels now that are very minimalistic. This is one area of the tour where photos aren't allowed. The control panel for the ride has two modes, automatic which is how the ride runs during the day and manual. Which can only be used by engineers.

Did you know, the restraints for Vampire don’t click like most rides because they are operated by hydraulic one-way valves.

Before the train re-enters the station, it travels under the switch track for the rollercoaster. Unlike other rollercoasters, this switch track doesn't slide to the left and right it rotates 180 degrees. When this transfer track switches sides to allow trains to be moved into the maintenance bay with a winch. It makes such a loud noise that resonates through the track and can be heard if you're standing at the bottom of lift two.

Vampire in numbers: 

-Arrow Dynamics project code 1206
-Vekoma project code 91031
-There are 15,907 parts in total for the rollercoaster. This includes nuts and bolts for the train, track and supports  
-The track is over 800 meters in length 
-The rollercoaster has 110 support columns and are numbered 1-114. The differing number is due to some columns being double supports so they have two numbers associated with them. 
-There are 24 seats on each train, 12 rows of 2, with a weight of 12 tones in total per train. 
-The Vampire has three trains but only runs 2 due to the new trains being longer than the old trains. 
-There are 19 brake units for the rollercoaster. Unlike other modern rollercoasters, the vampire uses brake pads which are either off or on and can't be adjusted to trim the speed of the train.

Like all rollercoasters, the Vampire is fitted with anti-rollbacks on the lift hill and also features 2 halfway through the ride.

Vampire lift hill facts:

-The chain for the second lift hill is 114 meters in length 
-There are 76 anti-rollbacks in total 
-31 on lift one 
-41 on lift two 
-2 at the base of lift 2 
-2 at the exit to the tunnel (these are disabled during the operating season). If these were not disabled, the sound when the train passes over them will be able to be heard in the station.

The Vampire might be over 30 years old but the ride is still going strong, when we asked our tour guide are there any plans to remove the rollercoaster they replied that the park has a strong 5-year plan behind it and that they couldn't comment about it. Could we see the rollercoaster undergo a full re-track like Nemesis Reborn did for the 2024 season?

When we were done talking about the rollercoaster in the station we made our way into the final brake run area where the train finishes the layout and stops before turning into the station.

An interesting fact about the final break run for the vampire is that the track here used to be a transfer track. But when the ride was swapped over to the new Vekoma system the system was welded shut and no longer moves. An old motor for this transfer track can be seen on the side of a support for the building.

A strange fact is that the floor in the final break run never used to exist. If the ride needed to be evacuated the engineers would release the breaks manually and bring the ride into the station.

Inside the final brake run for the ride, a guide rail to help guide the wheels below the train can be seen. A laser at the end of this entry point counts the wheels and makes sure that all of the trains have parked correctly and that there’s the correct amount of wheels. It’s impossible for a train to not renter this guide rail.

You can also see into the station from the brake run! When you walk into the station from the main queue line if you look left by the fire exit. You’ll be able to see into this area!

You might also notice that in the final break run, there’s another section of track. Where towards the end two rails are missing. This section is missing so that during the closed season and at any point, a train/car can be winched up to that point and removed with a fork lift. Some eagle-eyed guests might be able to spot the old clearance checker for the ride made from pipes. Something unique and unlike others we’ve seen before.

We made our way out of the station where we were told that this would be the most iconic photo point if we wanted to take a group photo. This is a place you'd never be standing in again! Looking into the final section of the track and into the break run. This area looks fantastic at night time since the park has installed new permanent lighting in the area and around the park.

Walking up to Vampire Burger Kitchen we then entered the ride area again by the toilets. Walking underneath the second lift hill for the rollercoaster.

Looking up you don’t realise how tall this ride gets at some point.

When chatting to our VIP hosts and some engineers who were doing some extra tests. They mentioned that at the bottom of the second lift hill, there’s a winch to pull the train to the bottom if and when needed. If the train is going to valley/stall due to not having enough speed. The bottom of the second lift hill is the most commonplace. Especially if it’s cold at the beginning of the day.

Again at the bottom of the second lift hill, another guide rail to guide the wheels at the bottom of the train can be found. This time a laser counts the wheels at the bottom and 4 sensors at the bottom of the track count the break fins coming in. When these sensors see a train come through the lift chain starts and engages the train to move it to the top of the lift hill.

Old Chessington fans might be quick to notice an old theming element at the bottom of lift two. The old centrepiece from a ride called Rodeo can be seen. Repainted black and grey this man on a horse used to be painted colourfully and was located in what is now the picnic area by Croc Drop. This theming was installed around 2010 but was originally located at the bottom of the second drop before being moved to its final location here. Blink and you miss it but this character still has cowboy boots and a very scary face!

Did you know, The Vampire was the UK’s first suspended coaster and the first coaster in Europe to go underground?

The next part of the tour is to go into the tunnel of the rollercoaster. This is the section of the ride where the rollercoaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 MPH and is the fastest section of the ride.

For guests that are epileptic, there is an alternative route to be taken as when you enter the tunnel for the ride you catch the laser beam which triggers the on-ride photo. Instead of walking the way the train would enter the tunnel, you would enter backwards. With no lights on in the tunnel, it was a spooky experience but a unique one we will never forget. Rides around the area still had sound effects turned on and occasionally in the distance you could hear animals roaring and making noises.

In 2001 when the ride was changed from Arrow to Vekoma, some sections of the ride area were dug out and some supports were modified due to the new trains being longer in height. Something we didn’t know, some track into the tunnel was replaced during the refurbishment in 2001.

After walking around the rollercoaster with our amazing VIP guides our tour came to an end. We had such an amazing time and learnt so much about the history of the rollercoaster. It’s amazing to see how passionate everyone is who works at Chessington. Especially the engineers who work on the ride who were more than happy to answer questions.

Vampire is such an iconic rollercoaster and this tour is a fantastic way to celebrate its recent birthday.

A big thank you to Chessington for inviting us to preview this tour.

All photos are taken with permission from the park.