Western train hits east coast
BOWS and arrows and Colt 45s at the ready – for cowboys and Indians will be having a shoot-out this summer on an old-style western theme train ride.The new attraction for Felixstowe seafront is a £65,000 investment as part of a project to revamp the beachside amusements into a "mini-Disneyland", and it gives a facelift to one of the resort's oldest and much-loved attractions.
BOWS and arrows and Colt 45s at the ready - for cowboys and Indians will be having a shoot-out this summer on an old-style western theme train ride.
The new attraction for Felixstowe seafront is a £65,000 investment as part of a project to revamp the beachside amusements into a "mini-Disneyland", and it gives a facelift to one of the resort's oldest and much-loved attractions.
When the little train - a feature in Sea Road since the 1960s and loved by visitors young and old - was removed during the winter, many hoped it had been taken away for a refit.
But showman Stan Harris had decided it was time for a change - and is chuffed to bits with the new train.
"It had been here for many years and it was time for a change - I think people get fed up seeing the same of old stuff," said Mr Harris, who comes from a long line of showmen, one of the country's oldest fairground families.
"It was getting a bit worn out and with the aim to regenerate the resort, we want to play our part.
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"We have brought in the new train, a cowboy train, from Italy, given it a change of track with bends and curves, and we are going to do more work during the summer with other rides to give this part of the amusements a western theme.
"Then over the next few years we will revamp a different area each summer, giving each part its own theme - a sort of mini-Disneyland.
"We just want to provide visitors with something new, different things for the children to have a go on each time they come."
The new western train, which will play cowboy music and have special sound effects, has carriages and is computer-operated. It is a slightly bigger gauge than the old one and its two metre sections of track mean the circuit can be altered easily. It can also be operated all-year-round.
Next year's project will be to create a grand prix tracks of the world area for mini cars and bikes, and other ideas are being drawn up for the water area, playpark and go-karts.
Mr Harris can trace his descendants back to the travelling fairs and shows of the early 19th century, and is related to the Manning family, which has run the funfair at Felixstowe for more than 50 years, and also the Threadwells, who own amusements and the pier in the town.
He has run the amusements between the sea walls behind the leisure centre in for the past 25 years.
Now he is looking forward to another summer season.
"People think we make a mint in summer and then disappear to Barbados for the winter, and come back the next spring, open up, switch on and away we go," said Mr Harris.
"My boys and I have been down here virtually every day since October, getting the rides ready for the season, changing the area, building new bits and pieces, cleaning, painting, getting ready the spring.
"I don't think people realise what hard work it can be - and then you rely on a few months of what you hope will be good weather to attract people to the seaside."