While not quite as antique as the Flying Machines, the Derby Racer at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is still more than worthy of being called a fairground classic. Opened in 1959, this is one of only three examples remaining in the world today of this kind of ride. I’ve often described it as a carousel on steroids, but actually there’s a little more to it than just that.
The Derby Racer consists of a large disc with 56 individual horses that are mounted to the floor rather than the ceiling. It operates like a traditional carousel, with the disc rotating while the horses rock back and forth, and there’s even a fairground organ against the back wall which plays rather loudly so as to be heard over the noise the ride makes. Unlike a traditional carousel, however, there really isn’t anything gentle about the Derby Racer. The whole thing actually rotates very quickly, particularly if you’re seated on one of the outside horses, making this actually more of an exhilarating attraction than a gentle one, though I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to call it a ‘thrill ride’.
As a fan of carousels and vintage fairground rides in general, I really like the Derby Racer. I think it’s quite cool how it blends the old and the new – the fairground organ, for example, has some classic fairground tunes interspersed with things like Mambo No. 5, the Muppet Show, Phantom of the Opera and several other wacky and eclectic tunes. The speed of it makes it quite an enjoyable ride too, although like most carousels it’s not the most comfortable ride in the world. Like the Flying Machines it also has a crazy-high capacity – in this case 112 if you had 2 people on each horse – so the ride cycle is sufficiently long and you normally don’t have to queue.
Like I said, the Derby Racer isn’t necessarily a thrill ride, and there are definitely faster and more exciting flat rides to be found at Pleasure Beach. What it is, though, is yet another page in the annuls of theme park history, and a great way to spend some time as you explore the northern half of the Pleasure Beach. The Derby Racer is a classic, and I would thoroughly recommend a ride, particularly if you’ve never done a ride such as this before. It’s good clean fun for all the family.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your stay here at Along for the Ride.