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Oblivion is a steel roller coaster located at Alton Towers in England. The ride was marketed as 'the world's first vertical drop roller coaster' and opened to the public on 14 March 1998, amidst a large publicity campaign. It was the second in a long line of 'Secret Weapon' (SW4) rollercoasters to have opened at Alton Towers. The ride has a height restriction of 55 inches (140 cm). With a maximum speed of 68 mph, it is the third fastest roller coaster in the UK, behind Stealth at Thorpe Park and the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.[1][2]

Oblivion's vertical drop
Alton Towers
Park sectionX-Sector
Opening date14 March 1998 (1998-03-14)
Cost£12 million
General statistics
TypeSteel – Dive Coaster
ManufacturerBolliger & Mabillard
DesignerWerner Stengel
ModelDive Coaster
Lift/launch systemChain lift hill
Height18 m (59 ft)
Drop54 m (177 ft)
Length372 m (1,220 ft)
Speed109 km/h (68 mph)
Max vertical angle90°
Capacity1,900 riders per hour
Height restriction140 cm (4 ft 7 in)
Trains7 trains with 2 cars. Riders are arranged 8 across in a single row for a total of 16 riders per train.
WebsiteOfficial website
Fastrack available
Oblivion at RCDB
Pictures of Oblivion at RCDB




During 1997, 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.[3] Details about Oblivion were not revealed until March 1998.[4]

The "SW4" codename stood for "Secret Weapon 4". SW3 was Nemesis, and SW 1 and 2 were unbuilt roller coasters originally intended for the Nemesis site.[3]

Oblivion's opening was accompanied by a massive publicity drive, including appearances on Blue Peter, The Gadget Show, news channels and cereal boxes.[5] In 1997, before Oblivion opened, some marketing memorabilia was released, including its own brand of deodorant.[5] The total cost to construct the ride was estimated at £12 million.[6]


When Oblivion did open, the area was re-themed to look like a sinister government facility, unlike Fantasy World's fairground theme, and renamed X-Sector.[5] 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.[7] 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).[8] Both rides were repainted to fit to the new theme.[9]


On 21 April 2011 the area around Oblivion was given a slight revamp to incorporate promotion for Fanta, the ride's new sponsor. The sponsorship included posters saying '15,000 ft drop, bring it on', despite the fact that the drop is actually 180 ft (55m).[10] Some of the Fanta sponsorship posters were removed after only a few months "following numerous complaints about the obtrusive nature of the brand".[11]

2012 incidentEdit

On 8 May 2012, a 20-year-old man climbed over safety fences and accessed the underground ride area.[12] 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.[12] Neither he nor any guests on the ride were harmed following the ride cars being held at the boarding station.[13] He was arrested for a public order offence, and the ride returned to normal operation the following day.[12]


With the new roller coaster The Smiler opening in 2013, Oblivion is no longer the only coaster in X Sector, as it had been since Black Hole's closure in 2005.[14] In late January/early February 2013, Alton Towers began a process of repainting Oblivion's fading grey track, which had become very worn since opening in 1998. The repaint took over 6 weeks to complete, with some cosmetic upgrades also being made to the station building and queue line structures. The coaster is now the same dark grey colour as its neighbour The Smiler.[15][16]

In June, Oblivion suffered downtime owing to a gearbox component failing. The ride remained closed for a few weeks while a replacement part was manufactured. The ride re-opened on 25 June.[17]

Ride experienceEdit

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 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.[10] The final preshow video features a second character nicknamed The Lord of Light (despite never being named within the video) 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.[18]

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.[10]

A picture of Oblivion's drop, taken from the guest observation area.

The roller coaster has a simple layout with a 180 ft drop at 87 degrees.[19][20] (Contrary to the "vertical drop" it is known for.) The car slowly ascends 60 feet at a 45 degree angle to build tension, then levels out, slowly travelling around a curve on a unique chain system, seen only on Oblivion, as the cars approach the drop. As each car reaches the drop it is held by a holding chain for a maximum of five seconds, but can vary, giving the rider a clear view of the long drop accompanied by a painted Oblivion logo on the floor above the tunnel pointing towards it with the words "Don't look down" in capital letters also painted on the floor before a brake 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.[18][21] The open design cars accommodate sixteen passengers in two rows of eight with a stadium like seat arrangement. 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. In 2004, this sound effect was removed due to sound restrictions on the park and instead the words "Don't look down" have been painted on the floor of the guest observation area where the ride enters the ground instead. The words are clearly visible to riders when the train is hanging over the edge of the drop.[22]


Source Rating
Backseat Blackout           [23]
Coaster Kingdom      


Coaster Grotto           [25]
Theme Park Insider           [26]
CoasterMadMatt      [27]

When Oblivion opened, it was very well received, partly due to a massive advertising campaign by Alton Towers [28] However, it never appeared in the top 25 list of the Golden Ticket Awards. In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, it peaked at number 43 in 1999, and has had a mixed performance since. [29]

Mitch Hawker's Best Roller Coaster Poll: Best steel-Tracked Roller Coaster[30]
Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Ranking 43 No poll 49 82 104 108 74 73 80 87 84 86 No poll 119 144


  1. ^ "Top 10: Britain's fastest roller coasters". The Daily Telegraph. London. 14 July 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  2. ^ Middleton, Lucy. "Britain's Best Rollercoasters". Britevents. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b "The Secret Weapons – Developing the Magic". TowersTimes. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Oblivion". TowersTimes. 14 March 1998. Archived from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Oblivion at Alton Towers Review". T-Park. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Specifications". TowersTimes. Archived from the original on 11 March 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Oblivion Construction Archive". TowersTimes. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  8. ^ "X Sector". TowersTimes. Archived from the original on 6 August 2010. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  9. ^ "Oblivion". ThrillRide!. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "Oblivion 'Lord of Darkness' on Fanta sponsorship". Ride Rater. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Oblivion". TowersStreet. 14 March 1998. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  12. ^ a b c "Stray guest causes safety incident on Oblivion". Ride Rater. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  13. ^ "Man rescued from Oblivion ride at Alton Towers". BBC News. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  14. ^ "Alton Towers : Black Hole". Towers Nerd. 5 March 2005. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  15. ^ "X-Sector due for makeover and Sanctuary to return!". TowersStreet. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  16. ^ "April News Round up". TowersStreet. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  17. ^ "Oblivion remains closed at Alton Towers". Ride Rater. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  18. ^ a b "ThrillRide!". ThrillRide!. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Oblivion – Alton Towers". Rollercoaster Database. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Oblivion". Ultimate Rollercoaster. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  21. ^ "In to Oblivion". Coasters and more. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  22. ^ "Oblivion". TowersAlmanac. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  23. ^ "Oblivion Review". Backseat Blackout.
  24. ^ "Oblivion Review". Coaster Kingdom.
  25. ^ "Oblivion Review". Coaster Grotto.
  26. ^ "Oblivion Review". Theme Park Insider.
  27. ^ "Oblivion Review". CoasterMadMatt.
  28. ^ "Oblivion at Alton Towers Review". T-Park. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  29. ^ "Steel Roller Coaster Poll 12 Year Results Table (1999–2012)". High School Hockey Online. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  30. ^ Hawker, Mitch. "Steel Roller Coaster Poll 13 Year Results Table (1999–2013)". Best Roller Coaster Poll. Retrieved 13 January 2015.

External linksEdit