On the All The Fun of the Fair forum, we were following the progress of some of the rides undergoing a full restoration by David Littleboy and his team: A set of Gallopers (four-abreast, no less), the Zodiac Jets that were once toured by Carters' Steam Fair, a rather rare double-decker juvenile roundabout, with a circle of rockets on the upper deck and a selection of scooters (of the motorbike variety) to be attached to the lower platform (giving rise to the name "Mods and Rockets") and a lovely Dodgem track. These rides were all delivered in plenty of time and in perfect order - they looked absolutely superb. You can read more about David's restoration projects on his website.
Now a word about campaigners and volunteers. We're an interesting bunch of people - just ask anyone who has to co-ordinate volunteers within an organisation where most people are paid to do their jobs! We don't expect anything special as a result of our efforts, but we do like to be treated fairly and with a modicum of respect. I sure as flip didn't expect what happened when the tickets went on sale: A two-hour priority booking session for Margate residents only, for the limited opening day tickets, with the resulting possibility that I would end up not being able to go to the opening day I had been working towards for a decade. Annoyed? Just a little! Then, it was revealed that the first 50 people to buy their tickets in person would get a special souvenir of the original Scenic Railway wood - being a Friday, that meant people who lived close enough to the park to buy their tickets in person - i.e. not me! The final straw was the Heart 103.1 competition to win the chance to be on the first public ride of the Scenic Railway - every enthusiast's dream. Guess what? Only open to Margate residents. I finally got my opening day admission ticket, but I have to say that this was an absolute snub to the many campaign members who weren't local. As I said, I didn't take part in the campaign for any kind of special treatment, but I certainly didn't expect to be actively discriminated against! Still - at least Dreamland will be open once more...
So the great day dawned! The Thursday had been such a lovely day that I found a place at a nearby hotel and drove down in the evening sunshine. I got to Dreamland shortly after 9.00am and, as I drove into the Dreamland car park, one thought entered my mind: "They are doing this RIGHT!". The sight was truly impressive, and the Scenic Railway was just - perfect! All new wood, left in its natural colour, and with the profile just as I remember it in the old days. The big wheel added the perfect finishing touch to the skyline of the park - even with dear old Arlington House poking up just to the right.
It was clear that several of the rides weren't going to be open in time, but this was more a problem thanks to "Scrappage-gate", as mentioned in the previous blog. Substitute rides had to be found at relatively short notice, so any issues with these rides would inevitably mean a delay. The trains for the Scenic Railway weren't ready, which was unfortunate, but thanks to the arson attack, the ride could not be regarded as having been in constant use since the park closed, hence new safety aspects had to be incorporated. The trains are coming along nicely and will look just fine when finished - and it is very sensible not to rush such important things!
to get the park into a state in which the public could enter and walk around in complete safety, so fencing off the incomplete aspects of the park was the priority this morning - and they were going for it hell-for-leather. I was pleased to bump into David Littleboy - all of the rides he and his team restored were tested and ready to run, including the Four-Abreast Gallopers built by Savages of King's Lynn many years ago. I heard a few tales from the past twenty-four hours, and my admiration for those still hard at work increased a hundredfold!
|Even the Hook-a-Duck needed TLC|
Back at the entrance, a large, red ribbon was being installed across the entrance under the Scenic Railway turnaround. A raised platform was filled with TV cameras - members of the press had been wandering freely around the site all morning! A small crowd had gathered, but it was clear that a 10.00am opening wasn't going to happen. Out came a delightful group of entertainers! I think the theme was Cockneys on a Day Out as they started a sing-a-long. "Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside" and "My old man!", with some songs that had clearly been written for the occasion! It might have been more convincing if they all knew all the words to "Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside", bless 'em, but they were so enthusiastic you couldn't help but sing along! You could see the tipper trucks racing out of the park behind all the colour and bustle, and just before 11.00am the speeches and ribbon-cutting ceremony began! The crowd behind me had grown quite impressively by this time. And then the magical moment - the public were finally allowed to enter the park that had, ten years before, looked likely to end up under flats for commuters.
|The Food Court and bandstand|
Oh dear - sounds like I'm slipping into fanboy mode. But that's the truth of it - I had such a great time I just can't wait to get back. As I left the park at the end of the afternoon session, a huge queue had already built up for the evening Hullabaloo - featuring Chas & Dave and Marina & the Diamonds, among others. And this is the last thing that made me think that this park is going to do well - events! There is plenty of room left, and once the rides that are still undergoing restoration have been added, there is the Hall by the Sea ballroom waiting to be restored (and The Rolling Stones played there once) and the possibility of a permanent outdoor event arena. As I drove out of the car park, the tracer lights on the Scenic Railway were twinkling away - Dreamland really is going to be a magical place!