The Scenic Railway
- The Scenic Railway -

John Henry Iles brought the Scenic Railway to Belle Vue in 1928. It was actually a scaled down version of a ride he built for the Wembly Exhibition. In his book about Belle Vue, "Looking Back at Belle Vue Manchester," Robert Nicholls quotes the 1928 Belle Vue Guide Book regarding the ride: "The Scenic Railway dominates Belle Vue." The photographs below show the Scenic Railway rising above the speedway stadium.



The image above is shown here with the permission of Chetham's Library

The photograph was contributed by Les Cotton.

 

Nicholls adds, "To see it at dark or in darkness, its cliff picked out with lights, its vast gray body raised like a mountain range above the sports of pygmies on the plain, is to miss a thrill in anticipation. It takes you emotionally, as well as physically from the depths to the heights. It puts the wind up you, through you and round you". The Scenic Railway was a feature of the Amusement Park for 47 years. It was finally demolished in 1980.

In Robert Nicholl's book he explains that prior to it's introduction to Belle Vue, the Scenic Railway had appeared in a larger form at the Wembly Exhibition.

There is a story behind the Scenic Railway. Nick Bralesford, in an article entitled "Belle Vue: Story of a Lost Thoroughbred" (published in 1993 in "Roller Coaster" magazine) points out that "John Henry Iles (who took over the management of Belle Vue in 1929) began his amusement park career back in 1906 at the famous Coney Island, New York. It was at that time that Isles bought the European rights for Scenic Railways from a man called La Marcus Thompson. After that Ile's empire extended to include parks and concessions in Aberdeen, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, London, Manchester and Margate. He also operated in Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Paris and Petrograd.

La Marcus Thompson built a number of Scenic Railways in the U.S.A. including the one shown below in Ocean Park, California that was called "Dragon Gorge". The cars on that ride were identical to those on the Belle Vue Scenic Railway.

Below are postcard images of the Dragon's Gorge, a scenic railway in Ocean Park, California.
The images above and below are from the archives of B. Derek Shaw, York, PA as seen on rollercoasterworld.com

There was an accident on the first day the Scenic Railway operated at Belle Vue in which a girl was killed.

Nick Beresford added a quote to his article, written by a satirical writer of the day. "The Scenic Railway is the true coaster's whorish little sister, impure and overdressed. The structure is covered in sheet material on which is painted an absurd succession of irrelevant snowy mountains and waterfalls. To the dedicated enthusiast the perfect logic of a plain framework is all sufficing. To liken the Scenic Railway to (the Bobs) is to compare a Gershwin rhapsody with a fugue."

 

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